What’s that god-awful racket?
You open your eyes and are blinded by the sun pouring into your hotel room.
Seagulls? Of course. Seagulls.
On a whim, you’d decided to drive down to the coast and check into a hotel for a night. You’d spent the day on the beach together—enjoying a few swims in the sea—and most of the night checking out the bars. You’re feeling it today. Too much sun? Too much drink? Surely not.
You rise—careful not to wake Chloe—open the balcony doors, and step out.
God, it’s stunning. What a magnificent morning. The sun’s rays set a sparkling, shimmering corridor in the sea. It’s so inviting. Not a soul on the beach.
You check the time—only 5.30—no wonder. And yet the sun is already blazing hot. The seagulls call out to you.
You need to share this.
You give Chloe a nudge and she lets out a low moan.
You ask if she’d like to go for a swim before breakfast.
‘What time is it?’ she groans.
‘Just before six,’ you say—thinking that sounds much better than 5.30.
‘Oh my God. No. You go.’ And then after a brief pause, she sing-songs, ‘Have fun.’
And so you go—not wishing to pass up the opportunity of one last swim. Actually, if you think about it, you would prefer to go on your own.
You stumble about, locate your swimsuit and sunglasses, grab a towel and head out—down the stairs, along the promenade and onto—the beach.
You look around.
You’ve got the place to yourself.
You leave your towel on the final steps. You keep your sunglasses on—they should be fine—there aren’t any waves—it looks calm.
You walk to the sea—through the sand of yesterday’s sun seekers—to the lovely pristine, undisturbed sand of the new day. You test the water—a bit bracing—but not bad. You walk in—following the path of the sun. Whoa. This is more than a little refreshing. Not deterred you continue—and when the water is chest high you steel yourself, turn your back on the sun, fall into the sea and—after a short period of adjustment—you begin to float.
The sun beats down on you and you turn to surrender—to embrace its warmth. You feel—so relaxed.
What a wonderful sensation. Not a care in the world.
You could live like this. Who needs the city?
Maybe you could get a place down here…
You decide perhaps you should go back—convince Chloe to come in. You turn and look towards shore. It doesn’t seem to be the same shore—it’s so far away. The tide or current or something has caught you and taken you out.
You begin to swim back—towards shore. This is tough. You’ve always considered yourself to be a good swimmer. You swim regularly in the pool at the gym. But…but this is different. You can’t seem to make any progress.
You look around to see if you can see anyone on the shore. And you can. You shout. You wave your arms—but no one hears you—no one sees you. You continue to try to swim back but your arms are now too weak to swim—too weak to wave.
You try not to panic.
Maybe Chloe will notice you’re not there and raise the alarm…
You must conserve your energy—stay calm.
Maybe a boat will come by and see you…
What’s that god-awful racket?
Phone? What the—
‘Sorry to disturb you,’ a woman says, ‘but we were wondering if you’d decided to stay another night.’
‘What? What time is it?’
‘It’s 11.30 Checkout time was 11.’
‘Oh, sorry. We slept in. We’ll be down in a few minutes.’ You hang up. And call out. ‘Pat? Pat are you in the bathroom?’
And then it comes back to you. A swim before breakfast. When was that? Six? That’s—that’s five and a half hours ago…
You run to the window—pull open the doors—and go out on the balcony…
The tide is out but the beach is teeming with sun-seekers.
You feel your chest tighten.
The seagulls laugh.
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© 2018 Patricia Mahoney
Patricia Mahoney started her writing career as a playwright with five professionally-produced plays and since released a book/CD of stories.