The 17th story in my debut collection Remember Me To The Bees is Drops of Wax. I wrote it while visiting Cyprus with my family, thinking about how powerfully location can match or contrast with our emotions, and how a single moment can change everything in your life.
The artwork is by Louise Boulter.
A short excerpt from Drops of Wax
At the nearby tavern I order a strong shot of Cypriot coffee, no sugar. The shock of bitter caffeine helps to keep me in place, preventing me drifting inwards to replay that night again and again.
To the left of the harbour, rock pools glint. Michael loved rock pools. I remember him hunting for hours beneath sea- weed fronds for crabs and small quicksilver fish.
I pay for my coffee and skitter down the road to the pools, pretending Michael is skipping along beside me. I even imagine his voice, nattering away about some sea beastie he intends to hunt down and capture with his small blue net. But the rock pools, when I reach them, are oddly still. No seaweed wafts in this salt water; no crabs scuttle for shelter as my foot descends. It’s like stepping into a warm bath.
I wade in the water, disconcerted by the jagged volcanic rocks surrounding them. Nothing seems to live here at all.
“Karen? How are you?”
I turn and see Nola, Gigi by her side wearing a pink swim- suit and a pair of jelly shoes. They both beam at me.
“Nola,” I manage. “Kalimera, good morning.”
“Oh, you speak Greek.”
“Just a few words.” I’m self-conscious suddenly. “What are you doing here?”
“Gigi likes to look for crabs. They don’t live in the pools though – we find them in the sea, where it is cooler.” She says something to Gigi who holds out a small plastic bucket to me. Several miniscule white shells lie inside, spiralled into sharp points. The child picks one up, showing me the thin spiky legs that poke out. Look, I want to say, Look at that, Michael.
“Lovely,” I say, and Nola laughs.
“I think they’re horrid,” she says. “More like, what is the word? In Spain we call them araña. Oh yes, spider. I think these are more like spider than crab.”
“Spain?” I ask. “You’re on holiday here?”
“Georgios, my husband, is Greek Cypriot. Gigi and I just flew back from visiting my family in Madrid.”
The word husband makes me swallow hard. “You must miss your family when you’re here.”
“And I miss my husband when I’m there,” she shrugs, accepting the situation with a matter-of-factness I crave.