It was the morning after Shari and Michael had argued, and his side of the bed was cold when she woke up. It was less than twelve hours since arriving, so they weren’t off to a terrific start.

Glancing out of the window, she saw his car was missing too. There was no mobile phone signal – she was stumped, and after downing a cup of black coffee, decided to explore their holiday retreat, especially Blackley Heights Castle. Besides, the fresh air would help her think their problems through.

They had become distant over latter years and recalled how he had been intrigued by her inherited wealth when they first met, although these days it annoyed him, especially when she refused to pay off his gambling debts.

This was going to be a make or break holiday. Well, that hadn’t been said aloud, except they both knew their situation needed to change, as divorce was unacceptable with Shari’s religious beliefs. She shuddered to think about the shame and embarrassment when family and friends sniped about their unsuitability; she just couldn’t allow that.

Shari pondered about Michael’s whereabouts, but had a fairly good idea, because he had suggested the holiday, knowing how much she adored castles. It was an interest they still shared, and after reading a little of its history, she had booked ‘Sea Thistle Chalet’, cradled to cliffs above the ruined castle, which was gradually crumbling away and being ravaged by the sea.

These days, all that remained were tumbledown walls, a rampart, two turrets, and a tower, which from a distance, looked as if it had been cut from the pages of the story, Rapunzel.

The coastal path zigzagged above sands ragged with glistening rocks, as waves thundered over them, and had an energy Shari wished that she felt. Kicking stony dirt aimlessly, she drew closer and it was evident, that it wasn’t like a fairy tale castle after all. Green mould scarred the walls around arched windows, which were small and shadowy. The door creaked on rusty hinges and had a large brass key in its lock; someone must have opened it recently. What appeared to be pretty plants from afar were a mesh of tangled weeds and brambles blocking the pathways, apart from one, which had been beaten back. Shari was drawn along it and squinted through the doorway. Inside, it was gloomy and chilly, she zipped up her jacket.

Dark grey clouds gathered, heavy droplets dampened her hair and shoulders. She studied the sky; an electricity fork speared down and illuminated a flash of turquoise on the clifftop above steps carved in the rocky incline. The colour was an unusual shade for a car, she was sure it was Michael’s. If it hadn’t been for the lightning, she may never have seen it parked behind a hedge, just over a mile from their chalet.

Squalls of wind and rain heightened. With no time to hesitate, she stepped inside the tower, where cobwebs brushed against her face. She wrinkled her nose; the smell of moss and damp earth was so intense.

“Good morning.” A gruff voice sliced into the silence. Michael smiled stiffly down from a spiral staircase. Recognising him, relief and smugness surged through her.

“Come on up and see the view from the loft window. It’s amazing,” he directed.

Shari rounded the central newel at the top. Under the conical roof, she was surprised to see a fold-up table set for two with a picnic hamper beside it; she hadn’t expected that.

Michael stood with his arms spread wide. “Breakfast is ready.”

“So, I can see.” She answered; eyes bright. Her cajoling suggestions prior to their disagreement last night had worked. “What a surprise, how did you know I’d come here?” she said, sarcastically.

Michael didn’t notice her tone. “We might have been arguing lately, but after fifteen years together, I was certain you would come and investigate this building first thing.” He poured two glasses of Bucks Fizz. “Come and sit over this side, by the window. See the seagulls swooping over the foam,” he said, then gestured towards the horizon.

She spotted loose and missing bricks by the window. “I’m not sure that’s a sensible thing to do. Look at the wall, it’s a bit ropey.” Shari wondered what he was playing at.                 

“Don’t worry about that,” he griped, irately. It seemed that another quarrel was imminent as he pulled out a chair, then grabbed hold of her. “Sit down. Do as you are told.” 

The words were like flames colliding with air. Shari pushed him out of the way, and losing his balance, he fell against the wall. It fragmented outwards, stone chunks and Michael hurtled downwards. She covered her ears as his shouts faded and blended with sounds of masonry crashing into the sea. Staring down; spume spiralled, streaked with red, and the waves engulfed him.    With swiftness, she thrust the table, chairs and breakfast feast down to their watery demise and turned around, retraced her actions, making sure there was no evidence of her being there, and then carefully deliberated about how long she should wait before reporting him missing.