The Beach Hut (Part 2 of 2)
“Let there be light!” He flicked the switch, and – Bingo!
I gave him a hug. “Elliot, you’re a genius.”
“Yup. I’ve by-passed the meter, so it’s free. But don’t mess with it or touch the cable, okay?”
We went for a stroll on the seafront in the afternoon and I took a selfie of us in front of the war memorial. I was hungry and there was this gorgeous smell of fish-and-chips, but my money’s running out fast. We came to the one-stop and I went to go in to get some crisps but Elliot grabbed my arm and pulled me back.
“What’s the matter?”
“Long story,” he said, and hurried us away.
It was getting dark when we got back to the hut and Elliot found the bottles of wine my fosters had left here. I wasn’t even tempted. Alcohol just makes me miserable and, besides, I was famished.
He must have read my mind. “We really need a meal to go with this wine.”
“There’s nothing in the fridge yet,” I said.
“Leave it to me. I’ll be back in a jiff.”
He’s been gone about twenty minutes now, so I’ll stop writing before he comes back. I’ve been so happy here these last few days. No fosters, no social workers, no police or psychiatrists. Just Elliot and me and the sea.
It’s late and the ward lights are dimmed, but I’ve charged up my tablet and the backlight is strong enough to work by. There’s so much to write about, but I’m not in a hurry. Anyway, there’s no way I’ll be able to sleep tonight with all these snoring women.
Elliot came tearing back into the hut yesterday with a ginormous pizza and a jar of coffee. He flung them under the bunk and switched off the light.
“Quick! Give me the key.”
“Why? What’s wrong?”
“Just do it.”
He locked up, dragged the mattress off the bottom bunk and pushed it up against the door.
“Shit!” he said. “The shutters. This is the only hut that’s not closed up. Too late now. Lie on the mattress with me and don’t make a sound.”
“Elliot, you’re scaring me.”
He held me tight and I could feel my heart thumping. Nothing happened for a minute, then I heard them. Voices, men’s voices. Two of them, I think. They were coming closer and one of them had gone really ape.
“Where are you, you thieving bastard? I know you’re around here somewhere.”
There were footsteps on the wooden walkway in front of the huts now. The men were coming towards us and banging on the shutters with sticks or something.
“Let’s just call the police, Jack, and leave it to them.”
“Fuck the police. That’s the third time that little shit has hit my shop. When I find him I’m gonna break his legs... Hey up, this one’s got the shutters up.”
“What, this time of year?”
He was standing right outside the door now, his feet just centimetres away from us. Suddenly a beam of light came through the window and shone on the opposite wall. The door rattled and I was about to scream when Elliot put his hand over my mouth.
“It’s all right,” he whispered. “They can’t see shit through the nets. And I won’t let them hurt you, Claire. I’ll kill them first.”
The angry one swore again, kicked the door and they moved off.
I couldn’t stop shaking for ten minutes, but when we were sure they weren’t coming back, I baked the pizza and Elliot poured out two glasses of wine.
“I’d better not,” I said. “Alcohol doesn’t agree with me.”
“But we both need a drink after that little stunt. Anyway, you’ve got to join me in a toast.”
We lifted our glasses and he cleared his throat. “To all those who have made this lovely evening possible,” he said. “Ladies and gentlemen, let’s drink to the Christian charity of Claire’s foster parents and the generosity of One-Stop Jack.”
I giggled like a child. “You slay me, Elliot, you really do.”
I should have stopped then but I was so happy and chilled I had two more glasses with the pizza, which for me is like way OTT. And then it happened. I started crying. It was my own stupid fault but I couldn’t stop now.
“Hey! What’s the matter?”
“You,” I said. “You’re doing all this stuff for me but you won’t lift a finger to help yourself.” I didn’t want him to think I was getting clingy or anything, but the wine just kept me talking. “I’ve only just met you and we’re having so much fun, but now… now you’re going to jail...”
He put his arm around me. “It’s not jail, Claire.”
“Whatever. I’m not going to see you again. If I visit you they’ll find out there’s a child protection order on me and dump me in another foster home. It’s always the same. All my dreams get fucked up. It’s like nothing good ever happens to me without something bad in it.”
I tried to stand but almost toppled and Elliot caught me.
“Come on,” he said. “Let’s get you to bed. I’ll stay here with you tonight.”
“You can’t. You’ve got to get back to the hostel.”
“I shouldn’t have forced the wine on you,” he said. “If you’re sick in your sleep, you could choke. I’ll stay and make sure you sleep on your side. I won’t try anything, I promise.”
“There you go again, putting yourself in more trouble because of me. Your solicitor’s right,” I said. “You’re a dick.”
He made me a black coffee and I felt a lot better. I took my jeans off but left my top and panties on and he put the mattress back on the bunk. As we snuggled up together I felt so safe and warm and thought how lucky I’d been to meet him. You can always tell when someone really cares about you. Not because they tell you they care or because it’s their job to care, but because they can’t help caring. I put my cheek on his shoulder and did it with my hand for him, then we fell asleep to the sound of the breakers and the bells of the fishing boats bobbing on the tide.
It’s nearly midnight now and I’m tired. They gave me a sedative earlier and maybe it’s only just started to kick in. But I’ll go on for a bit longer.
I left him sleeping on the bunk this morning. It was very early and I was still in my top and panties. There was just this one man on the beach, throwing a stick into the sea for his dog to fetch.
I shivered as I stepped into the water. I expected it to be cold, but not this cold. It wasn’t too bad till it reached my waist, then it took my breath away. But I didn’t stop. I waded out towards the point. When it reached my chin I started to dog-paddle. The water was green and foamy and everything was peaceful and quiet.
I got just past the point when I felt it. It swept me out like a cork on the surface. I remembered what Elliot said about not panicking, and after a bit I felt OK. Everything was so calm and peaceful and I didn’t feel cold any more. I just wanted to go to sleep and dream nice things.
Then it felt like I was being stretched in opposite directions like an elastic band, the current sucking my feet and my head being tugged the other way.
“Don’t struggle. Just go limp.”
Things were pretty much a blur after that till I woke up and saw this nurse standing by my bed.
“There’s a young man here to see you with two police officers,” she said. “Do you feel up to it?”
Someone had brought my stuff from the hut and I checked my face in my mirror. “Oh God, I’m a mess!”
She smiled. “I’ll tell them to give you five minutes.”
When she’d gone, I took my phone out and made the call.
“Jonathan Bowles and Partners, Caroline West speaking. How may I help?”
“You’re Elliot Dawson’s solicitor, right?”
“I need to know who’s calling, please.”
“My name’s Claire,” I said. “He saved my life today.”
My eyes are starting to close, so I’ll stop now. I don’t think the snoring’s going to bother me much after all.