“And the generator’s out of fuel, Daniel,” she says.
“You shouldn’t’ve let it get so low!
How many times did I remind you? How many?”

She’s standing by the open window.
The flood of moonlight coming in feels so thick that she could almost walk on it. It’s catching the jagged edge of the mainland.

Perhaps she could just put on her gumboots and march out,
follow the track it’s laying on the ocean mirror,
keeping North by North East until she hit landfall.

“We should’ve got some on the last trip,” she says. “Instead of all those bloody great canvasses.
What use are they going to be now?”

She could be there by morning, if she hurried. Perhaps.
If she was a man. If her name was Jesus.

“Well? Are you listening?”

Her only answer is the morepork.
Its bad tempered wake up screech comes from the big puriri tree next to the house, the one they’d argued over.
She’d wanted it cut down, to let more light in.

She leans out of the window.

The morepork sweeps off with another screech.
Maybe this time its mate will wake up
and they can hunt together.

She can just see the end of the jetty.
And the bow of Calypso - vivid in the moonlight -
is facing into the incoming tide,
yearning towards the moon path.
Because of the full moon, the tide has been very high.
It’s on the turn and, as she walks down the path,
Calypso swings her prow back to the shore.

Boots is lagging behind, imagining he’s treed a possum.
As she walks out to the old wooden dingy upended on the sand, she whistles to him. He noses under the gunnels, and growls.
She heaves the boat over. A crab has slept the night under the oars and when she reaches for the handles, it advances, shaking a claw at her. She flips it over with the blade.
Its underside is pale and it waves its limbs helplessly.
Boots barks and picks the crab up, worrying it.
He’s eaten it by the time she’s hauled the boat into the water and herself into the boat.
“Boots, get down the front, you’ll have us over!” she yells.

Before she can tie the boat to the platform at the stern, he’s on board.
When she pulls herself up onto the Calypso there’s a sharp pain in her arthritic knee.

Boots settles on the seat at the back, ready for a trip to town.
She turns the key in the ignition and presses the starter button.
There’s a whirr. She tries again and this time there’s nothing. She flips the switch on the two way radio. There’s no light.

“Well, Boots, that’s that. The battery’s as dead as a bloody door nail.”

There’s no other battery.
Unless Daniel has one stowed in some secret place.
She sits on the seat in the stern. On one of the cushions she covered last summer, with scarlet pohutakawa flowers, because they were all along their bay, below the house, and because they were so bright and hopeful.
The real flowers died after a month.

These cushion flowers would last all through the wet winter when the storms swept the island, making it impossible to get around the other side to check the crayfish pots, making trips to town more difficult. She’d made cushions for the kitchen chairs, for the window seat in the lounge, for the hammock strung on the deck and a cover for their bed until Daniel had rebelled.
“All I’ll see is red,” he said. “I won’t be able to paint anything else.”
Boots wakes her up, whining at the foot of the stairs.
He knows he’s a downstairs only dog but he also knows that there’s an almost Daniel smell coming from upstairs but no Daniel.

She fumbles for the matches to light the gas and puts the tin kettle on to boil. While it’s heating she opens the lid of the freezer on the back porch and moves the baskets out.
There’s still peas and berries from last summer’s crop.

“Boots, stay,” she tells him and starts the climb to the bedroom.
The smell is stronger up here. Sweet, sticking to her soft palate. Thank goodness she left the window open.
She begins by untucking the sheet.

“I’m sorry, Daniel,” she says.
She slides the cover over to her side of the bed.
“You know, we never did block off the back deck properly, the blue penguins have moved in again.”
She pulls the edge of the sheet up over him, then rolls his stiff body over on to the cover.
“The pohutakawa down the east end of the bay’s in flower,” she says. “It’s early.”
Daniel has disappeared into the winter memory of scarlet flowers.
The smell has got stronger.
She makes it to the window before she vomits.

There’s a shriek from downstairs - she’s forgotten the kettle.
For all it’s urgency she goes down the stairs slowly, one hand on the wall to stop herself tipping.

When she reaches the hob, she can’t remember what to do and stands shivering in the wailing steam before a hand comes out to switch the gas off.
It’s trembling, all of her is.

She pulls in a long shuddery breath and puts that foreign hand under her armpit.
Boots leans on her leg.
This afternoon the mail run should be going past.
It was Daniel’s insistence on ‘uninterrupted time with his muse’ that meant they picked up their mail from town.
But today she needs them to stop.
There’s a parcel they need to collect.
Boots follows her outside.

This was not her idea, this island idyll. Yet, year after year, the island has claimed her.
This morning there’s a web over one corner of the deck, filtering the sun rising behind it through a myriad of tiny pearls of dew.

A tui fluffs itself in the puriri and clears its throat to perform this morning’s libretto, the deep notes stalling before they glide up and up.
The smell of seaweed, freshly delivered by the tide, comes in with the morning’s breath.
Her eyes sting with sudden tears.

And Daniel had said he was here until they took him off in a box.

She drags driftwood all morning, piling it until she can’t reach the top.
Boots worries at the big log that forms the base.
The sun is almost directly above when she fetches the turps from Daniel’s studio.

She’d forgotten that his latest self portrait was still on the easel and when she opens the door,
he stares at her.

“I’m sorry, Daniel,” she says as she backs out with the tin.

She spends the afternoon moving from the heat of the fire to the cool ocean. She floats on her back with her arms out wide and her eyes closed.
She could just stay, suspended.
The tide would wash her body until it disintegrated.

But the sound of the approaching boat is high pitched and urgent, like the shriek of the tin kettle.
It pushes her from the water.

She and Boots are waiting on the jetty when the mailboat pulls in.
She helps tie up. Perhaps it’s because all she’s wearing is a thin, wet nightdress or maybe it’s the smear of soot down her left cheek. They don’t speak, the two men, just follow her down the jetty, up the path and round to the back porch.

She opens the lid of the freezer.
Inside is a profusion of red pohutakawa, frozen forever.
And Daniel is lying with his head resting on a pillow of frozen peas.
She’s spilt some of the berries and they lie around his cheeks. There’s a single green pea sitting in his closed eyelid.
“I’m sorry, Daniel,” she says.