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She was wonderfully oddly shaped - Alison that is. Sun-blonde waves framed a face in which you could see where every bone lay. There were places in her cheeks where the lack of superfluous flesh caused a soft dip. And this angular face, dotted with freckles on the upper cheekbones, framed a pair of eyes.
The relief I felt was enormous, from the dark abyss to the paddling pool. The pale blues with the subtle hint of green were so easy to look at, like sunrise from underwater. I apologised for running in to her, giving her an embarrassed smile and a hand out of the shallow water.
"Really sorry about that," I repeated, as I saw Vanessa finally arriving, a question on her face. Alison laughed it off, glancing at Vanessa, a question on her face.
"It's nothing, don't worry about it - I wasn't looking..." She turned and gave Vanessa a stranger's smile.
"I'm sorry about him! That was kind of my fault," Vanessa explained in her cheerful tones and the default smile smiled. Alison laughed again, perhaps just to be polite, and made a gesture down the beach.
"Alright, I better be going," said Alison, those paddling pools resting momentarily too long on mine as if there was more to say, or that she wanted there to be more to say. Vanessa smiled and I forgot to, for once. The sun-blonde locks drifted away from me and my mind stuttered into life. I ran to catch her up, her body rotating slightly as she heard my feet splashing.
"Hey, I feel really bad - Can I at least buy you an ice cream?"
"Yes," said the two little blue-green seas.
I waved 'see ya later' to Vanessa and, I confess, it gave me satisfaction to see that little, round face confused - or annoyed. I don't know which, but I smiled inside with the childish satisfaction, even of this smallest revenge. I remember clearly, perhaps because of this feeling that accompanied it, Vanessa standing in the shallow water, eyes full of dark brown, stock still as the waves hit her. I don't know what she was thinking, I don't think I ever shall yet I do not want to either. It is the curse of the modern world - the disappearance of mystery. There is no place left unsearched, no beach undiscovered, no sea un-swum. It is tragic that if we do not know something, we can type it into a machine and it will tell us the answer. It is tragic that people wear their emotions on the surface and expect you to too. Where is the mystery, if you tell someone what you are feeling? Is not all the fun, and the tears, in the guessing and assuming? Perhaps I'm making excuses.
"Your girlfriend's very pretty," commented Alison, and I looked at her and screwed up my face.
"I agree, but she's not my girlfriend," I replied, handing her her ice cream, already dripping slightly in the warm sun. I could see her eyes asking a question before her mouth did.
"But you want her to be?"
"-ed. Wanted, I've just about forgotten her..." I gave a pained smile, she looked uncertain of what to do so I continued,"...She's fallen off the stage and floated down the river."
"Interesting analogy," Alison replied, avoiding a comment on the subject.
After a forgotten I invited her to our house, which a friend's parents owned, that evening and she handed me a smile with her little teeth, then a hug for goodbye. There was not a trace of perfume on her and she was very warm in the cold afternoon that it had become. I walked back up the beach whistling to myself, and singing a song to which I made up the words. All I could smell was the salty sea-breeze and all I could see was waves and cliffs and waves. The white froth frolicked on the tips of the water-hills which rose and fell eternally. I felt at as much peace the natural world can give to a boy. Yet the return to my world was inevitable and the sun was beginning to set as I came to the house. Long shadows cast it a sinister look after the bluey-green undulations and I paused before entering.
"Nice date?" teased a voice from the sofa.
"Yeah actually, I invited her to that thing this evening," I replied and Vanessa appeared round the corner, those damned eyes suddenly upon me. She gave me her easy smile and a prolonged look then went into the kitchen to get a drink. I had an uncomfortable feeling in my chest and I became acutely aware that she was playing again, in the harshest way - like a cat with a mouse. I did not like being a mouse.
Time ticked by with other friends and by the time people started to arrive I was relaxed once more. It was in a blur of blonde hair that Alison entered the house, those eyes searching for a pair they knew. I greeted her and got her a beer from the fridge.
"This is Vanessa - or Ness," I gestured with a drink in one hand.
"Hello! Yeah, from the beach," Said her lipstick-ed lips, and with that I realised her freckles had vanished beneath a thin veil of make-up, far subtler I noted, with pleasure, than Ness's.
"Hey there," replied Vanessa softly, then she rested her hand on my shoulder - a moment too long for comfort - and said, "I'll leave you two to it..." And she smiled, she always smiled. I looked across to Alison and saw the shadow of doubt on her face before it could be dispelled.
Meaningless chatter, alcohol and the lowering of inhibitions. Time passed without being remembered - and what is time unless remembered? It is naught, It is in non-existence and I pity it.
"I liked your freckles, why did you cover them up?" Alison laughed at the masked compliment and those sea-blue eyes pulsated with the energy of being alive, with having all the possibilities ahead and no regrets behind. I envied her slightly, then she grabbed my hand then my mind with the one word, 'Come.' She led me outside onto the veranda. It was chilly without the sun and I lent her my jumper. I leant against the balustrade and stared into the night. I listened to the sea, then felt two hands on my shoulders. I turned round and was plunged into warmth. Not wet and cold, not even that drunken. But warm, dry with a hint of the salty sea. We parted and she looked at me and I played. I played like a little kid in his first paddling pool. I was not engulfed. I did not fall - I did not fly. I stood, with my back to that sea, and explored warmer waters.
The thing that slept in my chest was awakened, and it danced a little dance. It did not wrench itself so self-righteously from its home as the pair of eyes that I saw walking about on the other side of the glass door had done.
"You're wonderful," I said truthfully, her blue-greens smiled.
"Will you kiss me in the morning?" she asked, relieving some past hurt. In that small segment of vulnerability I saw some of myself. I laughed.
Through the glass doors the dark brown orbs found their target. I winked. Vanessa hiccupped.