A ring of roses
They came to the point every year to place flowers in commemoration of their father.
It was a craggy rock cropping out on the southern edge of the island, and as children it felt as though it was the end of the known world. It had been their home throughout long childhood summers, but now in later years it was more a place locked in time, bringing back memories of the hard realities of adulthood.
His death was now some twenty years ago. The memory of his sudden passing still caused Simon and Alice to feel a chill in the heart as they remembered the night it happened. Staring at the point where his remains were deposited, thinking about the hole he had left.
Further down the point some fishermen hauled up a lobster pot. The frantic tail flicking of their catch distracted Simon from his thoughts.
“A good haul” he offered.
“Not bad, little small but these will do for the pot”.
Simon smiled but could think of nothing to say. As connected as he felt to this place, he still found it awkward communicating to those who lived and breathed the Island. They seemed so perfect. Rough sea-weathered faces, so comfortable and confident in this environment. As a boy he had tried, but his fear of the sharpness of it all was something he could never overcome. Now it pricked at his masculinity. He knew what a soft handed city boy he must seem. His cheeks flushed with embarrassment. He turned back to Alice who was staring into the horizon tightly clutching the red and white roses they had bought as a memorial to their father.
It was agreed, when deciding where to place his ashes, that it should be here. The family were in agreement that this would be what he would have wanted. His favourite place. It had always nagged in the back of Alice’s mind that this may just be because of the picture of him they all adored. It showed him smiling, holding aloft a freshly caught spider crab, the sun shimmering on the sea behind him in perfect union with his beaming and animated face. It was such a perfectly captured moment that she felt that the strength of the image had cemented in their minds that this was where he was happiest. Of course, now it was impossible to be sure.
“He was happy here wasn’t he Simon?”. Simon half smiled and joined Alice gazing across the ocean.
“Well, he was alone wasn’t he? Seemed to me all his happiest places where away from us.”
“Maybe…” Alice wasn’t sure. “Shall we then?” She asked gesturing towards the bouquet and deftly changing the subject.
“Yes, of course, let’s get this done”.
They divided the flowers into two roughly equal bunches and tossed them into the clear water. The tide slowly tugged the roses away from them, some catching on the swirling seaweed, others spreading and advancing ahead. They both stood in silence watching the blooms slowly disperse, lost in their thoughts.
Simon spoke first, breaking the moment. “We should be getting back, I hear Spike has a cup of tea waiting for us.” Alice sighed, and turned to her brother. They made their way gingerly across the precarious surface, adjusting their footing constantly to compensate for the jagged rocks, and wet pools in between.
Alice took a last look back. “Oh Simon look” she exclaimed.
Simon turned. In the centre of what had now become a giant waterborne wreath was what looked at first like the head of a giant black Labrador. Its giant black eyes darted back and forth. The creature let out a yawn, pulling back its long, quill-like whiskers, revealing a set of shining canine teeth and long lolling tongue.
“Ah, a seal.” Simon now smiling turned back for a better view. They stood transfixed as the creature took its oxygen break, before slipping back into the sea.
“There’s been a couple of them round here lately” offered one of the fishermen, seeing them now captivated. “Never see them pull themselves up though. God knows where they sleep, but they seem to like the fishing round here!”
“Yes!” Simon managed to blurt out.
He reached out a hand and Alice slipped hers into it. They clambered up the rocks to their families. Alice turned to Simon.
“You know, maybe it wasn’t that he wanted to be away from us, but that coming here gave him time to think about what he had”. Simon smiled and picked up the waiting steaming mug of tea.
“Maybe. His little breaks for air before returning to the maelstrom.” Alice hugged her brother.
“He loved you, you know”. Simon kissed her gently on the forehead, as he looked out to sea and smiled.