Coyne

S T R A N D  B A B Y

Michelle Coyne

*

Fourteen Septembers since the strand.

 

How much would it hurt if I rode my bike straight into that wall? It’s low and just made of stones balanced on top of one another. I probably wouldn’t break anything. Probably just have to go home. Up ahead of me, sitting tall on her silver racer, Molly sticks her arm out for the turn down to the strand. This was her idea. I would have happily cycled straight past every day for the rest of my life it wasn’t for Molly.

I round the corner behind her and see the narrow road tilt down towards the bay, stone walls speared by briars on either side, grass tufting up along the centre.

“Race you!” Molly says, and stands up out of the saddle.

I do the same, and push until gravity takes hold and I have to pedal to keep up with the wheel-spin until the bike chain click-click-click-clicks into a comfortable gear. Puffing heat-tangled hair out of my face, I keep my eyes fixed on the road, afraid to glance out ahead to the strand in case it unbalances me to see it.

A race, she said, but it’s closer to being flung. One twitch of an elbow and I’m into the wall for sure. There’ll be no avoiding hospital at this speed. The terror of it knocks the air right out of my lungs and sends it whooshing straight through my heart. My fingers curl around the brake and quietly ease it.

Molly shoots off ahead and doesn’t slow at all until she reaches the bottom of the hill. Her brakes wail, and gravel arcs as she skids impressively to a stop. A moment later I pull up next to her and put my tatty runner down beside her spotless Converse.

“Where precisely did they find you?” Molly says, still panting from the thrill of almost getting killed.

“Dunno,” I say, “somewhere over by the cliffs.”

“That’s insane.”

“Suppose.”

“The tide’s out. We should go over to investigate.”

“We’d hardly find anything after fourteen years,” I say, half afraid that we might.

“Well, duh. I just want to picture the scene.” She sweeps a hand across in front of her as she says it, placing what happened to me into a tidy frame of her own making.

I’m starting to wish I hadn’t told her about it, but she would have found out eventually. The new girl in second year who just happens to be the famous Strand Baby? Gossip like that gets around fast once it’s out. Rather Molly hear it from me, than fourth hand from some spot-skinned eejit in fifth.

Bikes left leaning skew-ways by the gatepost, we pick our way down across the loose stones to the rough limestone slabs by the shore. There’s a cave, a couple of feet deep, in by the cliff, and Molly is toeing the sand that’s gathered on its floor. “What about here?” she says. “I can imagine your birth mother here, in the throes of labour.”

My jaw hurts as I watch her act out what the woman who left me to die might have been like. She’s bending over with one hand on the wall of the cave, putting her drama classes to good use, making a stage of the sand.

Stop—the word won’t pass my lips. Stop. Stop it.

Finally, she births baby me and mimes wrapping me in something.

“She didn’t wrap me,” I say, sounding so sharp that Molly’s head snaps up, and the imaginary baby vanishes on the salt wind.

“She left you exposed to the elements?”

“Yeah,” I say, feeling blood thunder in my ears and burn my cheeks, “with the tide coming in.”

Molly comes over and puts an arm around my shoulder. “That’s shocking, Miriam. Shocking.”

Like I need to be told. I want to shrug her arm off me and get away. Why did I tell her? Why was it here, of all places, that Dad finally got a job? Why did I say I was okay with us moving here?

Molly’s rubbing my shoulder and putting my hair behind my ear for me. I want to knock her sideways onto a rock. Split her stupid curly head on it. Make her hate me, or afraid of me. Anything but this sick sympathy.

There’s a roaring hiss from the rocks behind us, and then we’re doused by a crisp scatter of seawater. We both hop forward squealing at the sudden shock of temperature through our thin t-shirts. Molly’s hand falls from my shoulder, and relief bubbles out of me in a wild laugh.

“Race ya back to the bikes!” I say, already running.

“You utter cheat!” Molly calls after me, but I’m already on the stones. I’m not going to lose this time.

*

Our new front room is still paint-fresh and uncurtained. The evening sun is slanting in, and Jack has the telly and the sofa turned around to avoid the glare of it. All I can see of him when I go in is the back of his sun-bleached mop over the sofa top. Beside him is his new friend Roger, his head dark auburn and tilted in concentration at the games console soldiers crouching in wait on the TV screen.

I don’t want to disturb them. I know Jack will take the opportunity to make an eejit of his little sister when he has an audience, and it’s more than I can take today after being down at the cliffs with Molly. I go for my schoolbag and hoist it onto my shoulder. When I straighten up, Roger has his arm slung over the sofa back and is smiling a half crooked smile at me. “Hey, Miriam.”

“Oh hi,” I say, stopping awkwardly mid-step, my legs bandy like sunflower stalks on the newly varnished floor.

“Homework?”

I shrug. “Yeah. You know the way.”

“I definitely do.” He’s smiling wider now and I don’t know what to say.

Jack thumps Roger’s arm. “C’mon ta feck!”

Roger punches him back, and Jack shrugs it off and keeps playing. “See you later, Miriam,” Roger says.

“Later,” I say, sounding like a complete fool, before making my escape.

*

In the kitchen, Mam stuffs a twenty-euro note into my hand. “Will you pop down to the shop for some onions? I totally forgot on my way home.”

“But, homework?”

“It’ll wait ten minutes, sure. And if you don’t get it all done, I’ll write you a note.”

She always says that, but she knows that she won’t need to. Standing up in front of the class with a note from my mother? I wouldn’t survive the morning.

“Grand,” I say and sigh long enough to let her know how much she’s putting me out.

“Good girl yourself.”

*

I trudge down the driveway, beating my displeasure into the gravel with my feet, muttering broken syllables of swears as I go. Behind me, I hear the porch door slide open and the follow of footsteps. I turn to see what it is I’ve forgotten, and find Roger instead, trotting towards me.

“Off home?” I say as he catches up.

“Yeah. I said I may as well keep you company as far as the shop, seeing as I’m going the same way.”

“Sure,” I say, not allowing the irritation slip into my voice. The thought of having to make conversation all the way to the shop. God. I hope he does the talking.

“How are you finding St. Michael’s?” He shoves his fists into his hoodie pockets.

“Fine, so far. Miss Heneghan wants me to do higher maths though.”

“Not your thing?”

“It’s a lot of extra work.”

“I could give you grinds,” he says quickly, half interrupting me.

“It’s not that. I’m sure I’m able for it. I’d just rather have the spare time.”

Roger hums thoughtfully, and I pull a long grass stalk from the overgrown verge, twisting the stem around two fingers in a figure of eight.

“What do you like to do in your spare time?” Roger says.

Jesus. I feel my cheeks flushing hot. Why is touching myself the first thing that pops into my mind?

“Reading. Mostly,” I say and untuck my hair from behind my ear to hide my blush behind. I know it’s normal for a girl my age —that’s what my magazine says—but it’s still mortifying to be thinking about it when I’m stuck talking to my brother’s weird friend. “How about you?” I say.

“I used to play football, but then I realised that I couldn’t hit a barn door with a banjo, so I decided to stick with cycling and running.”

I glance sidelong through my hair at him, searching for some sign of him being embarrassed like me. I mean, he must. Boys are definitely worse than girls in that respect. Maybe he’s just not ashamed of it? He turns his head to smile back at me and it’s hard not to picture him doing it, however it is boys do it exactly. Holding it. Rubbing it.

“Do you want a race?” I say.

“Race you?”

“I’m pretty fast.”

He laughs and then pauses. “Pretty, anyway,” he says, and my stomach drops. I say nothing. I just start sprinting down the road, and listen out for him catching up.

*

Roger comes with me into the shop. Stands at my shoulder as I drop onions into a thin plastic bag, telling me something about French Onion Sellers in London. There’s a woman browsing the magazines at the far end of the aisle. I can’t see her face, but her hair is almost the same blacky-brown colour as mine. She’s wearing a wedding ring and a long-strapped handbag over her shoulder. She picks up Woman’s Way and flicks through it, and I get a glimpse of her face.

It could be her.

She takes the magazine up to the counter and pays for it. I look at the woman taking her money and opening the till. She could just as easily be the woman who gave birth to me. God, I hate this place.

“Your family really love onions?” Roger says.

I blink at him, and he nods at the bag in my hand, overstuffed with onions on the verge of bursting.

*

Fifteen Septembers since the strand.

 Molly wades right into the sea, right up to her pink togs waist, and I stilt along after her. The water makes me huff with each inch of my body it claims. The loose sand takes weak hold of my feet, one after the next, after one and the next. It wants me, I think. It’s a strange thing to be thinking, I know, but that’s how it feels when I lift a foot and it sucks at my sole.

A wave rolls over my stomach, and stiffens my back. I blow out a breath. Molly’s already down and swimming. She looks odd with her curls flattened sleek against her perfect round skull. It’s like the time Jack and I bathed our rabbit when we were small. Molly probably wouldn’t die of shock like Misty did though.

She waves back at me. “Come in, it’s fabulous.”

It’s fine once you get the getting under out of the way. I know that. But Je-sus it hurts like mad for the first few seconds after I dip under and start swimming.

Molly is floating on her back, and I paddle over to join her, turning myself belly-up to the sun, letting my hair down to drift with the slow marine currents. Molly grabs my hand and pulls us together, side-by-side. She says something, but I can’t hear it with the sea inside my ears. She squeezes my hand and then lets it go again before rolling onto her front.

I follow suit. The water drains from my ears, and I can hear children screeching back on the beach. Molly is noodling about, swimming in random directions like a pollen particle in our science textbook. I want to ask her what she said when we were holding hands, but it’s too late now, I think. I start to swim a circle around her, electron to her proton.

“Miriam?” she says, without looking at me.

“Yeah?” I blow on the surface and concentrate on perfecting my breaststroke.

“Roger Wall spends a lot of time at your house, right?”

I swim into a colder patch of ocean, and the shock of it against my chest throws off my next stroke. “Yeah,” I say, lining my body up again, taking on the correct form in the water.

“Could you do something for me?”

I’m in the deepest part of my circuit now, envisioning myself from above, swimming the stoke perfectly, like an Olympian. There’s a shadow in the water a small way deeper. A rock…

“Sure,” I say to Molly.

Not a rock. The shadow is moving, slowly, almost serpentine. I can feel nothing. I can hear nothing but the blood in my ears and Molly’s voice drifting over the top. “Will you ask him if he’ll shift me?”

The shadow is huge, bigger than I am. It’s getting closer, lazily crossing the empty space between me and it. “Molly!”

I hear her. “What?”

My body has abandoned me and is making no effort to get me to safety. I can only watch as the shadow becomes flesh. Gills. Fins. Dark grey. Giant gaping maw to swallow me up.

“Molly!” I hear myself scream it, and then the splash of her swim.

The creature turns back out to sea, and its tail fin pierces the surface of the water a few feet from my face, Excalibur being offered up by the Lady of the Lake, and then it’s gone.

“What? What is it?” Molly is breathless at my shoulder.

“A shark,” I say. It sounds ridiculous. “I thought I saw a shark.”

“Maybe it was a dolphin,” Molly says, and I’m grateful that she doesn’t just assume I’ve lost it.

“Maybe, yeah.”

“Come on, let’s go back in.”

*

Molly is towelling herself dry and singing to herself. “Flipper, Flipper, faster than lightning…” She stops. “Sorry, I’m not mocking you. It’s just stuck in my head now.”

“It’s okay,” I say, as I blot the sea out of my hair.

She wraps herself in her towel, tucking it in under her arms. “So, will you ask him?”

“Ask who what?”

She’s looking at her toes curling in the sand. “Ask Roger, if he’ll…you know…shift me?”

There’s a knot below my breastbone. “Okay, yeah.”

“Oh, thank you, thank you. You’re the best!”

“Do you really fancy him?”

She plonks herself down next to me and looks dreamily out to sea. “He’s so nice. And don’t you think he looks like a young Fassbender?”

“A what?” I say with an odd sounding giggle.

Molly throws me a long-suffering look and then smiles. “The actor, Michael Fassbender.”

“Oh. Maybe, yeah. I hadn’t thought about it.” I try to join the two faces in my head, but I can’t make them match at all. The hair, maybe that’s what she means? The knot tightens, and I stop thinking about Roger Wall.

*

Saturday morning, it’s sickly warm and overcast. I’m the first one up, as usual. I used to like it in our old house in Carlow, to have the place to myself and do as I pleased. I don’t feel like that here. I’m probably imagining it, but I can taste the sea on every breath, and this morning you’d almost need gills just to be walking around.

I pour myself a glass of juice and take my book out to the back patio to read. Dad hates seeing me reading books like this one. Books with terms like ‘coming-of-age’ on the back cover. Ones where the main character is a boy. He says they’re full of things that ‘give youngsters notions.’ He doesn’t elaborate, and I pretend not to know what he’s talking about. I know he’s been reading this one, gathering evidence; I can see where his newspaper-inked fingers have been flicking in the margins. There’s a particular part just past halfway through that’s almost black. There must be something notion-inducing around there which he has already pored over so he can cluck at me from behind his sex and murder filled newspaper. I flick ahead to the blackest of the pages, and the doorbell rings.

I snap my book closed. It’s half ten on a Saturday morning; the doorbell shouldn’t be ringing. Hopefully it’s not the god-squad again, because I’m never able to get rid of them.

“Is Jack around?” Roger says when I open the door to him.

I squint at him, trying to see what Molly sees. “He’s still asleep…?”

“Can I come in and wait for him?”

“It could be hours.”

“If you don’t want me hanging around, that’s okay.” He’s grinning. I don’t know why he’s so sure of himself. I roll my eyes and throw the door open for him.

 

He sits down across from me on the other lawn chair, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees. “Nice garden.”

I cross my legs. “Mam’s. She’s mad for plants.”

“What are you reading?”

I lift the book and show him the cover.

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” he wraps his thick Galway accent around the title, making me want to smack him. “Any good?” he says.

“I’m only fifty pages in.”

He nods and then looks at the garden again, wringing his hands.

“Do you want a glass of juice?” I ask. “Cup of tea?”

“I’d go for tea.”

I go inside to get him a cup, and he follows me in. I keep my hand on the kettle’s handle as I wait for it to boil. “Actually, I have to talk to you,” I say without looking at him.

“Oh yeah?”

I’m trying to get the wording right in my head, but everything feels wrong. If he says no, I’ll have to explain it to Molly and see her crushed. If he says yes… I watch my knuckles go white on the kettle handle, feeling its rumble al the way up my arm.

“Yeah,” I say.

The steam billows out of the spout, and I imagine what it would be like to get scalded by boiling water, how much it might hurt. What it might look like to empty an entire kettle of it over a boy in your kitchen. The switch flicks off, and I pour a cupful onto the waiting teabag. Roger, all Lynx and fresh sweat, comes to stand next to me as I stir, waiting for me to tell him what I have to tell him.

I drop the spoon into the cup with a clink, and quickly as I can, turn to him and press my lips to his. My heart stalls for the fraction of a second it takes for him to realise what’s happening and start kissing me back.

He’s gone before Jack gets up, before the thunder comes to break the heat.

*

Twenty-two Septembers since the strand.

Dolphins slip silken in and out of the ferry’s wake. Apart from their blow holes opening to the air, they don’t breach the surface at all. They joined us about halfway to the island and have stayed with us since. I wonder why they do it, what they want from us?

“Why don’t they jump like the dolphins you see on telly?” I say.

“Oh,” Roger says, leaning out over the safety railing. “Those aren’t dolphins, they’re porpoises.”

“Oh, right. I’m useless with sea creatures.”

“You’d think it might rub off on you a bit, seeing as you’re engaged to a marine biologist,” he says, grinning madly at me, the flecks of his ginger stubble catching the early afternoon sun.

I can’t resist bursting his bubble. “We’re not engaged. And you’re not a marine biologist until you’ve graduated, you know.”

“It’s in the bag,” he says, with his usual easy confidence, and I don’t know whether he means his degree or my hand in marriage. Probably both. He’s happy today. I’ve finally agreed to go camping on the island with him, and now he gets to show off for the entire weekend playing survivalist. The boat engine dies to a grumble, and as the wake dissipates, the porpoises vanish back to the depths.

*

Roger pitches the tent between the dunes. The perfect spot, he says. Sheltered. He digs a fire pit in the sand for us to cook on. The nights are closing in earlier now that September is here, and after eating, he goes to find more driftwood for the fire as I sit staring into it.

I think about what would happen if he didn’t come back. How I’d go calling his name amongst the dunes and then make my way into the village to raise the alarm. They’d put a blanket around me and call me, “cailín bocht,” and I’d be in too much shock to cry. Lifeboats launched in the middle of the night, and me waiting endlessly for news. “Childhood sweethearts,” strangers would say to each other almost out of my earshot. Then the news would come in, and I’d have to cry. Surely?

“Hey spacer.” Roger sits down next to me and starts placing some of the sticks he gathered into the fire, and then leaves the remainder in a stack nearby. He scoots in next to me, pulls me closer, and nuzzles my fire warmed cheek with his cool nose. He follows its path with gentle lips, pressing tender kisses to my jawline, my neck, my throat. I sigh softly as he turns towards me in the sand, and I take his hand to lace our fingers together.

The fire spits and pops at the newly added driftwood, the sound almost drowning out the hiss of the waves on the shoreline. “We should go for a swim,” he says into my skin. “Give us an excuse to warm up properly.”

“I don’t need an excuse,” I say and slide my hand in under his loose grey t-shirt, but he’s already moving to stand. He offers me his hand to help me up.

“Hang on,” I say, brushing the sand from my shorts. “I have to get my togs from the tent.”

“Who needs togs?” He peels off his t-shirt and drops it by his feet.

I chuck a hand to my hip. “Roger, we’ll be arrested.”

“Nah,” he says. “Anyway, I thought getting arrested was on your bucket list?”

“For peaceful protest or something, not indecency.”

“Says the girl who was just about to jump me on a public beach.” He smiles that same familiar smile of his. The one I’ve come to associate with being outmanoeuvred. “I’m going in anyway, so you can either come with me, or I’ll come back and get the sea all over you.” He steps out of his shorts and stands naked in the flickering fireside glow, offering me his open palm. The fire sparks and I jump, expecting Roger to do the same, but he stands firm. “You can have a crack at drowning me if that will sway you.”

“Fine,” I say and toe off my sandals. Roger helps me off with my clothes, and I wonder why he’d rather go plunging into the bloody freezing sea than spend the evening fucking next to the fire. Maybe he’s going off me? His hands smoothing over my skin say differently, as does the dark look in his eyes, but the mood doesn’t extend to his cock. He can’t lie to me when he’s naked.

“Let’s go,” he says, and pulls me flush with his chest. He makes a show of leerily grabbing my arse and lifts me off the ground. He starts walking, carrying me to the sea, and I rest my chin on top of his head. His lips are on my sternum and I can feel the warm huffs of his breath from the effort of carrying me.

The heat from the fire has fled from my skin by the time the sea splashes my toes. That awful frigid cold. I want him to stop. I want him to bring me back ashore, and then he can leave me or stay with me; I don’t care. I wish I didn’t care.

My shins are immersed, and my fingertips are pressing into his shoulders when he finally releases me, lets me slowly down into the black water, quenching the heat between my thighs and inspiring a thousand goosebumps to prickle across my skin. I find my feet on the seabed sand and cross my arms over my breasts.

Roger takes me in his arms, and I’m glad of his warmth. He kisses me softly and sways with me in the gentle sweep of the waves. He squeezes me tight and then turns us both into the water without warning. I can’t prevent a yelp escaping, as my scalp meets wave and the last of my skin is submerged.

Roger laughs as he slips out from beneath me and swims out further to sea. I follow slowly, and he modulates his pace to stay with me. The light has all but died, the sky dipping to amethyst, making shadows of the clouds. I keep my eyes on the fading outline of Roger’s head, and shoo thoughts of the countless unknown things that are sharing the sea with us.

He turns all of a sudden, and swims back to me, slips his hands around my waist in the water, leading me to tread with him. I have half a breath taken when his lips land on mine and I start to sink, not able to tread hard enough to counteract his weight. My ears fill with sea, and I cling to his shoulders as my heart flutters like a boxed sparrow. He stops kissing me and I can breathe again.

I can hear him smiling at me in the darkness, and feel his fingers splay over my hips. “I love you,” he says.

“Love you too.”

“No, Miriam. I really really love you.”

I laugh. “Okay.”

“After I graduate and get a job, we’ll be able to start thinking about getting married. I might even buy you a rock for that finger.”

I knew this was coming, but not here in the dark. Not now in the water. “Roger…”

“Yeah?”

“Can we not talk about this right now?”

“We have to talk about it sometime.” He pushes my hair back over my shoulder. “I just want to be your husband, Mir.”

He put it so prettily that I almost didn’t recognise it as an invitation to sleepwalk into a life with him and his russet-headed kids. All of them looking at me—like I know he’s looking at me now, in the dark—like I’m the answer to all questions. “Let’s talk about it when we get home.”

“Don’t worry about it. It’s okay.” He kisses my forehead, and there’s an age-long pause where I know he’s thinking. “Do you think,” he eventually says, “that if you found your birth mother it would make things easier for you? Because there are things we could try, you know, to contact her. Find out who she is. After all this time she must have come to terms with it, at least a little bit.”

Then my hands are in his face, pushing his head back. My feet are kicking at his thighs and then his chest, and a desperate growl tears out of me.

I can hear him recovering a few feet away in the water, and my breath quick and hot through my teeth.

“The hell was that, Miriam?”

I don’t answer.

“You’re really trying to make yourself impossible to love, aren’t you?” he says, his voice altered with shock and anger as it so rarely is. And then he’s swimming away, back in the direction of the shore and the fire. After a minute or two, all that’s left to hear is my heart thundering in my chest and the sea rippling in the dark.

I could stay here. Here in the sea away from everyone. If I don’t go back, I won’t have to deal with Roger’s smothering love. Perhaps the sea was always my destiny, right from the moment I was born, and left like an offering on the beach. Maybe I belong to it, and now is its chance to take me. Maybe it’s been watching me for twenty-two years, just waiting for this opportunity to seduce me.

Well, here I am, if it wants me. I’m naked. I’m ready. I can feel it lacing my skin with its cold. Over my breasts, between my thighs, filling my hollows with brine. My sparrow heart is beating itself against in my ribcage, and I’m not sure if it’s thrill or terror. I can still see the glow of the camp-fire on the beach, but it seems so distant now, like watching the light of star that has long since blinked out of existence.

I imagine the porpoises silently circling me, quietly sipping the air through their blowholes. I imagine the basking shark looming nearby, waiting for me to finally accept its invitation after all these years. I imagine something else, something infinitely huger lurking beneath me, rising slowly out of the sands, and pausing just out of toes’ reach.

I tread a little slower, to sink down, to seek it out with my feet. Further and further, little by little, until I stop my breath and allow the sea to cover my mouth and my nose and my cheeks. Toes reaching down, I will it to be there. Then I’ll know what I’m supposed to do. For once the path will be clear. One lungful is all it will take, and there’ll be no turning back. I close my eyes and stop treading altogether. I let myself sink, feel the water everywhere. Everywhere except for inside my chest. It can go there too, if I can just get a sign.

*

My arms and legs are sore by the time I’ve swum back ashore. My chest hurts too, and my heart’s sparrow is nailed down at the wings. I stumble past the fire and into the tent. Roger is lying on his side, zipped into his sleeping bag, pretending to be asleep. I kneel down next to him on my camping mat, dripping the ocean all over everything. “I need to talk to you,” I say, and touch his shoulder. My hand shakes, and Roger rolls slowly onto his back.

The light from the fire is fading, but I can see enough of him to build his expressions from memory. He’s just a face in the long cocoon of his sleeping bag. “Do you want me?” I say, barely recognising the voice that comes from my throat. Roger frowns and unzips his sleeping bag down to the waist, before hoisting himself onto one elbow.

“Miriam,” he says, “I’ve loved you from the minute I first saw you. I made friends with Jack, just to get close to you—please don’t tell him that.”

I clench my hands into fists on my thighs. “That’s not what I asked you. Do you want me, Roger?”

He reaches for a towel and hands it to me. I take it and twist it in my fists.

“What’s brought this on?” he says.

“Just— please, Roger. Answer me.”

“Of course I do. I want you more than I’ve ever wanted anything. More than a big box of Lego, even.”

He’s smiling. I can tell when he strokes my cheek that he thinks he’s made the mood lighter, and I let him think it. I take his hand from my cheek and bring it down between my thighs, and he presses it against me. I kiss him then, and pull him towards me, out of his sleeping bag, over on top of me. “Fuck me,” I say, even though I know the term bothers him. But it annoys him enough to banish all notions of his preferred gentle routine. He’ll always fuck me if I tell him to.

He tells me he loves me when he comes, filling me up as the sea had an hour earlier. He wants me. At least he wants me. That’s not nothing.

“Love you too,” I say, as he pants into my skin, and I tell myself it’s not the same as drowning.

*

MICHELLE COYNE is based in Galway, Ireland. She was winner of the 2015 Listowel Originals Short Story Award, and placed second in the 2016 Doolin Writers’ Weekend Short Story Competition. She was also shortlisted for the Fish Flash-Fiction Prize 2015, and achieved third place in Over the Edge New Writer of the Year 2015. She has had stories published in the likes of Crannóg, wordlegs, Silver Apples, and Ropes.