It is summer. It has always been summer, for as long as we can remember. It will always be summer for we are still in the long hot day which knows no tomorrow.
The sand is cake batter soft between our toes, crumbling into yellow footsteps behind us. The path wends through dunes and strikes out towards the just-glimpsed sea. Gulls are calling the alert above but when we come out at the beach, there is no one there, or at least, no one we can see.
The sun rolls in waves across the sand and the sea is navy with a white pin-stripe. The gulls float motionless above, balancing on the wind, like palace guards. But we are a long way from the city now. Unleashed, we plunge on in.
The wind gets up as we reach the surf, with its rush and sting, snatching our words away. We scream and squawk and smile and pretend we did not see the graveyard on the hill.
Blue and green mountains across the water catch the shade from passing clouds, clouds that pass as minutes and seconds pass, hours and days pass, as frowns flicker across freckled brows, and eyes start to smile, in this place of forgotten unforgettable days.
We are here. Now. Pink and lilac shells litter the sand, tiny against our fingers, huge against the grains of vastness. They look real but we can hardly feel their thin skins. Maybe they dropped from dreams. We put them in our pockets, noticing their colours fade as they dry out in the wind, some of them already crushed. This is where the sand comes from, we say, forcing smiles.
Maybe the people in the graves are sand now too. We do not dig too deep.
The cold is real. It makes our screams loud and our limbs ache as we run to escape the spray. The waves crash and heave and we laugh till it hurts. We will not ever be crumbling in graves, sunk in sand, called for by gulls.
Along the water’s edge, before we leave, we see the skeletons of starfish come to rest. They will be washed by surf here in this place, when we are not. But in our pockets, under fingernails, we carry pink and lilac sand.
PAULA HUNTER grew up in Glasgow and defected to Edinburgh where she’s been a lawyer, butcher, fundraiser and florist but is usually at home with kids or up a mountain. Her fiction has appeared in Structo, TSS, Momaya Press, won the Brighton Prize, placed second in the Exeter Short Story Prize and was twice longlisted for the Caledonia Novel Prize. She blogs at paulahunterblog.wordpress.com and tweets @hillsnspills