He’d met her on a surfing holiday where they floated, boards touching as the black lines marched up from the horizon. The first wave, the third, even the sixth petered out in a heave of disappointment. The seventh, the guy in the surf shack was right, was the one to take you all the way: rearing up from the sea-bed, building and holding before toppling into a rolling crest of sculpted foam. They saw it coming, squeezed each others hands and then let go. Let’s do it.
After she was diagnosed they didn’t chase waves any more. He gave his mind to wheelchairs and feeding cups, the slow indignities of death.
Her mother arrived the night before the funeral, her face the colour of sea-scum. He felt something swell and subside. Next day the second and third were harder to ignore but he let them pass. He saw her mother watching him over the toast-rack. This wasn’t the time.
At the crematorium he contained the fourth and fifth in the clasping of hands, the dry kisses, the voices rising in greeting and falling into condolence, until the sixth threatened to burst out of him in a bloated incriminating speech bubble.
So he knew it was coming.
And after the coffin had rolled, he bolted across the tidy lawns, the metalled car-park, riding the wave as far as the green space and the solace of leaves, which he filled, with a bellowing cry of freedom.