Nicola Ann Roberts’ The Gift is the next instalment of Wales Arts Reviews’ Flash Fiction Week series, celebrating the genre with some of Wales’ best literary talents.
I did not expect to return here without you.
To this now barren lovers’ island, blanched to the starkness of an over-exposed photograph by the white sun. Waves break like glass against the rocky coves with their nail clippings of sand, mingling with the fallen and falling feathers of cormorants that nestle in the stone. The shell of a lighthouse stands as clearly as the Celtic cross constructed by those who came after the first pilgrims, finding only a hole in the ground that used to be a well near the carcass of a church that used to be Dwynwen’s.
Dwynwen: daughter, lover, hermit, saint. I still hear her in the rise and fall of the sea, in the wind that rushes through the long grasses and spirals, song-like, out of her empty well. She remains in every fissure of her three-walled church, the ruin that sheltered us after scrambling for hours on sand dunes with our sea-salted dog. He sat there, on what used to be Dwynwen’s altar, watching the circles in the puddles as it rained whilst I fought to be heard over the soaring wind. I grappled with my words and with the ring in my pocket, while you unearthed a wooden box in the far corner of the church. Contained within a miniature cairn, you gently lifted the box out of its tomb and held it out to me. A posy of pink sea bindweed was still intact in tight twine wound around the small casket. We sensed it was something personal and neither of us felt it was ours to open. We rebuilt the cairn and although we could no longer see the box, the pink flowers peeked through the spaces between the stones as I wordlessly placed a ring on your finger.
I truly never wanted to return here without you.
To this island of relics and impossibly clear light, where time has no hold on Dwynwen or the vows made under her sky. Oystercatchers wheel above a convoy of cormorants; traversing the cliffs they retreat to every spring, and I, I follow the ghost of a sea-salted dog running into the empty church that was, for a time, ours. I carry the bindweed I pulled from the forested edge of the sand dunes and the wooden box I found amongst your things. In my pocket, I carry your ring.
The Gift by Nicola Ann Roberts is part of a Wales Arts Review series publishing original flash fiction pieces by some of Wales’ top authors in a celebration of the unique literary genre and National Flash Fiction Day.