Baker’s Girl

The morning is bird-time. It is theirs. The sky, the earth and the sea. They dominate. The seagulls have taken over from the students. What a noise this morning. A cacophony. They screech, moan and yell. I watch as they soar over the sea catching light on their underbellies, white planes of grace. One came to rest on the pavement ahead of me, all elegance until it landed then it was limping, hobbling. A stunning morning. The black becoming blue, first over Aberdovey then slowly moving south. An opening up of such hope. I stood on the Perygyl, eyes closed, listening to the lapping water. It looked like oil, heavy, languid. Another oystercatcher peeped in the distance. I couldn’t see it. Later, at Morrison’s we watched as seagull ripped at a large bag of Wagg dog food. They do it all the time, said one of the cleaners, nonplussed by it, they gorge themselves.

I sent her a message via Facebook. It’s not the ideal form of communication for me.  She suggested it. I am kept at arm’s length. No, that sounds too loaded. It is how they do it. It is what they do. A managed form of communication, to be responded to if and when, or never. She rarely replies instantly. She has a full life. It brought me down. I feel clumsy, ham-strung by that little box. Is that all, is that all I can say? Trying to keep it light, easy, non-needy. I have to just accept what is. I cannot change it. Yield to it with grace. It is something, she lets me in. That is something.

She was ahead of me, walking ahead of me. I thought it was her. The baker’s girl. The baker’s counter assistant. She must come by train from somewhere. She arrives just before four am. She has a pony tail, and that day wore cotton cut-off trousers and sandals. It was cold and she hugged her sweat-top to her chest as she walked. She stopped at the door of the bakery to let me pass. Sorry, I said, and walked on waiting for that smell to envelop me as she opened the door. I think of her in there. My doppelganger, my other life. My simple other life where I don’t have to create anything, just lay out the bread and serve. A nice ordered existence. People require bread, it is made and I would sell it. Twisting those paper bags with brown loaves inside. Counting out the rolls, the teacakes, the macaroons. Do they sell macaroons? Would I become immune to the smell? They do coffee too. There’s a little café. How would it be to live her life?

There was a girl standing outside the Halls this morning, at the back, as I walk up the hill. She was in the middle of the road. All in black, she looked like a latter-day Audrey Hepburn but taller. She had one arm wrapped across her chest and curled around her waist and she was staring at the sky.

It is my grief. That is all. I can live with it, have done for well over twenty years now. Neither good nor bad. It just is. But I love. I do love. Both of them. So much.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.