Richard Pierce

Life, Writing

Day 183

Sweltering today. Even the breeze with the occasional sharp gust is hot. Thank God for the shade. I’ve always said it’s the shade that makes the heat bearable, even enjoyable. The mountains across the bay are still shrouded in haze, even though it’s gone 3pm. For some reason the days seem very short right now (in time not light, although the light goes so quickly at just before 9pm it’s like someone’s turned the lights out.

I like the heat, most of the time. I can’t imagine living properly in it, though, and the heat I wish for in England when I’m not on holiday is of a more gentle kind, one that doesn’t obliterate alertness or the planet, but one which allows me to sit comfortably in the shade at lunch or when the working day is done wearing just shorts and t-shirt. Like I said the other day, I don’t really want to leave – I’ve grown to rather enjoy doing nothing. I’ll think of the end of this no more.

Yesterday, Giorgo(s) from our café came and sat on my sun lounger and we had a long chat (and he just came over as I was writing this and asked if it was really true when I’d told him he was going to be in my short story, and I read him his initial appearance in it which I’d written this morning, and he approved, although he had, I think, hoped to be a swashbuckling hero rather than his magnificent self) about everything and nothing, mainly about how difficult it is to run a small business on your own, about how his eyes and ears need to be everywhere all the time, and how losing a difficult customer can sometimes be blessing, and why I just sat in the shade and read and wrote rather than enjoying my holiday. I said that was me enjoying my holiday, because that is me doing nothing, my nothing. The oddest thing about that man is that his kindness overwhelms me every time, and when he’s gone off to his business, there’s always more than just one tear in my eye, and an ache in my gut which tells me we may have come across each other before, in some other life. We might even have defended this place against some danger together, as warriors. It’s not a far-fetched idea. Or maybe he just makes everyone feel like that. Whichever – it’s a gift.

Yes, this is me doing nothing, and I don’t want to stop.


But there’s no forest behind the fence, no big manor house surrounded by grass slopes, no lake, not that Aggie can see anyway. She stands there, and the split second she takes rewinds her whole memory of her time in recovery, incarceration, training, and escape. She remembers the unconscious guard, the night with the mentoe, the shot at Anna, realigned at the last moment, the chase through the trees, through the almost unbreachable forest, her breathing so loud in her ears she thought her head would burst, the lack of exhaustion, the feeling she could run forever and never stop, the sudden collapse that can only have come from the mentor firing some sort of tranquillizer dart into her back, and the merciful dark of unconsciousness, and the even more merciful dark of the month in solitary damp confinement.

‘What’s the matter?’ Lilibet says. ‘Why are you holding your breath?’

No time has passed, and Lilibet is only reacting to Aggie’s surprise at the familiarity of this place.

‘I think I might have been here before,’ Aggie says. ‘But it’s not them same, not the same at all.’

‘That’s weird.’

‘Yes. My memory tells me this should be in Poland.’

‘I know I said you should just treat all your memories as if they were true and not question them, but we’re definitely in Montrose.’

‘You’re still right,’ Aggie says. ‘Maybe it’s just that barbed wire makes every place look like a prison.’

‘The Army did make me feel like that. It wasn’t always comfortable. And the men made it worse.’

‘I’m not sure I want to know about that.’

‘And I wasn’t planning on telling you about it either.’ Lilibet manages a laugh. ‘Come on, before anyone else turns up.’ She leads Aggie off to the right, away from the main entrance, round the east side of the complex where the fence veers away from the road, until they reach a part of it where no sound seems to reach. ‘I think this could be the best place.’

The closest hut of the old air field is at least the length of a football pitch away, its doors obviously facing west, as there’s just a blank wall of corrugated iron at this end of it.

‘All we need to do is cut the fence and ket ourselves in,’ Lilibet says.

‘It’s easier than that,’ Aggie says, grabs Lilibet around the waist and jumps over the fence with her, landing aoftly and soundlessly on the grass on the other side. She lets go of Lilibet.

‘How did you do that?’ Lilibet gasps.

‘I bent my legs and jumped. Simple.’ Aggie grins at her.

‘With my weight?’

‘You weigh nothing.’

‘Over a three-metre fence?’

‘It’s not very high, is it?

‘Maybe you are that biological anomaly you said you are,’ Lilbet says.

‘I just do things. They’re not that difficult. Mind over matter maybe. Instinct. Call it what you want.’

‘You’re amazing.’ Lilibet grabs Aggie’s hand, bends in towards her, kisses her lips gently and ferociously at once.

‘I think you should show me where you think they took you from,’ Aggie says. ‘Before we forget why we’re here.’

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