A girl at a crossroad in her life meets a stranger.
|Word count 1013
If anyone had been on the isolated beach, they would have heard the faint sound of a vehicle coming ever closer. But the soft sand simply shifted in the wind, unheeding. The dunes delicately, imperceptibly, morphed their sensuous shapes and forms, and black, slimy seaweed swept in and out of the swirling foam, some being left high and dry on the white sand.
The only signs of life in this deserted landscape were the seabirds hovering over the waves searching for food, their calls barely discernible above the roar of the surf.
The red truck appeared on the horizon and slowly, carefully made its way down through the whispering sand, the wide tyres kept a firm grip, eventually the vehicle came to a halt at the bottom of the dunes.
The driver, a young woman, turned off the engine. She rested both slim arms on the steering wheel and sat for a while staring out at the waves as they crashed onto the beach.
Eventually, she stepped from the vehicle and breathed in the salty air, and stretched her arms to the blue sky. She closed her eyes for a minute and held her beautiful face to the sun before opening the tailgate and setting up her solitary campsite.
The woman, barely out of her teens, ran down toward the sea, red surfboard tucked under her arm. The black wetsuit clung to her slim frame, her athleticism obvious as she paddled out. Time and time again she caught the enormous waves, happy it seemed to go it alone. Independent and in harmony with the environment, she surfed until almost dark. Only then did she emerge from the water, her long ebony hair streaming down her back as she trotted up the beach to her campsite.
She peeled off her wetsuit and stood naked, safe in the knowledge she was alone and at the start of her as yet unknown new life. Pulling on jeans and sweatshirt, she busied herself lighting a campfire and starting a simple supper.
Shades of light crept into the blue dome tent; indicating day-break. The girl relished the thought of the waiting surf. Crawling out of her sleeping bag, she opened the tent flap and smiled, readying herself for another perfect day. Then she heard a vehicle approaching.
The girl screwed up her eyes and watched the beach buggy make its way, following the tracks she’d made only yesterday. The vehicle closed in on her campsite. She stood unsmiling. The rider pulled off his black helmet, shaking out long, blonde hair. He held out his hand. “Ryan,” he said.
She didn’t offer to shake his hand or state her name.
“You alone?” he asked.
“Yes. I thought I’d have the place to myself. No one usually comes here.”
“That’s okay. I won’t bother you.” Ryan smiled, holding up his hands. “I’ll camp up near the rocks.” He pointed to a spot a few hundred yards up the beach.
The girl nodded and turned away.
Several days had passed since her unwanted guest’s arrival. They’d barely acknowledged each other, but both were fully aware of being observed. She saw he was in his element as he became part of the wild sea. Maybe this is where he too finds solace when life bites back, she thought.
She sat on a folding beach chair outside her tent, sipping a green tea, watching the boy out in the surf. His athletic body on the black surf board glided across the surface until the waves lost their energy, then he’d turn to paddle out once more.
She was pleased he’d got the message that she didn’t want or need company. She had come here to give herself time away from everything and everyone, to think, make plans. Her irritation at being disturbed still bubbled away under the surface, however, he’d done as he promised; his campsite was faraway from hers. She could barely see his orange tent and could just smell the smoke from his campfire.
The young woman turned again to watch the ocean when she saw his arm waving in the boiling sea. She hesitated. Standing to get a better look, she could see no sign of the boy. Had she imagined him waving? Would he really be asking her to swim out to save him?
She walked down to the edge of the water. The sun’s reflections bouncing off the waves made it difficult to see. She waded further out. Her eyes hurt from the glare, when she saw it again. Yes, there it was, a raised arm, the universal signal for help.
Diving beneath the incoming surf, she swam out until she saw his pale face. “Shark!” he gasped. Without a thought for her own safety, she grabbed him under his arms and towed the injured man back to shore. His body became even heavier when he lost consciousness. Exhausted, and after a tremendous struggle, she dragged him onto the sand where she lay next to his lifeless body until her breathing became regular and she could check his injuries.
The shark had ripped open his wet suit, blood dripped steadily from a gash on his lower leg. She stripped off her tee shirt and made a tourniquet to stop the flow.
Opening his eyes into the blue light of her tent, he felt firm arms holding him. He could barely believe he was alive, albeit naked and shivering. She had wrapped them both in her sleeping bag as she attempted to warm his chilled body with her own. “I need to get you to hospital. I’ve stopped the bleeding, but you need medical attention. You’re in shock,” she told him.
He nodded. Her face was barely inches from his but she could hardly hear him whisper, “Thank you.”
The red truck slowly climbed the dunes leaving behind the beach and the ocean. The girl gave a quick glance at the beautiful, pale face of her passenger. She’d come here intending to leave her old life in the renewing waters. Now she felt ready to begin again.
Written for Short Shots Contest