Adam pulled over in the layby below the dam. He was always awed by the scale of it, the vast sheerness of the concrete face, its unconditionally anti-natural design. They used to sit half-way along the top of it, the two of them, with their legs dangling over, arms and chins hooked over the railings. She would ask him if he ever imagined how beautiful it would be if the dam ever burst. He didn’t, of course. Things like that didn’t occur to him. She was always more imaginative than him. And smarter. It wasn’t just that she had her degree; she understood things that he didn’t even see. She knew it too, revelling in making him feel small.
The town did look precarious though with the dam sheltering it threateningly from behind while the small bay was protected on one side by the harbour wall and on the other by the breakwater. The whole place was just borrowed from the water.
He followed the road that used to be a river into town then searched through the pamphlets strewn over the passenger seat for the directions she’d emailed him. Equality and Diversity: an introduction, Inclusivity and You. Christ, he’d have to work through all these before he went back next week. R.E.S.P.E.C.T., Recognising Gaslighting, Lola’s Rum and Rib Shack. That was it. By the old fisheries office.
The quayside had been developed beyond recognition. The waste ground of derelict sheds and skeletons of fishing boats had been replaced with polished granite and yachts. Cranes were balancing glass apartments like card towers while dump trucks pulled away the sand dunes to make room for more.
The café she’d chosen was a shipping container half-clad in scaffolding boards. She was sat out on the deck shaded by a canvas sail. Her hair was back to brown, no trace of the blonde highlights he liked. She had lost weight. Her crossed legs looked toned and tanned in the short shorts she would never have worn before.
“Hi,” he said.
Eve took her sunglasses off. She looked him and up and down. Her eyes looked fresh, no make-up. She smiled.
“I didn’t think you were coming.”
“Right, yeah, sor—…” He swallowed. “I got delayed.”
She went back to watching the waves surging against the breakwater while he sat.
“How have you been?”
“Good,” she said. Then more confident: “Good.”
“This place has changed.”
“Yeah. The whole town is improving. I don’t think it was just because you left…”
He laughed nervously. “Not sure I like it.”
He was on the back foot already. She didn’t seem bothered for his answer and tilted her face up to the sun. He followed the curves of her neck and collarbones into the neck of her t-shirt and tried to remember how her breasts had looked. He used to tease her that one was bigger than the other. He tried to remember the feel of her hips in his grip, the touch of her thighs…
“It’s just not how I remembered it. I liked it when it was rough around the edges. When no one else knew about it.”
“Are you back for long?”
“Just the week,” he said. “Work gave me a bit of time off.”
A waitress came and they ordered drinks.
Eve took out her phone, checked the time and put it back. He looked across to the shining new flats. The unbuilt foundations between them looked like punched out teeth.
“I guess this has blocked out the view from our old place.”
“I suppose so. I haven’t been up that way in a while.”
“Did you stay there long afterwards?”
“Couldn’t afford it after a couple of months and went back to Dad’s.”
He nodded and tried to think of something practical, un-emotive, to say. “That landlord was always a pain.”
“Did you get the security deposit back okay?”
She folded her arms. “Is that what this is about? You ask to see me after all these years to get your share of the deposit?”
“No, I… No.”
She nodded. “He never gave it back to me. He made a fuss about the hallway carpet and said he’d had neighbours complain about noise. Then there was the hole in the plaster in the bedroom.”
“Oh, right. Yeah.”
“Couldn’t really argue that.”
Children screamed and laughed over on the harbour wall as a rogue wave sprayed over it. He looked down at the ground the table stood on then leant his elbows on it.
“Oh, congratulations on the engagement,” he said.
She smiled and twisted the ring. “Thanks.”
“Mum said she met him and that he’s a good guy.”
“Yeah, he is.”
“She’s never really forgiven me for us breaking up. She always said we were destined to be together: Adam and Eve.”
The waitress reached over to put the drinks down and was smirking.
“Adam and Eve,” she said. “Well, the ribs here are good.”
“But avoid the apples,” he said.
Eve coughed. He’d taken it too far but wasn’t sure how. He never could grasp what she was thinking. She was watching the waves beat pointlessly at the breakwater. There was always some layer under what she said, even if she always denied it; said that she’d meant exactly what she’d said and nothing more than that. Countless arguments had started that way.
“I’d better get going,” she said and signalled for the bill.
“I can pay for these.”
They paid for their drinks individually and went out onto the road.
“Do you need a lift?” he asked.
“I’m meeting Harry, so…”
“Of course. Well, it was great to see you.”
She smiled, shrugged and walked back towards town.
“Eve, I’m sorry,” he said, but the wind snatched the words and carried them away.
He thought of shouting it louder or running after her and saying it again, but she was too far away now. It was too late.
Mark Ross Plummer is a writer based in Cornwall, UK. His stories have appeared in journals and anthologies across the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Ireland and UAE. He has also written and performed in plays for UK arts festivals.