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Breathless

New boy’s eyes are hot—staring at me.

On the beach, inky night, I’m breathless.

A stranger until two hours before: he’s bold, though.

“Skinny-dipping?” A voice so soft I barely hear.

My knuckles dusting shingle, the vision flushes me scarlet.

“No way!” I stare at my phone, his contours lit by my screen.

“Dare you!” His northern voice brown sugar sweet, a laugh submerged.

He sits close and I smell his sweat, sharp like pine needles.

“Too cold,” I say. To illustrate, I pull on my sweater, though it is early autumn, Indian summer clammy. Now I sweat alongside him.

“Too bad.” He’s silent, and I feel bad as well.

“But go ahead.” I motion to the sea, tar-black and moonshine slivers. In truth, I’m disappointed. Our gang had walked to the shore; he was someone’s friend, staying over. Fit, tall. I’d wanted fun, a campfire and pumping music. Good company. He and I got separated, higher up the dunes.

Skinny-dipping—me naked, him naked, all of us naked? No way.

“Yay, let’s swim—chuck your clothes!”

Someone shouts and they scramble, whipping off shorts and tight vests, screeching like seagull babies. I don’t move, and nor does he. Instead, he smokes a roll-up, chucks it, a tiny bonfire between pebbles.

“Sure?”

I hear the thump of his jeans, a yanked T-shirt tumbling, his boxers sliding. He stands, hands on my shoulders, delicious pressure.

I was Schools County Champion, white-stripe-swimsuit, butterfly my preferred stroke, swimming I called professional. Should I say? Show off? Too tempting. He’d play-fight me under those choppy rollers, flirting and coaxing. And yet—

“Dare you!”

He scarpers taut and strong into the navy foam, and I do not stop to think. Wind in my hair, beer in my stomach, I drag off everything, plunge in.

Look at me! I’m butterfly girl, pumping adrenalin.

All vanity regretted as the icy waves engulf and currents rip my soles.

He’s on the shore.

New boy’s eyes are hot—staring at me.

In the sea, inky night, I’m breathless.

Breathless.


Flash Fiction by Judith Wilson

Published in Summer 2017

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