She is scrambling out of her wetsuit in the carpark when she sees him. Trying to get out of a wet wetsuit is one of the least dignified things there is and she inwardly curses him for choosing that moment to turn up and reappear in her life.
It has been six months.
Six long, cold months, and today, the first day of spring, is the first day she has been able to shed her winter layers and plunge again into the sea with her board.
‘I knew I’d find you here,’ he says, without really giving her a chance to say hello. And she doesn’t attempt to.
Instead, she says, ‘am I that obvious?’
‘No,’ he replies.
There is nothing to say to that, and she concentrates instead on finally pulling the stupid thing off. There is no point in standing there, with it stuck round her ankles. If anything, that was far more mortifying. She doesn’t look at him as she stuffs it into the back of her car, wondering all the time what he wants and why he’s there at all. She doesn’t want to break the silence and she doesn’t turn back as she pulls on her t-shirt dress, her wet hair and bikini soaking the back of it. The sunlight is warm on her back, but despite that, she shivers.
She turns back to him, blinking in the sunlight, wishing that he’d disappeared. But he’s still there. She folds her arms and waits.
‘Do you want to go get a drink?’ he asks, indicating the café down by the beach – the scene of so many of their meetings.
‘I don’t have time,’ she says, ‘if there’s something you wanted to say then do it.’ She doesn’t mean to be harsh, but it’s the only way to keep her old feelings at bay and stop herself feeling any kind of emotion or attachment to him.
‘I’ve been thinking about you,’ he says. And his gaze on her is so intense that she flinches and has to resist the temptation to flee. Instead, she spins her car keys around in her hand, counting in her head, reminding herself not to react. After all, she is better now. Better without him in her life. Some people were only there to make things worse and he was one of those people.
From the moment she saw him, sitting at the side of the beach, she knew that he was trouble. And yet, she let herself get pulled into his world.
The sea is her world.
She is regretting the decision to come in from the water. She wishes that she’d stayed out on the waves a little longer, given in to the pleas to stay for that bit longer. But she didn’t. And now she is faced with him and no one to even back her up.
But maybe that was her fault.
These days she moves alone.
She doesn’t want to have to rely on anyone else. The ocean is her only constant, her companion. And she likes it that way. She can’t let herself fall back into old habits so easily.
The day, which seemed so full of promise at sunrise, with the first surf of the season, now is tainted and ugly.
She can replace him. She can replace everything in her life, except this beach, the sea. Leaving this beach would be the biggest wrench, but truthfully she thought that he had gone. Cleared out. And yet, here he is, really standing in front of her.
‘It’s alright, I get the message,’ he says bitterly.
‘We said everything we had to,’ she says. ‘And I really have to go.’ She pulls open the car door and is about to climb in, when something strikes her and she turns to face him again, ‘did you not move away in the end?’ she asks.
He is still standing there, hands buried in his pockets. ‘I wanted to stick around.’
As she drives away, along the coast line, the sun warm on her face, she considers him and his return. It was easy – for the best to dismiss him, but just as the spring had begun for her that day, it seemed right that he should have returned like that. Maybe that gut feeling was right – it was time to leave and not look back. Time to find another stretch of coast, another beach, another life.
Just like the seasons she was perfectly capable of transforming.
And so she drives, a smile on her face, and she doesn’t look back, as she heads away, knowing that that was the last time she would return to that particular beach and stretch of coast. It is time to say goodbye. And it is easier than she ever imagined.
All you have to do, she realises, is turn away and not look back, and just like that it is all gone.