The smoke from his cigarette hung in the air like a poor lie. With his back to the iron door, all around him the grey swell flowed, eerily noiseless. The waves were swollen and turgid as they looped around the steps below him, meeting uneasily in the middle. The heat was stifling, even three miles out, and the granite of the lighthouse leaked out its warmth in to his shoulders, as if desperate to cool itself. Now dusk, the sky was violet with angry clouds, readying themselves for lightning. The last time it did this, he couldn’t go outside for three days, so strong was the storm. He had made it a rule to never smoke inside, so he savoured the final drag before going in.
The sudden unmistakable sound of Phillipe’s outboard motor stopped him in his tracks, and he leant on the doorframe, panicked by its presence. In horror he stared down at his apparel, and raced like a madman up the staircase, grazing his knuckles on the way. All he could think of was that he hadn’t time to shave. A pathetic thought. He tore open the white box that he kept by the window and flung off the coarse woolen work clothes, dressing hurredly in the clean, pressed garments beneath . He calmed himself. He had a guest, and would meet her accordingly. In his poor French. One brief glance in the mirror, bought for this very moment, and he leapt back down the stairs, leaving his unworn shoes where they had fallen by the bannister.
‘You could have warned me about this you sneaky English bastard’ was all Phillipe said as he appeared in the sea doorway, the fisherman scything his rudder around to steady the bow of the boat. The keel rose a good five foot with each swell, and rocked a great deal too. The lighthouse keeper ignored him entirely. He only had eyes for Phillipe’s cargo: a striking young woman with Raven black hair and dark, dark eyes, staring intently in to his own. In all his trips to the front door, he had never allowed himself to believe that she would come. She was not smiling, and neither was he. As if sensing the tension, the swell had intensified, and a low rumble rolled around overhead. Phillipe would need to leave fast to make it back to shore safely.
‘I’ll make it up to you, you grumpy French arse’, was his retort, as he watched his guest totter in the rapidly growing swell, never once taking his eyes off her. The boat now lifted a good six feet with each wave. With one hand anchored to the railing he reached out with his other and the woman leapt without warning in to his arms, throwing them both back in to the doorway. As if encouraging them, the rising storm licked at the doorway and they hastened inside, slamming home the two doors as they retreated. She stood apart from him, her face lit by bands of sunset peeking above the storm door. ‘You came, my farmer’. Her eyes were brighter than he remembered, like a crescent moon, bathed with an inner light. ‘As promised, Madamoiselle,’ was his reply, his voice broken with lack of use.Her eyes seared in to him. After a year of waiting he felt childish and awkward, his new garments ridiculous in the salt-scoured staircase. A pantomime costume. She grinned at him then. ‘Are you really a farmer, English, or do you just have rough hands’?
‘Both’ was all he managed, before a thud and a rush of air dragged him back to the present. His heart was racing very fast. ‘Come upstairs before this floods’. They ascended in silence, turning tight circles around the stone staircase. He led her upwards, revelling in her presence, even the sound of her feet scuffing each step. A clap of thunder lanced overhead. He kicked the first trap door closed, and only then fully realised that they were alone for the first time. At their first meeting they had been surrounded by watchful eyes. Not now. The thought both excited and alarmed him. ‘How did you know I was here?’ She smiled broadly at him. ‘Oh English, you know the village. How many rookie lighthouse keepers do you think are out there that have terrible French, one blue eye and one green eye, huh?’
He knew the answer. God she was beautiful. Just as he remembered when he had arrived at dawn, bruised and terrified, guided by Phillupe and the other Resistance fighters. The bailout had been awful, and he’d been the only airman out being nearest the door when the flak hit. Nobody knew where the kite had ended up, or the other chaps. He forced himself not to think of it. When he arrived at the Tabac she had saved him, and soothed him. He’d talked about running the farm, even jabbering that he needed a wife there. He had promised her that he would return, even though they had hardly spoken.
Again, she reassured him, strong and tanned and demure in thick cotton shirt and long dress. She was so pure.’You could have just come to the Tabac when peace came’. He knew her, however brief their time had been. This was a test. ‘I wanted you to come to me. I told you I would wait, and I have’. She nodded, still keeping her distance, leaning against the wall. ‘Yes, and I have waited for you. You left me in a storm, and I return to you in one’. He remembered the night he had been smuggled from Brittany to England, mid-storm to avoid meeting German patrol boats. All in the past now. There was a present to create.
Boldened by a lightning flash, they rushed to eachother. A year of longing had inflamed them both, and they clung together ardently. He revelled in her scent, a sharp, musky smell like sunshine and sandalwood. She moaned as he kissed her full lips, with a low, urgent sound. Returning his affection, she worked her fingers deep in to the hair at the base of his neck. He cupped her face, damp with perspiration in the restricted space. He pulled her to him, encircling her waist. ‘No, not here. Up’, she said, pushing at his chest. ‘I want everybody to see you are mine’. Without words he swept her up, and climbed in a decreasing circle, up to the light room. Twilight had set in when they emerged in to the glass chamber, lit at intervals by the revolving light.
‘I want the whole world to see’ she panted, pushing herself on to the railings. Planting his feet apart he swept her skirt past her thighs, and rising to meet her. At last they were conjoined. Had anybody looked to the lighthouse that evening they would have seen them, entwined, as one, lit by both the flames of their desire and the lighthouse orb.