She's lost. Will he find her this time?
| I can’t explain how I got here or even where here is. The last memory I have is of you, sitting on the beach while I walked further on. You didn’t want me to go, but I couldn’t keep still and I didn’t want to sit on the sand even if it was soft and you had a blanket. You seemed angry and I almost didn’t walk away. But then I did.
Now it’s late and I’m cold. The sun is a distant memory and the moon has taken the night off. I can’t see where I’m going and I can’t remember which way I came. I want to find you but I’ve lost you.
The beach looks very different at night. This afternoon it was warm and the sand felt good between my toes. I left my shoes next to you, sitting near Pier 7, or maybe Pier 17. I think you’re just around the corner, or maybe the next corner. I’m trying to stay out of the water – I know I’ll get sick if my feet stay wet for too long, but it’s difficult. The water keeps coming closer and it’s getting louder all the time. I’m almost at the top of the beach and still it keeps coming.
Where are you? Are you angry? Are you hiding? I’m sorry I kept walking. If you come out I promise I’ll never do it again. I’ll be good. I’ll do what you say and I’ll sit with you on the beach every day, even if you don’t have a blanket. Come out, come out, I give up.
* * *
“She went walking towards the warehouses, Officer.” Dan pointed in the general direction. “I was tired, so I said I’d wait for her here.”
“What time was that?” Officer Delahunty didn’t bother looking up from the paperwork. He had ten of these reports a week and the offending partner usually turned up a few hours later, apologetic.
Delahunty looked up.
“It’s eleven thirty now. Why did you wait so long?”
This was a little unusual – the typical partner came running to the station within two hours, which was about the time it took for their missing other half to walk along the whole beach.
“She seemed a little restless and I thought she needed some time alone, but she hates being out alone at night, so I started getting worried. I checked back at the hotel and they hadn’t seen her. So I came back and waited a bit longer. It seemed time to ask for help.”
Delahunty’s ears pricked at the mention of the victim – as he automatically tagged her – being restless and needing time alone. This smacked of a domestic. A bit more exciting than a partner with a crap sense of time, but still not much to brag to the boys about.
“Anything happen to make her need some time alone?”
“She’s a bit insecure and she gets convinced that I’m flirting with other girls. She knows that I love her and I know she doesn’t mean what she says, but I give her space when she needs it.”
Delahunty was writing furiously. This needed different paperwork altogether. Jealous girlfriend disappears on the beach and her boyfriend waits over six hours before reporting her missing – this meant a bit of questioning.
“So you had a fight?”
“No, no, it wasn’t like that. She didn’t say anything. She just got quieter and quieter and by the time we wandered down the beach and I was ready to sit down to eat lunch, she was getting annoyed at small things. So when she wanted to keep walking, I figured I’d wait it out. She usually snaps out of it pretty quickly.” Dan waited for the inevitable questions.
“She’s done this before?” Delahunty raised his eyebrows.
“A couple of times. Nothing serious though. Last time was about four months ago and we’ve talked it over many times.”
“How many times would you say she’s gotten like this and wandered off for a while?”
“Since we’ve been together? Maybe four times in three years. Like I said, she’s a bit insecure and she’s had stuff happen to her, so I don’t usually worry. But she’s not good alone at night and especially around water, so this time ... Look, I appreciate that you need to ask the questions, but can we get out there and look for her?”
This was precisely why he hated going to the police. Usually he wouldn’t bother – if she’d wandered off in the city he’d have just waited it out, or explored the local bars and restaurants. He’d always found her before. But this time, being around water, alone at night, he felt he had to do something.
“Okay, how about we have a look around? You walk along the beach and I’ll drive around to the other side. I’m sure we’ll see her. If we don’t, we’ll give it 24 hours and report her missing. We’ll come back here and talk a bit more.”
Dan was about to object, but then he thought again. At least this officer seemed to be taking him seriously. The security guys at the hotel started laughing and suggesting she had found a better option and given him the flick. He knew she would never do that to him.
“Wait, I’ve got a photograph. Don’t you need that so you know who to look for?”
* * *
I don’t remember there being so many corners. I don’t remember these rocks cutting my feet. I don’t want to look down in case I see my blood. You know how much I hate blood. But my feet sting and I want to sit down.
I think there are some people in the distance. I hear voices but I can’t see anyone. I’m hungry. Those tuna sandwiches you had would be lovely now. I’m sorry I didn’t want them. I’m not really becoming a vegetarian. I just said that because I knew it would upset you. I wanted to get some kind of reaction. I wanted things to be exciting.
The water keeps coming closer, or maybe I keep walking closer to it. It’s up to my knees now and it’s getting difficult to walk. I’m trying to get away from it but it keeps coming. You know how I like my space. You’re good like that – you know when to leave me alone for a while. I wish you hadn’t realised that I needed space today, or that you hadn’t been so willing to give it to me. If you’d pushed a bit more, maybe I wouldn’t have gone off like that. Maybe we’d be sitting in the hotel restaurant laughing about how the waiters all act like they’re working in some posh place with their dishcloths hanging off their arms. It would be serious if they weren’t all patterned with ducks and bears on them.
Dan, I’m cold. I think I’ll sit down here, on this rock. I’ll wait for you here. You’ve always found me before.
* * *
Delahunty sighed as he got out of his car. He was beginning to regret telling this guy he’d help look for the errant girlfriend. This was no crime. The girlfriend had probably met some better looking dude and skedaddled. Really, what girl looking like that would stay with this guy? Delahunty shook his head and slammed the car door. He’d have a quick glance around before heading back. It was too cold to be trawling the beach and he’d left his windbreaker back at the station.
The tide had come all the way in already and the waves were massive. Delahunty scanned the surf for the few surfers he knew would be out there – they came out every night for the thrill of hitting the waves in the dark. But even they weren’t out tonight. He wandered along the path with his torch calling out her name for the next 15 minutes.
Satisfied that there was no-one on the beach, he got back into his cruiser and headed back.
* * *
I keep hearing people talking around me Dan. They’re saying really mean things, like that you’re not even looking for me. They’re telling me that you’re shacked up in our hotel room with that girl from reception. I know how you looked at her. She’s your type – all blonde and bubbly. If you come get me Dan I’ll dye my hair blonde for you. It’s so dark out here Dan. I hate the dark. Wouldn’t there be lights everywhere if you were looking for me? You don’t even care where I am. I can’t sit here waiting for you anymore. I’m going to pick a direction and walk until I find you. I’m coming home Dan.
* * *
Dan paced along the beach near Pier 7, straining his eyes in the darkness.
“Lisa!” He called out her name every few minutes. “Where are you?”
He stood on the edge of the pavement clenching his fist. He was sick to death of waiting for her, of looking for her. He turned to leave and started walking back to the hotel, but stopped after only a few steps. He found a dilapidated bench nearby and pulled his jacket tighter. She’d come back. He knew she would. But this was the last time he would wait for her.
* * *
I feel like I’ve been walking forever. The water isn’t so close anymore. The voices are getting louder but I keep telling them to be quiet – it’s hard to concentrate on finding you when they keep telling me that you don’t love me. I know you love me. And now I know your love is enough. I don’t need excitement. When I find you I’ll stop trying to fight it. I’ll never do this again. I know I said the same thing last time, but this time is really the last time. You’ve found me every time, you’ve been there for me. I need you Dan. But now I have something to give.
Things are looking familiar at last. There! Pier 7. I remember that little hut on the pier – you said you’d take me there before we left. There’s still time.
* * *
Dan stood up stiffly. He’d fallen asleep on the bench and he was sure he was still asleep. He blinked a few times. No, it really was her hobbling along the beach.
He stumbled down the stone stairs and almost lost his footing on the damp sand.
“Lisa.” He shouted out, running towards her.
“Dan, you’re here. I’ve been looking for you everywhere.” She ran up to him and threw her arms around him. He held her close.
“Where did you go?”
“I walked along the beach. I got a little lost and I waited for you to find me but it got late and I was tired.
Dan looked at her quietly. He thought all the times she had left him sitting somewhere; all the times he had trawled through the countless bars and restaurants looking for her.
"I was so worried. The tide was so strong last night …”
Dan pulled her close to him.
“Every other time you’ve found me Dan. This time I found us.”
She took his hand and they walked up the stairs towards the hotel.