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They travel to the Orkney Islands, the ancient Mesolithic and Neolithic site north of the Scottish coast, “the Seal Islands,” a barren place of extraordinary beauty. And as the days of their honeymoon pass his desire and his constant, yearning contemplation become his normality. His mysterious bride becomes his entire universe.
He is consumed.
packaged meat and fish, milk, cheese, cans and bottles; bins and buckets full of plastic spades, seashells, umbrellas and optimistic paper parasols … I bought a new notebook; I bought two steaks, a haggis and the smallest turnip I could find; a big crab caught off the shore of this island and already picked; Hellmann’s mayonnaise, a weighty chewy loaf, salad leaves of a sort, salted peanuts; several bottles, including a dubious, dusty Chianti and a superlative single malt to replenish my flask.
strange dream last night,’ she said then. Did you, my darling? I asked. It occurs to me that I think of us, when I imagine our life together, at a perpetual breakfast table, with a long, bright day ahead of us and no need to rush, all the long morning to listen to her dreams, to murmur ‘pass the milk,’ to ask ‘another cup?’, to mutter ‘six letters, something O something O something something …’, reading out clues in playful competition. But of course, come January and the new term, I shall have
but would allow, it seemed, ‘young’; ‘Shush,’ she said. ‘One afternoon, when the harvest was lately gathered and the sun shining, this crofter – let’s call him, I don’t know, Donald? Will that do?’ And she fell back into the story, into the lull of her own voice. ‘This autumn afternoon, Donald went down to the rocky shore to look for limpets for his dinner. And when he’d nearly filled his bucket, he saw, holding fast to an outcrop jutting over the water, a cluster of mountainous shells bigger
shan’t teach any more – what pupil could possibly follow her? I’ll take down the plaque from my door; let some other poor fool’s mail get stuffed into the pigeonhole that for thirty years has borne my name. No more tedious tutorials, no more endless execrable essays. Enough. Let it all go. How cosy it could be, the ermine mantle of the Professor Emeritus. I will work away at my book, with her help perhaps, but the School will do without me, and we will go wherever she wishes to be. So I will end
carrying her into my home and into this house, my wife, this girl so light in my arms. Her past, her future, and this point between, the impossibility of her presence. I watched her all night and through the dawn, and she was still there in the morning, and I was still watching over her as the sunless world at least grew lighter. And as the darkness paled, at last her face was restored to smoothness, the tears drying and leaving a salt-rime, so I imagined, upon her lashes and about the pinkish