Dawn slipped into the room, bringing with it the sweet air of spring, the music of the sea and the song of the birds in the garden. As the curtains began to glow like rose petals in sunshine the warmth and light seemed to filter into Belinda’s dreams and slowly and very gently she turned from the inner to the outer world.
For several minutes she lay quite still, enjoying the light on her face, the glow through her eyelids, her mind a peaceful blank. Then she turned her attention to her body, becoming aware moment by moment of the touch of the sheet on her arms and legs, the cushioning of her back by the deep soft mattress, the light warmth of the duvet, and the smooth feel of the pillowcase under her cheek.
‘What’s today?’ she thought sleepily, searching in her mind for an anchor for the new day. ‘What did I do yesterday?’ and memory began to waken along with wonder at the newness of the day which was brightening around her.
Yesterday had been a day of painful partings. A day not filled with sorrow or regret but with hard and bitter words, with misunderstandings which could not be untangled because they were too deeply rooted in the distant past.
When she was thirty-five, at her father’s insistence she had given up her independent life, abandoning the career she had worked so hard for in order to come home and care for him, but now after fifteen years of endless demands, ingratitude and grinding misery she had left that life behind together with all its hurt and heartache.
It wasn’t as if there was no one else to shoulder the burden – she had two married sisters and a brother, but they and everyone else had assumed that she, as the single, one should sacrifice her life on the altar of her father’s alcohol-fuelled disabilities. At last, having made it clear that she felt she had done her bit, she had spent the last two months desperately fighting to free herself from her shackles, and yesterday had been the culmination of that struggle, as she had finally left him and her childhood home behind.
Her sisters and her brother, in a hard fought struggle to avoid their part in the care of their father, had also spent the last two months in bitter recriminations and accusations, and yesterday had declared they would disown her if she left.
But she’d stuck to her guns, and having explained the new arrangements she had made for her father’s continued support and handed over the relevant paperwork she had driven away and left them bickering with each other on the doorstep.
It hadn’t been crude selfishness which had motivated her but simple necessity which had brought her to that moment – the necessity of a life and existence which was not a form of slavery; an identity which was not that of a third-class citizen; a label hung around her neck by her family and, it seemed, the whole of society because she hadn’t married and produced children as she was expected to. She could no longer continue to be the passive object of their scorn, condescension and pity. Using the savings her father had been unable to wrest from her, she had quietly and efficiently worked towards her freedom, and once everything was in place declared her intent quietly but immovably.
She had been exhausted when she arrived here last night; physically and emotionally exhausted, and, sitting by the fire remembering the good times they had had so long ago when they were children, she had wept over the loss of all that had held them together as a caring family.
But today was the first day of the rest of her life. She opened her eyes and looked around the comfortable, low-beamed cottage bedroom. She smiled, and rising went next door and had a leisurely soak in the newly installed bath.
Later, having had her breakfast sitting by the open window in the kitchen, she strolled outside to survey the half-acre of garden which surrounded the cottage. It was already beautiful, but she would enjoy planning further improvements and putting her own stamp on it.
Then she walked down the lane to the beach, and wandered along by the high tide mark, picking up driftwood for her fire and dropping pebbles and shells for the bedroom windowsill into her pockets.
Slowly the peace of the quiet sea and the gentle sussuration of the waves on the sand soaked into the depths of her being and she was ready to let go of the burdens she had brought with her last night. On an impulse she laid down her driftwood and named them one by one in her mind, and for each burden she threw a stone far into the water, until they were all drowned and she was empty inside.
Now she could sit on a boulder in the sun and let hope and love and gladness fill those empty places. She could think of her plans for a small independent business in the nearby town, and be filled with thankfulness at the welcome and help she had been given by the locals, and the two young girls who had been so glad of the offer of good jobs on the island.
Her thoughts wandered for a while, and then she smiled as a verse from one of the Psalms came into her mind:
“Tears may linger at nightfall
but rejoicing comes in the morning.”
She rose, picked up her driftwood, and strode back to her new home with a song in her heart.