It was sunny and windy that early morning of spring. The seagulls were already flying high in the blue sky trying to fight the force of the wind against their wide open wings.
Tom was still fast asleep on his old sofa made out of timber wood and metal. The brown and red woollen blanket wrapped around his tired body was making him wish it was still night time. Who knows when was the last time he remembered to wash it.
You see, Tom hasn’t had a wife for a long time and sometimes he is still not sure how to look after himself.
A forgotten cold coffee in a red mug was sitting on the wooden floor and the ashes from the fire from the night before were still warm.
“I need to fix those shutters.” Tom grumpily bumbled, while hopelessly trying to protect his eyes from the beams of the sun. His naked foot hanging free was now soaking wet. Patch was licking it tirelessly in the hope of having his breakfast served soon.
“Ok! Ok! Patch! I am awake!” Tom yawned while stretching his old and sun-kissed arms.
Patch started to joyfully jump around Tom’s ankles.
The kettle was now boiling. The bacon, sausages, beans and scrambled eggs were frying and bubbling in old and rusty pans. Tom opened his wooden red front door and stepped into the front garden with his naked feet. He sat on the bench with his mug of coffee and breakfast on his lap.
Every morning. Whatever the weather. Whatever the day. On that same bench facing the sea, Tom reminded himself why he still lived in that little cottage with a straw roof. Where he was born, where he once was a little boy. Where he once had a wife. And where he once became a father.
All those Christmases ago, those birthdays spent together. Every breath he took. He had to remind himself.
The dancing water in front of him was the brightest and shiniest blue playing with the golden sand.
Each day he thought was the best one. How the colour and shape of the sea would change with the weather and with the sky. The heavy stones that surrounded his garden were the perfect frame for that magical view.
He looked up to the sky while sipping his steaming hot coffee. “Yes, that’s why I am still here old Patch.” But Patch was too busy eating his burnt sausage in the warmth of the sun.
The smell of salt in the air reminded him of the many times he walked on the beach after dinner with his beloved Milly, bare foot and open hearted.
Holding hands and dreaming of escaping one day. To secret lands and jungles and golden warm beaches. Smiling and still laughing at each other’s jokes with the sweet eyes of young children playing together.
“She was the one.” thought Tom, while the sun was kissing his cheeks and a slight smile was framing his kind face. Patch was now looking at him hopelessly.
“Come on old boy! Time for our walk now! We don’t want to bump into Mrs Vivian while she walks to buy her daily bread.” Tom quickly glanced at the clock. “We have 9 minutes and 55 seconds before she passes by the gate!”
Tom left his plate on the bench for the joy of Patch who was now licking it clean. He ran inside, and grabbed his blue and white Captain hat with the name TOM embroidered in gold. He quickly slipped his green wellies on his still naked and wet feet and ran to the gate.
“Come on Patch! 3 minutes and 50 seconds!”
Licking his lips Patch gave the last look at the plate now cleaned with satisfaction and ran towards Tom.
There were not many houses around. Tom was one of the few people left in that part of the Island. Many families moved away now for bigger schools, bigger shops, bigger everything. Except for one thing. Something they could never find in a city. The sea.
The immensity of the water melting in the sky never left Tom wanting to find anything more immense than that.
They started to walk on the same old path. Patch faithfully following Tom’s still fast pace.
Quickly passing Mrs Vivian’s Victorian house, which was framed by roses, a cherry tree and had immaculate freshly cut grass. Tom often wondered what she would do alone on those long nights, her house only lit by a soft glow in the front room and a few candle lights reaching for the top floor. Every single evening, when the sun went down, the cosy lights were lit. Sometimes he could see a shadow behind the cream long crochet curtains, sitting in the armchair, sometimes the shadow would disappear for hours. And some nights that same shadow would blend into the darkness of the back garden, only the moon and the stars holding Mrs Vivian’s life. He wondered. “Patch…!” - “Get off her garden!” Tom whispered anxiously. Tom liked Mrs Vivian’s husband. He was kind and quiet. He didn’t talk much, possibly because Mrs Vivian always did it for him, she would never breathe through her talking or have a break; so he could never find an opportunity to speak his mind. However, when on his own, Peter was one of the wisest and knowledgeable men Tom ever met in his own life.
Sometimes, especially since Milly was not in his life anymore, he would knock on Tom’s door after dinner and they would sit by the fire with an Irish coffee to keep them warm.
They would simply talk. Tom was letting Peter do most of the talking, as it was something he probably missed, like fresh air. Tom didn’t mind at all.
Peter was much older than Tom and he would lose himself in Peter’s musical words, tales and old stories. His imagination wondering for hours after he was gone.
How could a local jewellery dealer, living in such a small village, could know so much about the world, about people and how to make swords and knives and not only know every single movement of the people of the Island, but also tap into Tom’s deep fears?
If the old saying “What you see is what you get” was real, it certainly wasn’t referring to Peter.
Tom remembered when Peter and Mrs Vivian first moved into their Victorian home.
It was a cold and rainy day. The last few days of autumn were now gone and a few Christmas trees were now peeking through the windows.
Toby was about sixteen at the time and he had been pestering Tom and Milly for the last three months for a dog. “Please Dad! I will look after him, I DO promise.”
“And who is going to walk him for his morning and evening poo? Certainly not me!” Tom exclaimed.
Milly gave Tom the look. The look that took his breath away when he first met her. The look that could quickly melt an ice cube under the warm sunshine. The Milly look. The “I would do whatever you ask me to darling” look. She knew. She knew how to smile, how to move, how to talk to him. And he could never, ever resist her. After so many years together. She knew. And there was nothing he could do but love her.
And off they were, the three of them, Toby now taller than his own mother, wearing wellies and holding a big green umbrella to protect her from the furious weather, while walking to catch the bus with the hope of finding a homeless puppy to take home.
An old mini splashed them regardless leaving Milly open-mouthed and soaking wet.
“Who the….?” Tom started to shout.
“Wait…Look Tom!” Milly whispered gently while searching for a tissue in her little black bag. “They are stopping at number three, the old house for sale.”
A tall, elegant and slim lady with long black leather boots stepped out the car and quickly ran towards the porch, followed by a gentleman wearing a long trench coat trying to protect a young lady’s hair from the rain with his now wet newspaper.
“Mmmhh…I wonder who they are. They don’t seem local,” said Tom suspiciously. “They don’t wear wellies for a start…” he added glancing at his old green boots bought at a car boot sale.
Tom looked at Patch and then at Mrs Vivian’s house again and then carried on their daily walk.
“Rest in peace Peter.” He sadly thought.