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In a hotel room in Southampton, two women sit together on a bed which creaks slightly when either body shifts, grumpily protesting springs periodically interrupting the soothing roar of the sea beyond them. Perhaps 'sit together' is not quite accurate: the elder of the two sits - solid, upright, contemplative; the younger, slighter woman sprawls gracefully across her, pinning her to the bed with her elbow propping up her chin to one side, legs stretched out across the eiderdown to the other.

The image of insouciant comfort, she waits, quietly watching the bigger woman with interest and affection; and then, when she has judged the moment ripe, she breaks the silence with a voice which is clear and sweet. "Tell me everything. Tell me from the beginning."

Rhyll glances down with a smile, the warmth and openness of Peggy's brown eyes fixed confidently in her mind before her own eyes confirm it; lifts her head again, back straight and tall, a slight frown of concentration as she grapples for 'the beginning', traces the scattered detail Peggy must have picked up throughout the day against the full patchwork of her own life story. Peggy snakes her free arm around Rhyll's waist, gentle encouragement, and the tired bed again voices its indignance. Rhyll tries to begin, gets as far as opening her mouth, but the words do not come.

"You once said you grew up by the sea," Peggy prompts, and Rhyll is briefly distracted by this recollection, recognising with some pleasure the conversation from which the information had been gleaned.

"Yes," she murmurs, mists of reminiscence rising from both the Devon sea of the tale and the Welsh sea of the previous mention. "Well, in a manner of speaking, anyway. Technically, that was our summer home."

Momentarily overpowered by the strength of her memory, she feels that she is tethered to reality only by the insistent stroke of Peggy's fingers at her waist; the hotel room all but disappears from view and in its place, as clear as yesterday, she can see not the cottage by the sea but the house before that, the one in which she had been born. This must be the beginning. She shakes her head to clear it, forcing herself to hold firm to the proper perspective of what is here and what is there, and begins.




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