By lisa h
Don had lost the last of the running pack. He limped along the Meols Promenade, gasping in giant breaths. Each one hurt, from the moment the shock of cold air entered his mouth, right into his chest which was still aching from the exertion, and down through his legs. He bent over, hands on knees and watched each cloudy breath get whipped away by the wind.
He checked on the rest of the pack, they really were gone. They’d be halfway back to the school right now, not even realising one of their number had been left behind. Don smirked. That was fine by him. The ice cream van was parked across the road. Always was, never mind the weather. He’d buy a double soft serve with a flake and chocolate sauce and make his way back slowly. Near the school he'd fake a limp and pretend to be upset that no one saw him fall.
But first he had to stop wheezing. Stupidly he’d left his inhaler in his locker. He could do with a blast right now. He hitched his sweatpants up – they’d rolled down below his belly – and took a look out at the beach. He’d seen a movement. Probably just a bird out on the flats. But no… he leaned on the wall and squinted. Someone was out there, making their way between the boats that lay on their sides, abandoned by the low tide.
Curious he waited for the person to get close enough for him to focus on them properly. They didn’t walk like a fisherman. In fact, from the shape he could make out, that was a woman down on the beach. As she got closer, Don made his way to the slipway, matching her step for step. She wore a little black dress, her figure oozed into the confines of the garment, her boobs barely contained. As a hot bloodied, if inexperienced, sixteen year old, Don hardly allowed his eyes to blink. She glanced up at him and smiled, and a fire ignited in his belly.
“Excuse me?” she called up.
Don, unable to help himself took a quick look behind him. No one else was about, only him. “Y-yes?” His words faltered. She was gorgeous, simply drop-dead gorgeous, with her blonde hair swept up in some complicated style, all waves and glossy curls. His fingers ached to touch it, so he stuffed his hands in his pockets.
“Can you help me?”
Don noticed she wore stilettos on her feet, yet somehow she stayed above the sinking nature of the sand. She should be stuck halfway up to her knees. Maybe she’d found a safe route.
“Sure, I guess. What’s wrong?” He jogged down the remaining part of the slipway, no longer winded.
“It’s my friend. We somehow ended up on the flats and she’s stuck in the sand right out by the water’s edge.”
Don peered into the distance. The tide went out almost two miles here, and he certainly couldn’t see a thing.
“You want me to call the coast guard? I haven’t my phone on me, but I’ll bet the person in the ice cream van has one.”
“There’s no time for that.” Tears welled in her eyes. “You’ve got to come now, or she’ll die!” The woman turned her face towards the wind. “She must be terrified. I left her up to her waist in the sand and all on her own. Can you imagine what it feels like to be trapped and then abandoned?”
Don glanced behind him, hesitating.
“Please, we’ll both be ever so grateful.” The tears were gone now, replaced with a sultry expression. “
Images flashed through Don’s mind, inventing ways for not one, but maybe two gorgeous ladies to thank him.
“Okay, I guess so. What if we get stuck halfway to your friend?”
“Don’t worry, I found a safe way across the beach. Look…” she pointed at her shoes, “if I managed to walk there and back with these on, surely you can cope with your trainers?”
Don took a step off the slipway. His mother had lectured him so many times in relation to walking on the beach. About the dangers, and not just her, a sign to his left warned about the sinking sand as well.
“Please, the tide’s going to turn soon.”
She stepped up to him and ran her fingers down the sleeve of his sweatshirt. Her touch was so light he barely felt it, but that didn’t stop the shiver running through him.
The woman moved even closer and whispered in his ear, “I’ll be incredibly grateful.”
“Okay, okay, I’ll come.” He adjusted his sweatpants in an attempt to hide an instant erection.
She smiled, her eyes steady on his. “Thank you.” Her expression faltered as Don took a hesitant step backwards. “Come. Now.”
The woman walked off towards the boats, and Don, still remembering the sensation of her whispered promises, followed.
The muddy sand gave way beneath his feet, despite following exactly in the woman’s tracks. It occurred to him that he didn’t even know her name, and briefly thought about asking her, but he was out of breath again and he needed every spare ounce of his concentration as he worked out how to avoid the soggy spots. He placed his foot down, felt for stability, and cautiously transferred his weight. Every time, every step the same process. And all the while the woman half-floated her way towards the water line without any difficulty.
They passed by the boats, as they lay empty, waiting for the tide to come in a re-float them. He was sweating and panting and worst of all, struggling to keep up. Negotiating the sand was far harder work than the easy jog he was doing with the rest of his PE class.
The woman turned and beckoned him with a finger. Red nail polish caught his eye, the nail the shape of a talon. She smiled but the expression didn’t seem to reach her eyes. They remained dark, unreadable. “Come on, don’t get left behind.”
She waited a moment for him to catch up. Then she walked off again, her hips swaying sexily under the black fabric. Don gaped at her backside for a few seconds. The delicious curves he might get a chance to touch. He ran his tongue over his lips and forced his eyes away from her. To avoid distraction, he put his head down and worked on moving faster, but every time his foot sank a little, his heart skipped a beat and he had to find a safer place to tread. They’d passed the halfway point now, and for a while she’d stayed nearby. He even caught whiffs of her perfume. She wore a heady scent, tantalising, and he fantasised about sampling it up close.
The sinking sand got steadily worse. Don glanced up to discover the woman had increased the distance between them again. Unable to keep up the pace, Don stopped to rest a moment, not sure how long he’d been out here now, but the boats had gone hazy across the expanse of the beach.
“Hey, you!” Don shouted out. The woman was getting away from him, and a small worm of fear suddenly appeared in his guts. “I can’t go so fast, you need to slow down.”
Her voice caught on the wind blowing in from the Irish Sea and whipped past him. He heard: “…run towards me…it’s easier…”
“Fine, fine,” he mumbled and tried to speed up but on the third stride his foot wedged in a soft spot, and in an instant he sank knee deep in muddy sand. He shrieked and scanned the horizon for the woman. “Help me, I’m trapped!” He thought he could make out her shape near the waterline which was close now. She should be able to hear him. Why didn’t she turn around? Why wasn’t she helping? The worm of fear grew and filled his belly.
“You’ve got to help me!” Don turned awkwardly and searched the beach behind him. The promenade was far away, the boats like scattered toys. No one knew he’d come out here, no one would even guess he’d do something so stupid. They wouldn’t realise he was missing at school, not yet anyway. The sand was cold, freezing. Already he’d lost any sensation of his foot. The flesh had gone numb, like a lump of meat on the end of his leg. A chill came over him and his teeth started chattering.
He had to try something, he couldn’t just give in. Wobbling, his stuck leg in at an awkward angle, Don tried to stabilise, but his other foot went down, sucked up in a moment of misjudgement.
“Shit… help, help me!” he shrieked the last words. She was gone, the woman was gone! He watched in horror as the tide turned. Water flooded over the beach and flowed towards him, each cresting wave bringing water closer.
Don flopped down on his front and dug his hands into the sand. He’d drag his way out. Yes, he could do this! His heart banged loud in his ears as his fingers raked at the wet sand. But there was nothing to grab onto, no purchase. He scrabbled about madly, then pounded his fists on the sand.
“No!” he yelled and tried to heave his legs out. The sucking sensation increased and he slipped deeper, almost to the top of his thighs. “Don’t leave me here!” he cried out, but to no one. She was gone. Had she ever been there at all?
Tears ran down his face as Don struggled again. The sand took the opportunity and he sunk deeper. Didn’t matter anymore now. The tide rushed towards him and the first waves greeted him with their icy touch.