Mallory tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear and looked out of her window. Grey granite houses clustered at the bottom of the hills. They looked like they were in danger of sliding the last few yards into the sea. In bad weather, she often thought they didn't dare sit on the tops of the hills for fear of the wind and rain but huddled at the bottom to keep company and warmth.
She had been born in this house but she wouldn't die in it. One day she would marry and leave this house to her brother and his wife. Too young for that yet, it was still home. Nothing had changed too much, being orphaned hadn't seen her homeless. Her brother was full of life and spirit and love and he kept her with him rather than turn her out.
Things had only got better for them when he found his wife. Found might be a strange word but it seemed apt. No one in the surrounding villages or towns had ever seen or heard of Sally before she came home with Tom one day. That had been a strange day.
No boats had left to fish, they had been pulled up above the sands of the cove as far as they could get them and still they feared they would be lost. Nobody in their right mind would go out on a day such as that one. Just to step foot out the door was a risk, being so close to the cove. A storm such as this might come once in a hundred years.
Mallory and Tom had been sat in front of the fire and some of the other villagers had joined them. Tom had a fantastic voice and Mallory had a piano in the corner that had arrived with her Mother the day she left town to live with their Dad. So everyone came here when they could do little else, bringing food and drink and their voices to raise in song and merriment while Mallory played.
Tom was halfway through a verse when he suddenly stopped as if he heard something and needed to be quiet to hear it better. Everyone else stopped to but in puzzlement as they could hear nothing. Suddenly Tom was moving towards the door tugging on boots and oilskins and then he was gone. Out into the rain and wind with the waves trying to push up the beach at the houses.
Nobody knew quite what to say and they wouldn't meet Mallory's eye as she sat their in shock, fingers paused above the keys. She gathered her hands in her lap for a moment and then she decided to leave as well, following after Tom in oilskins. The villagers would follow her lead.
Outside the wind hit her and the rain clawed at her. Which way? A flash of yellow on the beach and she could see him moving towards the rocks. She prayed that the waves would hold off for a bit and not sweep him away. Why would he go there?
She thought she saw a small black bird, a storm petrel? But it couldn't have been. Because then she realised there was a woman down there, on the rocks. Naked to the wind and rain with long black hair all that covered her. She must be hurt.
She ran down, nearly falling over in the rain and wind. Tom reached her as a wave crashed onto the rocks and she shouted a warning. Tom crouched over the woman and clung to her and the rock and disappeared from view.
Old man Blue appeared next to her tutting under his breath as he took the scene in, in an instant. He turned to his boat at the top of the slipway as she started to move down.
'Wait, you'll be needing this.' He said.
He returned with a rope and tied it round her and then she ran. Were they still there crouched between the rocks? Had the wave dragged them out? She saw something moving. It was them. He was dragging the woman higher up the rocks to a perilous safety, as long as the waves didn't climb too high.
Mallory started round the rocks to help, nearly slipping on the rocks, dragged down by the weight of the rope. Another wave and she saw Tom shelter the woman with his body placing her between himself and the rock he clung to.
They reappeared from the water and Mallory moved across above them and reached down to help pull the woman up. Her skin was cold and wet with rough abrasions and lines of red that seemed to bloom as she watched. Mallory stared in horror as the woman could barely hold her hand. Tom pushed and she pulled and somehow the woman was there with her and Tom was scrambling up the rock to join them.
They slung the woman between them and started scrambling towards safety. Blue held the rope taut and she knew she was the safest of all of them. The waves flung spray up at them, angry that they had moved beyond the reach of the sea. Hitting them with sand and pebbles.
After the longest time they reached the villagers and were bundled into their house. A blanket appeared around the woman. Tom and Mallory were soon stripped to their smalls and warming by the fire. Daisy was in the kitchen making up some hot broth and this was quickly brought through along with some of maria's special salve, stuffed full of plants taken under the light of the full moon and blessed by her light.
Tom had cuts on his hands and a gash on his forehead but he seemed not to notice such was his focus on the woman. He hadn't said a word, in fact since Blue had spoken, no one had. The folk of these shores were quick to action and words were not wasted when action was to be taken.
It was Maria that spoke first 'Now Tom, let me by so I can look at her.' For Tom was positioned as if guarding the woman. He grudingly moved away. And Maria bent over the lady and tutted.
Maria looked at the masses of hair and called for a towel to wrap it up in. Once bound the body of the woman could be seen. Maria turned to the villagers and with a disapproving look they one by one took their leave, moving towards the door. Maria cast her gaze back to the lady.
'Mallory, heat some water for the bottles, she needs to sleep more than she needs us poking at her. Prepare your parent's bed and light up a fire for her.'
As I left the room, I heard mention of holding her steady and things broken. As I climbed the stairs, I heard a heart wrenching cry and i shivered. Birds can't fly with broken wings. I quashed that thought and used my tasks to keep warm. I lit the fire first to start the room a warming and then turned the covers back. I fetched some stone hot water bottles from the cupboard and took them downstairs.
I knew Daisy had left a pot of water on the stove but as I passed through the main room I could see Tom scowling at Maria as she bound the woman's arm. Her eyes were now open slightly but she didn't look fully awake. Her good hand gripped Tom's in panic as her eyes widened and i could hear Tom croon to her as he would a horse.
Hot water pouring and then the stones were wrapped in cloth to protect my hands and taken upstairs. I then went to my room and removed my wet slip and redressed. I bought back down dry clothes for Tom. The woman smelt of lavender now, one of the few ingredients I knew of the salve. Her cuts all seemed minor which surprised me. She had been on that beach longer than Tom hadn't she? Surely she had been buffeted by the rocks. She could only have come from the sea, over the rocks.
Tom dressed and then under Maria's watchful eye he carried her up the stairs to the warmed bed. He couldn't take his eyes off of her and as he went to leave her, she stirred and her eyes flickered open. The panic was evident until Tom shhh'd her and lay on the bed next to her.
I bought up broth for him and put another log on the fire. Maria stood there looking at the woman, with her dark hair and pale, unblemished skin and pursed her lips.
She turned and beckoned me down the stairs. 'It's no use now, what is done is done, mayhap this house needs another woman.' she muttered and then she turned to me 'get you some food and off to bed, I shall check on you all in the night but you know where I be if any trouble comes a'knocking. Fare you this night well, or as well as can be.' And then she left.
I drank my broth sat by the fire before I covered it over for the night and with a stone for myself, crawled off to bed. And that was the end of the day that Sally came into our lives. I never understood how Tom heard her call over the storm. I never understood how only he could hear it. I never understood how she had come from the sea and survived. But it didn't matter for she and Tom were inseperable and the goodness of her spirit shone through. It surprised none that she never left.