A Pebbly Beach at 3 a.m.

There’s no moon. Black waves heave and collapse, frothy foam sighing over a myriad of pebbles, like some gigantic water feature. Peeling our clothes off, it feels like we’re doing something illegal. Shauna is a luminescent blob. “Should we go in?” she asks, her timbre saying ‘Paul, let’s go home.’
That was the idea. The water hisses against my ankles like cold eels. Beneath my feet, draining, clicking stones. Above it all, a net of silence, glimmering frigid stars in the dark of a friendless night. “Come on,” I yell.
The water feels like a torture, an enveloping nightmare that sucks my breath out. A mouthful of freezing sea that tastes like anchovies makes me want to vomit.
“Pissing hell, this is COLD!” shouts Shauna.
Tell me about it. After a few strokes I swim back to the beach, my groin an aching, frozen hollow. I can make out my towel on the pebbles, like a blurry postage stamp. Gratefully, I snatch it up. Goosebumps on my ghost-like skin. The smell of wet seaweed, ozone, fish on a market slab.
I look to the dark water, no sign of Shauna. Shivering, I rub my flesh with the towel, sandpaper on raw meat. “Shauna, where are you?” I shout, wondering if I care. I shout again, “Shauna!” but my voice is absorbed by the infinite space.
The waves suck on the beach, the pebbles and sand pulled back for the hundred millionth time. Out there in the blackness, glittering cold stars, and somewhere, drawn out by the tide, the amorphous white shape that was Shauna.



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