by Vicki Bartram
Flamborough cliffs loomed over Alice’s head, swallowing her as she placed each cold, smooth pebble into her pocket. She examined each one first, giving them the full attention they deserved, before popping them into the safety of the pocket in her yellow sundress.
The seagulls overhead ignored her. They knew she had no scraps to fling to them and nestled against the rocks feeding discarded chips to their young.
The screech of one of the gulls made Alice drop a white, crystallised pebble; smooth on the outside yet it seemed to be filled with cinnamon sugar. She dropped onto the beach, barely noticing the jagged edges of some of the stones cutting into her knees, and shuffled loose stones aside, trying to find that special, magical pebble. Her thin fingers searched in every cranny between the stones, her breath held fast between little pants. The pebble was hiding, she knew it.
“Come out, come out wherever you are,” Alice whispered. She tried to tease each stone out from behind the other, her eyes beginning to fill.
Not like Teddy. Not again. Teddy had been her favourite, lost on Scarborough beach, a burial gone wrong. She’d wanted him to have a rest, like they said Gran was resting. She figured it was important somehow, especially because of all the sandwiches and cake. But Teddy got lost. Left. Resting forever now, just like Gran…but without the cake.
With a huff Alice clutched at her dress and opened her legs. Had it dropped underneath her? Was she sat on it? So many pebbles waved at her, cooee called a grey one with flecks of white, over here coaxed a brick-coloured one with scratchy edges and there were the deafening shouts from all the white ones. Yes, there were other white ones, but not filled with sparkly sugar like her pebble.
“Alice…Alice, come on, we’re heading off now.” Her mum’s voice made something thick catch in her throat, maybe a frog, like daddy sometimes gets?
“No mummy. I’ve lost my pebble.” Alice shouted at the beach beneath her, eyes still scanning the floor for the magic she’d just had, only just held in the palm of her hand.
“Ah-way Alice, just grab another and come on. The tide’s coming in and we’ve got to get home.”
Alice could hear the sound of no pudding in her mum’s voice and stood up. She kept looking at the pebbles piled beneath her feet as she made her way back to the car, just in case hers followed her…but it didn’t. She let herself be restrained, belted into the car seat and looked out at the darkening sea. The froth was building as the waves crashed with a little more enthusiasm than before. She thought about her pebble resting near the waves. It would be washed away eventually, gulped down by the blue nothingness that washes everything away. Her pebble was lost. Left behind. Just like Teddy, just like Gran. The magic had gone.
Vicki Bartram from York is the poetry co-editor for Indigo Rising UK while working for a local publishing press, Stairwell Books.