Except – Swimming

As she swam, pushing her hands through the water, five years of jail time relaxed out of her limbs – her brain – and she found herself once more in her happy place. The rain on the water muffled the noise of the sea and she swam through a strange soundscape of her breath and the percussive patter of the raindrops. The salinity of the water kept her higher on the surface than she was used to, which was just as well as her muscles murmured in recognition and muffled protest. It was irritating to discover she was woefully out of shape. At the mouth of the gulley, she stopped and hung in the water, looking around. Away from the shelter of the rocks, the sea was a little bouncier and, whilst she enjoyed the gentle surge, she would build up more strength before heading out into the open water. As she examined the left-hand side, she could see a break in the cliffs and a stack she should be able to swim through. It was about two hundred metres away and Mal decided that would be her first goal. Nodding to herself, she turned and headed back to the shelter of the gulley and the steps.

Her arms swept out in front of her, pulling her body through the water and, whilst she wasn’t exactly warm, she was comfortable. She looked at her hands as they pulled through the water. The wrinkles in the skin were covered as they caught the odd piece of seaweed. Was this what her thalassotherapist had in mind? It was certainly a lot cheaper. Maybe shivering could also help tighten her skin again?

Five years without a beauty regime had allowed nature and time to take back what was theirs, and Mal knew she had a fight on her hands whenever she studied the mirror in despair. Pausing for breath, she looked into the depths below her pale legs. The rain had stopped and now she could see down to the rocks on the floor beneath her. Seaweed slowly fanned itself back and forth and she watched, mesmerised, lost in the hypnotic sway.

Her tow jerked against her waist, and Mal tried to spin around. An act that was both ungainly and ridiculous in the water. Was she snagged on something? Had a shark swum into the gulley and attacked the buoy. Were the jellyfish uprising? Of all the terrifying thoughts that ran through her head, none prepared her for what she saw as she turned and faced her tow float.

A cat was hanging onto the buoy. It didn’t appear distressed. If anything, it seemed annoyed that Mal had stopped swimming. Its wet fur didn’t appear to be bothering it and the cat simply stared at Mal, then settled down, happy to have found a resting place. Mal looked at the silver tabby in astonishment. She thought the swimmers had been joking when they mentioned a swimming cat.