The winner of the Elizabeth Goudge Trophy was announced at the Saurday night Gala Dinner – you can read all about it, and the brilliant winning entry by Cally Taylor on her blog here. The gorgeous Liz Fenwick took second place – she’s posted her entry here.
And I was blown away to find that I’d been shortlisted into the final six! What can I say? It just felt so good to hear that – such a boost!
To join the illustrious company, I’ve posted my entry below. I hope you like it!
Danger: Deep Water.
The rusty sign hung slightly askew. The life-belt was long-since gone, its wooden stand greyed with age and seasons, a rusted hook and frayed piece of orange nylon line the only reminder.
But the sun beat on his shoulders and the small boat felt right under his feet.
They’d come to the old quarry for deep water after all. And they’d all dived in the some of the most dangerous waters of the world. Going down, into the blackness, in search of the evil that men left behind.
No seeking out evil today. No duty. Only the pleasure of a day out of time, exploring somewhere new.
He could feel the line run through his hand. The bubbles fizzed to the surface of the black water.
Angela, he knew without looking, was climbing the quarry face only a stone’s throw away, waiting her turn to dive. David was below, at the other end of the line that whispered over his fingers.
Yielding to guilty temptation, he looked up. Her blonde hair was loose, swinging between her shoulder blades as she reached for the next hold. She moved out and across, the sleekly rounded muscles of her legs shifting under smooth, pale skin.
The line was static in his grasp.
He looked down.
No more bubbles.
Time slowed. His skin crawled.
How long? How long since he’d looked away?
And then it happened like it always happened. He tried to shout to Angela, but he couldn’t make a sound. He tried to enter the water, but it was solid, hard, cold, like ice. He beat on the ice with his fists, but it wouldn’t break.
It wouldn’t break, but it grew clear, so he could see through it. There, far below, looking up, was David’s face – lifeless – inexplicably in monochrome. His hair floated around his head, his eyes were open, but they stared past him.
And Angela screamed.
* * *
Gareth came awake with a jolt, sweat on his face, almost losing his seat on the cockpit bench. The night air was cool, the Mediterranean was still. The Orpheus rocked almost imperceptibly at anchor.
He shook his head, trying to rid himself of the last threads of nightmare. All was well. He was alone, it was over. But something rang in his ears, a memory of a sound, and he emphatically hoped he hadn’t been shouting.
Gareth shot to his feet. The voice was female, slightly breathless, mostly cheerful, and seemed to be coming from his feet. Before he could catch up, a slim hand curled over the side.
He leaned out, looking down into a pale face. A woman, treading water, smiling slightly, the moonlight and riding lights picking out the line of a cheekbone, the curve of a lip, the white of her eyes.
He glanced around. But the calm sea was empty. No chug of motors, no glimmer of light.
“Well? Give me a hand, then.”
The voice was as smooth and flawless as the hand he caught hold of. Bemused, still befuddled by this unexpected waking, he gave her a second to gather her balance, then hauled. She came out of the water smoothly, like a diver, no flailing of legs or arms, breathing easy. She found her balance, recovered her hand and pushed her sodden, dark hair off her face. It fell back over her shoulders in dripping tails, but she didn’t fuss with it, or squeeze it all over his deck.
The woman looked about her, took a step towards the edge, and leaned backwards, arching out over the side. The stretch pulled the material of her grey-ish tee-shirt tight over nice looking breasts and exposed a slice of her pale, sleek belly.
Then she squeezed out her hair.
“Right,” she said, straightening. “That’s better.” She turned and smiled.
It was an assured smile, smooth and pretty. But it lacked something, in his mind. Like, any trace of embarrassment, apology, gratitude . . . in fact anything that might indicate she was aware of the fact that she’d just invited herself aboard a stranger’s yacht in the middle of the night.
He scanned the sea around them again. Still no sign of lights. No sound. Nothing.
And this strange, slim woman was still smiling at him as if they’d just been introduced at a party.
He was stuck on what to say. Who are you? Was too obvious. Who the hell are you? was too abrupt. Get the hell off my boat, was favourite, but he took a breath and said, instead, “Nice swim?”
“Uh,” she looked back over her shoulder at the black sea, rippling and lapping at the hull. He could see goosebumps rising on those smoothly muscled arms. “Well, I’ll admit I like night swimming, but that wasn’t my favourite trip, no.”
She bunched up the tee-shirt at her waist, pulling it up from where it stuck against her shorts. For a moment he thought she was going to strip off there and then. He tensed, unwilling to play flirtatious games with some shiftless Mediterranean free-spirit, but she simply twisted the cloth tight under her breasts, leaning out again to wring more water.
“You swim far?”
“I can swim very far, but I’ve only been going a couple of hours or so tonight,” she said, without any sort of consciousness he could see.
A couple of hours. Like it didn’t matter.
“You going to tell me where you started?”
“Well,” she seemed to consider, head on one side, lips curving. “No, actually.”
He registered that the accent was casual, middle England British, but the dark hair and brows, with those high cheekbones and decided nose, spoke of a touch of Mediterranean ancestry.
She couldn’t be more different than Angela’s Anglo-Saxon English rose.
But Angela wasn’t here. Wasn’t ever likely to be. And someone looking very like her antithesis was standing there, smiling at him, dripping secrets and sea water all over his deck.