with Teresa Birdsong
Sven walked carefully down the narrow cliff path. It steepened as it followed the curve of the bluff. As the trail swung round the point of the headland the view across the sands was finally exposed. As always he gasped at the suddenness of it all and then clutched at the short grass of the steep bank to balance himself. Chuckling inwardly he remembered being steadier in the past. But then the past was over thirty years ago and in those days he had been like a mountain goat on the rocky cliffs. Now it paid to be a little more cautious.
Sven thought back to earlier in the week and Karen's invitation to meet him now that his wife of so many years had died. Then to yesterday and her sympathetic understanding when the dam had broken and the pent-up emotion and tears had finally surfaced. Today he felt different he felt cleansed as the years fell away. Standing here on the path, looking down where Karen and he used to walk in the old days before he had left home and married some one else. In days gone by, they held hands kissed and cuddled as they followed the shoreline. In his head he could hear their laughter as they splashed through the shallows at the edge of the sea - two miles of sea strand empty, apart from some cows in the far-off distance. Those halcyon days of perpetual summer were still so real that in his mind he could smell the sand and sun tan oil; hear the sounds of the gulls and the gentle crash of the summer waves breaking in the sheltered bay.
He laughed out loud now - the last was still true - golden sand in an incredible arc, devoid of people, still some cows walking - some things never change.
Sven walked carefully on down to the beach and kicked his old tennis shoes off, the sad dreams and events of the past few months forgotten in the little-boy happiness of sand between his toes. Unable to help himself he skipped down to the sea edge. The water temperature on his bare feet took his breath away - it might be July, it might be a sunny morning, the Gulf Stream might even bathe this part of the West Coast of Ireland, but it also moved up and down the coast erratically. For sure it was not coming ashore here today.
With the tide at flat, low water, Sven walked below the cliffs, round the fingers of rock jutting across the strand. Smiling at his luck, he noticed that the big deep natural pool still formed between the retreating tide and the edge of the rocks. He remembered the goosebumps on Karen's skin and her laughing shrieks when he had dragged her in. Sven tested the temperature with a toe, thought 'to hell with it', glanced about to confirm no one was in sight, stripped off and waded in. Not as cold as the open water, it still took his breath away and shocked his nerves into pinpricks as he ducked his head under and swam quickly the ten or fifteen yards up and back. Clear of the water he shook himself to get rid of the water, feeling the worry and grief of the last few weeks draining away, dripping from his fingertips. He used his shirt as a makeshift towel before putting his shorts back on.
He walked quickly now, carrying his shoes, a purpose in his stride, round the deserted rocks and then started to climb through the marram grass on the sand hills beyond the cliffs. Not high, they were a couple of hundred feet at most, it still left him hot and out of breath when he reached the top - pausing he stood there, looking across the bay at the far distant hills about twenty miles away. They shimmered a deep hue of purple even though it was still early morning. Today would be a good day.
Turning, Sven walked slowly along the narrow meandering trail that followed the ridge of the dunes. Finally he came to his 'secret' spot, right off to the side of the path, still high, but not the highest point, it opened out into a little amphitheatre shape, perhaps ten feet across and maybe fifteen feet front to back. Its shape made it a natural look out and even in the early morning it caught the suns warmth.
The wind sighed gently in from the sea as Sven laid down and put his pocket binoculars to his eyes and started to look at the seaside scene below. A couple of small fishing boats close inshore were laying lines, another hauling a net, the screeching sound of attendant gulls born distantly down the wind. In the distance, much further down the beach a lone golfer walked with his dog, admired by the nosy cattle close by him.
After a little while, comfortable and warm in the morning sun, Sven dozed.
After their gentle lovemaking in the light of an early dawn, Karen had fallen into a deep and contented sleep in Sven's arms. Awakened a couple of hours later by the sound of a mewing gull on the roof, Karen had been at first upset at Sven's absence, then looking out the window at the view that was below her eyrie laughed to herself as she realised where he had gone. She had a quick shower and towelled her hair dry before wandering around nude to let her skin dry. She sang quietly to herself, as she set the breakfast and got things ready for when they returned. Then, slipping on shorts and a tee shirt she went out and drove the short distance down to a small hidden lane that the locals used as a short cut to the beach. Pausing she took her car rug out (the grass could be prickly in the dunes) Karen quietly closed the car door before setting out. Gingerly she climbed towards her goal, she was quiet - hoping to be able to see Sven before he spotted her.
Quietly she held her breath as she peered over the lip of the half-hidden bowl. She smiled as she was rewarded with the sight of Sven lying out, then she giggled as she realised he was asleep. Ducking back from the top she glanced around and realised there was no one else about so early - she slipped her shirt off and then followed it with her shorts so that she was quite naked. She hid her clothes and the rug just below the lip of the bowl-shaped depression and out of sight of Sven, then whistling softly, sauntered mischievously into view.
Sven woke with a start at the sound of the intrusion, glanced over his shoulder and his heart did a flip as he saw Karen. Then, as he realised she was stark naked his jaw dropped in a perfect double take. Struggling to regain his composure Sven said "Hey Aphrodite - the sea's way down over there."
Karen stood facing the morning sun and stretched upward, then said languidly "On a morning like this I want to worship the sun..."