August 1972. Wales
We are on the run. Hiding from dad and his drinking. It’s a big house on a cliff edge. I don’t know who owns it, or how mum can afford it, but we’ve been here for weeks and it feels safe. The beach below is crowded with day trippers. I run down the sandy path between the dunes, faster on the bend where we saw an adder slither off into the gorse. Then I see him, Mr Price. His daughter is in my class; he drinks pints in the pub with dad. He must not see me. He’s in the water, waving at me. No, not waving at me. Not waving at all. He’s flailing, arms thrashing, trying to stay afloat as the riptide catches. By September we’re back home, back at school, back with dad. And no one speaks of Sarah’s dad who went swimming, but never came back.
There was a period when I was a child when we moved a lot, staying with relatives and friends of friends as my parents’ marriage fell apart. One summer when I was about nine, we stayed in a big house on the cliffs with a path down to the beach. I don’t know where it was, or even the name of the nearby town and my mother now can’t remember. I’ve looked on maps searching for the exact spot but I’m not certain. Wherever it was, it felt like home, although unlike my real home, it was quiet, no shouting.