A loud crash from a wave jolted Raymond. Perhaps the strange stillness in the air signified this special moment in his life. At the sight of Ginny's knit eyebrows, he paid attention to her jutted head -- her finger pointing over the ocean beneath the cold, grey sky holding the threat of rain.
"Look! That cloud."
The gulls' incessant cries died away. The roar of the wind deepened.
Surrounded by the sudden change, Raymond's mouth dropped open. "It's shaping into a funnel," he murmured. "Lord, keep them safe in that flimsy gigger." Heart hammering in alarm, he swallowed. His friends might not make it to Long Doom.
A tall grey spiral hovered above the sea, mist forming around the base. The top disappeared into a dark cloud above.
Lashed by the wind, hair stung his face. Raymond cupped his mouth and shouted, "Watch out."
The small wooden craft dipped from view in the ocean swell.
Too far -- they'd never hear. His arms dropped.
The wind howled. Sand stung his legs.
The few pale people who'd dared to venture outside for the launch, rushed towards the top of the dune. Only right. Twisters wrecked everything in their path. He urged Ginny to follow. "Go."
"I'm staying." Curly black strands blew over her face, before whipping away.
He swivelled to check the boat's position. The little craft disappeared below another wave, thrust up, tilted, then righted.
The cone of moisture screamed, bent in the middle, then straightened and roared towards the gigger.
"They're going to drown," Ginny shouted.
Glad he'd remained, Raymond reached out and hugged his new bride while he chastised himself for the selfish thought.
The next moment, he drew a breath in panic. "It's heading this way!"
Ginny stood transfixed.
"Come with me." With rising flecks nipping his legs, he drew her towards the end of the beach where rocks offered refuge. He couldn't hear himself breathe. An image shivered into his mind of their bodies joining the swirling sand in the sky. More grit spun, stinging his skin like a hive of angry bees. With a tight hold on Ginny, Raymond pushed against buffeting air to the rocky outcrop. He hunkered between two boulders and tugged her down.
"This should keep us safe," he shouted. She might not have heard. Didn't matter.
He circled a shoulder above Ginny. He couldn't lose another loved one. The monster screeched and wrenched, pulling at their bodies. They might rise at any moment. His cheeks lifted. Hair tugged at his scalp. Impossible to shut his mouth. Grains scoured his arm, cheeks and eyelids.
"It should be gone soon." He brushed his eyes and sensed her nod. The twister disappeared behind the rocks. "Are you all right?" In the relative hush, his words thundered in his ears.
"I think so." She shook her head, stood and stretched her voluptuous body. "Never seen one so close before." Bending, she pulled him upright.
"Kicking kings! We're alive." Raymond held her -- offered and took comfort while the wind reduced to a stiff breeze and his breathing slowed to normal.
She nuzzled into his shoulder. "What about your friends?"
They faced the ocean which had drowned so many in the before times. Waves crashed onto the shore with a regular thump. Against the sunrise, he picked out a tiny bobbing shape. "They're all right. Cerridwen's so delicate."
The white woman had dived with him back in Hailing. Although the twister hadn't claimed the adventurous people on the gigger, he wouldn't see them again. A hollow wrench in his gut surprised him.
"Our first test." His half-smile hid the gravity behind his words. He stepped behind Ginny, gripped her firm shoulders and pulled her close, breathing in the warmth of sun-baked flesh, sweeter than grain, more precious than life itself. As long as they loved each other, he could handle the coming difficulties among these strangers.