Walking down the lane from the pub I decide to take a detour to the beach. The light is fading but the glimmer of light from the sun setting on the horizon is just enough that I can make my way down the path without landing on my face.
I spend a lot of time on the beach at night. This isn’t like the beach in Newquay which is filled with drunks attempting to get it on under the cover of darkness. Our quiet beach in St Agnes is perfect for a solitary ten minutes. If I go home now I know Aunt May will be twitching around me like she has the last half a year, ever since my life ended at the end of one drunken night. She doesn’t know what to say to help my get out of the ‘phase’ I’m going through. Six months in, I think we can rule out the chance of it being a phase. This is just me. I’m a guy without a plan. Aunt May tries, but having her wandering around wringing her hands, asking me every three minutes if I’m hungry and need some food is not a relaxing way to spend an evening.
I don’t know what people want. Do they expect that one day I will wake up and suddenly be over the fact that I carelessly lost my girlfriend one night?
As I walk down onto the beach I keep thinking of Faye’s words. “Bridge Cottage.” “Painting.” “Mum and Dad.” They hammer inside my head.
I know everyone is waiting for me, for some resolution. They want to know that I’ve let go of the past, and that if I can do it, they all can too. But I can’t. I want them to, but I can’t do it myself. I can’t even acknowledge to myself what happened. I can’t even think about it or let the thought enter my mind.
Small steps, that’s what a counselor told me a few months ago. “Just take small steps, Josh, and everything will work out.” Today I have picked up a paint brush and drunk a pint of cider. That’s got to be two small steps in the right direction. I’m not sure what direction those things are taking me in, but it’s heading somewhere at least.
As I tread over the dark sand I can see someone sitting on my rock. That’s just plain rude. Everyone knows it’s mine.
Edging myself closer, I slip off my flip flops and sink my toes into the cool sand as I walk down the beach and try to get close enough to investigate without being seen.
My feet come to a grinding halt.
I want to move in the opposite direction but my damn legs won’t listen. Instead I stand there, looming behind her on the sand, like an axe murderer.
“I can see your silhouette in the sand.”
“What are you doing?” On my rock?
“Thinking. What are you doing?”
“Yes it is.”
I stand there like an idiot working out what to say next. “Nice bangles.”
“Thanks. They make me walk like a percusssion instrument.”
“Why so many?”
“None of your business, dreadlock boy.”
“Well you’re a charmer aren’t you?”
“I was sitting here first. You’re the one with the stalking, stealth-like sand walk.”
“It’s my rock.” It’s my rock? It’s my rock? Really. . .?
She does not say anything. Let’s be realistic there is not much to say to that comment. She just sits there looking out to the sea, and I stand there my feet sunk into the cool sand.
“I like your dreadlocks,” she says after an age has passed.
“Thanks. They’re a lifestyle choice.”
She turns to look at me and for a moment, just one brief moment my mind swirls with colours. The make-up is gone and the waning sun illuminates her skin. She look different. So different. A better different.
I should walk away. I don’t talk to holiday makers unless I’m taking their money in the shop.
Instead I fold my legs and sit on the sand, my fingers automatically picking up a splinter of driftwood as I cast my eyes up at the sun and then I start to draw.
“So do you have a name girl with the bangles?” I’m trying to remember what the young girl who was with her in the shop called her yesterday. Becca? Something like that?”
Turning to me with a frown on her face she bites her lower lip. Jeez, I only asked her name.
The frown and the angry glare instantly make me recall her name. “Bex.” I answer for her. The frown deepens.
“No one calls me that, only my sister.”
“Well I don’t know what else to call you?” I prompt. Her feistiness is rather amusing, it’s actually doing a good job of distracting me from the usual shit I try to keep out of my head.
Her top lip curls a little in distaste at my goading. She really doesn’t want to tell me her name. Who doesn’t want people to know their name? My eyes flick over her with a little more interest. She is rather pretty. Hot, Dan would call it. But I would go with pretty. Pretty is a more delicate sounding word, easy to pair with the freckles and flame hair.
Oh good god. I’ve realized what I am doing? I’m looking at another girl. I try and turn myself away from her a little. She must register the motion because she speaks, her voice low like she is sharing a secret.
“Rebecca.” She clears her throat. “My name is Rebecca.”
Something about her low tone makes me cast my eyes back over her. Well not exactly willingly, my eyes just won’t damn behave themselves and head straight back to the smooth sunlit skin.
She looks nervous, her fingers brushing over her overload of bangles.
“Does Rebecca have a second name?” My feet do this bizarre thing where they scoot over the sand towards her toes.
“What no surname? So you are Rebecca No Name?”
She scowls further. “Yes. I am Rebecca No Name.”
Her tone and the death stare she lays on me make me do something I am not expecting in the least. I laugh. Fucking loud. I laugh like I never stopped.
“Well Rebecca No Name. I am Joshua Adams, it’s a pleasure to meet you and your bangles.”
I lean forward and shake her hand my fingers grazing against hers, sand rolls between our connected skin.
Rebecca No Name digs her toes into the sand, burying them deep. “Walters. It’s Rebecca Walters.”
“Bex Walters, now that has a nice ring to it.”
“It’s Rebecca Walters.” She spits her name out like it burns her lips to say it.
“So Rebecca Walters where are you on holiday from?”
Seriously. It’s like talking to a wall. I don’t even know why I am still sitting here. This makes an evening with Aunt May look like a social highlight.
I get up and start to brush the sand from my legs.
The girl with attitude stares up at me from the ground and I hesitate. “London. I come from London, and I’m not on holiday. My family have moved into Bridge Cottage.”
Just like that the air gushes out of my lungs. The girl with the attitude and the wrong clothes and the frown lives in the house that I was fully expecting to move into one day. The cottage I expected to grow old in.
I sit back on the sand with a bump.
“I am leaving though, in two weeks.” Her gaze is on the sea as she speaks. “Two weeks. I’ve just got to get through two weeks.” She repeats almost to herself.
Two weeks of what?
“Who are you running from?”
Rebecca, Bex, the girl with the attitude turns to me, her eyes hidden in the shadows of the dipping sun. “Myself.”
And that I just don’t know how to answer, so I don’t. I pick my stick back up and start to draw some more.