Flash Fiction: Not drowning

My flash fiction story in response to Sacha Black’s prompt. Time to get back to an old theme, I think.

Painting ©Ricardo Asensio

Dunas_1(1991)

 

He didn’t know she was watching him. She’d have died if he’d turned and seen how her eyes were running all over his swimmer’s body, lapping at the muscles sliding beneath his white skin like a cat at a saucer of milk. He raised his arms, flexed his knees and plunged, powerful and graceful as a big cat, a cat with no fear of water. The waves broke and closed over his head, his white body sliding beneath the green with scarcely a splash.

She let out her breath slowly; afraid the slight ripple of the air might dispel the magic. She watched the ocean, the oil-smooth surface, for his reappearance. The shouts and laughter of the other bathers on the family beach further along the coast barely reached her consciousness. Rocks. A sliver, a crescent moon of silver sand. Ocean. And him, the boy with a shock of jet black hair and skin white as milk, swimming through the darkness, easy as a seal.

The breeze lifted a lock of her hair and flipped it into her eyes. She shook it back and peered intently at the empty waves. She was holding her breath again, and anxiety nestled in the pit of her stomach. The sun had shifted, she was sure. How long was it? Far too long. He must have had an accident, a malaise. She should get help.

She leapt to her feet, scattering sand; ran to the water’s edge. Foam fizzed about her toes. She raised a hand to shield the sun from her eyes and scanned the water, further and further, impossibly far out towards the shining horizon. Breath came short and sharp, in little staccato bursts. She saw him at last, far, far away, a round black point amid the wave glitter. Her heart leapt and settled back with relief, pounding in her ears. But the bobbing head was joined by another, and another. Not human then. Seals.

She ran along the strand, slipping on half-concealed rocks, splashing through the shallow water, yelling when she was within earshot of the coast guard.

“Up at the cove, you say? A black-headed boy, skin the colour of new milk?” The coastguard shook his head. “He’ll not be back before morning.”

“But—”

“Don’t you worry about him. He’s safe where he is.”

 

In bewilderment, she watched as the seals played, rolling and diving, and the sun sank slow and red. She half-knew what the coast guard meant. Knew what she wanted to understand at least. The breeze blew colder now and whined about the rocks with a different voice. She shivered in her cotton jumper, but she would wait until the morning. Just to see, to know for sure.