“Aachoo, achoo, achoo.” Clara’s sneezes were a staccato interruption to the conversation.
“Sorry.” She glanced at the young man before directing her gaze to the ground as her blush became evident.
“Hay fever?” his voice was sympathetic.
She nodded, and shoved her hanky back in her pocket.
“Wanna go for a walk on the beach?” His brown eyes were hopeful as she glanced up at him. Her own conveyed veiled excitement, but quickly returned to the ground.
“OK. Just let me tell Mum.”
Clara turned back to the annex of her caravan. She pushed the heavy canvas aside and stepped in to find her mother reading.
“I’m going for a walk on the beach OK?”
Mum turned her book over onto the table and noticed her daughter’s slightly pink cheeks. “Who with?”
“Luke, Jane’s nephew. You met him last night didn’t you?”
“Mmm. Seemed nice, have fun. Dinner’s at six.”
Clara blushed further at her mother’s tone and smile. She quickly ducked her head and stepped out through the unzipped annex. She looked over to where Luke was standing. He wore board shorts and a loose tank top with a surfing logo on it. He wasn’t much taller than her, but she was five foot ten. She enjoyed being around taller boys, it made her feel more like a girl, and less like a giant misfit. He smiled as she approached, and she couldn’t help but return his grin for a moment longer than usual before she looked at the ground again, watching their feet scuff along the coastal grass in thongs.
“You come here much?” When he spoke, Clara decided his voice was smooth as melted butter.
“Yeah. Dad pays for the van by the year. Mum and Dad both get school holidays, so we’re here pretty much all summer as well as the weekends we can get away. What about you?”
“First time. Mum and Dad just got divorced. Mum wanted to be near family, so we moved near Jane. She offered to bring me down for the weekend. I think Mum needs some time out to process, and hey, it’s the coast…”
“Not yet, wanna teach me?” Her heart skipped a little faster as she met his teasing eyes and smiled.
“Too cold! Come back in summer, then I’ll teach you.”
“Spring’s warm enough! Why are you in your bathers if you aren’t going in?”
“They’re for sunbaking, not swimming. No swimming until summer, it’s freezing out there.” She motioned at the waves, then brushed at a fly on the shorts she wore over the top of her one piece suit.
“Just a promise of what is to come eh? Like spring is the promise of summer?”
“So in three weeks you’ll come back and teach me to surf?” His eyes sparkled, and rather than looking away, she found herself lost in their depths. They stopped walking.
“Sure, if you’re here.”
“Jane said we can come anytime. You know when you’ll be back?”
“Two weeks I think.”
“Will you call me?” His eyes seemed to draw her in. She wasn’t sure she could keep breathing. Time seemed to stop.
“Sure, if you give me your number.”
“OK.” She sat with her arms around her knees.
“I love the beach. We were too far away before to go often. I think I’m going to like this.” Clara hoped she wasn’t imagining the tone that indicated he would also enjoy her company. “So can you really surf? Or do you surf like a girl?”
“Ha!” She gave his shoulder a gentle shove of indignation, and he pretended it was hard, playfully sprawling out on his back, then rubbing his shoulder and groaning. He rolled onto his side propping his head on his elbow.
“I surf like someone who has lived at the beach for most of her summers, thank you very much!”
“OK, OK, no need to get violent.” He traced in the sand with his other hand, and the silence between them seemed charged.
She stretched her legs, then flopped onto her side and faced him. Their faces only inches apart, his eyes seemed to suck her into their depths.
“Got a boyfriend?” His voice was low and his eyes were dark.
She shook her head, unable to break eye contact. He glanced at her lips, and she closed her eyes accepting his kiss, sweet and filled with promise, just like the spring.
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