Today, I went for a walk along the beach. I had not been for several weeks. In the summer there were too many people there for my liking. Somehow, the whole place was taken away from me as if squatters had moved in. I watched the trickle start in May and June, but it was all fresh and new so it felt good to share it for a while. Then the car parks filled and there was no space for my own thoughts down by the sea. The sun threw its rays onto the surface and danced across the ripples and swells. I wanted to chase the light and head off towards the horizon, away from the splashing and shouting bodies. It was time to drift away, inland, with a fond farewell to the vast, expansive sky.
Often, I stared from my window towards the coast, imagining that nobody knew about my favourite spot. Imagining that I could walk down there, right now, and it would be empty. I would undress on the edge of the tide and slide into the cool water with the reflected sunlight flashing into my eyes. Eventually, I thought, the day will come when children in new school uniforms will be walking down the street and the crowds will have gone.
At ten o’clock this morning, I sat by the window again and looked out. The clouds, parted by the westerly breeze, revealed the autumn sun and as my face warmed, I smiled. I finished my mug of tea and slipped my keys into my jacket pocket as I closed the front door behind me. The wind exhilarated me as I headed into it while the soothing heat from the east enveloped my back. Inside, I saw myself to be as young as the children I had watched go by a few hours ago.
Before long, my nostrils detected the faint odour that can only be the smell of the sea. In the few paces it took me to leave the conurbation behind, the noise morphed from the hum of car engines to the crashing of waves on the shoreline. Stepping onto the pebbles prompted the joyful sound of stone rubbing against stone as my progress became more laboured. The straight line of the distant horizon drew me on until, at last, the ebb tide appeared above the shingle bank ahead of me.
In the space beneath the clearing sky, the September Sea looked so blue. The white clouds raced away against the charging and churning breakers to reveal the glorious midday sun. A few yards from the water’s edge, I turned through three hundred and sixty degrees and found that I was alone. I was the only person here for this private viewing. Even though, I knew, the cold wind and rain would inevitably follow, at that moment I just wanted to renew my acquaintance with an old friend.
Author Notes: This is the first "successful" short story that was included in an exhibition at Winchester Library.