DEATH ON AN ENGLISH BEACH

She stood on the grassy dunes and gazed at the landscape before her. The beach, sand not shingle, spread out like a carpet, with no variation in level or colour until it gently fell away to the white-crested waves, submitting to the power of the water.

Although it was June, the sky was leaden, the colour of shot and there was no suggestion of the sun behind the unbroken cloud. Rain drizzled down, fine and gentle and yet still it soaked through her thin, cotton blouse. Goose pimples peppered her white skin.

There was not another soul in sight. Later, the clouds would part and let the heat of the midsummer sun delight the crowds, all flocking to claim their patch of beach, territory marked by gaudy windbreaks and parasols. The day would pass, like countless other summer days in England, with French cricket, ice cream and castles. But for now there were no footprints to break the monotony of the sand.

Suddenly, the woman bounced down from the dune with an unexpected vigour. She half-skipped, half-ran across the sand, spinning round and round and laughing out loud, though the sound was wasted on the waves which kept on with their regular heartbeat. In and out. In and out.

She came to the water’s edge but she did not stop dancing. She moved through the foaming tide without altering her pace or even acknowledging its presence under her feet. Her floral skirt stuck to her legs as the ocean rose higher and higher around her thin body. Her childlike laughter rang out and up towards the heavens. And then, it was as if she had never been there.

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