Prudence Bourreau gazed out over the cliff edge, across the white horses of the Channel.
She inhaled and held her breath, the taste of the brine a light perfume in her nostrils. The horizon melted between sea and sky, as grey gave way to grey. The heavens above mirrored the waters below, clouds scattered over the waves.
Prudence nestled down into her warm vest and pulled the zip up all the way. A strong wind buffered her. The loose strands of her hair, which had escaped the Alice band, floated on the currents. She squinted off into the distance, where the black dot of a boat bobbed in the waters, nought but a seafaring ant. How many people sailed on board, so far away? Could they see her, a speck atop the cliff? Or did she disappear into the surroundings?
To her left, wild grass rippled in the gusts. First one way, then another. A liquid, multicellular organism built of a billion strands. One jagged tooth lurched away from the cliff face, crumbled into the seas. It jutted up into the sky like an accusatory finger. To her right, a scatter of rocks merged with the grass. As if the very landscape suffered from fibrodysplasia ossificans progressive. The stones tumbled over the edge, spilled down to where the ocean clashed with the cliff.
Nobody around for miles.
Prudence sighed and nodded to herself. A good day to scatter your husband’s ashes. A beautiful place to put Henri to rest. God knew he’d struggled for long enough. But sometimes, no matter how hard you fight, you lose the battle.
She knew what she had to do wouldn’t be easy. She had no illusions that it would. They’d been together for 47 years — the only man she’d ever loved. To the best of her knowledge, he’d always been faithful. And he’d always treated her with kindness. The father of her two children, and a good one at that. He’d supported them up until the kids left home and began their own lives, and worked for a good few years after that. For his retirement, they’d all pitched together to buy him a nice gold watch. Not a perfect man by any means, but not a bad one either. Could any man ever claim the title of perfection? Yet, if the pearly gates did indeed exist, Prudence did not doubt that Saint Peter would smile upon his life’s deeds. The children didn’t know she’d come here — Prudence decided she should do this alone.
A lone seagull floated on the updrafts. It hovered, motionless in the air. As if it did not fly, but rather hung suspended with string. Prudence squinted harder, but she could see no black lines connected to the bird. No. Real. It cawed once, its lonesome love song to the void. No other gull returned its call. Its cry burst forth and dropped into the ocean, a sonic pebble cast into the tide. With one last screech, it dipped its wings, plunged for the waves, and disappeared behind the ledge. Did it dive into the waters? Or did it pull up at the last second, a stunt worthy of the Red Arrows?
Times would be tough in the months ahead, Prudence knew that. But Henri’s life insurance policy would keep her safe for the foreseeable future. In his absence, he’d keep her as safe as he’d kept her during his life. Safer, even. You didn’t sniff at three hundred and fifty million. Sad to think about life in terms of the money it could produce. But you couldn’t change the way the world works. You could only offer a grim smile — stiff upper lip — put your head down and get on with things. Blitz spirit, and all that.
For one brief moment, the clouds parted and a shaft of sunlight broke free of the firmament. The beam angled down into the waves. Golden glitter glinted on the tide. It rippled and flickered, danced and winked. A belt tightened around Prudence’s chest, and she could not breathe. She could only stand and stare, at the beauty of the world. God’s country.
Prudence cleared her throat, turned and smiled at the car. Henri’s old Mini, one of the originals before they shipped all the factories off to Germany. Henri waved, as he held up the cap from the thermos, now full of tea. Steam wafted from the lip of the mug, and Prudence knew the brew within would taste perfect. Not bad for a Frenchman. Sugared and milked to her precise requirements. He’d put a lot of effort into learning the art of tea, as he understood the importance of it to her. Almost five decades of happiness.
The clouds stitched themselves together again, and the sunshine soon dimmed. A fine day to scatter Henri’s ashes indeed. Prudence Bourreau — née Covington — lifted her hand and returned the wave. And then began to thread her way through the swathes of grass towards the car.
She only had to kill and cremate the bugger, first.
Monday, October 11, 2021
Written for the October 2021 #BlogBattle: ‘Scatter’