27-June-2012 What’s in a name?
Barely morning, the garden was misty, wet with dew, and chilly. The cool air in her lungs, Polly felt invigorated and justified. She edged around the side of the house and let herself in the back door. The house was quiet, hushed before alarms go off. She tiptoed over the linoleum so that her boot heels wouldn’t clomp noisily. In the lounge she began her hurried and muffled search.
The dining table was covered in books and paperwork, piles of it. Sideboard and coffee table were the same. Two armchairs were piled high with books, some of them library books. She eyed their spines but couldn’t read them in the dimly lit room, only slivers of light leaked through between the curtains to light her search. Should have brought a torch, she thought.
Ruffling through papers, quiet as she could, Polly was hopeful she would recognise what it was she was after. But pile after pile she hadn’t found it. Dawn birds were chirping loudly outside, she didn’t know what time it was, or how long she’d been searching. Surely not long, but it was too long already.
“Miaow,” Polly nearly jumped out of her skin. A tortoiseshell padded into the room and looked at her through squinted eyes. It mewed again, loudly. Desperate now, worried the cat would wake the house, she turned back to the search. On the sideboard she opened books and shook out their contents.
And there it was.
She picked it up, stuffed it in her pocket. The cat miaowed again. Was it yowling? No, just seemed like it. The floor creaked in a distant room. Someone was up. Polly tiptoed through the house and out the backdoor. Hunched she half ran down the path to the street, bent out of view of the windows, in case someone opened the curtains.
“Shh Tilly” came a voice from inside “Stop making so much noise, I’m getting your breakfast now.”
Polly broke into a run.
As she neared the end of the street, her shoes making huge thudding sounds on the concrete path, a bus was just slowing at a bus stop. She fell in line with the locals boarding it for work. On the bus she fought to get her breath back. Her heart was thumping heavily, angrily, in her chest. She pressed her hand against the wad of paper she had stuffed in her pocket. Desperate to look at it, but too nervous to look just yet. The earlier burst of good vibes had left her now. She felt guilty already.
She got off the bus at the beach. Her breathing was slowed now, but she felt giddy, a little light headed. She bought an orange juice at the corner dairy, and made her way down the steep paths to the sandy shore. She slumped down under a Pohutakawa, leaned back and closed her eyes. She pulled off her boots and socks and pressed her toes into sand, it was clumpy, cold. It had rained last night.
As if she had been dreading it, she eventually took the paper out of her pocket. The sun was fully risen and beginning to warm the sand. She edged her thumb under the sealed fold of an envelope, slowly, with her breath caught in her throat, she opened the envelope and withdrew the letter.
It was in code.
“Shit!” Her jaw ached down one side as tears fought their way from her eyes. She choked on a sob and rubbed her eyes with the back of her hands. She leaned back into the sand and lay there.
She lay there some time. She drank the orange juice and drew lines in the sand around her, some might have been words, of the beginnings of words, but they were drawn over and over. She sat inside the circle with the sand all churned up around her.
Her stomach rumbled. She ignored it for a time, but it was getting on, the day was passing her by and she’d gained nothing despite her early morning high spirits. She got up to go. The letter and envelope fell on the sand. There was a glimmer of blue. She reached down and picked it up.
Inside the folded, coded, letter, was a photograph.
It was printed out on a laser printer, there were lines across the whole image and the coloured were dull and soaked into the thin white paper. It was cut out close to the edge. It was of a woman with dark, straight, shortly cropped hair holding a toddler.
It was Polly and her mother.