Santa’s Secret Pen ’21 – Prompt: ” Boredom, Elitism, Luxury, Love, Envy”

Thin whispers of silver moonlight creep through gaps in the satin curtains, not quite reaching my body. Shadows and darkness surround me. Inside and out. The silence is uninterrupted, leaving me with only my thoughts for company. It would be peaceful to many. This whole life would be a dream to most. It was to me once. Having existed within it for so long, it is no longer. I tire of fancy gowns I may only wear once. I yawn during the extravagant meals, wondering what happens to the copious amounts of uneaten food. Military displays are always the same, birthdays and balls have no unique qualities, every day is like the one before. Is there nothing new in life anymore? Is this the curse of growing old? One of many such curses. It is not always easy for me to leave this luxurious bed in the mornings these days. Sometimes it is not possible at all. My joints do not work like they used to. Let alone my eyes, my ears, my hands, the list continues but I care not for it. Those pains make filling my time an ever more challenging task. I have already read through all the books in the library, what else am I to do? What new worlds am I to travel to? There are few hobbies befitting of me that I can manage. Even fewer that I am allowed to do. Would the ordinary folk care? Truly? I find it hard to believe that they would. The staff are the only people I think would. Arguing for freedom now is purposeless, they are far too entrenched in their mindset regarding me. The funny girl. The most peculiar one.

 What happened?

Once upon a time I had ambition. I had energy. I sang my wishes in the street, my desires for a more exciting life. It was not to be. I found the love of my life, yet never the thrills I wanted. No matter where I looked. No matter what I did. Do those moments I longed for exist? I will never know first hand. I know not whether I care. My husband knows I am unhappy though he knows not what to do about me. I know not what he can do for me. He does love me dearly and I do love him with all my heart. I am forever grateful to have him. But he was born into this life. He knows no different, he does not understand. At one point I enjoyed all the pomp and ceremony he loves. Reveled in the flamboyance. Now it is all so tiresome. I am sure he wishes he could help. He does in little ways. He brings me tea and wine, he holds my hands, he reminds me frequently that he loves me. Although now I cannot see why he does. Without him I dread to think quite what state I would be in. Well, I know, do I not?

 Am I merely selfish?

My surroundings are far more than comfortable. The foods I eat would be called exquisite by the little people. I never fear the cold, or the sicknesses. Perhaps I am. Others have it worse. My problems pale in comparison to theirs. What problems do I really have? Those little people seem happier than I despite them. They have purpose. They work in some form or another. Every day they have tasks they must fulfil. Be that making bread, selling eggs, caring for books, even my husband deals with all manner of politics. He has a purpose. He talks to me of work often, I know much of his duties. However I could never assist him. No. That would not do. I have knowledge aplenty, I could be valuable. He ends his days exhausted and stressed, forever wanting extra hands. Though not mine. What am I expected to do? Smile and look pretty was what the staff always told me at all the functions when I was young. I cannot imagine being able to look pretty now. Let alone smile. Especially not for some foreign, self righteous nobleman with a lecherous gaze. How did I ever? How did I ever smile?

 This night grows long. Sleep eludes me still. Perhaps on some level I do regret my choices. Never finding an art form of my own. Never making time for others in my prime. Having children instead of enjoying my youth. Would it be different if they were not estranged? I wish it were not like this. Their father is no beast, he has been rid of his curse for decades now. If only they would listen. I tried. Oh I tried. My words fell on deaf ears, my letters were viewed by blind eyes. What more could I have done? The young people in the town these days have no idea what happened back then. There is no remnant of the curse within him. How could anyone think otherwise having met him? Having known him? My understanding can only go so far. As can theirs, evidently. Some day they surely will change. They will have to replace him. When they do they will see his work and what good he has done. Could it not be before that? Could it not be within my lifetime? I very much doubt it. How much longer do I have now? Not long at all I would hope. What purpose does hope serve other than to make us suffer? To show us a reality that will never be realized?

 Ah, finally the black tides are encroaching on my somber mind. Soon the next dull day will greet me. My knees do not ache. Nor does my crumbling spine. This slumber seems as though it will be deeper than most. So long as it drowns out my thoughts, it is enough. A few merciful hours of mental silence before I have to watch out over the quiet lands and listen to my dreary self again.

BY @JadeBlack21

Santa’s Secret Pen ’21 – Prompt: “Unknown Number”

10:12 AM, Eastern Standard Time

Carmen Au curled her hands around the takeaway cup and let the warmth seep into her fingers. Sickly sweet steam rose from the opening. Walnut fudge brownie announced a tag jammed into the cardboard sleeve. It was somewhat sacrilegious for her, the daughter of two very traditional tea drinkers, to be holding something that literally sounded like an ice cream flavour. But when else could you get away with it if not at Christmas?

A flimsy plastic divider separated the enclave of David’s Tea from the rest of Pearson International’s domestic terminal, one side light wood and turquoise accents and the other the dull grey of utilitarian tile and uncomfortable seating. Ceiling to floor glass provided a view of the planes nudged up against the building. The sky over them was the palest blue, nearly white but just a shade off. A baggage cart snaked its way around snow piled high on the side of the runway. Carmen wrinkled her nose at the flecks of dirt embedded into the white.

The first time she’d seen snow was in October. Carmen had been living in Toronto for just two months and studying for a psychology midterm when her roommate tapped her shoulder. They got up from their textbooks to stand at the window together, transfixed at the snowflakes flurrying down to gather onto the road, trees, and cars a few storeys beneath in peaceful and suffocating silence.

Now, she was used to it. Michael Bublé crooned over the speakers to bid them the holliest and jolliest. Carmen sipped her treacherous tea and watched seconds tick down on the digital clock beside one of the departure gates.  

Something buzzed in her hoodie pocket. Carmen dug out her phone and quickly plugged in earbuds before swiping green towards the quivering phone icon.


A high pitched shrill bombarded her ears. Carmen winced but nothing could stop the smile spreading across her face. “Hi, Carleigh.”

“Hi!” her little sister shrieked again. Then the camera spun and Carmen caught a blur of the place that had fixated in her mind for the past twelve weeks: a living room furnished with a worn pleather sofa, cluttered glass side tables and Ikea shelving surrounding a TV bright with dancing commercials. The sliding balcony door was open, warm air wafting in as Carleigh wiggled bare toes on the cool tiled floor.


“Carmen!” another familiar voice cried out. The screen jostled and shook again until the beaming face of her father filled it. Plastic rimmed glasses perched on his nose and silver peppered his sparse black beard. “Waiting at the airport?”

“Yup,” she said back. “Boarding at 10:25.”

“We know,” he said, pulling the camera away so it could catch the open laptop on the desk crammed into a corner. “We will be tracking your flights until you arrive home.”

“You will arrive in Vancouver at 4 o’clock,” came the voice of Carmen’s mother. Crows feet winked at Carmen every time Mom blinked. “So when we wake up, you will already be on Cathay Pacific. I’ll go to the market tomorrow so when you come home, we can have steamed fish and coriander soup.”

“Wahhh. Thank you!” Carmen almost teared up thinking of the first homecooked Chinese meal she’d be having since August. Four whole months. “I can’t wait.”

Another whine pierced her eardrums. “I don’t like coriander!”

“You only have to drink one bowl,” their mother assured Carleigh. Carmen’s seven-year-old sister groaned and threw herself onto the sofa, a dolphin in human form and wearing a bright pink Lol Doll shirt.

“Carissa!” called Dad. “Come and talk to Carmen. She’s almost getting on the plane!”

The camera dipped again and resurfaced aimed at the hallway. Carissa shuffled out from the shadowy depths with long dark hair swept over her cheeks. Her arms, spangled with a multitude of worn woven bracelets and tiny stickers on her fingernails, were wrapped around a mass of fur, tongue, and rumpled sweater.

“Scruffles!” Carmen gasped. The tea barista startled and stared from over the counter. “Oh, my baby boy!”

“Wow, hi to you too,” Carissa drawled. She had clearly been practising a teenage deadpan in preparation for this day.

“I didn’t forget, you distracted me with maximum Scruff. In a Christmas jumper! Happy birthday, by the way.”

Carissa averted her eyes, but she couldn’t hide the faint flush of pride dusting her round cheeks. “Thanks.” She secured her hands around Scruffles the pug’s extremely rotund body and held him up to the camera so Carmen could properly coo over those bugged-out eyes, floppy ears, and skinny paws that kneaded the air frantically. After significant squirming, Scruffles was released and immediately scurried beneath the dining room chairs to try and escape from woolen, though festive, captivity.

“I miss him so much! I wanna smoosh his face, then smooch his face.”

“His breath smells like chicken,” Carissa said. “Carleigh has been sneaking treats.”

“It’s Christmas time, Christmas time, no time for diet!” Carleigh sang, popping back into frame. She held up a wrapped gift that dwarfed her head. “Look what Auntie Ruth gave me.”

“Carleigh, we need to end the call now. Carmen’s going on the plane soon!” Dad’s bearded smile reappeared. “Can’t wait to see you soon.”

She swallowed the last gulp of tea and returned the smile. “Can’t wait to see you too.”

Ten minutes later and walnut brownie’d to the brim, Carmen stood in a snaking line with her backpack and carry-on. Every few seconds, she inched towards the airline attendants who flanked the departure gate.

Her hoodie pocket buzzed. Carmen automatically moved her passport and boarding pass to one hand and swiped with the other without looking.


Carmen listened to the sound of heavy breathing. “Hello? Can I help you?” The breathing paused for a beat before resuming. Carmen frowned.

“Excuse me, miss. Your boarding pass?”

Carmen dropped the phone from her ear and fumbled with her belongings. The airline attendant waited with infinitesimal patience as Carmen first tried to hand over her phone, then swapped it with her passport alongside muttered apologies. Her thumb jabbed the red End Call button just as the attendant handed back her boarding pass.

“Have a good flight,” they called as Carmen pulled her carry-on down the ramp. The scent of plastic and machinery met her nose. She grimaced and prepared to be smelling nothing else for the next five hours.

Home, she was on the way home.

1:42 PM, Pacific Standard Time

The Starbucks at YVR was cleverly situated smack in the centre of a departure gate cul-de-sac all laden with international flights whose hours were in the double digits. Naturally, it was crowded. Carmen shuffled to the side after giving her order and waited.

Compared to what she was used to, five hours on a plane had been a piece of cake. Carmen didn’t even mind having a window seat as the daytime flight allowed her an interesting view of the patchwork plains of Canada below. Of course, at this time of year they looked like large icy puddles stitched together by muddy road, but she forced herself to take in some natural scenery since soon, she’d be sequestered in a dense metropolis of concrete and chrome.

Soon. Carmen sighed deeply, inhaling sugary coffee and exhaling the longing for Hong Kong’s neon skyline.

Her phone buzzed. Carmen pulled it out and looked at the screen. Unknown Number. She put her phone back into her hoodie pocket. As a rule, she didn’t answer anyone who wasn’t a saved contact on the first go. If someone really needed to find her, they’d call again.

They called again. Carmen pressed the smooth, cool screen to the ridges of her ear. “Hello?”

Nothing but breathing again. This time, it was slow and measured. Carmen strained for any other clues, but there was nothing but a deep inhale, a deep exhale. Inhale, exhale. “Um. Hello?” 

A barista plopped three coffees on the counter and shouted names that weren’t hers. Carmen took her attention back to the call. “Who is this?” she asked, slightly louder.

The next inhale stuttered and snorted. A cool sense of relief surged through Carmen, but instead of a response she continued to only hear breathing. The caller gasped, soft and urgent, and it sparked fear through Carmen’s chest.

“A-are you okay? Do you need any help?” She glanced around, but other travellers paid her no attention, their eyes trained on the counter, once again devoid of beverage.

Suddenly, the gasping stopped. Carmen waited, and the sniffing began. Sniffing, eager and rapid. Heat flared up in Carmen’s cheeks as something akin to a wheeze, almost like laughter, echoed into her ears. She ended the call, heart hammering and anger flowing through her muscles.

“Gingerbread latte for Carmen!”

The barista ignored her red-faced glower, ostensibly used to it, and zipped back to the steamers to prepare the next drink. Carmen steadied herself with a new cardboard tube cradled in her hands and took a long sip of scalding bittersweet.

To Carmen, a Starbucks Gingerbread Latte was the taste of Christmas. It was what she got at Ocean Terminal before walking past all the hipster buskers at Star Ferry to walk along the harbourfront with her friends. The island skyline would glitter at them, all silver and chrome if it were during the day or like multicoloured starlight during the night. Her friends from school would sit there under the palm trees and catch up on the semester while the Tsim Sha Tsui Clock Tower chimed.

Less than a day now, and she’d be home.

5:07 PM, Japan Standard Time

Carmen gazed out at a glorious Tokyo sunset from the windows of Narita International Airport. Jet streams from hours-departed planes streaked the pink and orange sky that slowly evaporated into the dark blue of oncoming night.

Time had no meaning anymore. For the last quarter of her 13-hour flight across the Pacific Ocean, Carmen had watched episode after episode of The Good Place until they blurred together and she no longer knew whether she was in a Good or Bad place. Narita certainly felt like a Good Place. People glided around with their puffy jackets laid atop of suitcases stacked upon trolleys, their voices low while the announcements chimed gently in Japanese and English. Seeing the signs use Chinese characters – though Carmen understood that it was formal Japanese – reminded her yet again that she was another bout closer to home.

She tapped a fingernail against the metal side of her Coca Cola absentmindedly. Japan and its generous lifestyle of efficiency and convenience had her fumbling in her wallet for a debit card to tap against a vending machine. Japan was one hour ahead of Hong Kong, so she didn’t need that much caffiene. It would still be four more hours on the plane, then roughly another hour to disembark, fetch her belongings, and commute back home from HKIA.

Her phone rang.

Carmen pulled it out slowly, mentally praying that she would see Mom or Dad on the screen. But of course… Unknown Number. Carmen stared at it. Who the hell could it be?

Against her better judgment, Carmen swiped green and held the phone to her ear with trembling fingers. “Hey,” she hissed at the now familiar heavy breathing. “I’m going to change my sim card right now. Never call me again.”

No reply except for pant, pant, pant, so Carmen mashed her thumb into the red button to hang up.

She had just put her earring back on after using the stem to poke at the hidden button on the phone’s side to release the sim card tray when a polite, clipped voice announced that rows 148-159 were ready for boarding. Carmen snapped up her carry-on handle so fast that it rattled. But she didn’t care. She was ready to be home, to be with her family, not alone like the past four months and twenty hours.

Five more, and home.

10:12 PM, Hong Kong Time

She made it. Carmen was home.

Almost, anyway. She rolled through the quiet but well-lit walkway between housing blocks of the apartment complex in Lam Tin, Kowloon, Hong Kong. Nobody was around to give her a glance as her suitcases jostled over the bumpy bricks towards Block 6. Her phone had only buzzed with text messages from the family group chat since landing at HKIA an hour ago, so maybe changing her sim card really had been the way to stop the creepster caller from targeting her.

It didn’t matter how, really. They had stopped, and she was relieved. She could relax.

That is, until she passed Blocks 3 and 5. (There wasn’t a Block 4, of course. Carmen was back in Asia.) With her hands busy with two suitcases that threatened to pull her arms out of socket, she couldn’t answer. The security guard at Block 6 recognised her and buzzed her in with a big smile.

“Ahh, welcome back! Must have been a long trip!” They peered at Carmen’s hunched shoulders and sagging hoodie pocket. “Oh, your phone–”

“I know,” Carmen snapped. “I mean, I got it. Thank you!”

She kicked the heavier suitcase through the swinging glass door and swerved towards the lifts. While the LED numbers over the doors morphed silently, Carmen snatched up her phone. She shouldn’t, but she was furious and she wanted to give them a piece of her mind.

“How,” she growled before they could utter an opening huff, “did you find me?”

The lift had arrived by then, and it was mercifully empty. Carmen shoved her belongings into it, still snarling into the phone. “I’ve had a really long day, like the past 24 hours, and I do not have any patience for this.”

The silver doors clanked shut and heaved her upwards. “You must think this is so funny, right? Well, if you do this one more time, I’m going to find a way to block and report you–”

She paused when she realised that there was no more breathing. Carmen looked at the screen. The connection had cut out.

“Oh my GOD!” she screamed as the lift arrived at her floor. Flat A’s door swung inward to reveal her beaming father whose smile melted into confusion. 

“What’s wrong, Carmen?” 

She flung her phone back into her pocket. “AUGH!”

Dad unlocked the gate and she stepped over the threshold. The smell of ginger, green onion, garlic, and coriander wafted out towards her like warm, welcoming fingers. Carmen swatted them away. She was too riled up to enjoy any of it, and that thought made her heart cave in.

Carissa, perched on the sofa armrest and slippers dangling off her toes, pulled a face. “Uh, welcome back?”

“Some weirdo keeps on calling me and never says anything! They just breathe super loudly until I hang up.” Tears pricked at Carmen’s eyes. The entire ordeal had ruined her first time coming home from uni.

“Don’t worry about that anymore,” Dad soothed. “You’re home now.” 

Mom emerged from the kitchen bearing a tray of dinner they must have been keeping hot for her: a bowl of rice, sautéed vegetables, the belly of a steamed fish, and another bowl for soup. “Where’s Carleigh? Carleigh! Come out, Carmen’s here!”

The three of them turned to the hallway. There was a telltale scrabble of claw on tile. Carmen squatted down so Scruffles could more easily launch himself into her arms, all basketball-shaped body and trembling legs with a jiggling butt making up for the coiled stub of a tail. He shoved his nose into her ear to lick her face, and while she laughed at the adorable grossness of it all, something clicked.

Panting… and wet sniffing?

Suddenly, there was screaming in the distance. Carleigh finally graced the scene at top speed with Carissa hot on her trail and waving a new Huawei. “You thief!”

Carleigh hurled herself on top of Scruffles to claim sanctuary in Carmen’s arms.

Carissa was hysterical. “She stole my phone!”

“Since when do you have a phone?” Carmen managed to cry out whilst pinned down by sister and dog.

“We promised her she could have one when she turned 13,” Dad admitted, adjusting his glasses to look at the screen. “So it’s only been one week.”

“She’s been stealing it,” Carissa hissed, pointing at Carleigh, who hid her face in Carmen’s neck.

“You said you missed Scruffles, so I called you so you could talk. But I couldn’t get him to say anything! He just sat there.”

Carmen stared at Scruffles. His big black buggy eyes shone in the overhead lights, folded ears trembling with every laboured heave of his broad pug chest, humid breaths puffing against Carmen’s skin out of his open mouth glistening with drool.

It had been Carleigh and Scruffles. Every time. It was so dumb. It was the dumbest. And it was so sweet. It was the sweetest.

Dad handed Carissa the phone. “Add your fingerprint to the security so only you can unlock it.”

It took another 15 minutes before everything settled down. Carleigh was sent to bed for causing such undue stress to both her sisters, tissues were handed to Carmen to wipe off Scruffles’s drool, and Carissa lurked around the dinner table while Mom heated up the food again and Dad hauled the suitcases to the right bedroom.

“Why didn’t you let me know you have a phone now?” Carissa asked between slurps of soup. “I could have added you and not freaked out every time it called.”

Carissa froze, her lips pouted in a frown. “I did add you.”

“No, you didn’t.”

“I did!” Carissa’s frown deepened as she tapped open her contact list. “Isn’t this your number?”

“No. It’s a 9 at the end, not 1.”

Carissa stared at the screen. Carmen tipped the bowl to drain it of soup. Carissa placed her phone on the table and scooted it over to Carmen. “Then… who’s this person I’ve been talking to?”

They stared at the texts. Bright blue and white speech bubbles beamed insidiously into their home. Carissa and Carmen jumped when suddenly, the phone began to buzz.

Carmen slowly reached out to swipe the green call button. “Hello?”


Except for heavy breathing.

BY @pearlgreylatte

Santa’s Secret Pen ’21 – Prompt: “Daughter of the Rising Tide”

The sea calls to her, but she doesn’t know if she has the strength to answer.

She has never failed to answer before, but now most days her legs feel too heavy to lift, and her ancient body won’t bear the strain of trying to stand. At least the career they sent today has helped her prop herself up on pillows, briskly plumping them up and smoothing down the blankets so that Cordelia can look out at the rolling waves far below.  The tide is coming in now, and the call grows louder.


The first time she answered the sea’s call she was six years old. Her parents drove them up the cliff road, that final summer before the end of the second millennium. Thorns scratched at her legs as they scrambled through undergrowth to see the last cracked gravestone from a church long lost to the sea.

 Her father told her how a whole city had once stood there until it had crumbled bit by bit into the sea, how people claimed to hear the church bells ringing from beneath the brine, how the living had left but the sea took the dead. Her older sister had been repulsed by the thought of disarticulated bones dropping onto the beach below, but Cordelia found it strangely comforting. Better to rest in the soothing rhythm of the tide than the cold dark stillness of the earth.

That afternoon they played on the beach nearby, until Cordelia’s mother swam out and pulled her roughly from the sea, where she had waded in so far her chin floated on the water.

“How could you be so reckless?” Her mother’s arm wrapped the child’s waist and dragged her back to shore.

“I heard the bells.” Cordelia turned her head back towards the horizon. 

Her mother shook even after she had finished shivering, but Cordelia had always felt safe with the sea. It wouldn’t take her until it was time.


Bridget and Nasima have come to visit her today, and they have both brought their grandchildren. A flurry of small bodies moves through the house like a minnows rippling through the water. Bridget won’t let them go outside.

“The cliff edge is far too dangerous,” she says. “I do wish you’d move in with us, Mum. We could set you up in Harry’s old bedroom. ” Cordelia bats her away with a shrunken hand.

“All dried up like a smoked haddock? I don’t think so. Won’t be long now anyway.”


The house wasn’t always so close to the cliff. It had been two miles inland when she and Tom first moved in, when Dylan was two and Bridget was still in the womb. Somehow Cordelia had known that was just the right distance. 

 The sea had grown stronger, year on year, as it took more and more of the land. As it grew stronger its call grew louder. No longer the distant tinkling of bells, it became the swelling of a thousand voices, insistent and alluring.

When Bridget was thirteen, it had called so loudly one night that Cordelia had walked to the shore barefoot, the wind and rain whipping at her thin nightgown. She tiptoed across the wet sand under a full moon and gave the sea her answer.

 The wind and rain dropped away then, the clouds retreated, and Cordelia stood looking out to sea as the storm swept in the challenge she had accepted. Nasima was the first one she found,  her long black hair spread out like strands of seaweed on the beach and her brown eyes looking up at the newly-revealed stars. Cordelia had scooped her up and carried her beyond the tide line, then returned for her brother Ahmed. There were five more children and three adults, all exhausted but alive.

When the sun rose over the sea that morning Tom came, somehow knowing where Cordelia must have gone. They took the refugees back to the house and called for medical assistance. A few weeks later, Nasima and Ahmed moved in, the first of many refugee children who started the long process of healing in the salt air with Cordelia and Tom as their foster parents. The house was rarely quiet; it rang with the sound of children playing, of seagulls hooting, of Dylan practising guitar and Nasima singing lullabies to Ahmed. But sometimes, when the children were at school and the wind was blowing inland, Cordelia still heard the call of the sea.


Nasima makes sure Cordelia takes her pills before she leaves, and checks that the pillow nest is still secure. She is still working as a GP, one of many who trained in those first few years of rebuilding after the country had split itself apart and then come back together, like a shoal of fish splintered by the approach of a predator. The shoal became one again and as it mourned its losses Nasima learned to heal the very people who had once hated her.

“Goodnight, mama,” Nasima says, as she plants a kiss on Cordelia’s papery cheek. Bridget does the same, and the children —  all six of them — waving goodbye as they traipse out the door into the watercolour evening.

Harry’s youngest looks so like her Tom: fitting then that he’s named after him. He has his great-granddad’s dimples and his dark brown curls. He likes to run along with his arms out as if he’s hoping to take off, just the way Tom used to do when they came up here together as teenagers. The cliff top had always been the perfect spot for a marriage of air and water.

Tom always was a creature of the air rather than the sea. They never had the money for him to get his pilot’s license, so he made do by watching the sea birds from a hidden nook in the cliffs. He used to take the kids too. Cordelia remembers them all piling in one day in late summer, excited that they had seen a storm petrel on its way south. It had always been his favourite bird.

“It’s like you love,” he’d say. “So small, so rare and yet so strong.”


 They hid in the nook on the night when the country hit its lowest ebb and angry men had attacked their house for taking in the refugee children. The sea protected them then.  A squall blew in and sent the men running home with rods of horizontal rain. Cordelia and Tom wrapped their arms round small frightened bundles and calmly held them until the danger had passed. The little cave escaped the worst of it: the sea wanted to be a thoroughfare,  not a border.


Now Cordelia can see dark clouds once more,  looming on the horizon as the sun sets. The seagulls were loud earlier, but now they are gone, fleeing further inland in search of shelter from the coming storm. The wind picks up and the solar panels on the roof begin to rattle. Cordelia remains propped on her pillow throne, letting the voices of the sea rush in through her ears. She can see the waves below as they change from a landscape of rolling foothills to mountainous terrain, their white caps like the snow on treacherous peaks. They pound the cliffs below her like the voices pound now in her head.

“I have come for you, Cordelia. It is time.”


Ahmed calls her, his smiling face flickering in the air in front of her, projected by one of these new-fangled watches Dylan gave her.

“Are you alright, Mum?” he asks, hearing the howling of the wind at both ends of the call. “I can come and get you if you like?”

 He is a politician now, one of the many who voted to divert resources to health and housing rather than sea defences. Cordelia doesn’t blame him. He lives in the seaside town on the sheltered side of the bay with his husband and two labradors. The smell of wet dog and the aroma of curry cooking linger in the air as she speaks to him, another feature she’s never quite got used to. She supposes he can smell the stench of seaweed and salt that the storm is bringing in. A deep breath pulls it further into her nostrils.

“Storms make me feel alive,” she says. “I shall enjoy that while it lasts.”

“Love you, Mum,” he says, before he vanishes.


As the night falls a full moon rises, but it only shows its face in glimpses between the skittering clouds. Rain slaps the window. There is thunder in the distance. Above all this, the call of the sea roars yet louder, taking full control of Cordelia’s consciousness. She shuffles to the edge of the bed, and miraculously finds that her legs take her weight with little trouble. She walks outside, answering one more time.

Up above a tiny bird flies in the haze of raindrops. A storm petrel? But it can’t be, not at this time of year. It is not fighting the wind as it should be but rather seems unmoved by it, as if on another plane entirely.

Cordelia is the storm. The wind wraps the rain around her like a cloak. It cleanses her, sloughing off the marks and folds of age, sweeping the decay from her bones with a tide of youthful joy. Crinkled white skin is replaced with something sparkling, moving, rolling in waves from teal to violet to the deepest navy blue. Whether it is made of light or water she can’t tell, but she knows she is no longer solid.

When the wind retreats, she finds she is submerged beneath the breakers. Above, a beam of light from the moon cuts through the water. A city lies below. Bells chime. Shimmering shoals of fish, recently returned to these waters, spin around her in the deep.  She does not breath and yet she foams with life.

Her head breaks water at the top of a wave and she watches there, the storm petrel fluttering above her head,  as the old house creaks on the cliff top. With one final sigh the cliff crumbles and the house plummets readily into the open arms of the waiting sea. 

The sea sings a welcome and Cordelia sings with it;  no longer call-and-answer but a harmony.

* * *

BY @sarahwriteaway