Sand Washed Memories

The beach was very different in February than it had been at the height of summer, but I was sure that I had found the right place. I huddled into my thick jacket and crouched beside the old timber breakwater to shelter from the biting wind. The debris of high tide was above me on the sand, the tangled wreckage of plastic bottles, wooden slats and dead wildlife woven together with bright nylon rope and long, dark strands of seaweed. There had been no people laying claim to our few square feet of sand today, no children playing, no sand castles, no buckets or spades today. The only other person I had seen had marched past without a second glance, looking cold and miserable, as a wet and sandy dog chased seagulls in an elliptical orbit around its owner’s hurrying feet. I leaned back against the breakwater and watched the birds track across the wet sand at the water’s edge. They eddied to and fro in time with the waves and made me smile briefly, as one wave swept up the beach, faster and further than the rest, washing a horde of scurrying pale legs before it.

Even in summer this section of the beach had been quiet. Only the birds and a few hardy walkers had ventured this far from the bright lights and fast food of the sea front. I had liked to sit balanced on the narrow planks of the breakwater, in the golden light of summer, with the two different worlds on either side of me; civilisation and the thickening crowds to my right; and the timelessly changing wilderness to my left. I had felt poised on the edge of something during those endless light filled days, part of neither, free to choose for myself.

Then one day there had been Alex; and the world had tilted, settling into a different pattern of possibility. This had become our place. This no man’s land between candy floss illusion and barren reality. We had met here every day, talking, laughing, playing in the sea and learning to trust one another. Fleeting touches and shared glances had grown into more heated exchanges. Had I moved first or had Alex? We had tumbled to the wilderness side of the breakwater for our first sea flavoured, sandy kiss; the heat of lips and tongues dispelling the initial awkwardness; wonder and passion growing between us. We had both been cautious, almost nervous, as we explored this new development. In due course, even the breakwater had not provided enough privacy. We moved up into the sand dunes and found a secluded hollow surrounded by tough Marram grass and perfect blue sky, where hot flesh could meet hot flesh under the burning sun, or in the cool evening light, or the shadowed dark of starlight. The abrasion of sand and salt and rough towelling didn’t distract us from the joy of coming together. We lay entwined, watching the shadows change and the occasional bird fly over as we talked of all those things that lovers find so entrancing: favourite colours, foods, films. Until the heat would rise between us again and all those civilised things would be forgotten in the elemental wildness of passion.

I felt my cheeks sting and my eyes water in the cruel wind, the grey light of February filling even this place by the breakwater, where I had decided which side I wanted to be on, where I had first tasted Alex’s lips. I raked my hand through my hair, longer now because Alex preferred long hair, and the wind tossed it back into my eyes, slapping my cheeks with sand and salt crystals in capricious warning. Nothing stayed the same. The beach changed with the seasons, with the years, slowly becoming unrecognisable but essentially still the same. The details changed but it was still the beach, still the place where the cold, salt water crashed onto the battered sand. Had Alex changed? Had I? How much had we changed? Were we still essentially the same? Or were we so different now, that the summer memories would not be enough?

We had talked and laughed through the long heated days and sometimes through the nights too. This sandy wilderness had been our paradise. We had pretended to ourselves, and to each other, that summer was endless, the way it used to be when we were small children. But we had both known that summer would end. Finally we couldn’t ignore it anymore and had talked about our plans, our hopes and dreams for the future. It had been a painful conversation over our last week together, broken by frantic comings together, as we tried to cement our bond physically and store up memories for the cold, lonely winter to come.

It had been the last summer of freedom for us both, poised between childhood freedom and adult responsibility. Not that we had really seen it that way, but it had marked the end of the years of school and the beginning of independence. Alex had a scholarship to a college in the United States. I was taking a year out, to travel and do volunteer work, before taking up my own hard-won University place. I begged Alex to come with me, to give up the dream of a prestigious degree and the career it would lead to, or at least defer it. Alex begged me to come to the States and do my travelling there, to apply to other colleges there, where at least we would be on the same continent. But the difficulties had been too great and our dreams too strong. We had raged at fate and one another, and loved furiously to forget our impending separation.

We had met here, at our place, on the last day, and walked together up into the dunes without touching or even speaking. Summer had almost fled. It was overcast and there was a cold wind, even the civilised side of the beach was almost deserted. We had made love for hours in our sheltered hollow; speaking with our bodies, rather than the painful words that were all we had exchanged for days. We lay together finally sated and exhausted, carrying the marks and aches of passion that would linger even after we parted.

“We are young,” Alex had said, in a soft and strained voice that I could barely hear over the sad whine of the wind. “We both need to follow our dreams,” the barely heard voice continued, “I don’t want to be without you, but…”

“But we need to do what we planned,” I had finished the sentence, my own voice quiet and less than steady. “We need to prove to ourselves that we can…”

“Yes. We need to prove that we are adult enough for one another. We need to do this for ourselves and for each other…”

“I love you.”

“I love you too. But…”

“Yes. But.”

We were silent for a time, holding one another more tightly. The future that had seemed so bright, before the long golden summer, seemed less inviting now. We made love slowly, each touch filled with hopeless longing, and then we dressed.

“So, this is it?” I asked bitterly, when we reached the breakwater, “We just walk away and never see each other again?”

“We could do that, if it is what you want,” Alex stared out at the crashing sea.

“You know what I want.” I growled, as a spurt of helpless anger rushed through me.

“And you know what I want!” Alex had snapped back and then laid an apologetic hand on my arm. “We agreed not to go over this again. We agreed to go our separate ways, to follow our dreams.”

“Yes.” I sighed, letting the hopelessness wash over me again but refusing to cry; I wouldn’t ruin these last moments with Alex.

“If you want…” Alex said hesitantly, shooting me a quick glance before turning back to the endless ocean.

“If I want?”

“We could meet back here in a few years, say five years,” Alex’s voice gained some enthusiasm, as the words tumbled out, “By then we should be more settled. We should have finished our degrees. We could meet again… try again…”

“Five years is a long time,” I said cautiously, kicking at the old planks.

“Yes. But it isn’t forever…”

“Not forever,” I agreed, hoping I had heard Alex’s last whispered words correctly. “But still a long time. I love you… I’ll be here, if you want me.”

“I love you, too,” Alex turned to smile at me, “So we’ll meet here in five years’ time?”

“To the day?” I tried to smile back.

“Have you ever wondered what it is like here in the winter?” Alex had asked, seemingly randomly.

“What?” I frowned trying to follow the abrupt change of subject.

“If you still love me and want to meet,” Alex grinned at me, but the expression wasn’t completely happy, “Be here on Valentine’s Day in five years’ time.”

“Valentine’s Day? Isn’t that a bit corny?” It appealed to my sense of the ridiculous and my deeply buried romantic leanings.

“Valentine’s is supposed to be corny!” Alex had looked happier, “Do you agree? Is it a date?”

“Yes!”

How could I have said anything else? I watched the birds drift across the sand on their pale, flashing legs, as the waves crashed and broke in an unending dance with the shore. I loved Alex. So I was on a cold, gloomy, windswept and deserted beach in February, with only birds and memories for company.

“Sam?”

For a moment I thought the voice was another memory but something made me turn my head. Someone was leaning over the breakwater, looking at me.

“Sorry if I’m late, love,” Alex dropped down beside me and we just looked at each other in silence for a few moments, tracing the changes that the years had made.

“You are always late!” I finally found voice to reply.

“Better late than never!”

“Oh yes!” I leaned across and pressed my chilled lips to Alex’s and suddenly the day was bright and glorious.

 

THE END

23/08/07

 

 

Disclaimer: All stories on this site are works of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. No part of any story found on this site may be reproduced or reposted in any form or by any means without written permission from the author.

© Copyright Mara Ismine 2007

 

 

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