By Beverley, 73. Melbourne, VIC
From under lowered lashes I watched for him. I sat with a clear view of the entrance to his family’s tent — nothing could escape me.
We’d only been at the beach for a short time when I noticed him outside the tent, which was near our caravan. We were sorting ourselves out, all agog with the excitement of it. This was my family’s first beach holiday and I didn’t know what to expect.
I was fourteen and mature for my age, so my favourite auntie said. She’d put the emphasis on mature and I took that to mean I was ready for adventure. And here I was, at an adventure playground.
I soon fell into a daily pattern. After breakfast I’d pull on my yellow bathers with the white trim and dawdle over to the water, hoping that the boy next door would see me. I’d paddle for a bit and then chat with a girl I’d become friendly with if she was around. Afterwards, I’d lay out my yellow beach towel with the white umbrella pocket and sun-bake. When I was nearly boiled from the heat, I’d move to the shade between our van and his tent and pretend to read. I’d seen him quite a few times by then but I didn’t know if he’d noticed me. I was in an agony of anxiety but disguised this with what I thought was a nonchalant attitude in case anyone was looking.
On about the third day I’d agreed to play cards with my younger sisters and we sat in the spot where I normally took my furtive watch. They’d struck up a friendship with a younger boy from the same tent.
He emerged from the doorway and Carol called out, “Hey, Tim, come and play cards with us, we need more people.”
“Okay. Do you want my brother to come too?”
“Yeah, he can sit next to Bev — she likes him.”
I felt the blood rush to my face and stiffened.
“Why don’t you shut up, Carol, you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
She smirked. I wanted to run away. Instead, I sat there, helpless, humiliated, feeling sure he would have heard her.
“Hi,” a gentle voice came from very close by. “Can I sit here? I’m Malcolm.”
I hadn’t seen him come out of the tent, I was too busy studying the ground. I felt him fold down beside me before I dared to look.
“Yes, of course,” I stammered. “I’m Bev.”
“Yeah, I know … ”
I felt again the blush rising, threatening to engulf me.
” … I heard your sisters talking to you earlier.”
So he might not have heard Carol. The relief was immediate. I felt the tension float away. I lifted my head and saw that he was smiling at me. His teeth were so white. He sat cross-legged and I could feel his warmth. His arm was almost touching mine and I could see short golden hairs on his smooth, tanned skin. I had an urge to brush my hand along them, to feel their softness. He was in his blue bathers. Close up he looked so lithe and tanned and beautiful.
Over the next few days we sat together often and talked. He and his family had been spending their holidays at Indented Heads for several years. He came from Glen Waverley. It might as well have been the other side of the world for all I knew. I’d only been to Melbourne twice and those visits were for school sports. He was sixteen, he said, and he seemed so sophisticated. He was going into his final year at high school and hoped after that to study engineering at university. I was suddenly afraid he would lose interest in me if I told him I didn’t know anyone who went to university. I decided not to ask him any more questions about it.
The next morning he sought me out earlier than usual. We were leaving later that day and I wondered if he would look for another girl after I was gone.
“Let’s go for a walk,” he said as he took my hand and drew me towards the shallows and the harder sand.
“Are you sad to be going home?” he asked.
“Yes, I wish we could stay longer.”
I wished I could stay forever but I didn’t say that.
“I wish you were staying for another three weeks, like us. I’ve liked you being here. Sometimes when we come I get lonely if there’s no one else around that I could get to know.”
I felt like dancing. He really liked me. He kept hold of my hand and I was conscious of its warmth and of how mine fitted snugly into his. We walked on silently with the sea swirling around our bare feet leaving our footprints side by side in the wet sand. There seemed to be a message there.
We came to the base of a headland and climbed over the rocks til we rounded it. There were no people on the other side, only us. We stopped then, in the shadow of the cliff with the water gently teasing our feet.
“Can I kiss you?” Malcolm asked.
I nodded a yes, I’d been half expecting it but now I felt almost dizzy and was afraid to move; I didn’t want to break the spell. He put his arms around me and pulled me closer. I shut my eyes and waited. I’d seen many passionate kisses on screen between Grace Kelly and James Stewart and Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton so I knew what to expect.
He bent his head towards me and put his lips gently on mine. At first I could barely feel them then he pressed harder, and all I could feel was dryness, flakiness, hesitancy.
Afterwards we walked slowly back, still talking, but the magic was gone … our footprints no longer leaving a message in the sand.