It was five in the afternoon, said the shadow of the post in the sand. Camellia glanced down at the solitary wooden figure, waiting for the tide to come back in. The news said high tide would be back at ten twenty-three. Waiting for another five hours wouldn’t hurt.
She wandered down the thick stone steps onto the beach. Sandals stripped and left behind she wandered barefoot to the post, savouring the softness between her toes and that sinking feeling.
There weren’t many others on the beach. The season for tourists was fading, the winds whipping too hard for the day-trippers to make the effort from the cities. Kids from the neighbourhood were tormenting the seagulls by the pier and a few venturous families had attempted to make a day by the seaside, but they were packing up now. That suited Camellia. She’d watched them play their games all day, she didn’t want to watch anymore.
With no thought for the sand, she sat down beside the post, spreading her skirts like a lady in a painting. She leant her weight against it, the wood solid against her shoulder. How would it feel, she thought, naked here by this post in the sand? It made her smile, blush, feel the last of the heat from the sun and the chill breeze coming off the water prickling her covered skin.
The post was a friend, without an arm or a comforting word, but rigid. It was always there, no matter weather or tide or time.
She did not draw circles or faces in the sand as she sat on the beach and waited for the tide to come in. She didn’t pick up the little shells that freckled the sand and pop them in her pocket like she did as a child. She watched the water come forward and retreat, come forward and retreat, and the clouds above grow and shrink and shift and fill the sky with old light. She was in a photograph, she thought, being developed as she sat.
Her head against the post in the sand she let tears fall. Old eyes glanced her direction but shuffled on, young eyes paid her no attention at all. If they did they only laughed with nervous energy and ran on.
She cried through a sunset, watching for the stars to stop hiding as the sand grew damp beneath her skirt. The post no longer held her fast, but became the vicious liar that hides behind false smiles. Camellia hit her head against the post in the sand; let the splinters scratch at her face like fingernails and a careless smile she knew.
Ten twenty-three, like the news had said. The beach was silent but for the waves. It was end of season, no tourists.
And wasn’t the wind so much stronger after the sunset?
And didn’t you hear about the girl they found, dead by a post in the sand?