Thursday, 27 August 2015

Exclusive Short Story by Emylia Hall - The Seashell

I am extremely excited to the able to bring this post to you today. I recently entered a competition to win a short story by Emylia Hall. Emylia has got a new book out today and to celebrate this she has written me an exclusive short story!!! 

This short story you will find no where else, so you can imagine how pleased I was when I found out I was the winner! 

Anyway back to the short story! - I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

The Seashell

Emylia Hall

I stood in my kitchen, holding in my hand a dogwhelk. It was pretty enough, with its pointed end and so smooth shape, but not an uncommon shell, not, to many, an object of particular curiosity. But I folded my fingers around it, and held it tightly. To me, it was one of the most remarkable things I’d ever seen.

Ever since I left home, I’ve been a gatherer of seashells, a collector of shoreline curiosities. I’m the person you see skirting the edges of the tide, with their head dipped, eyes fixed. I stoop to pick up rounded fragments of sea glass, lengths of razor clam, a piece of cuttlebone looking just like a bar of soap gone dry in a dish. I’ve made many a necklace threaded with periwinkles, the sound of clicking and clacking accompanying me wherever I’ve gone - and on the infrequent occasions when my path has crossed with my mother’s, a tut-tut-tut joining in, the sound of her obvious disapproval.

My mother was never one for trinkets, and certainly not the salvaged kind. There were no rings on her fingers, no flowers in her hair. Apart from a single string of pearls, an occasional bracelet, she was an unadorned woman. Starchy, in truth. She always told me that she didn’t believe in happy endings, and yet when her time came she was sleeping in a chair by the fire, her old cat Sammy curled in her lap. She was eighty-three, and I know those years of hers will have contained mysteries I’ll never, ever fathom, but I thought I had the basic measure of her, all the same. I thought I knew the person she was. Brisk, and tightly buttoned. A hard hand, and a harder tongue. For most of my childhood she rode a blue bicycle without any sense of pleasure. The socks she wore were always beige, and always matched.

When she passed away, she left me her jewellery box. Even though some part of it seemed familiar – the black lacquered lid, perhaps, or the pale velvet lining – I’m sure I don’t remember it from my childhood. I’m surprised, in truth, that she owned enough pieces to warrant a box to keep them in. Although, perhaps this last makes sense, because for my mother, everything

had its place. All was boxed. Where else to keep a string of pearls? Certainly not on her bedside table, coiled like a sleeping snake. Inside, alongside her necklace, I found a plain brooch, her silver bracelet, a scattering of hairpins and… a seashell. I’d taken it out, so very carefully, holding it between my finger and thumb. I’d held it to the light, as though looking for a silver mark, or the kind of hologram that appears on banknotes. I’d peered inside it, its interior as pale and delicate looking as the underside of a wrist. The faintest traces of beach sand were still caught in its groove.

I’d thought of him, then. My father. Or the few pictures I’d seen of him, anyway. Their wedding day, with the two of them standing side by side on the steps of a registry office in a landlocked town. Him in a suit, straight-legged, narrow shouldered, a mass of wayward curls throw up by the wind. Her in an uncharacteristically flouncy, high-necked dress, a modest bouquet of garden flowers gripped in her hand, a nervous not-quite laughing mouth. Another version of him – this time holding me, the baby me, the only picture I have of the two of us together. I’m curled in the crook of his arm, tight as a limpet to a rock, and on his face he wears a look of puzzlement – as though he’d seen the world in a grain of sand and found it to be nothing like he’d imagined.

I know he’d been living by the sea when they’d met, and that she’d lured him inland, briefly, to a place where seagulls still wheeled in the skies but didn’t know how it was to steal a chip from a holidaymaker’s fingers. My parents lived in a terrace of miners’ cottages, with a fire that spat sparks on a grey rug and a wailing baby in the room upstairs. My mother hadn’t held on to him for long. Nor I, despite the mollusc me, the limpet me, soft-headed and pudgy-handed and wrapped in a blanket that my grandmother would never have knitted us. He went back to the waves, she said, followed that siren song all the way to the sea, leaving the pair of us tossing grimly in his wake. I suppose that was the reason why, throughout my childhood, we never went anywhere near this island nation’s shore. There were no sandy sandwiches for me. My hair never grew salted and tangled. I never stood on the shoreline,

icy water stopping my tracks, only to go running in with my skirt held up above my knees, my voice coming shrill and unguarded. I discovered these things for myself at a much grander age, my own children happily in tow, them not understanding what strange beauty it was to kick through beach sand, how very precious it was, for me, to lie as human starfish, bobbing on an incoming tide.

Now, somewhere behind me a kettle was boiling. My toast popped and stayed put. Later I’ll find it, cold and rigid. I’ll make a cup of tea with lukewarm water, and probably drink it anyway. There has always been much I haven’t known, but life has found its way of tricking me, just as it tricks so many. It has permitted me to drift, unquestioning, from one day into the next.

And now I know this: My mother kept a seashell in her jewellery box.

I release it from my hand, reluctantly, and place it on the table. The light from the window catches it, sends its surface gleaming. For a moment it appears just-washed, sea-wet, a dazzling little dogwhelk on the shoreline, ripe enough to pluck. Precious enough to pocket. While the memories it holds can’t be mine to know, I try to imagine them all the same. Or, to be more accurate, I try to imagine my mother in possession of them. Permitting herself this much, after all. Sitting on the edge of her bed in her brown slippers and stiff housecoat, a certain look, one I never once saw, or perhaps never recognised, lighting her eyes. Or dozing in an armchair by the fire, lulled by the softest sound of the sea, not an uncomplicated sound, but neither a wholly unwanted one. Or, only really for the first time, I see her walking by the water, back when she was young, and breezy, and, I like to think, in love. The world is at my mother’s feet, and in her hand she holds a seashell.

The Sea Between Us is Emylia's new novel out today! 

The blurb:

In a remote Cornish cove, on one of the last days of summer, Robyn Swinton is drowning. She is saved - just - by local boy Jago Winters, and it is a moment that will change both of them forever.

Over the next seven years, Robyn and Jago's paths lead them in different directions, to city streets and foreign shores. Will the bond forged that day Jago dragged Robyn in from the sea be strong enough to bring them back to one another, or has life already pulled them too far apart? - Taken from Amazon

To buy a copy of this stunning book here

I would like to thank Emylia for writing this short story and for allowing me to feature it on The Book Corner, I would also like to thank Headline for running the competition. 

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