The Dividing Tide – Episode 54

Garren leaped from the drift boat to the quay at Bidreath, and made fast the mooring rope. It had been a good night’s work, and the hold was full to overflowing with herring.

He thanked the stars that the war between the drifters and the seiners had been resolved.

The truce between both sets of fishermen might be an uneasy one, but it was a truce nevertheless.

When he was satisfied that the knot would hold he jumped back on board, and with the other men he began loading the baskets with fish.

“I’ll start on up to the cellar, Joe,” he called to the old man who was rearranging the nets.

“Aye, you go on, boy. Sooner they be sluicin’ in brine, the better they’ll keep.”

Garren lifted his creaking basket to his shoulder and began along the quayside, and before long was descending the steps to the cellar.

“Kate?” He could not see the overseer, but he knew she’d be there. “I’ve brought the night’s catch in, ready for salting.

“’Twas a good haul,” he added as he entered the dim white-washed room.

The women, who had been singing as they often did as they went about their work, grew quiet.

“’Tis Garren Quick,” he heard one say.

As he lifted down his basket to empty it into the low salt-encrusted store at the side of the room, Garren became aware that not only the singing had stopped, but so had the scrape of shovels against the floor and the tapping of hammer on barrel lids.

“What’s up?” he asked a young girl who was wiping her hands upon her apron.

“Ain’t for me to say,” she retorted with a shy smile as she moved to the other side of the cellar. “Kate! ’Tis Garren Quick!”

He watched in surprise as the women moved to the sides of the cellar, forming a pathway to the far end of the room.

“What . . .?” he began.

Then he stilled, and it seemed as if the world dropped away. There, in a shaft of light glancing through the tiny north-facing window, stood Jenna.

Gone was the finery she had been wearing when he’d last seen her in her fur-trimmed cloak and fine leather slippers.

In their place she had on her working dress and clogs, her hair wild and free and her hands folded across her sack-cloth apron.

He rubbed his eyes. It couldn’t be Jenna. He must be mistaken.

It was gloomy in here after the brightness of the morning outside. It must be a new girl with the same likeness.

But as he stepped forward, she did, too.

His heart beat hard and unsteady.

“It is you,” he whispered. He took another step, and another, and suddenly she was in his arms.

He held her tightly to him as if he would never let her go again.

“I thought I could live without you,” he whispered, his lips close to her ear. “But each day that has passed since we parted has been grey as a February morn.”

She eased herself a little from his embrace, looking up at him, her eyes glistening.

“Why did you send that message when I was in
St Austell?”

“I thought I had lost you.” His words caught in his throat.

“What a fool I’ve been,” he said, taking her hands. “I never want to be without you again, not for a single day.”

He dropped to one knee, his heart overflowing with love.

“Will you marry me, Jenna?”

“Yes,” she said simply.

The workers, who had been silent as they watched the moment unfold, now erupted in a cheer that reverberated around the cave-like room.

“At last!” Kate said, grinning as she clapped them each in turn on the shoulder. “Took yer time about it. Now, then, back to work, you lot,” she called out brusquely. “These fish ain’t goin’ to cure theirselves!”

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.