The sun shimmered across the water, a ripple of pale peach in lavender. St Aubin’s Bay was at its prettiest early in the morning before Jersey really woke up.
Natalie loved this time of day. It was like opening the first page of a new book. You could love it or hate it; you didn’t know what was going to happen.
By 8am, when the Avenue was full of traffic, and the beach was dotted with dogs and walkers, the day had already found its genre, following a path that could take it towards being a romance or a thriller, a literary sensation or a horrific flop.
Promise. Potential. Possibilities. That was the day at dawn as Natalie wheeled her kayak down the slip and pushed off into the water. She did a loop around the fort, then paddled over towards Belcroute. She took the kayak as close to the rocks as she dared, enjoying the swell as she bobbed up and down in the waves. Get the angle right, and the wave would take her right up to the beach. Get it wrong, and she would be going for a dip.
Taking aim, she aligned the kayak and waited for a wave. A few seconds later, Natalie waded ashore, dragging her boat up the sand.
A couple of years back, when she bought the kayak, she’d hoped Matt would join her on the water. They’d never been one of those ‘couply couples’ who always had to do everything together. But on a bad day, it sometimes felt like the only thing they did together was argue.
Now, she didn’t really care for company when she went out in the bay; the giant tides around Jersey made the sea a capricious enough companion for anyone.
From the beach you could see through the trees up to the terrace of a shoreside house where a couple was having breakfast. The woman in a white robe, the man, naked to the waist at least, the table of croissants and jugs of juice obscured the rest.
Natalie unwrapped her towel and lay down against the kayak. It was already warm, and she wanted to get through a quick yoga set before she had to get back. She was still working from home but with conference calls starting at 9am it was going to be a busy day.
Just before lockdown her firm had been due to complete a substantial acquisition. Now, the deal was being renegotiated and the longer it dragged on, the less convinced anyone seemed that it would, or even, should, happen.
Natalie could see her promotion evaporating faster than the saltwater on her skin. She had been circling though positions near the top of the industry for years, but each time a board-level role came up, she somehow got stood down. This deal would mean big changes for both businesses, and she was hopeful that this time they would include her.
She finished with a savasana, sealing in a final moment of calm before rising to meet the day.
When Natalie glanced over at the terrace the couple were no longer at the table. As she dragged her kayak back down the beach, she heard a woman scream, then the sound of branches being pushed back, someone running, panting. The man, who had been on the terrace, burst through the trees, stumbling onto the beach pursued by another man wearing more clothes, but not running quite as fast.
“You … you …” The clothed man paused for a moment, as if searching for the perfect word. “You cretin!”
Natalie watched, still holding her kayak as the man from the terrace, not just naked to the waist, but naked to his toes, carried on running, turning taut, suntanned buttocks to the sky as he plunged into the water.
“Oh my!” She exclaimed, not quite knowing what else to say. She’d once seen a seal in the bay and that had been quite exciting, but nothing quite like this.
With a few splashes, suntanned buttocks had swum off, leaving a bewildered Natalie, and a belligerent clothed chap standing on the beach trying to catch his breath.
She pulled her baseball cap down over her face and crouched behind a nearby rock, all thoughts of calm forgotten as her brain started working through a flowchart of options. The man looked strangely familiar although to be fair, a lot of overweight men in their 60s would look quite similar if you squinted at them around a chunk of granite.
After what seemed like a lot longer than five minutes, the man had recomposed himself enough to stomp back up the path. Natalie remained on the beach, listening until the footsteps were out of range and all she could hear again were the waves.
She slipped the kayak back into the water and paddled away. Passing the house, the terrace was empty, breakfast cleared away. She paddled back to the fort, picking up speed as she retraced her route home, thoughts already turning to the conference call ahead.
Join the Island Wives again next Friday.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living, dead or undead, or actual events is purely coincidental.