Outside the slate-grey sea crashed against the wall of the hotel’s lower terrace, polishing the cobblestones till they shined in the early morning sunlight. Occasionally, a fiercer surf climbed over the wall and painted the oak benches in a darker hue, sweeping glass bottle favours to the flagstone floor. The decorations were in ruin. The silver sheen of the ribbons and bows was diminished by the spray. The higher terrace was safe from the tyranny of the raging ocean, covered in perfect petals of confetti, dancing like pale leaves in the wind.

Inside the hotel’s coffee lounge Miss Swan gazed at the deafening waves from the comfort of her oversized armchair by the bay window. Coupled with the hum and crackle of the percolators, the sea drowned out the whispers of her staff as they took in their breakfasts.

She cradled an empty mug between her palms, its residual heat warmed her tense fingers.


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