A boy dislikes being an older brother, and this is not made easy by a trip to the beach.
‘Tommy! Tommy! Stop doing that! She has sand in her eyes. I told you already…pack it in! Do you want me to wake your father?’
With a tanned, anguished face, his eyes glanced up, meeting his mothers in a sight of confrontation. Suddenly, sensing his loss of battle, he returned his pale blue eyes to the hot, soft sand. Feeling his mother’s daggered eyes piercing through him, waiting for a reply; he took a long deep breath and muffled a faint ‘No.’
‘So stop it!’ She repeated. Her voice seemed to drone on and on like a dying battery operated toy, which made Tommy grab for his spade and bucket in desperation of blocking the irritating sound; whilst the baby squirmed and contracted her legs and arms in a harsh, staccato and jerky manner.
Completely red like her sleeping father, she was as stubborn as he too. He had been working hard to get the holiday; putting in the extra hours after work so that he could work hard on his tan and finally he got what he deserved. What they all deserved. Tommy had been trying to cope with the concept of another human being in mummy’s and daddy’s life, whilst his mother coping with isolation from the rest of her family to be with the man she loved. He had been promoted and he wasn’t prepared to leave his career so they moved from a city to a village. This was the same for the crowds of people who were there. A chance to relax. Enjoy themselves and escape the problems which plagued them all year round.
But, with no success. Sunshine blazed hard on people turning them crisp as they basked in the Sun. Temperatures were high; one of the hottest days of summer. In fact it was a heat wave. Tensions were raised and from the swarm of people the chances of peace were bleak. Sand appeared to be running for miles everywhere in sight apart from the sea, of course. The sand glistened from the swelling heat of the sunshine, filling the eyes of youngsters as gold to a pirate.
The small, gentle waves, lapped against the beach, teasing the children, as they returned to the sea. Soothing faces a gentle yet brisk wind blew an aroma of saline water to noses, seducing them to plunge in without doubt. Stampeding to the sea; children and adults alike rose from the sand, shops and cars, to the blue depths of a cooling haven.
However, Tommy was more cautious. To him the sea was nothing but blue, wet, and salty water.
All at once, as though reading his mind, his mother nudged him, waking him from his daydream.
‘You can go and play in the sea if you want instead of throwing sand at your sister.’
Widening his eyes with a flicker of his eye lashes, which he knew could charm anyone, and with a gaze of contempt, he scrunched his nose and spoke to try and win his mother over.
‘You mean. You want me to get eaten by a shark, or brutally stung by a stingray. Wouldn’t you rather take me to the pier so that I can show Ellie the boat ride?’
He knew his voice, despite his efforts, did not conceal the truth that he was afraid. Afraid of the sea and too proud to admit that his mother was right, he should never have engrossed himself with ‘Monstrous Sea Creature Weekend.’
‘If it makes you feel any better I’ll keep watch. Just don’t go too far in and don’t I repeat, don’t wonder up the beach – okay?’ Her voice invited both security and assertiveness. He couldn’t refuse.
Her bagged eyes from the tiring sun half covered by her sweaty hair, which was plopped firmly on her head, dangled over her blue eyes. She said nothing but just watched Tommy, as he lumbered down towards the sea.
As he begun to make the long trek towards the sea he turned to see if his mother was keeping an eye on him like she had promised, and, to his delight she was. And so was Ellie. His mother clutching her by the arm swayed it side to side in a gesture of waving. Tommy lifted his hand quickly to acknowledge his mother but to not show his feelings that were raging inside of jealousy and fear. Closer and closer to the sea he paced until he could see clearly the joy in which the sea was providing. No longer scared he ran. Scorching sand sprayed up Tommy’s leg but still he ran; he knew that once he reached the sea the pain would be worth it. He was right – the pain was. The tender cold waves wiped away the harsh, heated sand. Turning he took a hard look at his mother, sister, father and the bright sun. His troubles seemed to subdue, he felt relaxed; the hustling of people, cars and hot dog stands were an annoyance and for the first time in his life he realised how his mum felt. A moment’s peace that’s all she asked and it wasn’t as if she didn’t deserve it. Laughter lingered to his ears from the nearby playing children, but what caught his attention the most was the generosity of an older boy about the same age, who was being nice to his younger sister. He stared as if looking at himself and his mind questioned, ‘I bet I could be the same and then mum and dad wouldn’t shout a lot.’
Bashing through his thoughts he no longer felt the cold water seeping under his feet instead it was a hard jagged stone. He peered down and grabbed hold of it. It wasn’t a stone. It was a sea shell. Remembering what his mother had previously told him ‘…at the beach you can listen to the sea with them.’ He held it to his ear and the sound of waves washed through his mind opening up his imagination. He yearned to share it with someone, but whom? His attention was caught by the boy sharing his ice-cream with his sister. A thought entered his head: ‘I’ll do the same.’
However, as he began to leave the sea, a shadow emerged up from behind him. Spurting out droplets of water like jagged alligators teeth, the wave was ready to swallow him. The water shot upwards and pulled him back. The sea no longer a haven, but a threat mercilessly clung on. Panic stricken Tommy gurgled water. Grabbing the opportunity he let out an ‘Agggggggghhhhhhh!’ No one heard. Not even his mother. The cries were drowned out by the laughing children on the beach and the splashing of families in the sea. Shrills of help sank under the tantrums of toddlers, snoring fathers and scolding mothers.
The sun drowned in the darkening sky, but the sea remained in its cold silence. The golden sea of evening sailed across the silky sand embracing the litter and as the waves returned to the sea so did Tommy’s mother’s heart. In desperation she began to plead:
‘We have to find him. It was…It was my fault. I should never have insisted that he went and played in the sea.’
There was a cold, damp, musky scent surrounding the ambulance, where the body lay inside covered plainly by a white, thick, cotton blanket. Wires looped round his head, and along these fluids lazily followed the intricate track of the tubing like a train.
Her eyes swelled with tears, until she broke down into a sobbing outburst, ‘Oh my God, please…’ Placing her hand to her mouth the words cried out in an incoherent manner ‘Please say you’ve found him.’ A man dressed in a long, smooth coat spoke with a tone that expressed no compassion, ‘His still alive but only just. We have to take him to the hospital immediately. He is suffering from pneumonia and has swallowed a lot of water.’
Without exchanging a word to her husband; she climbed into the ambulance and grasped with all her might, the hand of her son. Tommy felt the warmth of the hand touch his body and with an instant, he knew who it was. The thick smell of perfume pushed through the salted air enabling him to recognise, like at birth, that the hand belonged to his mother.
‘Mum.’ She heard the weakened voice of her son.
‘Sssshhhh it’s alright sweetie, I’m here.’
‘But mum, look.’ As she removed the blanket, carefully as to not hit the wires there in the palm of his hand, she saw the shell.
‘It’s for Ellie,’ the exhausted voice declared before falling unconscious once more.