A bright day; a white arm, languid, partially obscured by the row-locks. It was all he could see of her. She trailed her finger in a circle. The water’s surface splintered into shards of light.
He could barely hear her. He shifted his head; one ear was laying against his coat.
“What does that mean?”
“Against the sun. The earth is round, and it goes around the sun, and the moon goes around us. Which way though?”
He considered. Her finger kept moving.
“Isn’t it… relative?”
She dipped into his field of vision as she sat up. He saw her sideways. Left to right – white linen, blue cotton, pink skin. She was getting sun-burnt.
“Let’s do an experiment.”
“Maybe we should go inside.” He said.
“If the water in our hemisphere goes down a plug-hole, it goes one way, and in the other hemisphere… the other way.”
“Mm.” He was watching her lips, the way the heat haze made them shimmer with gloss.
“Let’s row nine time around the island.” Now she was closer, her perfume in his nostrils and her breasts warm and heavy against his arm.
“Widdershins.” Her eyes were wet, like her lips.
He fumbled for the oars.
Some time later he asked if he could stop rowing for a while.
“My hands are sore.” He said to the back of her head.
“Almost there.” Her shoulders were hunched forward, and she shivered.
They were under the trees; the shadows of the weeping willows flickered across their skin; their clothes.
He looked up as he rowed. Slivers of blue, but a darker blue than before. A more violet blue. Could he see stars?
“What time is it? It’s getting dark.” He was breathless now. Eight and a half times around the island. Almost nine.
“There’s a man on those little rocks, there.” She said.
“Probably the guy from the dock. If it’s that late, he’ll be wanting the boat back.”
He let the boat slide to a halt. They were back where they had started out. The man headed towards them and grabbed the prow of the boat.
“I can’t see his face.” She said.
“Well… it’s dark.” He took her hand. They stood, wobble-legged.
“Not even his eyes” She said. “Why are we going into the island?”
“Hey.” He said. “Hey, mister. How do we get back to the dock?”
The man remained silent; didn’t look back. There was the sound of music and shouting from within the trees.
“I didn’t realise the island was so big.” She laughed nervously.
“Sounds like a hell of a party.” He said.
He shrugged his jacket off and draped it around her shoulders. Her eyes and teeth flashed him a smile.
She took his arm.