WRITTEN BY JANETTE SYKES
Sam finds a place where she can be kind to herself, but will it help her face a new kind of future?
Sam takes a deep breath of sea air, scans the bay and waits for the buzz to kick in. Nothing. She’s waited so long for this, like a baby turtle in its shell waiting to emerge and head straight for the ocean, but she feels absolutely nothing.
She’s so empty inside, the only tears that run down her cheeks are caused by the brisk, salty breeze. It’s the first day of spring, with just a touch of warmth in the weak sunshine, a hint of better days to come.
She’s sitting outside her favourite café on the cliff top, the one she used to come to on childhood holidays with Mum, Dad and Gina, and then later when she and Rory were together. She’d expected it to feel reassuringly familiar, but without her favourite people it’s just a café.
Even though it’s sunny, there’s a distinct nip in the air, so she wraps her hands around her mug of hot chocolate to keep them warm. She’d love it to thaw her frozen emotions too, but that’s not likely to happen any time soon.
Maybe the gainsayers had been right, after all. Sam had thought that moving to the coast would give her the fresh start she had so badly needed after Rory. It’s too soon to make such a big decision, friends had advised. Give yourself more time to work out whether it’s the right thing for you, said Gina.
Mum and Dad, bless them, had just told her to do what she felt best, to listen to her heart. Desperate to shift the fog of grief that hung round her like a heavy blanket, and to ditch the well-meaning but suffocating looks and remarks that seemed to follow her everywhere she went, Sam decided on a change of scene.
So last year, she upped sticks from the small Midlands town where she had lived most of her life, landed a new job and relocated to the east coast resort that held so many happy memories.
“You’ll only be a couple of hours’ drive away – it’s not like you’re moving to Australia!” Mum had reassured her.
Your dad and I can come for weekends and holidays when you’ve got the spare room straight. You’ll never be short of people wanting to come and stay.
And so they had, at first, cooing over the panoramic views from her top-floor apartment, the bracing cliff top walks and broad sandy beaches, fish and chips eaten straight from the paper and ice creams savoured on leisurely strolls along the promenade.
Then winter had arrived, and the visits had slowed to a trickle…
Sam had been thrown back on her own inner resources, and at first she struggled. She hadn’t realised just how lonely out-of-season holiday resorts could feel, minus the crowds and constant hum of activity.
Then, slowly and surely, she began to adapt to her new way of life, being kind to herself as everyone assured her she should be, a young widow prematurely robbed of her husband and the life she had once thought was ahead.
Most importantly, she learned how to be alone, but not lonely.
Sam takes another satisfying draught of hot chocolate and studies the seagulls circling overhead, constantly on the lookout for stray scraps of food. Scavenging is the way they survive, she thinks, and part of her sympathises. It reminds her of the first few days after Rory died, when she clutched at anything she thought would staunch the pain.
She drains the last of her drink and decides it’s time for her to make a move. She thinks of the time on her honeymoon in Greece, when she and Rory had managed to prise themselves from each other’s arms long enough to run down to the beach and witness the moonlit magic of baby turtles bursting from their shells and scurrying down to the creamy surf pooling on the sugar-soft sand.
She walks down a flight of stone steps to a weathered row of beach huts, a sudden spring in her step. Lively conversation and light-hearted giggling reach her on the breeze as she reaches the end of the row and reads the sign Seaborough Sea Swimming Club.
“We’ve been waiting for you, Sam,” says one woman. “About time too!” says another. “Let’s go!” urges the third. Seconds later, Sam has stripped down to her swimsuit and joins them as they run towards the incoming tide. She takes a deep breath as she plunges in. A burst of relief embraces her as the invigorating waves break over her body and she feels the faintest stirring of that long-awaited buzz. It’s not Greece, and there’s no Rory. But baby steps, she thinks, towards a different kind of future.