Little Miss Wonder
The sun beats down relentlessly, golden rays reflecting on the gently rippling ocean. Richard starts walking down worn, stone steps, adjusting the blue leather bag slung across his shoulder as he makes his descent. Way up above, gulls dip and dive in the hazy atmosphere. Their wings perfectly symmetrical as they glide effortlessly in smooth slow motion, cutting through the translucent clouds which litter the sky. Walking along the shore now his shoes sink deep into warm sand, each step he takes forming the trail of indentations Richard leaves behind. His eyes never leave the focal point of his laborious walk, to the spot he always sits. The rock.
Peeping out from a mass of tangled undergrowth it nestles between smaller boulders amongst a backdrop of willowy grasses. He sits down, relieved that "his" place provides much needed shade from the unremitting heat. Taking out a pencil and sketch book from the bag Richard gazes out across the beach too the shimmering sea. He loves this beach. He had loved it the first time he had seen it.
40 years ago and he had been a young boy of 17 looking for distractions to wile away a few hours on the annual family holiday. Enforced by teenage boredom and armed with his trusty sketch book he had set off in search of sanctuary from his parents and that is when he had seen her.
Folds of material had framed her figure in a swathe of yellow which draped across the rock she was sat on. Her shoulders and back awash with wild, blonde tendrils which loosely fell over one eye. She had instinctively turned and smiled and as she had that special glow had seized his heart. The afternoon had been filled with happiness and laughing. Time ground to a halt as they had walked and chatted and collected shells. He knew they had a special connection. That invisible, elusive attraction that so many have tried to describe with words, music and paint. He had only been a boy but he understood it. When the chill of the evening air had signalled time to say goodbye they agreed to meet the next day at the rock.
Richard glances down at his sketchpad. He has started to draw her again. A curvature of a cheek. An arch of an eyebrow. He never understood why she didnít return to meet him again. She is constantly infused within his thoughts and he has learnt to accept the presence which resides in his head. The girl with the untamed hair has never ceased to be his perpetual inspiration. Even the walls of his home are a testament to that. Every room contains his memories. On every wall hangs his yearning. As each year of life evaporates into another the longing increases in its fervour. He had tried so hard to dull down the ache at first, to live his life free from diluted ghosts but it had been useless. The girl and the beach have become his obsession. He wears an overcoat of thorns around his heart and no other woman has ever been able to persuade him to remove it.
The beach is the only place where Richard ever feels anywhere near like he belongs. He has observed every season as one quietly drifts into another. He has seen angry, crushing waves on winter mornings. The shore bleak and deserted, sand dunes iced with snow. He has watched the gullsí dutifully collecting food for new offspring screaming impatiently for sustenance from cliff top nests. He has walked for miles along the waters edge on too many a Sunday to count, smiling at families as they throw battered sticks into the sea for bounding dogs to fetch. Richard has seen the beach vent its every mood as it has done with him. The beach always pulls him, whispering promises of some grains of comfort in the darker moments of his existence.
There is a cool breeze now. It sweeps under the page of his sketch book, flicking it over so only her grey, charcoal eyes stare up at him from the paper. The day has slipped into evening without him noticing and the beach has acquired a different ambience. The atmosphere is tranquil, almost tinged with an aura of expectation, a feeling unlike he has experienced before when he has sat here watching the day preparing to make its exit. The gulls are back over head, squealing like teasing children in a schoolyard. High pitched screeching mocking him from above. Richard feels incredibly lonely sat here trying to recapture a muted echo of one blissful afternoon he had spent 40 years ago. Lonely, disconnected and drifting as he listens to the watery lullaby being played as waves gently caress the shoreline.
He is so tired now. Richard looks up one last time to view the beach as the sketch book falls from his lap onto velvet sand. She is here. Her yellow cotton dress and golden hair dancing in the breeze as she draws closer.
"I knew you would wait for me Richard."
Her hand finds his. Two hands locked together to form an unbreakable clasp. Two souls finally entwined for eternity. They start walking along the shore. The tide has turned as two figures fade into the distance and the sun sinks down into the ocean as they disappear far away in time.
The gulls are silent. No more echoes.
Little Miss Wonder.
24 October July 2004.