From the river bank the bed looks soft. Tongues of bright green weed streaming in the fast flow and the stones cocooned in dense weeds and caramel mud. She has spent the last two weeks dipping her pallid feet in the cold water – every day a little more. Tomorrow they will leave the village. She will go to the shop to say goodbye to the fat-tailed lamb that nudges at its bottle in the shop lady’s red arms. The bus will take them to RhyI and then she’ll be on the train with her colouring book and the big ones laughing all the way to London. Then she’ll wish she’d done it. Because last year, even though she had lemonade from the buffet, she’d cried fat, slow tears as they pulled in at Euston – because she’d missed her chance.
The sharp gravel at the edge is a shock. It bites and shifts, hurting and threatening, and she wonders why the river spends all its time beckoning and singing if it doesn’t want her. But the trees on the far bank are nodding, stroking the water with their leaves, stirring the pennies of sunshine. The cold numbs but she’s standing now, skinny ankles breaking the water, splitting its flow. The slick mud at the centre oozes between her toes bringing horrors of eels hidden in the depths. She moves. Each step, arms outstretched, brings the next from her body. Her plimsolls are knotted together by the laces, swinging from her neck, bumping, with each step, against her hollow little chest. In seven steps she is there, gripping, ripping at the long grasses to haul herself to safety.