what i remembered was not a heron, but swiftlets - or swifts (i just liked the sound of swiftlets) curling in the sky like joyous swimmers. It was the high ache of summer - heat and long days. To cheat the sun, we had come to where the forest, the land of vulpes velox - the swift fox, met the water. The forest had quietened us and now, we sat side by side watching water curl round our bare feet. Our closeness was suddenly laid bare. I could only look at your feet, white under the water as though they were lit from inside.
You reminded me of a man i'd met once on a plane. He was an astronomer. On a layover at Toronto airport he'd taken me up onto the roof of the car park and we'd sat for hours looking over the city - feet dangling into space â€“arms lolled over the concrete barrier which warmed us from bellybutton to armpit. It had been that same kind of heat. Inanimate things radiated rays, were hot to the touch, heaved, moaned, split. He talked of the origins of the universe and i listened, smiling. The tarmac was chewing-gum.
But now, the forest cool erased airports. You stood, and shallow dived into the water with an arrogant confidence. You knew this lake and it knew you. I watched your body moving with the freedom of experience. The water rolled but it was so incredibly quiet.
Then, drawn to follow, i dived in. The velvet warmth of the lake stroked me from head to feet. I opened my eyes underwater and followed you -- your legs froglike in the greygreen murk ahead. Below us, fields of marshy grasses waved and shifted in patterns.
In the middle of the lake, I pulled myself up onto the pontoon. You'd left a towel from your morning swim and we lay there - silent. There was, simply, nothing to say. I watched the swifts.
After a while, i woke up and watched you sleep. It was dusk now and the sky was slightly pink. The trees on the edge of the lake waved like they were underwater too. We had agreed to wait for the sunrise. I wrapped a towel round my shoulders. You were awake then too and began to tell me a fable about a heron.
Morning, we knew, would come. Then, our bellies would be growling and the spell would be broken.
Swftlets was originally published on Maeve's blog, Worth the Coming Home. Doubtless with her permission OL'll purloin more from there in the future.
Meave Haughey is a short story writer based in Birmingham. Recent stories have been published in Comma Press’s The New Abject, and Forecast: New Writing from Birmingham, Doestoevsky Wannabe’s Love Bites: Fiction Inspired by Pete Shelley and Buzzcocks and in Birmingham, from the Doestoevsky Wannabe Cities series. Meave's story The Reservoir featured in The Best of British Short Stories 2021 compiled by Salt Press.
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