Some nights, even on the calmest tides, the men bring the boats in late, and the women of the bay stave off worry a hundred ways, or a thousand, or with a shot of whiskey in a bottomless pot of tea.
Lucy’s way is to wait, to bank her fear along with the hearth fire and tuck up the babes with a lullaby and a prayer and a kiss. “Would you like an extra song tonight?”, but they are a fisherman’s sons, and know to be afraid.
“No, no,” they wail, “we want our da’,” so she gains the distraction of soothing them with a story, a rambling lulling tale that ebbs and flows with no end except curled lashes on soft flushed cheeks.
She leaves a light in the window, the door ajar. She knows nightfall changes greater things than her garden, still she waits there anyway. The lavender breeze laps away the musky afternoon scent of sunflowers, and another fragrance–nightshade, though she’s never planted any–drowns the sweaty breath of her nasturtiums and marigolds, even as she deadheads them with blind shaking hands.
Lucy plucks petals: daisies and cornflowers”””one I love him, two he loves me, three he’s my sailor-boy home from the sea.” She rips the leaves, shreds fibrous stems, not noticing her green-stained fingers when at last she returns to put on the kettle.
Cold tea and waning prayers, dawn’s harsh white truth, and the time for worry passes. No need to let it in alongside the murmuring women, their stews and their cakes. No use for worry any longer, when Lucy has children to tell, and dress, and feed.
After the search, after the men bury her husband, or an empty box; after the bay and its people drone seafarers’ hymns; then, Lucy thinks, she will pull her most tender blooms, and root them in the grave’s rich, new-turned earth.
Louise Campbell is a writer and freelance editor in British Columbia.