The Crossing

It was blowy on deck but Bella was in the mood for it. She held the railings and watched the chop of the water, the tears arriving, as they had every day for five weeks. Susie and Rick. Her Rick. She tried not to think about it. She was on the ferry in order not to think about it. A weekend in St Malo with her Mum and Dad – not an ideal pick-me-up for a jilted thirty year old, but it was a start.

It took her a while to realise she was being watched. She glanced round but nobody was looking her way. They were too busy ogling each other – couples - everywhere, it seemed. Bella clung on to the railings as the boat heaved. People began to retreat inside. It had been a hot August but now a storm was brewing, the air heavy. The waves were getting higher, bashing into each other. She didn’t mind. She had good sea-legs. Good legs, Rick used to say.

The feeling of being watched returned, much worse – goose-bumps, a burning on the back of her head – the eyes of a stranger, taking their fill. Bella spun round again on a silly bubble of hope that it might be a ‘he’- a nice ‘he’, the start of something new. She caught him this time, but it was a staring nutter, thin as a pencil, shivering in his skimpy T-shirt and jeans. A loser then, like her. Maybe that was why he was staring. You found your opposite number, people said. Twos found twos. Fives found fives. Tens found tens. Rick was a ten and he had found Susie. So where did that leave her?

And now he was coming towards her. Oh, lord, coming to talk. Bella pushed off, pretending she had caught the eye of a man further along the deck, a man in a grey anorak with his back to her. But the loser guy kept heading for the railings, to the spot where she had stood. The fixed look in his eye had darkened to something else, something crazed. He broke into a run. He hadn’t been looking at her, Bella realised, he had been looking into himself. His loser life, building up courage.

Afterwards she couldn’t have said what she did exactly. Only that she put herself in his path. And as he clambered on the railings, agile as a monkey, she somehow held on, though he kicked hard, his boots like fists. Through the tangle she saw some of the couples staring, not getting it. She shouted but the wind was loud. It was the man in the anorak who got there first. Big arms round the jumper’s waist. Then round her, after the nutter had been led away and she hit the floor. ‘Tea, I think,’ he said, with a smile even bigger than his arms and eyes that made her want to forget the grey anorak, not to mention her broken heart.

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