Green water, blue sky, green light, blue pools of shadow. The place beneath the waves was always calmer than anywhere else; made more peaceful, if anything, by the imagined rush of foam and battering currents beating the ceiling just out of sight. It was the place Herbert went when he felt he could not keep himself from being pulled under.
There was a coolness to the place beneath the waves, born of secrecy. He never brought another soul through the narrow channel between the corals for fear of breaking the coolness and letting the warm and stormy world flood in.
On warm evenings and occasionally cold ones, the newts liked to sit out and watch the world pass them by. Neither was very good at woodwork, but being twenty-first century amphibians they were adept at online shopping, and had ordered the bench from a carpenter in Utah who whittled furniture for dolls’ houses.
It was a big investment for newts, who do not live very long, but they considered it an heirloom and did not baulk at the price. When they wriggled off the mortal coil, their sons and daughters had a brass plaque added: ‘Roger and Mary stargazed here.’
The clouds were low and the trees bent under their weight. A hare paused, sniffing the sky, and shook itself and sprang away. This was no day not to be hidden.
Soon the smoke rose. It made a flimsy layer beneath the clouds and built and built on itself, a millefeuille of gas and carbon. The glow reflected off the sunken ceiling. The night came and the glow became more so, and the stars were no more, or nobody could see if they were.
The hare slept beneath knotted brambles and the crackling of wood set its long ears twitching.
There was a place they always returned to, a place they had been lost in, once, but where they repeatedly found themselves. It was the place he had taken her when she had needed to escape; the place he had asked her to marry him; the place they had been wed; the place they had moved to, and from, and back to.
Not everybody needs this kind of place. Or they do, but it is somewhere in the head or the heart, not grounded, not geography. But she had always liked having precise coordinates for their place in the world.