The Beach Hut (Part 1 of 2)
They’ll never think of looking for me here, not in March. The place is deserted. A few joggers show up when the tide’s out but they’re miles away on the wet sand and all the other huts are boarded up.
Most days I just sit here in the dunes and write in my tablet and watch the tiny ships that don’t move till you look away. I write about the things that happen to me, so if I get to be famous one day I’ll have all this stuff about me for my Wiki page.
But the evenings suck. It’s a luxury hut with a corner kitchen and a double bunk, but the electric’s off so there’s no hot water and the nights are cold.
Met this boy today. He came up and asked me to watch his clothes while he went swimming. I’m like, Oh my God, he’ll freeze! But he was awesome. He swam out past the point towards the lighthouse. The tide’s supposed to be dangerous there but he cut through it with hardly a ripple.
When he came out he told me his name was Elliot Dawson and he came here to swim some days. I said my name was Claire and I was here on holiday.
After I got back to the hut I checked the Blackberry I took from his zip-up. You can learn a lot about someone from their mobile. There was only one girl’s name in it – Caroline – and I copied the number to my iPhone.
After I showered in the leisure complex, I charged up my hardware and took my stuff to the launderette. I bought a cheese sandwich from the one-stop shop on the seafront and took it back with me to the dunes. Elliot was there drying himself with a towel. I gave him his phone and he thanked me for finding it and looking after it for him. Then he told me all about himself.
He’s seventeen, two years older than me, and he’s had mega grief from the police. He pleaded guilty to a charge of possession with intent to supply, and is up before the magistrates again next week for sentencing. The dealer told him the packets he was delivering contained ecstasy tablets, but the police were tipped off and the ecstasy turned out to be crystal meth. He’s staying in a hostel as a condition of his bail but before that he was living rough. I guessed his parents were well out of the frame, just like mine.
“It’s my first offence,” he said, “but meth’s a Class A and my brief reckons I’m looking at the full six months in a young offenders’ institute.”
He was lying on his side, scooping up sand and letting it run through his fist like a funnel. “Unless she can put something positive in her report about me.”
“Like what?” I said, munching my sandwich.
“She knows I’m a keen swimmer and said I should enrol for a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in life-saving. I’ve got the basics. I just need training in first aid and CPR.”
“So what are you waiting for?”
“Can’t be arsed. Just never been a joiner, I suppose. And I don’t think I’d get on too well with the kind of kids that go in for that sort of thing.” He smiled. “Caroline was really pissed at me and called me a dick. She talks like that when there’s just the two of us. She’s cool.”
I threw the crusts for the seagulls. So Caroline’s not his girlfriend.
We looked in the rock pools today and he showed me some of the weird things that live in them, and I helped him pick up these bits of plastic.
“The fish and birds think it’s food,” he said. “It blocks up their stomachs and they die of starvation. And plastic doesn’t really biodegrade, not for hundreds of years. It just breaks up into tiny bits and gets everywhere. Even in the fish we eat.”
“You know a lot of stuff about the sea,” I said.
“I take an interest.”
I looked out to the lighthouse and asked him how dangerous the tide was there, and he told me all about the rip current beneath the surface that can drag you out to sea unless you’re a really strong swimmer. But the main problem, he said, is panic.
“If you can’t handle it, the thing to do is just let the current take you and wait for rescue. It won’t drag you under. That’s just a myth. But at this time of year you can also get cold-water shock, which can make you lose consciousness pretty quickly.”
I told him how much I loved the sea, even though I’m a crap swimmer, and he offered to teach me to swim properly in the complex. “But that’ll have to wait till I’ve done my time now,” he said.
When we got back to the dunes the sun came out, making these silver streaks on the sea and shining on the coloured fishing boats tied up across the bay. We watched the gulls squabbling over something washed up on the beach for a minute, then he turned to look at me.
“You’re not really here on holiday, are you?”
I took my sweater off and sat forward, hugging my knees to let him see the scars on my arms, but he didn’t stare or say anything.
“I was in foster care,” I said. “They were an okay couple, I suppose, but totally into religion. I don’t just mean like church every Sunday, I mean serious, in-your-face God squad – knocking doors, handing out leaflets and dancing about with their hands in the air.”
“I just couldn’t hack it. She told me she lost her faith once when their baby boy died of some birth defect. She wanted me to say what kind of God is it lets shit like that happen. But what I said was how come she never lost her faith when the same shit happened to other people’s kids. She didn’t like that.
“That’s when I had copy keys made to their beach hut. C’mon,” I said. “I’ll show you.”
End of Part 1 Part two here