November 21, 2013 § 11 Comments
A short piece of flash. Just a draft…
Maud’s hands were still shaking when she found the empty table by the window in the cafeteria. She stiffened her jaw and tried to look unfriendly. Speaking to anyone would break the spell. She dumped her backpack on the spare seats and wondered if the fluttering in her stomach meant she was going to be sick.
The overnight ferry from Harwich to Esbjerg was tethered to the quay in an untidy cat’s cradle of hawsers, and the snake of cars nudged down the ramp deep into the ship’s insides. But, she told herself taking another swig from her water bottle – surely people don’t get seasick just from sitting on a ship in a harbour. She remembered her mother’s words, and pulled out a packet of oatcakes from the front pocket of her backpack.
Maud had never been on a ship before – in fact she’d never been abroad. That was why she was wearing the scarlet shirt. Exciting things always happened when she wore red – like the time she’d met Josh. She’d ironed it carefully that morning then boarded the train from Brighton to Liverpool Street. She’d held on tight to the rabbit’s foot – it meant she’d find her way around the Tube without getting in a state.
The train to Ipswich was slow and old, and mostly empty. It stopped at Manningtree where yachts propped up on stilts leaned dangerously in the estuary mud. She got off and waited for the shuttle to Harwich. The air was thick with sea salt. This was the end of the line; but Maud knew it was the beginning of the next phrase of her life.
She had bought the shirt the week before from the Oxfam shop in Kensington Gardens. It was the old fashioned type with no collar and had probably once belonged to an old man. It had fine dark blue stripes on a maroon background, and was long enough to tuck into her best jeans – the ones with the rip in the knee that were perfectly bleached from being endlessly scrubbed and left out in the sun. She smoothed her hair and examined her reflection in the window. You look good, she reassured herself.
The ship’s motion suddenly changed and it began to sway gently from side to side. The hawsers holding it fast had gone, and the ferry moved sideways leaving a swirling channel full of plastic bottles. The oily water bubbled and churned as if there was something alive under the surface. I’ve done it, she thought, patting her stomach; no one can stop me now.