She took a pebble from the beach on her way home one day – the fifth one that had come to her hand. Pebbles one, two, three, four had been smacked down, ricocheting over their comrades, to the spluttering edge of the water. Her hands were shaking too much to make any sort of decent shot. Number five seemed to sit softer in her hand so she let it stay. As far as the bus stop its fate hung in the balance. Shop windows seemed to be begging for the sunburst of its attention. A black satin BMW whispered,
“Crack my shell – break me – mark me.”
And then there was the call from the sky. Send it up to the singing sky and let it come down like the hand of God on her temple.
But what she actually did was hold on tight – hand balled in her blazer pocket. And then she stared at the laptop bag of the man beside her and made nonsense anagrams with the letters of the word TOSHIBA. SHIBOAT. OATBISH. HIBOSAT. TASHIBO. She’d been doing that all year – hiding in a word – especially in assembly, when the urge to make a run for the double doors got overwhelming.
The bus was juddering, splitting the letters turning in her mind. They circled in her head like benevolent gulls. The pebble was constant in her palm. She was still. The man across the aisle saw the girl on her way home from school.
The next day was harder. It took more resolve to keep the pebble cradled against skin. The people in the street looked like enemies. The dog chained to the library railings was whining and piteous and she hated it. She wondered if a pebble blow between the eyes would kill like a gunshot – or just hurt. And then she thought about the startled dog, bleeding into its eyes, and she cried. And she hated the crying. But the pebble stayed in her palm and she anagrammed with WAITROSE. RAISEWOT. EROSAWIT. TWIAROSE.
And that was how it went then – words and pebbles. Summer pebbles scorching with stored sun and winter pebbles sticky with spray. Words that broke and remade themselves, over and over and over. Words and pebbles and waiting.