by Neil Baker
I found you on a beach. I was sitting on a blue rug, reading a battered copy of Dubliners. You offered to buy me an ice cream. You said I looked so sad, sitting there with my book. “Is it a happy book?” you asked. I said it depends on what you mean by happy. It was a pretentious thing to say, I know. But I was 19 and you were a beautiful girl on a beach. From that moment, I would have given you anything. And all you had to do was stand there, with sand on your knees and the wind blowing a strand of hair across your cheek.
The last time we went to a beach we saw the boat. The sun broke through the clouds and you used a magazine to shield your eyes. “Look there,” you said, “beyond the surf. Is it in trouble?” A blue sail leaned hard with the wind. There was a dog on board and I could hear it barking. Scrambling down the face of the dune, you stumbled and I took your hand. “I can’t see it anymore,” you said. We scanned the surf for a sight of the sail and ran down to the water line. “Should we call the Coastguard?” you asked. “Should we get help?” I said we shouldn’t. I said everything would be fine.
Afterwards, on the walk back to the car, you said it was too late for us. You said it not with your mouth but with your hands; the way you picked a stem of silver dune grass and bent it between your fingers.
Neil Baker is a short-story writer living near Rye, East Sussex. He’s published in Metazen, Brittle Star, 3:AM and elsewhere.