The Sea Gate by Jane Johnson

The Sea Gate by Jane Johnson

Author:Jane Johnson [Johnson, Jane]
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 9781789545142
Publisher: Head of Zeus


Two nights later there was an immense thunderstorm with winds that made the glass rattle in the window frames. Olivia, reading a book in the kitchen under the flickering light of the hurricane lamp, jumped as the first crump of thunder sounded overhead, as loud as German bombs, as loud as the downing of the crashed aircraft. She went to the front door, opened it and stood in the porch, watching the slanting sheets of rain battering the plants in the overgrown garden. The moon lay over the sea, trapped between thick clouds. It sent a small silver disc like a spotlight onto the brazen surface of the sea below like an SOS, then disappeared again from view, casting all into darkness, until a fork of lightning split the sky, illuminating everything with a flash of harsh light that left jagged after-images on her eyeballs.

Olivia loved storms. As a child she would stand on a chair at her bedroom window, mesmerized by the elemental power, as thunder raged and lightning zigzagged. She had had to be restrained from running out into the wild weather, arms wide, mouth open to catch the rain. She itched to be out in the elements now, running down the path to the cove, leaping into the lightning-seared waves. The sea was warmer during a storm, it would be wonderful—

Someone called her name, breaking the spell, and she turned. At the top of the stairs Mary sat like a small ghost, her face almost as pale as the white nightclothes she was wrapped in.

‘I don’t like it.’

‘Go back to bed. It’s just a storm.’

‘My night light’s gone out.’

With a sigh, Olivia came back inside.

As she relit the little candle with one of the precious matches, the child grasped her arm. ‘I heard someone outside. They’re coming to get me.’

‘Don’t be silly. It was just me, checking all was well before locking up.’

‘When will it stop?’ Mary whined.

‘The storm? Soon, I’m sure.’

‘The horrible war. When will Mummy come home?’

It was weeks now since Mrs Ogden had gone to Bristol to see her sick mother and in all that time there had been no word from her. Olivia had come to the reluctant conclusion that she had abandoned Mary and would never return. This theory had been bolstered by the fact that Winnie had taken all her money with her. Olivia knew this, as she had checked the blue ginger jar where Winnie kept it, from which Olivia had occasionally helped herself to the old shilling, feeling no sense of guilt at all.

‘I’m sure she’ll be back soon. Now go to sleep.’

‘Will you stay here till I’m asleep? There are monsters in the shadows.’

Olivia laughed. ‘There’s no such thing as monsters. Don’t be such a baby.’

In the pale circle of her face, Mary’s eyes glittered furiously. ‘There are monsters! There are lots and lots of monsters, everywhere.’

As Olivia turned to leave, the child whispered, ‘And you’re one of them.’


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