It is a place of dreams. It is a place of rolling hills and slow moving water, a sunken pocket of land where deer roam the open spaces and osprey soar the empty skies. The sky here travels high and wide like a long breath.
They had a routine, and that was something to hold onto. Every morning began the same. She couldn’t remember exactly what the night and the day had been like before they made this child, but she knew they had been less full, less anchored.
This morning when she came in I knew it was going to be one of those days. She had a look in her eyes and under her skin that made the coldest fear suck at my insides. It wasn’t the first time, but I wasn’t used to it yet and I couldn’t look at it with any kind of calmness. That would come. Thank god that would come.
If they stopped and stood perfectly still out on the moor, the quiet was everything. Maybe it was the rise of the hills around them, she thought at first, that meant all sounds from modern life were absent, but even when they walked up atop the hills the quiet was as deep as the ocean. Only the sound of one or two birds broke the silence.
They sit around the table, ten women, their years stretched between fifty-five and eighty-three. They take a mug of tea and a shortbread biscuit between their stiff fingers and they wait a while.
On a small patch of green beside the library in this close community on the hill, once a year we tell stories in a marquee while the sun blazes, the rain beats and the wind howls.
The people down there are walking on the concrete pavement, sitting on wooden benches, driving in their metal cars. The city is a constant loop of vehicles, smoke and smog, and noise. It goes around and around and I can see its shunted and criss-cross movement like the leaves on the tress see the ants below.
She’d sat in the pub with them. Her son, now sixty, and his wife and two daughters. They’d insisted on bringing their golden retriever dog with them, even though Janice had made it plain by the face she pulled that she didn’t like the idea. And she’d been right. The dog had sat by the table all the way through their meal, his big puddle eyes staring and flicking from the food to the people, and back again. It made her uncomfortable, she didn’t like it, and she knew her son, and his wife especially, were tired of that, but still she didn’t like it.
At the time they lived here, the average age of death for women was around 25, can you imagine that? 25! She could see that was true. She only had to walk along the first row of graves, Sycamore seeds helicoptering to the…