First Love

June 9, 2010

I have something a little different than normal for this week’s writing workshop. It is a short story that I wrote as my final assessment for my fiction writing course with the OU and as it fit with one of this week’s prompts I thought that I would be brave and post it.

The prompt was: Have you ever had a holiday romance? If not, perhaps you’d like to make up a story where you did!

I have been unable to think of a title for this story, so please if you read it can you leave me a title suggestion in the comments? Thank you.

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The sun was already warm against her skin as she wandered down the hill from the rented cottage at the top. She walked quickly, the incline of the slope speeding her progress. All around her were the signs of a town waking up for business, shutters being removed, shopkeepers passing the time of day with neighbours, the smell of fresh bread and coffee starting to fill the air.

Reaching the bottom of the hill, Amy walked through a small alleyway, shivering slightly in the shade. Within moments she was out the other side, the sudden brightness making her squint despite her sunglasses. She crossed the road and stopped when she reached a set of railings. Seaweed covered rocks glistened at the bottom of the wall and yellow sand stretched out until it met the water. The waterline was half way up the beach and she wondered idly if the tide was going in or out. She closed her eyes and took deep breaths of the sea air, tangy with salt and seaweed. She felt the knots in her stomach and her shoulders dissipate with each breath. It was strange to be alone, but it felt good. She had to see these places and come to terms with last summer, and to do that she needed to be by herself. Gripping the cold metal bars of the railings she slid down until she was sat on the wall with her legs dangling over the edge, the bottom railing under her arms. From here she could see the slipway, and the wall that she was leaning against the first day she met James. Her memory added figures to the empty beach before her.

Friday 23rd July 1999. In six days time Amy was turning sixteen and this was the first holiday with her parents that she had been allowed real freedom. For the past three days she had roamed the town, swimming, reading, eating. She was sitting on the beach, leaning against that slipway eating chips when a seagull swooped down and stole her food, landing on her legs leaving big ugly scratch marks and eliciting a scream from Amy. She was examining them when she was suddenly aware that someone was standing above her, blocking the sun.
“Are you okay?” the person asked.
Amy scrambled to her feet, wincing as the scratches on her leg hurt. “I think so,” she said and raised one hand to shield the sun from her eyes so she could see the boy better.
“They are horrible, the seagulls round here. You should probably put something on that.”
Amy nodded absentmindedly as she studied the boy. She seemed unable to speak, and her heart was beating so fast from the fright the seagull had given her but she noticed that he was tanned and had the bluest eyes she had ever seen. He was tall and had messy blonde hair, thick with salt and sand. She thought he was possibly the most attractive boy she had ever seen.
“I’m James by the way,” he said, smiling at her.
“Amy,” she said, grinning shyly back at him.
That was the moment that changed her life forever.

The feeling of the cold stones on the backs of her legs woke Amy from her daydream. Her legs were numb so she pulled herself up and decided to walk round the harbour, past the restaurants, ice cream kiosks and tacky souvenir shops. The boat touts were standing at the top of the jetty, calling out to the passing holidaymakers; “Take a trip to Seal Island, take a trip to see the seals.” As she reached the end of the harbour she turned on instinct into one of many small winding streets, the buildings looking familiar, and she was pleased when the road ended at the bottom of the grassy hill that the locals called ‘The Island’. She walked directly towards the Coastguard’s lookout on the top of the hill, feeling the stretch in muscles that had been dormant for months. At the top she found a gap between the rocks and she scrambled down to the thin dusty path that snaked around the edge of the island. She reached the top of the cliff and lay down, the gentle slope behind her back providing her with the perfect view of the sea stretching out in front of her eyes. She closed her eyes and surrendered herself to the torrent of memories that threatened to engulf her.

Lying in the grass side-by-side, holding hands. The warmth of the sun of her face, bright kaleidoscope lights dancing behind closed eyes. Warm, kisses on tight salty skin. The intoxicating feeling of wanting to know everything about one person. Becoming firm friends, and more, in the strange, accelerated way that happens when you are both on holiday. Thinking of someone from the moment that you wake until the moment that you sleep at night. Day to day detail forgotten in the sharing of hopes and dreams. Fun and laughter. Days spent together exploring in the sunshine. Time flying past and stretching luxuriously at the same time. The feeling that you have met the one person that understands you. Crazy thoughts of love and butterflies of attraction.

Amy sat up. Last summer had been all about sensation. The cold bite of seawater as they paddled in the shallows. Barefoot on warm soft sand, the pinch of limpet-encrusted rocks as they clambered about. Drinking ice-cold pop and eating steaming hot chips. The tickle of grass beneath bare legs as they watched fluffy white clouds dance across the sky above. Laughing so hard together until their muscles ached and tears rolled down their cheeks. She could not imagine being able to feel any of that anymore. She was not the same person she was last year. This was not the same body she was discovering back then.

Finding her way down the uneven steps to the beach she headed down to the firmer wet sand. She realised that the tide had been on its way out this morning as she noticed the stretch of beach now exposed. Time was passing and she shouldn’t be out too long, her parents would worry and that wasn’t fair on them. There was one more place she had to visit though.

At the far end of the beach there was evidence of campfires in the sand and she wondered whether she would have known any of the people that lit this fire and enjoyed its warmth as she had done the year before. Had he been here? Had he had returned this year, would he come back to this spot as she had, to remember? It had been her sixteenth birthday, and after thanking her parents for her birthday meal and promising to be back by midnight she had walked down the beach towards the campfire, her eyes searching through the silhouettes until she found his shape, unmistakable to her already. Her heart and stomach had fluttered as she reached the group and he smiled to see her. That evening she felt freer than ever in her life. Listening to people sing and play guitar, the warmth in her chest of shared blackberry wine drunk straight from the bottle. She had felt like she could be anyone she wanted to be.

Collapsing onto her knees in the sand she cried the tears that had been so long coming. She cried for the girl she had been then, so full of possibility. She cried at the memory of lying in the sand, her head in his lap, his hands stroking her hair. Of being wrapped up in his jumper taking his warmth and scent and breathing it in. She cried for how she had felt later in his arms on a blanket under the stars, complete, the fear of her first time dissipated into the warm summer air. Of the happiness that had flowed from every pore as they made plans for the following day, punctuated with kisses, stood outside her door seconds before curfew. She cried hardest for her brother’s accident, the cruel twist of fate that had caused her parents to tear her from her perfect dreams and warm bed early the next morning and bundle her into the car, with no time to see him or tell him that she had to go. No time to give him her address and telephone number or to get his.

Eventually, she had no tears left and she picked herself up out of the sand. He was not here, and would probably never be again. He would have marked it down to a holiday romance that had finished with no explanation and got on with life. She could never forget that summer, but it was time to move on and come to terms with what had happened. Would he even recognise her if he were here? She didn’t feel anything like that girl anymore, and she knew she looked different too.

Her parents were in the small courtyard garden when she got back. Her mum smiled at her with such compassion in her eyes that Amy was scared that she would start to cry again. Bending down she kissed her mother’s cheek and lifted the small three-month-old baby from its Grandmother’s arms and buried her face into the crease of his neck. The velvet skin, warm baby smell and the tickle of his soft hair on her cheek washed away all of the tears and the pain and as she gazed into the startling blue of his eyes she let the love she felt for her son take its place.

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