I arrived at the beach house early in the morning. I drove all through the night, not worrying about tiredness or hunger. This is where I wanted to be. This is where I needed to be.
I had been to this beach house a few times in my life, it belonged to one of my father’s good friends; who I think worked in banking, or something like that. It was good size, not too large and not too small. It was so covered in windows that if you were looking out to the sea you’d forget there were solid walls at all. The walls that weren’t glass were painted white, and so there was never any shortage of light in the place. It sat mere inches away from sand, and not many meters from the water. When you wanted to get away to the beach, this really was the place to come. I was alone and so only required one of the three bedrooms. I took the largest one, though even in there you had barely enough room to move around the bed and white-painted wardrobe. I threw may bag into the wardrobe and went into the living area. It was spacious with very little furniture. A chair, a sofa and a table. All white. I sat in the chair, lent back and closed my eyes.
When I awoke the sun was hovering above the waves. I lent forward, rested my head in my hands and considered what I wanted to do for the rest of the day. Of course, there was the sea to go swimming in. Or the town to wander about. Or the cliffs, to look out across the ocean. That was where I decided to go first. The wind would blow past me, the sounds of waves crashing would entice me. And at this time of year there were very few people around.
It was as peaceful as I had thought it would be. No one around, not even the local dog walkers. This was the place I loved the most in the world. The grass was rather long beside the path I walked and swayed gently in the afternoon breeze. The same breeze that lightly dusted my face with sand as I ascended from the beach. I stopped for a moment and peered over the edge that I feared was ready to crumble. Down below the rocks seemed even more jagged than from the beach. Falling down there would be like tumbling into an inverted knife block. I carefully stepped back and carried on my way. I walked and walked along the cliffs and after a few hours I somehow ended back at the beach house. I hadn’t intended to, but that is where I was.
I went back inside, this time moving into the kitchen. I turned on the oven, slid in a pizza and returned to my chair. The timer went off eventually and didn’t stop, but something was keeping me fixed to my chair. An overwhelming sense of pointlessness. The pizza was there, ready to eat but I didn’t really want it. I took it out of the oven though, just so the house wouldn’t burn down. Were it my own property I may have been more hesitant. The smell of cheese began to make me feel nauseous and so I tipped the pizza into the bin, shut the lid and opened all the windows. It was a shame, pizza had been my favourite food whilst I was away at university. I took a beer from the fridge and this time slumped into the sofa, just staring out to the sea. The sand was a perfect fine white, the sea a gorgeous blue with white froth lapping at the edges. It was a near perfect view, particularly with the golden sun bouncing off the waves.
Eventually I grew a little tired of staring at the waves and decided to head into the town, just hoping that it had at least one good bar.
The town felt a lot larger than I remembered. Perhaps it had expanded rapidly, or I had a faulty memory. I couldn’t bring myself to decide on either one. It was also a lot more run down. In my mind it had been a quaint town with mismatched stone work and slate roofs. Now it was just dirty, plastic gutters hanging down, or hanging on. Everything looked like it was just hanging on. Although nothing was open I couldn’t help but peer through some of the windows. A lot of the shops were filled with tat, the sort of thing a tourist would buy because it looked or sounded fun and then regretted as soon as stepping down out of the shop. This town had really fallen to the tourists. I never considered myself one, I never fell to the allure of these useless plastic products, and lived less than an hours drive. You really couldn’t call me a tourist. I used to know this town almost as well as I knew my hometown, but that had to have been at least ten years before. Now I could barely recognise it.
I walked down a couple of streets and came across something that sort of resembled a bar. It was sunken back from the street a little and the entrance was strangely situated just around a corner. It wasn’t enticing but I went in anyway.
The bar was rather dark inside, there seemed to be only one window letting in a measly beam of light. There were a few seats dotted around various tables, all cheap wood painted black. The bar itself seemed more like an extension of the tables though I suppose it did tie together the poorly painted black walls. Most of the lights in this place were small ones, wrapped around a pole that ran above the bar. The tables further from it were illuminated by hanging lights, wrapped with black plastic lampshades. I went to the bar and ordered a drink. Double vodka and coke. Something to really get me started. While sat there, I eventually learnt to resist resting my arms on the bar itself. Unless I wanted to be stuck there.
It wasn’t busy, not that I expected it to be. There was a couple in the back corner and two lone men sat at the bar. Apart from myself. I sipped at my drink slowly for now. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay quite long enough for a second drink, and I wasn’t ready to leave quite yet.
I heard the door open and instinctively looked over. It was a young woman, about my age, with dark hair that curled about the edges of her distinctive glasses. She went to the bar and ordered her drink and then looked about, as if there were no seats left in the room. She glanced at the three of us sat at the bar and then chose a table. I then went on ignoring her, just as I did with everyone else in this establishment. I was just there to focus on my drink.
After about another fifteen minutes I had sipped away my vodka and coke and contemplated leaving. I decided that it would be far more pleasant back at the beach house. And much quieter, not that the people there were loud, but the awful music was. As I got near the door I made eye contact with the woman. She gently slid one of the chairs at her table towards me as if to say “Join me.” But she stayed silent. I was hesitant for a moment but her slight smile just managed to entice me. She called over the barkeeper and ordered me another drink. For a moment she just stared at me, with that same slight smile, even after my drink was brought over. She had yet to say a word to me, I wasn’t sure what to say to her. “Thank you.” Would probably have been a good start.
“You don’t look like the sort of guy to come in here.” The woman eventually said.
“I just go where it looks cheap.” I told her.
“You don’t care for a bit of class?”
“It doesn’t worry me.”
The woman lent forward a little, resting on the table.
“I’m glad you came.” She said. “Gives me some company.”
“Do you not prefer somewhere with more class?” I asked her.
“I prefer it cheap too. I just really needed a drink and I saw you come in here.”
“You came here because of me?” She smiled softly.
“You intrigued me.” She took a sip of her drink. “We don’t have to stay here. You like walking?”
“Along the beach?”
“It’s cold tonight.” I was being a bit hesitant. I didn’t know this woman really. She gave me a strange sort of feeling, like I had known her once. But I would have remembered. Surely?
“Not if you drink some more. I’d enjoy it.” Her eyes almost seemed to beg me.
“Have you always lived around here?” I asked, to try and work out if I really did know her.
“Born and raised. How ‘bout you?”
“I’m a couple towns over.”
“It’s nicer here. I don’t see why I would leave, so I haven’t. Finished school, got a job in the shop. It all just suits me so perfectly. Don’t you think?” She continued to tell me about herself, what she had been up to recently and asking me the same. She spoke as though we were old friends.
She finished her drink and proposed the walk again. I wanted to take her up on it, but something stopped me.
“How about coming back to my place?” She suggested instead. “You know, it’s not far. Won’t be cold in there.”
Again I really wanted to take her up on her offer, but I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. She touched my hand and laughed, just a little.
“You can just say you don’t want to spend time with me anymore.”
It wasn’t that though. I kept thinking hard, about whether I knew her or not.
I had a strong burning desire for her, but I had to say goodbye.
And so I said goodbye and left.
Out on the street I kept thinking. There was something about her, her touch, her eyes, that was so familiar that I must have known her once. The way it felt inside, it was like she was a lover, a serious lover. But this was the first time I had met her.
I wandered the streets, not going in any particular direction, still thinking about her.
I passed by the bar again and stopped to check. Yep, that was the same bar, I had done a full circle. I checked the time and decided it was probably about time to get back to the beach house. As I walked back my phone rang. It was an old friend, you’d probably call us best friends if we were twelve. Actually she probably still would have.
I answered it, not wanting to be rude. It was pretty late so it must have been important, I thought.
“Where are you?” She asked, pretty forcefully.
I had neglected to tell her where I was going or what I was going to do. I told her exactly where I was and she answered with disappointment.
“We were supposed to go out tonight, remember?”
To be fair this was the first time I had ever let her down, and I pointed that out.
“Doesn’t matter.” She said. “Get back here.”
I told her I couldn’t. There was no way I was getting back that night. I suggested one of our mutual friends but she rebutted that. She said I had promised her. She continued on, arguing against my suggestions and apologies before finally pointing out that it was her birthday.
I had forgotten that, but there was nothing I could do. I felt bad of course, but this was more important for me. There was no point arguing any longer.
I made the very forceful point of saying “Goodbye.” She wouldn’t listen and so I had to keep repeating it.
I had to hang up.
I got back to the beach house and lay down on the white sofa. The light, the air, everything was so pleasant after the constricting bar. So many thoughts were running through my head, yet still I was able to fall fast asleep right there on the sofa.
When I woke up it was the middle of the day, the sun shone straight through the glass walls at me. Somehow the brightness hadn’t woken me earlier. As I sat up all I could think about was last night, still. I hadn’t wanted to, but I knew I had to say goodbye that way. To both of them.
I checked my phone to see if there were any calls or texts. There didn’t seem to be, my friend obviously didn’t need me that much. Or I had already read them all and forgotten. It didn’t really matter either way to me.
I wasn’t going to get dressed, I didn’t see the point. I pulled on a pair of swimming trunks and was ready. The white beach looked pleasing in the soft morning light. I had a drink, a strong drink and pulled open the sliding doors. A rush of wind blew my hair into my eyes. I stepped out, the sand consuming my toes. I kept walking, closer and closer to the sea. The foam was white this morning, the glistening sea perfect. I stopped. This was the spot.
I thought I had made my mind up long before but this was when I was sure. I lay my head into the perfect white sand and it was then that I decided I would stay here forever.