It was the boat that made the decision for her, in the end. It wasn’t a beautiful vessel, at least not aesthetically. The physics of its buoyancy, the amalgam of engineering and logic in its engine and the interplay between the two might conceivably be described as beautiful, but that’s all. This was no sleek yacht of the super-rich, no sailing boat of the well-to-do. Just a large functional vessel, a few time-worn scars on its hull, leaving port. The tak-tak-tak of its engine rolled serenely across the water, making its presence known, but not intruding.
She had watched it for years, and longer. It took the same journey out, the same journey back. The water, on this day, was almost tranquillised in its stillness, the prow of the ship barely even seeming to break the surface as it glided away. It looked so normal, like every other time she had observed its egress, but she could see it wasn’t. The vessel listed slightly differently. When it accelerated, it picked up the pace just a little quicker. Fractional details, but something had been removed. It wouldn’t be back.
“Mum? Are you alright?”
She turned her head, slowly. Not because of old age, though there was that, but simply because she wanted to take time to enjoy the experience.
Her daughter emerged from the little cottage, placed a mug of coffee on the small wooden picnic table and sat down. It was just warm enough to be comfortable, though even the slightest breath of wind would end that. She pulled a shawl round her shoulders and sipped the coffee.
The vessel glided out of sight.
“And you are sure you want to do this?”
She patted the house that lay behind her the way one might an overly-affectionate hound.
“Oh yes,” she replied. Her gaze lost focus, shifting out to follow the waves thrown up by the departing vessel. They lapped softly at the shallow, pebbly beach in front of them. “Quite sure”.
She sipped the coffee in a considered manner, then placed the mug carefully back down on the table.
“When did you decide?”
She smiled, and her face creased in all sorts of intricate and fascinating ways. “It doesn’t really matter, does it?”
“Mum, of course it matters! This is important!”
She shook her head. “No it doesn’t.” Another sip of coffee, taken thoughtfully. “The end result is the same.”
The mug had little flowers on it, she noticed. Faint, almost like the ghosts of long-past daisies. Funny. She’d never really seen those before. Well, good. Always time to learn something new.
“You know,” she said, with a firmness in her voice. “Your coffee is quite dreadful.” She reached down and picked up her handbag, pulled out a leather purse that might have seen service in the Boer war, and opened it up to reveal a small collection of notes. She pulled one out and passed it to her daughter.
“Whatever happened to that artisanal place on the high street? They did good coffee. Always freshly ground, and Italian too, none of that American rubbish. Be a dear and go and get some decent stuff?”
Her daughter looked at her. She wasn’t going to be persuaded otherwise. “Oh very well.”
Her daughter took the note, picked up a light jacket from the back of the chair and headed inside. “I’ll be back shortly.”
She nodded, and let her gaze drift back out to sea.
Of course, by the time her daughter returned she had gone.