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It was baking. The sea cliffs to the north wavered in the heat like white bubbles. From the cliffs or from the darkness of the sea came a regular and deep booming sound, but the roaring temperature came from the earth itself. Samara threw herself down onto the dust and sheepshit, under the only tree for miles: a blasted hawthorn, lopsided in the wrong direction by the winds of years past and gone. With her eyes at last shaded by this one tree, she saw her water bottle was empty and her path had ended. Six feet away was a quarry to walk round – or to turn back from.
“Damned hiking. Stupid idea. Could have been shopping.”
She dragged herself to her feet and looked down. There was a steep, grey shale-slide into mud. A spring? She slid. The ride was gentle at first. It created a breeze around her which smelt of spring, and broken grass-blades. But shale-rides are always the same. You run faster into your slide, to keep your balance, until you don't know what your legs are doing. Time blurs and so do the stones.
At the bottom she looked up, and the top became higher than it was before she slid. She squotched about in the mud and found the spring. Cool hands, cool face, wet mouth, a full water bottle and no more booming sound. And a voice behind her.
“Pliss give us drink, darling?”
“Get your own. Free country. Have a nice day.”
“Your Nathan miss you.”
She squelched to a halt in the grey ooze, turned and stared. A few feet up on the shale and in this thundering heat he wore leathers and hair gel – and wasn't sweating. He sat with his arms resting on his knees, his head and shoulders pushed forward and great, dark eyes watching.
“Nathan sent you to follow me? That's it then. I've had enough.”
She turned away again.
“Anton don't miss you. Josh still do. Graham dead and Tony drunk all time. He forget you. You alone. You think of self only.”
His voice was almost a whisper, but the woman shrieked.
“Who's been spying on me? Who sent you? Who the heck are you?”
Samara was shaking. She picked up a slippery stone and fondled it, passing it from hand to hand. Stones slid down to her feet as the man stood up: loose-limbed; unworried; tall.
“Eff off,” she said, and squelched away. More stones slid. “No, I'm leaving.”
Rocks dug into her back and hips. Her head kept hitting the shale. There were no clouds; just blinding whiteness up there. Very, very high above, a passenger jet hummed. The heat was thrumming again.
“And you have joint account with these five men. They work, you spend. Graham hang himself while you with Tony.”
“Get off. Get off get off get off. Get off.”
“And you look at watch while Anton do it. He know. He love you. He pay rent anyway. Where your kids? No kids.”
“No kids. So what? Let me go. I've got money. Let me give you money, and let me go. Get off.”
“No. I telling you all that you did. My job. I paid already.”
“What do you want? I'll pay you. Get off. Leave me alone.”
“I want nothing. I rich. I free. You always want, want, want. You want this.”
“No I don't.”
Samara rearranged her clothes wearily, sitting on the shale. The man was lying on his back on the hot stones, smoking. He still had not drunk any water. He still did not sweat.
“Who the heck are you? Who sent you?”
It couldn't be Anton. Antons were pathetic. Revenge wouldn't cross the mind of an Anton. Samara always chose her men carefully. Anton was a sweetie. He would carry on being a sweetie. The man surveyed her coldly with his dark eyes. She watched him as he coolly sucked at the cigarette and she thought.Anton was dull, anyway. His idea of a good time was watching television. Time for a change. She leant over and touched his hand. Sometimes time moves slowly and all you can do is watch. Like a falling leaf, the cigarette spun downwards, as his fingers spread to grip her wrist. Grey mud rose. It flooded and enveloped her face, her ears and then her head. She felt his boot on the back of her neck. Mud is ice-cold and comfortable on a summer's day. She waited for the man to lift his foot.
Copyright 2003 © LS
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