under his armpits to warm them up. âTime to head back.â His voice is croaky.
I donât ask him about Huw again. His face is too red, and his eyes are watering; his breath labouring in his chest. He doesnât look right; perhaps heâs got too cold. My own hands are freezing and my arms aching but I canât ask him to row, so I get back into position, pick up the oars again.
After a while, the splash of the oars dipping in and out, the trickle of drips from the tips of each paddle, begins to mesmerise me. My thoughts drift. I think about the world beneath us, down, down, down. Water washing stone, grinding it slowly into sand. There are stretches of sea-bed between the islands which used to be valleys with village settlements, thousands of years ago. The sea level has slowly risen, covering it all up. Deep down, a whole flooded life is metamorphosing into something else. Fish swim through the places where houses would once have been; eels slither over ancient doorsteps. I imagine our boat gliding over empty rooms, sand drifting and burying the remnants of peopleâs lives: old cooking pots, a small leather shoe, a string of beads. Sea levels are rising all the time. Faster now, with global warming and that. One day, this whole archipelago will be underwater. Nothing left.
A rubber dinghy with a noisy outboard engine swings into view. Their wash rocks our boat violently, so we have to stop rowing and cling on to the sides. Gramps yells at them and they swerve away. Someone waves.
âSome lads from the campsite,â he says. âWith diving gear.â
Izzyâs on the beach at Periglis, watching us come in. She helps us bring the boat back up to the slipway and turn it over to let the water drain. She flirts with Gramps and he loves it.
âIâm just about to go over to Beady Pool,â Izzy says to me. âLooking for stuff, if you want to come.â
I hesitate. Iâm starving, for one thing, and then thereâs Gramps. But he seems fine now weâre back on dry land. Only a bit wobbly. And there isnât much to carry back, just the oars and life jackets.
âItâs all right. Iâll be heading back home,â Gramps says. âYou two go and enjoy yourselves.â
We watch him walking slowly up to the path.
âHeâs cool, your grandpa,â Izzy says.
I nod. âHe goes a bit dreamy and odd sometimes.â
âI like odd ,â Izzy says. âMore interesting. Come on, then.â
âI should stop off and get some food really. Iâm starving.â
âWe can go via the shop. Iâve got money.â
We spend all afternoon together at Beady Pool. The tideâs ebbing, so thereâs the whole length of the sand and shingle for us to search along for bits and pieces for Izzyâs jewellery. We spread our treasures on a flat stone to dry in the sun: pieces of turquoise glass smoothed by the sea; fragments of orange weed, like coral when theyâre dry; feathers; a skein of fine nylon rope, bright blue; shells with mother of pearl; tiny tortoiseshell cowries.
âIâve looked a million times here for beads,â I tell Izzy. âYou know, like the beach is called after, from that shipwreck way back. How amazing that would be. You could charge the earth!â
âOur shells are just as pretty.â Izzy arranges them into patterns on the stone. She sits down on the sand, starts drawing with her bare foot. I watch her. I canât help it. Iâve been like this all afternoon. Itâs as if she trails magic after her. I want to know how she does it. Itâs something to do with the way she knows exactly what she wants to do, all the time. Sheâs always in the present moment, not thinking about anything else. I wish I could be more like her.
She draws patterns and shapes in the sand, with the flat edge of a pebble. She draws a girl with hair like her own, but a fishâs