On the hot sand
She slept and woke, hearing her own voice crying weakly for Peter. The storm raged, but less fiercely. She tried to get to her feet, but the drag of wet clothes and the oilskin were too much for her remaining strength. She tried to undo the oilskin’s buttons, to rid herself of it, but her fingers faltered and failed. Peter, she thought: help me! Then tiredness once more became oblivion.
The next she knew was that something was plucking at her sleeve. She opened her eyes. It was day, with big clouds moving across a blue sky, and the sun warm on her face. A boy was bending over her; his fingers had tugged at her sleeve. He spoke, in the patois. Helplessly, she shook her head. He said something else, turned, and went away. She watched him go up the beach and disappear into higher ground.
Dazedly she took stock of her surroundings. She lay on sand more white than golden, in which were intermingled hundreds of small shells, most broken into fragments but some whole: the sand itself, she perceived, was for the most part made up of tiny bits of shell. In one direction the beach stretched away to a spit of land with sea beyond it; in the other to a hill, or hills. A warm light wind blew in from the sea behind her, where the waves, though less mountainous, were still high.
She looked for the boat, or for any sign of life. There was nothing. She thought in misery: how could there be? Her own salvation had been little short of a miracle. Had the tide taken her a hundred yards further she would have missed this landfall and drifted on to her death.
She had no idea what the landfall was: whether Guernsey or one of the other islands. There was the bulk of an island out across the sea – dark at its base but sunlit at the crest. She tried again to undo the oilskin and this time, slowly and with many halts, succeeded. She peeled it from her and attempted to stand up. Her dress clung tight and wet about her legs, and she could not manage it. She tried again and failed again; then lay back helplessly on the hot sand.