enjoy the rest of our evening.

But there was so much of it. While Col glowered over a book of aerial photographs, I browsed the bookcases on the other side of the room and wandered around studying the prints on the walls of stags and mountains, Highland crofts and cattle. I sat down again on the sofa and examined the china minutely, as if I might discover in it something about cups and saucers that had so far eluded me. The couple got up to leave and invited us to join them in the bar when we had finished. Col looked longingly after them. I took up the newspaper they had left behind and completed a couple of crossword clues, then folded the paper back up as neatly as I had found it. Col drank his coffee. I drank my herb tea.

“Col, if it’s about money, if there wasn’t a problem about money, do you think-”

“There’s no point discussing it,” he said. “We haven’t got the money. I’m not discussing it.”

“But suppose we had, suppose-”

“Stop. Just-stop,” he said. “There is nothing to say.”

I got up again and studied a rack of leaflets and maps. It was no good. No task took long enough. I found myself looking at a pamphlet about salmon fishing, wondering how long I would be able to keep this up, listening to my life pass along in thudding little ticks of my heart. I was forty-two years old, and I knew it was finite, this bright, regular tapping in my chest, but I also knew that, for every few seconds I aged, the baby grew a little; it became a larger, livelier thing to kill.

I wanted to blurt out my feelings; I feared my impatience for the next day would somehow break out of me and declare itself. I returned to the sofa.

“By the way, I’m going kayaking again tomorrow,” Col said. “You’ll be all right, will you?”

“Yes, I’ll be fine,” I lied.

I couldn’t think of anything else to say. The air of the lounge grew dense with our hoarded silence; the clock ticked and ticked with a sound like seconds snapping off in small splinters, only to re-form maliciously behind us, ready to come round again. The hours yet to come thronged around us with all their awful availability for no other purpose than to keep a vigil against marital disintegration. Eventually a drift of laughter came from the bar. My husband raised his head.

“I’m tired,” I told him. “You go on and enjoy yourself. I think I’ll have an early night.”

The rain fell all night, clattering on the roof and cascading off into the ground around the trailer as if it was being poured from a jug. The place would be a mud bath in the morning. I would have to fish out Anna’s boots from the storage space under the mattress. Would they still fit her? As I lay thinking in the dark, working out that if she needed new boots I wouldn’t be able to get them before Friday, the day Vi usually paid me, I heard a different dripping noise. It was inside. It was coming from over near the door. I slipped out of bed, and immediately I knew that we were unsheltered. I felt a chill on my skin as if nothing protected us properly anymore. Either the door was open or the roof was leaking. Rain or night air had entered the trailer. Anything could enter. In a couple of steps I had reached the door. It was shut and locked, but my feet were wet. I touched the wall. It was running with water, seeping in through the join between the trailer’s side and the roof. Reaching up, I discovered that it was dripping from farther along, where the seam turned at a right angle. From there it was plocking down on the shelf where I had left bread for our breakfast in a paper bag, now soaking wet.

You were asleep. I fumbled my way back to Anna’s bed. She was asleep, too, but her covers were pushed up against the wall and they were already damp. I lifted her up gently out of her nest, hoping the sudden cold breath of air wouldn’t wake her, and clasped her against me, willing my arms and the palms of my hands to project all my body’s warmth into her through her back. Without waking, she curled her legs and arms around me and pushed her head in under my jaw, snuffling against my neck. I settled her in against you and got back into bed. I wouldn’t be able to sleep perched on the narrow edge of the bed that was left now, but I could lie calmly enough, knowing she was warm. I dreaded the morning, so I spent the rest of the night waiting for it, trying to figure out what to do.

First thing, you would climb onto the top of the trailer, which would be slippery, and wonder how to repair it this time. You’d sealed it before, which only worked for a while; if you could get hold of some plastic sheeting or tarpaulin you could cover the roof and weight it with rocks from the shore. That might work for a bit longer. Then we’d have to dry the trailer out, but if it kept on raining, that would take days. The ground would be soaked, and the mud and damp would cling to us; we’d bring it into the trailer and make matters worse. Anna couldn’t be left outside, so she would have to be kept in the trailer, and she hated that, and the floor would be filthy. You would have to get a fire lit somehow to dry out our clothes and bedding, never mind washing off the mud, and I didn’t know how you were going to manage that if the rain poured down all day, and with only soaked wood to burn. There was the propane heater to keep Anna a bit warmer, but it cost so much, and the cartridge was low and I wouldn’t be able to get back with a new one until the evening. How would you manage? You’d need hot food. It took nearly an hour to get up to the service station for hot chocolate and muffins, soup maybe, and nearly an hour back, probably longer if it was muddy, and you’d get so wet coming and going it might not be worth it.

I was glad you were asleep.

I did manage to doze off toward dawn. When I woke again, a soft, pale light was replacing the gray inside the trailer. I was aware of an absence but for a moment couldn’t work out what it was. You and Anna were still beside me; Anna had a few strands of my hair clutched in her hand and had pulled them into her mouth, and you were just beginning to wake but in that eyes-shut way of yours, convincing yourself you were still asleep. You turned and draped your arm across me. I started to prepare in my mind how I would tell you about the weather and the leaking trailer and the horrible day ahead. That was when I realized what was missing. It was quiet because the rain had stopped. All I could hear was the traffic on the bridge. I drew my hair gently out of Anna’s grip and raised myself on my elbows. The trailer was set too far back from the bank of the river for me to see to the horizon at the end of the estuary, but from that direction, over from the east, a few fringes of sunlight were beginning to sparkle on the pewtery, dark reaches of the water. That meant there was about to be a proper, unclouded sunrise, and if the sun shone bright for even a few hours today, we’d have a chance.

You would be awake in a minute, and soon you’d be outside clapping your hands at the geese and laughing at me for worrying. You’d fix the trailer, you always managed to fix it. By tonight we would be all right again. Maybe if the mini-mart wasn’t too busy or I got a minute when Vi went to lunch or dozed off, I might be able to raid the freezer and bring back some steaks for us. I’d seen some lying in the bottom nobody would want to buy anyway. I could lift a bag of charcoal from round the back on my way home, and if the rain stayed off, we could cook on the old barbecue you picked up that time from the roadside at the top of the track.

But when we were awake and up and dressed, you didn’t say anything to that suggestion. You swore a few times and stared at the trailer and then didn’t seem to care about it anymore. You set your mouth in a grim, thin line, and I didn’t get a happy word or a smile from you before I had to leave for work. You had been that way before, impatient to make it all different, angry about things you couldn’t change, furious with yourself for not giving us a regular life. But you had been getting angry more and more often, and for longer, and it was harder each time to bring you round. I didn’t really see that that was because what made you angry had changed. By then it was me you were angry with.

That day you wouldn’t walk me even part of the way up to the bus. You didn’t take Anna to say good morning to the geese, though they were lovely with the sun on their wings, and they landed so beautifully on the black rock in the river, hooting that low, rounded noise over and over like a thousand wheezy old organs in a fairground, so funny and also so sad a sound it was, like home, and sweet and faraway.

I slept badly and got up long before Col was awake. I didn’t want to speak to him, about the baby or anything else, so I left quietly and drove east from the hotel, as I had done the day before. That early in the morning there was frost on the ground and the grip of ice in the air, as if during the night winter had crept down from the mountains, pushing back the spring. A white fog obscured the hills and shoreline of the north bank of the river. I drove into swirls of it ahead of me on the road, and on either side it hung in freezing clouds under the bare trees and along the hedges.

I had meant to take a different route, striking north at Netherloch across the river at the small stone bridge there and continuing eastward up into the mountains above Netherloch Falls. I had been studying my map and had worked out a route following the road down through the forest on the north bank of the estuary, eventually crossing back to its south side over the City Bridge and entering Inverness. After a couple of hours wandering

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