Daniel is in the backyard. From the kitchen window, I watch him load thetrailer with his stuff from the shed. This is the first time he's stepped intomy house since he moved out two months ago. My ultimatum worked - clear theshed, or I will, and to expect the rubbish removal bill in the mail.

I run the peeler down the side of the carrot. Daniel hates carrots. I buy themin bulk now and throw them into everything - soups, casseroles, stir fries.Tonight I will have carrot and zucchini frittata.

"Got a minute, Sue?" Daniel calls out.

I wipe my hands on my apron and open the back door.

"You still want these?" He points to a bunch of driftwood we'd picked duringour holiday at the beach shack. I was going to create works of art from them.

Cobwebs coat the dark fragments. Have they been sitting in the shed all thistime? Amidst the bickering, the power games and the battles, my project recededfurther and further into the background, and ended up in the shed.

"No," I say.

"Okay." He throws them into the trailer. The pieces scatter among his heap ofdisused items - books, clothes, appliances, souvenirs.

Shuffling and clanking sounds follow me back to the kitchen. I peel, chop andgrate with a sudden haste. While beating the eggs, I observe Daniel. His facelooks gaunt; shadows loom under his eyes. He too would have been sleepingbadly, if at all.

As I switch on the oven, my mind returns to that spring day two years ago. Wewere strolling along the beach. Piece by piece the driftwood appeared, spindly,with finger-like extrusions, jet black against the silver of the sand. I neverthought rotting pieces of wood could look so beautiful. The sun was plummetinginto the sky, so we scrambled around to pick as many as we could. Pieces ofdriftwood were tumbling from our arms. Daniel stopped and ripped off his shirt.He laid it on the sand and placed the driftwood on it.

"Oh honey, you'll wreck your shirt," I said.

"Doesn't matter." He bundled up the driftwood and scooped it into his arms.

The wind had picked up and lashed at us as we headed back to the shack, ourbodies soaked with the sea.

"You'll catch your death," I said, clinging on to him and rubbing his bareback.

"You can nurse me back to health then." He threw me a kiss.

I have forgotten to add the onions. I grab one from the pantry. Chop, chop,chop. My hands move like lightning. The fumes waft up, and my eyes sting.Water. Water should wash it away. I turn on the tap, splashing vigorously on myface. I dab my face with paper towels, then I race out to the backyard.

Daniel is sorting out some old tools. He looks up when he hears my footsteps.

"Wait." I catch my breath. "The driftwood. Can we salvage it?"

About the author:

Born in Malacca, Malaysia, Siew Siang Tay migrated to Australia in 1992. She has been published in Saturday Short Stories, RedE2, Snow Monkey, Paumanok Review, Melic Review, Eclectica and Dimsum. She lives in Adelaide.