By Geoff Steckles
Cinnamon & Almond Hot Chocolate
A strong wind had sprung up off the sea. The tide was still out, but white plumes were blowing off the waves in foamy confusion, lining the water’s edge like meringue. In Jamaica he thought, they’d call it the Doctors Wind, blowing directly from the sea fresh and clean with that faint salty taste. But this was South Devon, so it wasn’t called anything except maybe a nuisance. He thought the Jamaicans had it just about right.
The wind eddied and blew dry sand down from the dunes, which moved across the beach like a fine mist, sand blasting his legs with a sharp bite like a faint electric shock. It kept him company and continued to eddy around his bare feet, playing with his toes as he walked towards Sand Point, still over four miles away. The air felt exhilarating and facing the sea, his eyes streamed and his skin felt like it had been sucked through a vacuum cleaner. He gave quiet thanks that the beach remained deserted.
He rested, the sun helping to evaporate his memories. He dreamed of the wind and ships at sea.
Surprise shook him when a land yacht went flying by, making a mockery of his tranquil day, a huge blood red sail at full stretch.
Unexpectedly, instead of sailing off into the distance, the yacht made a huge gentle turn and started back towards him, the sails and small boom, swinging into the wind as it changed direction. A huge almost perfect circle appeared in the virgin sand as it pulled around and started to lose speed. He half expected the occupant to throw out some kind of anchor but the machine slowed seemingly of its own accord. He saw that cleverly, the sails were being used in the wind to slow the machine and the yacht stopped effortlessly by his side. The red sail flapped noisily, suddenly redundant. A tiny skull and crossbones flag tied to the mast fluttered wildly in the breeze, which seemed to match the scene perfectly.
She sat regally in the single seat, her hair, the colour of straw, blew wildly around her face although she didn’t seem to notice. She was deeply tanned, with wide blue eyes and wonderful teeth and she wore small diamond studs in her ears which caught the sun as her head moved; each ear seemed to wink at him in the strong light that he found distracting somehow. She wore an old fashioned man’s white shirt, one of those with a detachable collar, except there was no collar attached. Her sleeves were rolled up to the elbows and the shirt tail hung loose. Surprisingly the shirt, unbuttoned almost to her waist still covered her breasts but she made no move to button the shirt now that she had an audience.
She looked directly at him, smiling and asked if he flew like a crow, what would be the quickest way to Sand Point. He remembered silently raising his arm in the general direction, suddenly unable to speak and feeling particularly stupid because of it. She asked how far in a voice so soft, he had to strain to catch it in the strong wind. He leaned closer almost without thinking and was surprised that even on this wild day, he could smell her body, like lavender and the sea mixed together and immediately wondered if sunlight could smell, would it be like this?. Finding his voice at last he managed to croak ' About four miles from here'. She smiled again and thanked him and made to move off, then hesitated looking directly at him once more, and asked if he would like a ride. He nodded, silent again and she invited him in.
He knew that as a single seater, space would be limited and felt a gratitude to God, which he hadn’t felt in a while. He managed to squeeze in by her side and had the satisfaction of having to sit almost sideways facing her with no room to sit any other way. A small space forward allowed him to stretch out, and being over six feet tall, he could at least move his legs. But his knees touched her legs as he wriggled into a more comfortable position and he hoped that she understood that this intimacy for the moment at least remained accidental. She released the brake and moved off swiftly, giving no indication that she’d even noticed that he’d squeezed in next to her. Her face set in concentration and her eyes moved to the sail as long slender fingers pulled at the rigging and a strong arm grasped the tiller.
The low tide had left the sand hard and flat and his eyes closed against the glare. There was almost no sense of movement, no jolting as they accelerated. The large red sail filled quickly and he felt power grab the machine like a giant lung inflating. A sensation of flying over the ground at speed like some great bird of prey that had just seen lunch awed him. He thought that life should always be as exciting as this; otherwise it became just a bunch of days and he prayed that it continued for the rest of today at least.
A great roaring filled his ears, which made talking difficult, but he couldn’t resist the inevitable question. ‘How fast are we moving?’ he yelled into her ear. She placed her face next to his and he heard the words ‘about sixty’ faintly in the roar. He suddenly had an almost irresistible urge to rub his nose gently on her cheek. So close yet so far he thought, but instead he just nodded whilst she was busy being captain again. He relaxed resigned to his fate and perhaps another moment.
They tore across the sand like two lovers escaping from a vengeful father, until she spotted a group of Gulls on the beach ahead of them and he felt the yacht gently turn in their direction. They took flight well before the vessel reached them and he could hear their calls and mews above the roar as they scattered effortlessly like rag dolls in a blizzard of wings. Two birds remained stubbornly, gliding above the mast keeping up with the yacht and he wondered if they thought there were fish on board. Looking up at them it seemed like they were standing still, wings outstretched, floating above like two guardian angels.
Both birds disappeared suddenly when without warning, she veered again, this time into the shallows and a huge spray flew into the air and blew across them both. In seconds they were soaked and his breath left his body with the shock of the cold water. She threw back her head and laughed out loud. He suddenly forgot the cold and joined in and soon they were both caught up in the wind and the spray and given a choice this felt right and he suddenly didn’t want to be anywhere else.
He tried to speak again but the wind caught his throat and he nearly choked. Deciding to keep his mouth closed seemed like a good idea so he just relaxed and enjoyed the sensation. His eyes streamed once again and the sail towering above them sang as the gale played with the rigging. She suddenly yelled at him to lean in to her and he didn’t need telling twice as she turned the yacht once again in a full circle. So sharp was the turn however that they were suddenly partially off the ground and in danger of going over and he leaned away from her body trying to prevent them from capsizing, one hand on the hull and the other gripping her arm like a vice. Did he scream, he couldn’t remember but she yelled something and laughed and when he next opened his eyes they were back on course and she seemed serene, as though nothing had happened. Her face calm and relaxed and he noticed freckles across her nose, which he hadn’t seen before.
All too soon Sand Point came into view and he knew they could go no further. He saw his house on the point and the yacht slowed, the sails deflating suddenly. They pulled into the end of the beach nearest the road and stopped. The silence deafening, his face felt as though it had been in a mould and set.
She didn’t look at him but simply sat letting the sun warm her face. Salt had begun to crystallise on her cheek and it made her tan seem the colour of age like old newspaper dipped in time. He felt unsure, afraid somehow and reached across to touch her face, to reassure himself. But before he could, she turned to him and smiled and he immediately knew it all. She had allowed him to see it again from the beginning. He didn’t know why. She was the same and that was all that mattered.
That was the start of it, their life. He remembered everything now, their love, their life together. She was not afraid of gentleness, although passion made her unkind sometimes. He never minded any of it though and thought it a good thing and revelled in her company. He never dominated her, preferring the journey instead. He was never afraid of her, only of losing her. They lived and loved and the land yacht became their centre, their escape. The beach below the house, their playground. Like two wild children their summer never ended. But three years after they met their summer did end and she died as excitingly as she had lived, in the land yacht. Out alone one day the wind had capsized the machine at speed and she had been flung onto the sand, her neck broken. The beautiful red sail covered her body like a shroud.
There had been a shadow deep in his soul that had threatened to destroy him and he knew that her beauty and his loss were one and he could not help himself. He forgot to remember to forget and he walked aimlessly up and down the beach, not knowing why, afraid to ask, aimless and lost.
'Thank you' she said.
'What for' he whispered,
‘For remembering me, for loving me'
’That was easy'
‘It’s been hard for you I know' her voice was in his head.
‘Not any more'
She moved her hand towards his face and he felt a whisper, a sigh that released him suddenly. He slept then.
He woke on the beach in front of the house, not knowing how he’d got there. The sand virgin again, blown clean by the Doctor’s Wind, his shadow, his grief lifted. But at his feet was a child’s sandcastle with a tiny skull and crossbones flag stuck in the top. He smiled and remembered.
I'm an amateur creative writer who just enjoys trying to tell a story.
I live in Somerset and love everything about the sea.