Chapter 3 - part 1
November slowly but surely slid into December. Isa kept herself busy. She had landed a nice assignment for a new women’s magazine, having pitched furiously to get it, and the glow of having got the job lasted her almost until Christmas. Then, as she had feared, the warm feeling of achievement faded, and she found herself on the slippery slope once more.
Ellen invited her over for Christmas dinner, but the thought of having to sit through an evening with Ben and Ellen’s overbearing Mum-in-Law (“Have I told you about Ben’s chance to become a partner in his firm, I always thought he had it in him, he does take after me, you know, I would have been a great professional, had I ever looked for a job, blah-blah-blah”) gave her a case of instant tummy-ache. So she made up an excuse and stayed at home, overfeeding Tom on expensive smoked Gravad Lax and drinking an entire bottle of Chardonnay and then being violently sick.
The next morning found her on the Zeedijk along the Haringvliet, trying to walk off her hangover before her girls would arrive for dinner. She might be turning into a lush, but she’d be damned before she would let it show to her daughters.
The wind blew her hair straight into her eyes, almost blinding her to her surroundings. Gulls shrieked at her, and a couple of moorhens called from the water’s edge. Last night’s rain had made the path slippery, especially at the patches where sheep’s droppings littered it. The sheep themselves had been moved to meadows closer to their pen. It gave the dyke an empty feeling, desolate and grim. Isa allowed the wind to push her along, hardly watching where she put her feet. So it shouldn’t have come as a surprise when her heel got caught in the cattle grid and broke off, but it did. She almost fell, and only just managed to keep her balance by gripping the barbed wire on top of the sheep wire. (Copyright Renée Koopman – If you steal this, you are a very bad person!)
Pain and frustration made her lose it, and she howled wordlessly into the wind.
“Can I give you a lift?”
Isa screamed again at the unexpected sound of the voice behind her. She whipped her head around, and apparently looked frightening enough to make Dirk take a bewildered step backwards. He kept his bicycle between them as he gave her a tentative smile.
“We’ve met, you bought me a tea,” he said.
“What? Tea? Oh...yes. I did, didn’t I?”
Taking a deep breath, Isa realised he looked positively scared. Mustn’t upset the locals, Isa, she admonished herself.
“Dirk! Hi! How are you?” she asked brightly, at the same time hiding her bloody hand behind her coat.
“Fancy meeting you here. Were you cycling to Hellevoetsluis?”
He nodded, giving her another smile, but kept his bike firmly in position.
“I was just on my way to...I was walking...I lost my heel. I keep losing things when we meet, don’t I?”
This time his smile flashed broadly.
“Yep. First your hat, now your heel, and soon your mind,” he grinned.
Isa felt herself agreeing before his last word had fully sunk in.
But he had gotten hold of his bike, and offered his carrier with an old fashioned gallantry.
“Hop on. I’ll give you a lift back to town.”
They rattled over the cattle grids and slithered along the path, pushed by an ever stronger growing wind. Isa had to hold on to his coat with both hands, leaving a few specks of her blood on the denim. Dirk didn’t attempt to speak, but simply concentrated on not crashing the bicycle. They passed the monument to the Great Flood of 1953 on their left, its rusty styles a reminder of the spot where the sea dyke was breached. After the last bend they reached the fork in the path where you can choose between continuing along the Zeedijk, or going towards the tennis club.
“Where do you want to go?” shouted Dirk.
“Oh, anywhere is fine. You can let me off now,” Isa replied.
“I’m going to the Vesting, myself. But I can take you anywhere you like.”
“I live in Nieuwenhoorn. But my car is at the car park just outside the Haaven. So you can drop me off there, if that’s not inconvenient.”
“Sure, no problem”.
© Renée Koopman
© Renée Koopman