Flotsam Jetsam

She walked the tide line along the beach, a neat procession of footprints marking her presence until, every ten strides or so, the sea dissolved them back to sand behind her. The tide was coming in and each wave bit a little higher up the beach than the last. She was aware of the water, which had been barely touching her feet before, now washing over them, nipping and tugging at her.

She paused to feel the slap of a wave against her ankle, a nudge to the the shore, and then the rapid undertow, the sea sucking at her feet as if to pull her out. Maybe ten strides in land and she would be above high tide, ten strides the other way, into a cold, salty embrace, and she would be gone.

She stared back down the empty beach, catching her dark hair up in a one handed ponytail to keep it from her eyes. Her footprints were all gone; there was no trace of her passing. Half a mile back up the sand, back where she’d left the car, a single line of prints led down to the sea and then disappeared. That was where she’d kicked off her shoes into the swell before tipping her handbag upside down, emptying its contents into the sea, watching as lipstick and credit cards and keys and cash had bobbed away. Then the bag itself, flung underarm to sit proudly atop a wave before it too was swallowed.

The photo was the only thing she’d kept hold of. She held it now to take one last look, clutched in both hands, letting her hair fall again down her back, strands whipping around her head. It was her face staring back up at her from the picture. Hers and his. Tightly together, fierce grins beneath young, unlined eyes. Her dark hair, as now, wild and tangled, but then from the night before; the warmth of their bed rather the cold of the wind. His hair was a mess too. Bedheads. That’s what he’d always called that photo. Mr and Mrs Bedhead taken the day after they had agreed to share a name. Tears streaked her face now as she stared at his frozen smile and his mess of brown hair. She wanted to fix this memory of him in her head, have it be the one she would carry in her heart instead of the recent ones. The ones after all that untidy mass of tangles fell out. The ones where everything became clinically tidy; smooth scalps, blue gowns, and white hospital walls.

She kissed the picture once, held it up between her thumb and forefinger to watch it fold and catch in the wind. Then it was gone, the two of them tumbling free over and over in the air before landing on the water’s surface. The last voyage of Mr and Mrs Bedhead. Now she was nameless again.

A sudden swell rolled up the beach and splashed against the bottom of her trousers. The tide was still rising. The girl with no name gazed out at the horizon, at the blue grey featureless expanse of the sea, and wiped hair and tears from her eyes. She wondered how far she could swim before her arms and legs became as weary as her heart. As the last wave retreated, pulling at her feet, she felt something wrap around her ankle. As she looked down it peeled itself free and floated away but, for a moment, she saw herself smiling up from the sea. Herself and then him. And then they were both finally gone, disappearing into the depths.

The girl with no name turned and walked back up the beach, a steady line of footprints emerging from the sea, marking her reappearance on land. The wind grabbed at her hair and she let if hang free, blowing and tangling itself into a wild, glorious, and alive mess.



This is the fifth story in my series of 42 shorts that I’m writing to raise money and awareness for Mind, the mental health charity. Please share it if you liked it (or even if you didn’t…). If you’re interested in donating to a great cause then please visit my fundraising page: https://www.justgiving.com/42shorts/


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