You should never have married me.’
‘I haven’t regretted it for an instant.’
‘Not you, you fool! Me! You shouldn’t have got me to marry you if you loved me. Why did you, when you knew it would let me in for all this. It’s not fair!’
‘I didn’t know. I know it’s not. But what can I do about it?’
‘I’m being mashed up and eaten alive.’
‘I know. I’m sorry.’
‘It’s not your fault. But what can I do?’
‘I don’t know.’
So the conversation had gone last night in bed, followed by platonic embraces. They were on ice at the moment, so far as anything further was concerned. The smoothness and sweet smell of their children, the baby’s densely packed pearly limbs, the freshness of the little girl’s breath when she yawned, these combined to accentuate the grossness of their own bodies. They eyed each other’s mooching bulk with mutual lack of enthusiasm, and fell asleep.
At four in the morning, the baby was punching and shouting in his Moses basket. Frances forced herself awake, lying for the first moments like a flattened boxer in the ring trying to rise while the count was made. She got up and fell over, got up again and scooped Matthew from the basket. He was huffing with eagerness, and scrabbled crazily at her breasts like a drowning man until she lay down with him. A few seconds more and he had abandoned himself to rhythmic gulping. She stroked his soft head and drifted off. When she woke again, it was six o’clock and Matthew was sleeping between her and Jonathan.
For once, nobody was touching her. Like Holland she lay, aware of a heavy ocean at her sea wall, its weight poised to race across the low country.
The baby was now three months old, and she had not had more than half an hour alone since his birth in February. He was big and hungry and needed her there constantly on tap. Also, his two-year-old sister Lorna was, unwillingly, murderously jealous, which made everything much more difficult. This time round was harder, too, because when one was asleep the other would be awake and vice versa. If only she could get them to nap at the same time, Frances started fretting, then she might be able to sleep for some minutes during the day and that would get her through. But they wouldn’t, and she couldn’t. She had taken to muttering I can’t bear it, I can’t bear it, without realizing she was doing so until she heard Lorna chanting I can’t bear it! I can’t bear it! as she skipped along beside the pram, and this made her blush with shame at her own weediness.
In her next chunk of sleep came that recent nightmare, where men with knives and scissors advanced on the felled trunk which was her body.
‘How would you like it?’ she said to Jonathan. ‘It’s like a doctor saying, now we’re just going to snip your scrotum in half, but don’t worry, it mends very well down there, we’ll stitch you up and you’ll be fine.’
It was gone seven by now and Lorna was leaning on the bars of the cot like Farmer Giles, sucking her thumb in a ruminative pipe-smoking way. The room stank like a lion house. She beamed as her mother came in, and lifted her arms up. Frances hoisted her into the bath, stripped her down and detached the dense brown nappy from between her knees. Lorna carolled, ‘I can sing a rainbow’, raising her faint fine eyebrows at the high note, graceful and perfect, as her mother sluiced her down with jugs of water.
‘Why does everything take so long?’ moaned Jonathan. ‘It only takes me five minutes to get ready.’
Frances did not bother to answer. They were all four in Dorset on a week’s holiday. She was sagging with the effortful boredom of assembling the paraphernalia needed for a morning out in the car. Juice. Beaker with screw-on lid. Flannels. Towels. Changes of clothes in case of car sickness. Nappies. Rattle. Clean muslins to catch Matthew’s curdy regurgitations. There was more. What was it?
‘Oh, come on, Jonathan, think,’ she said. ‘I’m fed up with having to plan it all.’
‘What do you think I’ve been doing for the last hour?’ he shouted. ‘Who was it that changed Matthew’s nappy just now? Eh?’
‘Congratulations,’ she said.
Lorna burst into tears.
‘Why is everywhere always such a mess,’ said Jonathan, picking up plastic spiders, dinosaurs, telephones, beads and bears, his grim scowl over the mound of primary colours like a traitor’s head on a platter of fruit.
‘I want dat spider, daddy!’ screamed Lorna. ‘Give it to me!’
During the ensuing struggle, Frances pondered her tiredness. Her muscles twitched as though they had been tenderized with a steak bat. There was a bar of iron in the back of her neck, and she felt unpleasantly weightless in the cranium, a gin-drinking side effect without the previous fun. The year following the arrival of the first baby had gone in pure astonishment at the loss of freedom, but second time round it was spinning away in exhaustion. Matthew woke at one and four, and Lorna at six-thirty. During the days, fatigue came at her in concentrated doses, like a series of time bombs.
‘Are we ready at last?’ said Jonathan, breathing heavily. ‘Are we ready to go?’
‘Um, nearly,’ said Frances. ‘Matthew’s making noises. I think I’d better feed him, or else I’ll end up doing it in a lay-by.’
‘Right,’ said Jonathan. ‘Right.’
Frances picked up the baby. ‘What a nice fat parcel you are,’ she murmured in his delighted ear. ‘Come on, my love.’
‘Matthew’s not your love,’ said Lorna. ‘I’m your love. You say C’mon love to me.’
‘You’re both my loves,’ said Frances.
The baby was shaking with eagerness, and pouted his mouth as she pulled her shirt up. Lorna sat down beside her, pulled up her own T-shirt and applied a teddy bear to her nipple. She grinned at her mother.
Frances looked down at Matthew’s head, which was shaped like a brick or a small wholemeal loaf, and remembered again how it had come down through the middle of her. She was trying very hard to lose her awareness of this fact, but it would keep representing itself.
‘D’you know,’ said Lorna, her free hand held palm upwards, her hyphen eyebrows lifting, ‘D’you know, I was sucking my thumb when I was coming down stairs, mum, mum, then my foot slipped and my thumb came out of my mouth.’
‘Well, that’s very interesting, Lorna,’ said Frances.
Two minutes later, Lorna caught the baby’s head a ringing smack and ran off. Jonathan watched as Frances lunged clumsily after her, the baby jouncing at her breasts, her stained and crumpled shirt undone, her hair a bird’s nest, her face craggy with fatigue, and found himself dubbing the tableau, Portrait of Rural Squalor in the manner of William Hogarth. He bent to put on his shoes, stuck his right foot in first then pulled it out as though bitten.
‘What’s that‘ he said in tones of profound disgust. He held the shoe in front of Frances’s face.
‘It looks like baby sick,’ she said. ‘Don’t look at me. It’s not my fault.’
‘It’s all so bloody basic,” said Jonathan, breathing hard, hopping off towards the kitchen.
‘If you think that’s basic, try being me,’ muttered Frances. ‘You don’t know what basic means.’
‘Daddy put his foot in Matthew’s sick,’ commented Lorna, laughing heartily.
At Cerne Abbas they stood and stared across at the chalky white outline of the Iron Age giant cut into the green hill.
‘Do you remember when we stood on it?’ said Jonathan. ‘Five years ago?’
‘Of course,’ said Frances. She saw the ghosts of their frisky former selves running round the giant’s spreading limbs and up on to his phallus. Nostalgia filled her eyes and stabbed her smartly in the guts.
“‘The woman riding high above with bright hair flapping free,'” quoted Jonathan. ‘Will you be able to grow your hair again?’
‘Yes, yes. Don’t look at me like that, though. I know I look like hell.’
A month before Matthew was born, Frances had had her hair cut short. Her head had looked like a pea on a drum. It still did. With each year of pregnancy, her looks had hurtled five years on. She had started using sentences beginning, ‘When I was young.’ Ah, youth! Idleness! Sleep! How pleasant it had been to play the centre of her own stage. And how disorientating was this overnight demotion from Brünnehilde to spear-carrier.
‘What’s that,’ said Lorna. ‘That thing.’
‘It’s a giant,’ said Frances.
‘Like in Jacknabeanstork?’
‘But what’s that thing. That thing on the giant.’
‘It’s the giant’s thing.’
‘Is it his stick thing?’
‘My baby budder’s got a stick thing.’
‘But I haven’t got a stick thing.’
‘Daddy’s got a stick thing.’
‘But mummy hasn’t got a stick thing. We’re the same, mummy.’
She beamed and put her warm paw in Frances’s.
‘You can’t see round without an appointment,’ said the keeper of Hardy’s cottage. ‘You should have telephoned.’
‘We did,’ bluffed Jonathan. ‘There was no answer.’
‘When was that?’
‘Twenty to ten this morning.’
‘Humph. I was over sorting out some trouble at Cloud’s Hill. T. E. Lawrence’s place. All right, you can go through. But keep them under control, won’t you.’
They moved slowly through the low-ceilinged rooms, whispering to impress the importance of good behaviour on Lorna.
‘This is the room where he was born,’ said Jonathan, at the head of the stairs.
‘Do you remember from when we visited last time?’ said Frances slowly. ‘It’s coming back to me. He was his mother’s first child, she nearly died in labour, then the doctor thought the baby was dead and threw him into a basket while he looked after the mother. But the midwife noticed he was breathing.’
‘Then he carried on till he was eighty-seven,’ said Jonathan.
They clattered across the old chestnut floorboards, on into another little bedroom with deep thick-walled window seats.
‘Which one’s your favourite now?’ asked Frances.
‘Oh, still Jude the Obscure, I think,’ said Jonathan. ‘The tragedy of unfulfilled aims. Same for anyone first generation at university.’
‘Poor Jude, laid low by pregnancy,’ said Frances. ‘Another victim of biology as destiny.’
‘Don’t talk, you two,’ said Lorna.
‘At least Sue and Jude aimed for friendship as well as all the other stuff,’ said Jonathan.
‘Unfortunately, all the other stuff made friendship impossible, didn’t it,’ said Frances.
‘Don’t talk!’ shouted Lorna.
‘Don’t shout!’ said Jonathan. Lorna fixed him with a calculating blue eye and produced an ear-splitting scream. The baby jerked in his arms and started to howl.
‘Hardy didn’t have children, did he?’ said Jonathan above the din. ‘I’ll take them outside. You stay up here a bit longer if you want to.’
Frances stood alone in the luxury of the empty room and shuddered. She moved around the furniture and thought fond savage thoughts of silence in the cloisters of a convent, a blessed place where all was monochrome and non-viscous. Sidling up unprepared to a mirror on the wall she gave a yelp at her reflection. The skin was the colour and texture of pumice stone, the grim jaw set like a lion’s muzzle. And the eyes, the eyes far back in the skull were those of a herring three days dead.
Jonathan was sitting with the baby on his lap by a row of lupins and marigolds, reading to Lorna from a newly acquired guide-book.
‘When Thomas was a little boy he knelt down one day in a field and began eating grass to see what it was like to be a sheep.’
‘What the sheep say?’ asked Lorna.
‘The sheep said, er, so now you know.’
‘And what else?’
‘What do you mean, why?’
‘Look,’ he said when he saw Frances. ‘I’ve bought a copy of Jude the Obscure too, so we can read to each other when we’ve got a spare moment.’
‘Spare moment!’ said Frances. ‘But how lovely you look with the children at your knees, the roses round the cottage door. How I would like to be the one coming back from work to find you all bathed and brushed, and a hot meal in the oven and me unwinding with a glass of beer in a hard-earned crusty glow of righteousness.’
‘I don’t get that,’ Jonathan reminded her.
‘That’s because I can’t do it properly yet,’ said Frances. ‘But, still, I wish it could be the other way round. Or at least half and half. And I was thinking, what a cheesy business Eng. Lit. is, all those old men peddling us lies about life and love. They never get as far as this bit, do they.’
‘Thomas 1840, Mary 1842, Henry 1851, Kate 1856,’ read Jonathan. ‘Perhaps we could have two more.’
‘I’d kill myself,’ said Frances.
They found themselves corralled into a cement area at the back of the Smugglers’ Arms, a separate space where young family pariahs could bicker over fish fingers. Waiting at the bar, Jonathan observed the comfortable tables inside, with their noisy laughing groups of the energetic elderly tucking into plates of gammon and plaice and profiteroles.
‘Just look at them,’ said the crumpled man beside him, who was paying for a trayload of Fanta and baked beans. ‘Skipped the war. Nil unemployment, home in time for tea.’ He took a great gulp of lager. ‘Left us to scream in our prams, screwed us up good and proper. When our kids come along, what happens? You don’t see the grandparents for dust, that’s what happens. They’re all off out enjoying themselves, kicking the prams out the way with their Hush Puppies, spending the money like there’s no tomorrow.’
Jonathan grunted uneasily. He still could not get used to the way he found himself involved in intricate conversations with complete strangers, incisive, frank, frequently desperate, whenever he was out with Frances and the children. It used to be only women who talked like that, but now, among parents of young children, it seemed to have spread across the board.
Frances was trying to allow the baby to finish his recent interrupted feed as discreetly as she could, while watching Lorna move inquisitively among the various family groups. She saw her go up to a haggard woman changing a nappy beside a trough of geraniums.
‘Your baby’s got a stick thing like my baby budder.’ Lorna’s piercing voice soared above the babble. ‘I haven’t got a stick thing cos I’m a little gel. My mummy’s got fur on her potim.’
Frances abandoned their table and made her way over to the geranium trough.
‘Sorry if she’s been getting in your way,’ she said to the woman.
‘Chatty, isn’t she,’ commented the woman unenthusiastically. ‘How many have you got?’
‘Two. I’m shattered.’
‘The third’s the killer.’
‘Dat’s my baby budder,’ said Lorna, pointing at Matthew.
‘He’s a big boy,’ said the woman. ‘What did he weigh when he came out?’
‘Just like a turkey,’ she said, disgustingly, and added, ‘Mine were whoppers too. They all had to be cut out of me, one way or the other.’
By the time they returned to the cottage, the air was weighing on them like blankets. Each little room was an envelope of pressure. Jonathan watched Frances collapse into a chair with children all over her. Before babies, they had been well matched. With the arrival of their first child, it had been a case of Woman Overboard. He’d watched, ineffectual but sympathetic, trying to keep her cheerful as she clung on to the edge of the raft, holding out weevil-free biscuits for her to nibble, and all the time she gazed at him with appalled eyes. Just as they had grown used to this state, difficult but tenable, and were even managing to start hauling her on board again an inch at a time, just as she had her elbows up on the raft and they were congratulating themselves with a kiss, well, along came the second baby in a great slap of a wave that drove her off the raft altogether. Now she was out there in the sea while he bobbed up and down, forlorn but more or less dry, and watched her face between its two satellites dwindling to the size of a fist, then to a plum, and at last to a mere speck of plankton. He dismissed it from his mind.
‘I’ll see if I can get the shopping before the rain starts,’ he said, dashing out to the car again, knee-deep in cow parsley. ‘You really should keep an eye on how much bread we’ve got left,’ he called earnestly as he unlocked the car. ‘It won’t be my fault if I’m struck by lightning.’
There was the crumpling noise of thunder, and silver cracked the sky. Frances stood in the doorway holding the baby, while Lorna clawed and clamoured at her to be held in her free arm.
‘Oh, Lorna,’ said Frances, hit by a wave of bone-aching fatigue. ‘You’re too heavy, my sweet.’ She closed the cottage door as Lorna started to scream, and stood looking down at her with something like fear. She saw a miniature fee-fi-fo-fum creature working its way through a pack of adults, chewing them up and spitting their bones out.
‘Come into the back room, Lorna, and I’ll read you a book while I feed Matthew.’
‘I don’t want to.’
‘Why don’t you want to?’
‘I just don’t want to.’
‘Can’t you tell me why?’
‘Do you know, I just don’t WANT to!’
‘All right, dear. I’ll feed him on my own then.’
‘NO!’ screamed Loma. ‘PUT HIM IN DA BIN! HE’S RUBBISH!’
‘Don’t scream, you little beast,’ said Frances hopelessly. The baby squared his mouth and joined in the noise.
Lorna turned the volume up and waited for her mother to crack. Frances walked off to the kitchen with the baby and quickly closed the door. Lorna gave a howl of rage from the other side and started to smash at it with fists and toys. There followed a punishing stint of ricochet work, where Frances let the baby cry while she comforted Lorna; let Lorna shriek while she soothed the baby; put Lorna down for her nap and was called back three times before she gave up and let her follow her destructively around; bathed the baby after he had sprayed himself, Lorna and the bathroom with urine during the nappy-changing process; sat on the closed lavatory seat and fed the baby while Lorna chattered in the bath which she had demanded in the wake of the baby’s bath.
She stared at Lorna’s slim silver body, exquisite in the water, graceful as a Renaissance statuette.
‘Shall we see if you’d like a little nap after your bath?’ she suggested hopelessly, for only if Lorna rested would she be able to rest, and then only if Matthew was asleep or at least not ready for a feed.
‘No,’ said Lorna, off-hand but firm.
‘Oh, thank God,’ said Frances as she heard the car door slam outside. Jonathan was back. It was like the arrival of the cavalry. She wrapped Lorna in a towel and they scrambled downstairs. Jonathan stood puffing on the doormat. Outside was a mid-afternoon twilight, the rain as thick as turf.
‘You’re wet, daddy,’ said Lorna, fascinated.
‘There were lumps of ice coming down like tennis balls,’ he marvelled.
‘Here, have this towel,’ said Frances, and Lorna span off naked as a sprite from its folds to dance among the chairs and tables while thunder crashed in the sky with the cumbersomeness of heavy furniture falling down uncarpeted stairs.
‘S’il vous plaît,’ said Frances to Jonathan, ‘Dansez, jouez avec le petit diable, cette fille. Il faut que je get Matthew down for a nap, she just wouldn’t let me. Je suis tellement shattered.’
‘Mummymummymummy,’ Lorna chanted as she caught some inkling of this, but Jonathan threw the towel over her and they started to play ghosts.
‘My little fat boy,’ she whispered at last, squeezing Matthew’s strong thighs. ‘Hey, fatty boomboom, sweet sugar dumpling. It’s not fair, is it? I’m never alone with you. You’re getting the rough end of the stick just now, aren’t you.’
She punctuated this speech with growling kisses, and his hands and feet waved like warm pink roses. She sat him up and stroked the fine duck tail of hair on his baby bull neck. Whenever she tried to fix his essence, he wriggled off into mixed metaphor. And so she clapped his cloud cheeks and revelled in his nest of smiles; she blew raspberries into the crease of his neck and on to his astounded hardening stomach, forcing lion-deep chuckles from him.
She was dismayed at how she had to treat him like some sort of fancy man to spare her daughter’s feelings, affecting nonchalance when Lorna was around. She would fall on him for a quick mad embrace if the little girl left the room for a moment, only to spring away guiltily at the sound of the returning Startrites.
The baby was making the wrangling noise which led to unconsciousness. Then he fell asleep like a door closing. She carried him carefully to his basket, a limp solid parcel against her bosom, the lashes long and wet on his cheeks, lower lip out in a soft semi-circle. She put him down and he lay, limbs thrown wide, spatchcocked.
After the holiday, Jonathan would be back at the office with his broad quiet desk and filter coffee while she, she would have to submit to a fate worse than death, drudging round the flat to Lorna’s screams and the baby’s regurgitations and her own sore eyes and body aching to the throb of next door’s Heavy Metal. The trouble with prolonged sleep deprivation was that it produced the same coarsening side-effects as alcoholism. She was rotten with self-pity, swarming with irritability and despair.
When she heard Jonathan’s step on the stairs, she realized that he must have coaxed Lorna to sleep at last. She looked forward to his face, but when he came into the room and she opened her mouth to speak, all that came out were toads and vipers.
‘I’m smashed up,’ she said. ‘I’m never alone. The baby guzzles me and Lorna eats me up. I can’t ever go out because I’ve always got to be there for the children, but you flit in and out like a humming bird. You need me to be always there, to peck at and pull at and answer the door. I even have to feed the cat.’
‘I take them out for a walk on Sunday afternoons,’ he protested.
‘But it’s like a favour, and it’s only a couple of hours, and I can’t use the time to read, I always have to change the sheets or make a meatloaf.’
‘For pity’s sake. I’m tired too.’
‘Sorry,’ she muttered. ‘Sorry. Sorry. But I don’t feel like me any more. I’ve turned into some sort of oven.’
They lay on the bed and held each other.
‘Did you know what Hardy called Jude the Obscure to begin with?’ he whispered in her ear. ‘The Simpletons. And the Bishop of Wakefield burnt it on a bonfire when it was published.’
‘You’ve been reading!’ said Frances accusingly. ‘When did you read!’
‘I just pulled in by the side of the road for five minutes. Only for five minutes. It’s such a good book. I’d completely forgotten that Jude had three children.’
‘Three?‘ said Frances incredulously. ‘Are you sure?’
‘Don’t you remember Jude’s little boy who comes back from Australia?’ said Jonathan. ‘Don’t you remember little Father Time?’
‘Yes,’ said Frances. ‘Something very nasty happens to him, doesn’t it?’
She took the book and flicked through until she reached the page where Father Time and his siblings are discovered by their mother hanging from a hook inside a cupboard door, the note at their feet reading, ‘Done because we are too menny.’
‘What a wicked old man Hardy was!’ she said, incredulous. ‘How dare he!’ She started to cry.
‘You’re too close to them,’ murmured Jonathan. ‘You should cut off from them a bit.’
‘How can I?’ sniffed Frances. Somebody’s got to be devoted to them. And it’s not going to be you because you know I’ll do it for you.’
‘They’re yours, though, aren’t they, because of that,’ said Jonathan. ‘They’ll love you best.’
‘They’re not mine. They belong to themselves. But I’m not allowed to belong to my self any more.’
‘It’s not easy for me either.’
‘I know it isn’t, sweetheart. But at least you’re allowed to be your own man.’
They fell on each other’s necks and mingled maudlin tears.
‘It’s so awful,’ sniffed Frances. ‘We may never have another.’
They fell asleep.
When they woke, the landscape was quite different. Not only had the rain stopped, but it had rinsed the air free of oppression. Drops of water hung like lively glass on every leaf and blade. On their way down to the beach, the path was hedged with wet hawthorn, the fiercely spiked branches glittering with green-white flowers.
The late sun was surprisingly strong. It turned the distant moving strokes of the waves to gold bars, and dried salt patterns on to the semi-precious stones which littered the shore. As Frances unbuckled Lorna’s sandals, she pointed out to her translucent pieces of chrysophase and rose quartz in amongst the more ordinary pebbles. Then she kicked off her own shoes and
walked wincingly to the water’s edge. The sea was casting lacy white shawls on to the stones, and drawing them back with a sigh.
She looked behind her and saw Lorna building a pile of pebbles while Jonathan made the baby more comfortable in his pushchair. A little way ahead was a dinghy, and she could see the flickering gold veins on its white shell thrown up by the sun through moving sea water, and the man standing in it stripped to the waist. She walked towards it, then past it, and as she walked on, she looked out to sea and was aware of her eyeballs making internal adjustments to the new distance which was being demanded of them, as though they had forgotten how to focus on a long view. She felt an excited bubble of pleasure expanding her rib-cage, so that she had to take little sighs of breath, warm and fresh and salted, and prevent herself from laughing aloud.
After some while she reached the far end of the beach. Slowly she wheeled, like a hero on the cusp of anagnorisis, narrowing her eyes to make out the little group round the pushchair. Of course it was satisfying and delightful to see Jonathan–she supposed it was Jonathan?–lying with the fat mild baby on his stomach while their slender elf of a daughter skipped around him. It was part of it. But not the point of it. The concentrated delight was there to start with. She had not needed babies and their pleased-to-be-aliveness to tell her this.
She started to walk back, this time higher up the beach in the shade of cliffs which held prehistoric snails and traces of dinosaur. I’ve done it, she thought, and I’m still alive. She took her time, dawdling with deliberate pleasure, as though she were carrying a full glass of milk and might not spill a drop.
‘I thought you’d done a Sergeant Troy,’ said Jonathan. ‘Disappeared out to sea and abandoned us.’
‘Would I do a thing like that,’ she said, and kissed him lightly beside his mouth.
Matthew reached up from his arms and tugged her hair.
‘When I saw you over there by the rock pools you looked just as you used to,’ said Jonathan. ‘Just the same girl.’
‘I am not just as I was, however,’ said Frances. ‘I am no longer the same girl.’
The sky, which had been growing more dramatic by the minute, was now a florid stagey empyrean, the sea a soundless blaze beneath it. Frances glanced at the baby, and saw how the sun made an electric fleece of the down on his head. She touched it lightly with the flat of her hand as though it might burn her.
‘Isn’t it mind-boggling,’ said Jonathan, ‘Isn’t it impossible to take in that when we were last on this beach, these two were thin air. Or less. They’re so solid now that I almost can’t believe there was a time before them, and it’s only been a couple of years.’
‘What?’ said Lorna. ‘What did you say?’
‘Daddy was just commenting on the mystery of human existence,’ said Frances, scooping her up and letting her perch on her hip. She felt the internal chassis, her skeleton and musculature, adjust to the extra weight with practised efficiency. To think, she marvelled routinely, that this great heavy child grew in the centre of my body. But the surprise of the idea had started to grow blunt, worn down by its own regular self-contemplation.
‘Look, Lorna,’ she said. ‘Do you see how the sun is making our faces orange?’
In the flood of flame-coloured light their flesh turned to coral.
Image © Raquel Simoes