This is a continuation of the part memoir, part short story that I started on Tuesday.

The smell of coconut was overpowering, cloying, but I didn’t care. I was concentrating on Russell’s hands, warm and gentle, as they rubbed the oil into my skin. My breath caught in my throat, and I realised that for a few seconds, I had forgotten to breathe.

He leaned in close. Closer. I could feel is breath on my neck, and I could smell him; that heady mix of cigarettes and Blue Stratos and sweat. Around me, time caved in on itself, almost as if we had been transported to another dimension. I could hear the relentless pounding of surf on sand, the loud swish of water as it retreated, leaving the tangle of seaweed in its wake. Seagulls squawked overheard. Closer. I leaned back into is hands. Even closer. The sun nodded her approval and blessed us with warm rays. His lips brushed the skin of my shoulder.

‘Hey, Russ! Didn’t know you were coming down this arvo.’

And just like that the time, reverted to its normal programming. Squawks and surf and seaweed and sun subsided and were pulled back to the present dimension. Russell glanced up, keeping one hand on my shoulder. He nodded recognition at the voice, his nod a lift of the chin, a tilt of the head. ‘Yeah. Looked like it was going to be a good day for it. D’ya know Audrey? Daz.’

I shaded my eyes and looked up to see a shock of unkempt black hair framing a thin face and piercing blue eyes. Daz was held his board under one arm, before planting it in the sand next to Russell’s in one fluid movement.

I said a quiet hi to Daz, and my cheeks flushed pink. Daz – or Darren as I knew him – and I had a history, and not a very pleasant one. Me being charmed by Darren. Me agreeing to a date. Darren drunk and yelling. Darren grabbing my arm. Me fighting him off. Me punching Darren. Me walking home. In the dark. Late at night. I doubted that Russell knew, and I wanted to keep it that way. Darren-Daz’s eyes flashed twin beams of recognition and surprise my way, but he didn’t say anything except a monotone hi before he turned his attention back to Russell. I raised my eyes to the sky and breathed a silent thank you.

Russell and Daz discussed the swell, the tide, the height of the waves, the rip that was clearly visible about fifty metres from shore. All the while, Russell kept his hand on my back, a warm, silent signal. I kept quiet. There was no need for me to contribute to the conversation. The sooner Daz moved on, the happier I would be. I raised my eyes to the sky again and pleaded for mercy to whoever was listening. Surely the god of A Highly Unlikely Afternoon Spent On A Beach With Russell was the same deity as Can You Please Vamoose Daz Within The Next Few Seconds? I hoped so, and sent my silent prayer skywards.

The next few seconds, then minutes dragged their chains, heaving themselves across the next hour.

I’m going to leave this piece here. I know, I know, you want to read more! You’ll just have to wait until it’s a “proper” short story 😉

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