Just before dawn, a figure made its way along Hywleton quay, dimly lit by the street lamps that were just about to turn off for the day. On the other side of the quay, around Hywleton Hill, fishermen were fixing themselves, their boats and their nets to take to sea, but on this side of the village, the day hadn’t yet begun, except for the dripping wet, weary creature who was headed for one of the tiny, wobbly whitewashed cottages that had sat in a row along the quay, holding each other up for two centuries or more.
The wet creature stopped at the eighth door and expected it to open without any key.
When the door failed to open, he tried looking inside the house through the window, but it was covered with a curtain. Confused, he knocked on the door.
Isobel woke up at the sound of something banging. It took her a second to realise it was the front door, and she sat up in bed. She was used to the sounds of the sea and the few remaining fishermen taking their boats out early in the morning, and usually slept through them, but this was an insistant knocking, and it woke her up with its urgency. She reached out in the gloom to turn on the lamp, and squinted at the little travel clock on her bedside table. It was barely six o’clock.
“Alright, I’m coming!” she grumbled and headed downstairs. The knocking sounded so urgent that she didn’t look for a dressing gown or slippers and went down the narrow staircase as fast as her sleepy body would allow. It was moments like this that reminded her that she was in her fifties and that her body was becoming as creaky as her stairs.
“I’m coming, I’m coming, hang on a minute” she said under her breath, and, remembering her old body’s reduced capacities to run away or put up a fight, put the chain on, in case it was an axe murderer.
The wet creature was lifting his hand to knock again when he heard the sound of creaking stairs, some muffled words, and the sound of a lock and a chain. Finally, the door began to crack open. His shoulders relaxed and he smiled to himself. “At last,” he thought, “I am home.”
“Ma! I’m home!” he cried at the terrified and dishevelled woman whose face peered at him from behind the chain, lit by the light in the street and the faint first grey light of day.
Isobel, the terrified dishevelled woman, standing in her bare feet and an old t-shirt, studied the hairy wet figure for two seconds before telling him quite clearly that she wasn’t his ma. The wet creature had already realised that this was not his mother, and was frantically looking up and down the street to make sure that he had got the right house, but it was, it was the eighth house. Helpfully, it now had a number 8 painted on the wall by the door, which he thought unnecessary for most people can count to eight or more.
He turned back to Isobel. “Where is my ma? Where is she? Is she sick? Oh my lord…she is not… dead, is she??”
The wet creature, a young hairy man, was becoming frantic, in a sad, gentle way, that it seemed to Isobel that he probably wasn’t going to try to murder her with an axe and she took pity on him. “I think you’d better come in”.
She shut the door to release the chain, opened it up again and ushered him in. He just stood there, staring at the air above her head, confused by the fact that this wasn’t his dear old ma, whom he had said goodbye to a year earlier, and that, whoever this lady was, she was very strange.
The street lamps clicked off and the young man, his nerves ajangle, jumped at the sudden change in the light, as if night time was coming back again, and he took it as a cue to accept Isobel’s offer, and ducked into what had been his mother’s house.