Chapter 1: The Walk
Jess stops and looks back at her, those blue eyes willing her to trough the ball, then he runs off distracted by something, he stops again looking over his shoulder, questioning.
It’s morning, one of those bright early autumnal mornings, were the world just feels right, the sun is not long up and long shadows reach back toward the night. There’s a thin mist, and the world is damp, grass squelching underfoot, and here and there cobwebs glisten, like hundreds of diamonds suspended in the air.
She walks this path every morning, up from the village, across the heather, past the old cottage toward the cliff path, down onto the beach, then back along the valley through the woods. All before breakfast and the start of her day.
Jess barks, “not yet” she says, they play ball on the beach, to many balls lost in rabbit holes, but every morning he tries to bend the rules. Jess is Border Collie, very smart and young. With the enthusiasm for the world that only the young seem to have.
Her early morning walks are her happy time, the one thing that keeps her sane, in truth Jess is not her dog, Ben her husband likes the idea of a dog, but has never shown any interest, unless they have guests, she would say friends but there not her friends, there his. The few friends she had have evaporated, lost in time. Her fault, but Ben is not a man who shares.
Her parents names her Josephine, as was her mother and her grandmother, and back in an unbroken line, originally from France, she wished she had listened to her father before he died, he had spent the latter part of his life documenting the family history, initially only his side of the family but latterly he had become obsessed with her mothers family, dragging her and her mother all over France to visit graves, old houses and churches, his last request was that she read his notes, that was seven years ago, and she never had, just a box packed in the loft. But one day she would find the time, and the courage to lift the lid. She missed her father dearly, a small man, thin, acuity intelligent, with a gentleness and humour instantly made people trust him. She had taken after him, five foot two inches, thin, with dark almost black hair, which would have grey highlight if she was allowed, but Ben liked her “presentable”, her best feature in her mind was her eyes, deep blue, like her mothers, everyone commented on her eyes, and Ben hated that.
They reached the small beach and she trough the ball, Jess leapt after it, catching it on its second bounce and returning it and dropping it at her feet.
As she reached down to collect the ball, she noticed a man walk through the gate from the valley, irritated, she clipped the lead to jesses collar, the magic gone, sharing this time was not part of the plan. He walked with a large Labrador, walking obediently at his heal. He was tall, maybe forty five and had white hair, he was dressed for the conditions she thought, walking boots, jeans, and a thick waxed jacket, he was using a stick, but not relaying on it, more out of habit she thought. He was tall, at least six foot, and would have been good looking if not for the scar on the side of his face, not resent but not old, pink, lumpy and challenging anyone to stare.
As they passed she realised that he had chosen to walk close to her, they passed on the empty beach within feet, and she saw his eyes, there was pain in them, hurt and suffering, but they were the same as hers, exactly the same colour. She had never seen eyes that blue on anyone but her mother.
He said “good morning” in a soft American accent, and she mumbled “good morning” back, and the moment was gone. When she reached the gate, she looked back expecting him to be gone, but he was standing at the other end of the beach watching her. Odd man, she thought and turned and left, wind blowing the leaves, gently falling, bring her thoughts back to reality, Jess pulling on the lead. She reach down releasing the dog to go play in the leaves.
She reaches the edge of the woods and calls jess, like a naughty boy he sulks over knowing that play time is over and they are returning to the real world.