Anne (cutting him off, without drama): A warm morning on a beach. A young girl skips along the water’s edge, her mother following slowly a few steps behind her. The sand feels gritty beneath the girl’s bare feet. The smell and sound of the sea are all around her. The air tastes like salt on her tongue. She runs laughing from the waves as they slide towards her, and, daring, when the water pulls away she follows it. She steps onto the wet sand and watches as her footprints disappear, consumed by each new surge. Fascinated and terrified at once, she moves closer to the waves, until her pale ankles are underwater, then her knees. The sea is huge. It occupies all her sight.
She is not at first alarmed when the pull of the next swell grabs at her legs, jerking her off balance. But then she is adrift, her kicking feet unable to find the sand below. A moment of panic. But her mother has been close the whole time, her steps dawdling and distracted, but never far away. Strong hands around the girl’s waist, and she is lifted clear of the water. She laughs as the fear leaves her. She looks her mother in the face, sees those eyes flicker, a blink that renders familiar features unrecognisable. Then the woman lifts her daughter high above the waves and releases the small body. The girl is cast back into the sea. Her mouth and ears and eyes fill with salty water. She can barely see the tall figure of the woman, only knows that the comforting presence is gone, and that she is alone and helpless. She thrashes her limbs feebly. She is three years old. She cannot swim. She realises, for the first time, that she will die. And then, another wave catches that struggling body and unceremoniously deposits it back onto the sand. The girl coughs and spits. Water streams from her hair and clothing. And her mother, not that cruel stranger, is there again, taking her hand, murmuring meaninglessly, embracing the sodden shivering child, saying that everything will be all right. But the girl knows now that it will not.