Thursday 2 May 2024

The Island by Gill James, motorway service station tea


The Island


"This do for lunch?" 


I'm stiff. I've sat still for mile after dreary mile. There is a suggested walk at the motorway service station.

"Shall we try it?" I say after we've eaten.  

He shrugs.

"We're doing well for time. I'd like to enjoy some fresh air."

"Fresh air? Near the motorway?"

"But it goes through the woods, look."

He's as grumpy as ever. And I really resent this trip. We're on our way to his great-aunt's funeral. I've never met her.

"We've got to go to the funeral. She's left us something in her will," he said when he told me about her death.                      

I hated waking up this morning. Not just because of the journey but because I've dreamt about the island again. Every time it seems a little less real and I just have to accept that it's only a dream. But why do I keep dreaming about it?

Has it ever been real? The memory - if it is a memory - is of a place that only a few people know. That I discovered by accident. That is our secret. Mine and the children's. And every time I go there in my dreams it’s an oasis. A place of peace and tranquillity. I'm sure it’s somewhere we used to visit when we lived in Holland. There is a little red Renault on the edge of the dream and our children, when they were quite small.

The dream is vivid enough. It's not a dessert island. It's a garden within a garden. You cross over to it by one of four narrow bridges. Then there are little pathways, rose bushes, a fountain that gurgles in a pond and inviting benches. Butterflies flit from flower to flower. Bees buzz. No one but us ever seems to find the little bridges. I am so sure I've been there several times with the children and even a few times on my own. But the more I dream about it the more I think I'm just remembering a dream.

We follow the path through the woods. It takes us into a park. My heart thuds into my chest as I recognise the garden. It's that one. Here are the little bridges.

"Let me show you a secret," I whisper.


I take his hand and lead him across to the island. For once he doesn't resist. We sit on a bench and listen to water gurgling in the pond.

"It's lovely, isn't it?" he murmurs. "But how did you know?"

I tap the side of my nose.


The funeral is bearable after all. Six weeks later we receive a letter from his great-aunt's solicitor. She has left to each of our three children thirty percent of her estate and my husband ten percent. We also inherit her little red Renault and a painting of a formal garden with a fountain. The painting is called The Island.         

About the author 

 Gill James is published by The Red Telephone, Butterfly and Chapeltown. She edits CafeLit and writes for the online community news magazine: Talking About My Generation. She teaches Creative Writing and has an MA in Writing for Children and PhD in Creative and Critical Writing. 
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