Today's Reading

Further information supplied by another neighbor at the inquest stated that a Mrs. Catherine Frary had had access to the Taylors' home that day and had been heard telling Fanny before her questioning, "Hold your own and they can't hurt us."

Upon further investigation it was found that Catherine's husband and her child had also both died very suddenly the previous fortnight.

Foul play was suspected. Catherine's husband's and child's stomachs were shipped to Norwich, where analysis confirmed they too contained arsenic. A witness at the Taylor house attested he had seen Catherine attending to the sick Mrs. Taylor, post-retching, and he had seen her add a white powder "on the tip of a knife from a paper packet" into Mrs. Taylor's gruel, poisoning her a second time. This time fatally. The two women had also poisoned Catherine's sister-in-law the week before.

Catherine and Fanny were hung in Norwich for the multiple murders of their husbands, as well as Mrs. Taylor, Catherine's child, and Catherine's sister-in-law. According to the Niles' Weekly Register of October 17, 1835: the pair were "launched into eternity amidst an immense concourse of spectators, (20,000 or 30,000), above one-half of whom were women." Launched into eternity. Nice shipping reference.

Odd to put "the Burnham Murderers" in the hotel information booklet, especially considering the nature of weekend getaways.

The alarm wakes us at four-thirty in the morning from our warm bundle of goose down and Egyptian cotton. We dress in silence, our clothes laid out the night before: thin cotton T-shirts, walking boots, jeans, and woolen sweaters for before the sun rises. I make us some coffee using the little machine in the room while Mark fixes his hair in the bathroom. Mark's not a vain man by any standard, but like most men in their thirties, his getting ready seems to be mainly hair-based. I like his dithering, though, a little chink in his perfection. I like that I can be ready quicker. We drink our coffee fully clothed on top of the duvet, windows open, his arm around me, silent. We'll have enough time to jump in the car and get to the beach for the break of dawn. Sunrise is listed as 5:05 on the daily information card by the bed.

We drive in relative silence to Holkham Beach, breathing and thinking. We're together, but alone with our thoughts and each
other. Trying to hang on to the thick sleepiness that hasn't quite faded away yet. There's an innate sense of ritual to it all. We have that sometimes; things just happened that way for us. A little bit of magic creeps into our lives and we nurture it like a succulent. We've done all this before; it's one of our things. Anniversary morning. As we pull in to park I wonder if we'll still celebrate this day after we're married, two months from now. Or maybe that will be our new day?

We get out to thick quiet at Holkham Hall. Silence pierced intermittently by bursts of rich birdsong. A herd of deer in the
adjoining field look up as we slam the car doors, and freeze. We hold their gaze, all momentarily caught in stasis, until their
attention drops back down to the grass.

We are one of the first cars of the day in the clay gravel car park; it will get much busier later—it always does—with dogs and
families, horseboxes and riders, family clans eking out the last of the good weather. Apparently this heat won't last. But then, they say that every year, don't they?

No one is in sight yet as we make our way along the gravel tracks down to the great desert stretch of Holkham Beach, four miles of golden-white sand skirted by pine forests. The North Sea wind bends patches of wild grasses and whips sand up into the air along the ridgebacks of towering dunes. Miles of freshly blown sand and sea and not a soul in sight. Unearthly in the predawn light. A fresh barren landscape. It always feels like a clean start. Like the New Year.

Mark takes my hand and we walk out toward the shore. At the water's edge we squeeze off our boots and slip into the icy North Sea, jeans pushed up to our knees.

His smile. His eyes. His hot hand tightly gripping mine. The sharp taut feeling of the icy water on my feet, bursting into a fluid
white heat up my legs. 'Burning' cold. We'd timed it exactly right. The sky starts to lighten. We laugh. Mark counts down to 5:05 on his wristwatch and we look patiently east across the water.

The entire sky lightens to twilight before the sun crests the silver water. Yellow streaks the horizon and ombrés out to peaches and pinks as it hits the lowest clouds, and beyond—the whole sky blazes blue. Azure blue. Ha. It's so beautiful. So beautiful I feel nauseous.

When we can't stand the cold anymore, I wade back to shore, bending to clean the sand off my feet in the shallows before I put my boots back on. My engagement ring catches the full glare of the sun refracting through the crystal water. The early morning mist is gone, the air full of moisture, salty and crisp. So bright. So clear. The sky in high-definition blue. The best day of the year. Always. So much hope, every year.

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