Gaji woke at 5am, aided by a combination of broken sleep and jetlag. He dressed quietly and crept through the darkened hallway and down the stairs, wary of waking the children. He collected the essentials: phone, headphones, notebook, pen. The door opened silently then beeped accusatorily as he locked it, as if trying to alert someone to the thief stealing away into the dawn.

The sky was easing into a gentle blue, throwing the world into a series of silhouettes. The humid air and open landscape made the aurora light brighter than he had expected. Slipping in his earphones, he searched his music collection for songs containing “morning” and settled on The Verve’s Velvet Morning. He trod the now familiar route to the end of the road, pausing at the stop sign to check for traffic he knew would not be there. The only signs of life were the disingenuously illuminated signs of the rib shack and taco stand, which were several hours away from opening. As he crossed the road, he imagined being struck by a speeding vehicle emerging from nowhere, the blame being placed on him for being awake at this hour. “Death by temporal ambition,” the coroner would rule.

He swiftly traced the remainder of the path, a small road, a wooden bridge and then open sand broken by pockets of greenery. The clouds hugging the horizon hid a hint of reddish light as he sat upon a crest of deposited sand and gazed out at the ocean, accompanied by only crabs and dragonflies. He watched the swell of the sea bursting tirelessly into waves that crashed against the shore. He tried to imagine what would happen if they ceased, if the sea, exhausted by its efforts, simply gave up.

Two figures ahead of him broke his concentration. His two girls, sitting with their backs to him and watching the ocean. How had they managed to pass so close by without his noticing? Compelled to join them, he rose and began to approach, catching himself as he realised they were strangers. Similar builds, similar hair, but otherwise foreign. He realised he was disappointed that he could not share this serene moment with them, but he lacked the energy for their violent complaints had he tried to wake them.

As the sun drifted above the horizon, still half hidden by clouds, he was filled with a sense of homelessness. The house 800 miles away was a lodging but no longer a home. The people he had left in the holiday house a few minutes’ walk away should have been, but they were not. Whether or not he loved them seemed increasingly irrelevant. A decision was forming like the yellow orb emerging from the clouds, a backlit relief illustrating what was to come before the choice took on the full weight of reality. They had to separate.