He longed for this time of day. When the mattresses on the sun loungers had all been wiped down, stacked and securely fastened together to stop them scattering along the shore. He pretended to clean another bed. As he sprayed, he watched her. The way she bent over, religiously scouring away remnants of sweat, Ambre Solaire, drops of Creme de Cacoa and sea water mingled with tiny black stones from the beach. There were still two beds to clean before she would stop. Then and only then, would she stop and chat to him.
She wasn’t pretty, not like some of the younger women he’d seen strolling along the promenade with flawless skin and glossy hair. Her hair was cropped short and she dressed plainly in black trousers and a striped cotton shirt. But there was an earthy warmth to her that manifested itself through her hands on to every surface she tended as though it was not simply a job but an important ritual. She had laughed at his bad jokes and had waited for him at the end of every shift, only putting on her jacket after he’d slipped on his.
She was almost finished now and, at any moment, would walk back towards him and empty her pail of water into the sand. He perched on the edge of a lounger, dangling his cloth, watching her. Watching still as her jacket fell to the ground and she waded out to sea.
Catriona Yule works in Aberdeenshire as an English tutor. Her short story, The Sand Pit, was published in Northwords Now in October 2019. Her poetry has appeared in Southlight 23 and 26 and the Arachne Press anthology, Noon: Stories and Poems from Solstice Shorts Festival 2018.
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