Earth and smoke and iron
It were an odd one and no mistake. She were odd. Educated; not from round here. ‘Otherworldly’ some might say.
She lugged it in, wrapped up in brown paper, tied with string. Knots sealed with blobs of scarlet wax.
‘You’ll ‘after tell me what’s in it, lass –‘
‘A coat. An army one. That’s what’s the smell –‘
I sniffed. And aye, beyond the paper there was earth and smoke and iron. ‘Who’s is it?’
‘It’s Paul’s – He’ll need it when he comes. I’ve told him I’ll leave here, to collect.’
‘And when’s this Paul coming for it, lass?’
‘Soon. He said soon –‘
Her face all aglow in an expectation I hoped would not be broke. Seen too many o’ them over the last few years. ‘I’d best ‘ave your name, lass. And an address.’
That fazed her. Didn’t want to say but couldn’t bring herself to tell a lie.
‘It’s Leonie’ she whispered.
The address she gave the pilot’s cottages, down at the tip of Spurn Point. Last time I was there they were ugly black-tarred wooden huts. Three or four mebbe, but no place for a lass like this one.
Like a crystal glass in the roughest sailors’ dive.
Weeks went past. No-one came. No surprise. Then I met Meg Partridge in the street. She a pilot’s wife. Built like a tank, six bairns in five years and stood no nonsense. I asked her, ‘D’you know a Leonie? Married to a Paul?’
Her face did a somersault from scorn to pity and back again. ‘Paul? Her man’s John Cooper –‘
‘She’s no-one else. John rescued her. Vicar’s daughter, didn’t know owt about anything. When John took her – and he’d put himself to the trouble of wedding her first!– damned near screamed the place down, John said. ‘E’s besotted. Made a promise to a dying man to look after her. Guess that could be Paul.’
‘If no-one comes for it soon I’ll ‘after let it go. Can you tell him to come and fetch it.’
John Cooper wasn’t best pleased.
‘There’s no such coat, ‘cept in her imagination, which has Paul wrapping her in it on the beach every bloody night.’
‘Best we open it to make sure –‘
But sure enough, all there was was the smell of earth and smoke and iron.
‘Iron?’ John Cooper said. ‘That’s the blood he shed before he died.’
[400 words + title]