Call of the Sea

A young surfer ponders a choice that could change his life, but not as he would expect.

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Public Domain

She was the epitome of a wet dream. The way she swam up and perched her elbows on the bow of my surfboard was perfectly choreographed – but so fluid, natural.

Her eyes seemed to shimmer in the low sunlight and her smile were this smoky kind of sultry, as though just waiting for me to reach down and kiss her.

I didn’t.

Instead I watched her and she chuckled to herself and played with her long, auburn hair. It wrapped around her fingers like silk, and I just couldn’t take my eyes off her. She was looking me like I was a man – I mean, I was. I was a man of 16 and this was a woman, clearly in her early twenties, who had no idea.

“I—I’ve never seen you around,” I said as I tried to pretend I wasn’t checking to see if she was wearing a bikini top under the length of her hair. It could have been sandy coloured, or something.

“I’m not from around here,” she said with a thick, indiscernible accent. Eastern-European, maybe.

I scanned the promenade and then the silhouette of the Lido in the far distance. There was not a soul in sight – not even Marcus, the Jet Ski guy – and my skin began to tingle as my heart started to race.

The woman’s eyes narrowed and she became a near perfect reflection of all those women in the magazines I hid from Mum. From the way the hair flowed in the water, the glimmering bronze of her dripping skin and her seductive pout.

I shifted weight and took a deep, shaky breath.

“So, what are you doing out here?” I asked her, looking around again, this time for the lifeguard flags. It was getting too dark to really appreciate them, and it seemed I’d accidentally surfed my way too far down the coast for the coastguard to really see us at this point. And Marcus’ shop was around the cliff corner. “Hop on, I’ll take you to shore.”

She chuckled. “No, thank you.”

“C’mon, it’s only a five minute trip,” I insisted, but she pushed away from my board.

I felt a flush of panic. She may have thought I was trying my luck with her or up to something fishy… but she smiled that flirtatious smile.

The water was still, beautifully so with the way the setting sun was glistening on the surface, like those paintings I’d seen in that gallery. There didn’t seem to be much of a pull, but I was a surfer, I never played with the waves this way.

“You know, the sea can be a cruel mistress,” I said, and then regretted it. It sounded far cooler in my mind.

She chuckled again. “I like you.”

My eyes widened. That had worked?

“Are you adventurous?” she asked with a tilt of her head, and I felt my lip sweat.

“Uh, yeah, of course,” I said gesturing to my surfboard, wondering why I’d never been so lucky before. None of the girls at school particularly cared, but I always put that down to my ginger hair. Not that this woman seemed to care.

“Come with me,” she said with a wink. “Come meet my family.”

I sat back a little, letting my feet dangle in the water while I thought about what she’d just said. Maybe it was a language thing.

“Sorry, what?”

“Come meet my family,” she repeated, this time leaning up on the board and answering the bikini top question.

She was not wearing one at all.

I stared longer than I knew I should. “T—They around here?” I asked. “I mean, are they here with you?”

I scanned up on the promenade. Still no one, and no sound but the waves and the occasional seagull cry. I had to do a double take, as I was sure there were hundreds now, where there had only been a dozen before.

“They’re back home,” she said. “Come with me.”

“Uh.” I pulled back and thought about my mother back home. Alone.

“You can ride waves you’ve never ridden before,” she continued, pushing back off the board and giving me a good shot of what I was sure were her… Oh, that was a definite invitation.

“Uh…” I bit my lip. “But, um…”

She leant back into the board, just a little bit closer than before.

“Um, what about my mum?” I asked.

Her eyes widened and then her nose wrinkled. “What?” She sounded disgusted, and the seagulls all leapt into the sky, circling above them.

“Err…” I couldn’t take my eyes off the birds. They seemed really angry. “Well, I help her at home, see? I help her get in and out of the bath and I sort out her meds. She’s not well, actually. I can’t just, you know, leave.”

The anger on the woman’s face left and she chuckled again.

“That’s okay,” she said, “maybe one day.”

I forced a smile. She was just being nice, I was sure of it. Looking at me with the same pity I’d seen since I was nine years old. This was a one-time offer and I knew it.

I bit my lip and watched as the seagulls all returned to their cave nests. Whatever had possessed them seemed to have left a bitter taste in their mouths. They were silent now as I made it to the shore, and when I turned to the woman who was swimming beside me, she’d vanished.

My heart pounded into my chest and I spun around to see each and every inch of the horizon for some sort of disturbance in the water – but there was none.

I dropped my board and sprinted around the corner to the Jet Ski place. Marcus would know what to do – but I stopped dead in my tracks as I saw the guy bent over the edge of the promenade, kissing a naked woman with long black velvet hair. Then he toppled over, disappearing into the waters.

“Marc!” I ran as fast as I could and struggled to stop. I hit the deck and tried to grab to the first thing I saw flipping about the water.

A large fish tail.

I threw myself back in horror, hit the concrete, and crawled away. It was huge.

And Marcus was gone.

I slowly rose to my feet and scanned the water’s surface. Above me the seagulls roared back into life and flew at great speeds overhead, only to vanish into the darkened horizon.

I jogged back to the locker at the Ski Shop and struggled with everything I’d seen. When I heard my phone buzzing inside my bag, I snapped out of it and quickly rummaged around to find it.

“Hi, Mum,” I answered breathlessly. “Uh… yeah, sorry, I left your meds in the cabinet. I’ll get the keys when I get back.”

“That’s okay, sweetheart, take as long as you need,” she said, the way she always did. “I was just checking to make sure you’re okay. It’s getting darker now.”

“Yes, yes. Well…” I turned to face the calm sea. “I don’t think I’m gonna keep up surfing.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah…” I scanned again, and I froze when I caught sight of the woman resting on one of the Jet Skis. I walked out to the edge of the promenade and took a deep breath.

“Only if you don’t want to, sweetheart.”

“Yeah,” I said, “skateboarding is way safer.”

Sometimes she writes. Sometimes she doesn’t. Either way, she’s not doing what she’s supposed to be doing.

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