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An unexpected bath

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Maggie leans back into the corner of Anne’s cockpit, eyes closed, glorying in the sunshine pouring down. It has been a long week, and this is exactly the day off she needed. The blueness of the sky seems to seep through her eyelids, and over quiet strains of Bach she can hear the gentle lap of the sea against the hull of the small boat. She pays no heed when the sound of a motor thrums in the distance, even though it approaches swiftly. Whatever it is, an inflatable rib or jetski, will pass by soon enough.

The shock of a sudden bath deluging her is almost enough to tear all sound from her mouth; almost, but not quite.

“Fuuuuuuuuck!” Maggie’s not given to swearing, but for all the warmth of the day, the sea is still bitter-cold, and her skin tingles with the sting of a full bodied slap. Brushing the film of salt water out of her eyes, she winces at the smart of the brine, and stumbles upright.

“Bloody lunatics!” Jocelyn shouts after the now distant speedboat. She’s even shaking her fist, looking more furious than Maggie has seen her since the end of the trial. A sudden lurch of the boat on a cross-wave sends her flying into Jocelyn, who barely steadies them both by clinging to the gunwhale.

“Are you ok?” Jocelyn asks, as she gets her breath back, and then “you’re drenched!” as the boat continues to rock gently in the decreasing wake. “Go below. There’s towels and a spare change in the port side locker.”

“Hardly think I’ll fit your spares, petal, but I’ll see what I can manage.” Maggie kisses Jocelyn, smiling at the concern writ large on her face. “I’ll be grand.” She slops across to the cabin door.

In the small cabin, she tugs the locker open and pulls out a jumble of fabrics. She and Jocelyn weren’t the only ones to be tossed around by the thoughtless rib owner, Maggie thinks ruefully. The towel is immediately distinguishable, the typical off-white, worn type that Jocelyn keeps for outside the house. Probably in use in her father’s day. There’s a pair of faded jeans that will never get near her, so she drops them on the bench below. An old baggy t-shirt has more potential, and that leaves a jumper, its dated pattern strangely familiar. Maggie sucks in her breath in a hiss of recognition. It’s been so long since she last saw that sweater that she’d actually forgotten she’d ever had it.

“Well I never.” She murmurs, shaking her head as she holds it up to herself. It would still fit, just about. It must be…fifteen years. Yes. It was the last time she stayed in London with Jocelyn, a winter weekend. Jocelyn had been cold, and Maggie had insisted she take her jumper; forgetting to reclaim it when heading back to Broadchurch. In the general chaos of Christmas and New Year special editions, it had slipped her mind, and later, when Jocelyn went cold on her it seemed like too much hassle to claim it back.

An uncontrollable shiver hauls her back to the present. Dropping the jumper, Maggie divests herself of her sopping clothing, underwear and all, and roughly towels herself till her skin is red and shiny. It’s warm enough out, she reckons; she’ll pop the t-shirt on for decency’s sake – if she lays her trousers, top and underwear out on the deck, in this heat they’ll be dry in no time. She steps out of the cabin, one arm wetly laden, the other hand clutching her evidence.

“I was beginning to wonder… Oh.” Jocelyn’s eyes drop to the knitwear. “I…forgot.”

“So I see.” Maggie raises her eyebrows, a grin twitching her lips. She chucks the jumper to Jocelyn and leans over the side to ring out her clothes. “Were you ever intending to give it back?” She glances over her shoulder, sees Jocelyn sitting, head down, hands fingering the soft fabric, pensive. “Oh petal…”

Jocelyn says nothing while Maggie lays out her clothes on the coachroof. Remains silent and still, bowed head and brooding lips, when she moves to sit opposite.

“Jocelyn…” Maggie means it as a reprove for her embarrassment, but it seems Jocelyn takes it as a telling off. If anything, her chin sinks lower. She sighs. Maggie shakes her head, lowers herself onto the cockpit boards, places a hand on Jocelyn’s knee and reaches the other to tilt her chin so their eyes meet. “Jocelyn, what’s the matter?”

“I…” She stumbles, voice so low Maggie can barely hear her over the gentle whish of the sea. Bach has been drowned out by her heartbeat. Jocelyn swallows, tries again. “I thought… I thought I’d lost you.” She draws a steadying breath. “I… I…” but the words are elusive.

“Kept it as a token? Hid it down here so I wouldn’t find it?” Maggie queries, head on one side, eyebrow raised. “It’s ok sweetheart. Whatever the reason. It’s ok.”

Strengthened by the reassurance, Jocelyn starts to nod. “I thought if I kept it here, somewhere I only came occasionally, I was proving to myself that I wasn’t in love. That if I only…wore it as an emergency if I got soaked, if I only stopped to…to smell your scent…once in a blue moon, that I was showing myself I could be strong.” She grimaces, shrugs her shoulders, shakes her head. “I was wrong.”

Maggie says nothing, while, with gentle fingers, she prises the jumper loose, and lays it aside. Takes Jocelyn’s hands, kisses each one in turn.

“You fool.” She looks up into Jocelyn’s bleak eyes. “You darling, sentimental fool.” Laughing, Maggie rises, pausing to kiss the tip of Jocelyn’s nose, her lips, then returning to her seat in the sun. “As if you could lose me. All you ever had to do was ask.” Her eyes fall from Jocelyn’s glowing cheeks to the discarded sweater, and a wicked thought comes to mind.

“And since when do I smell of diesel, I’d like to know?”