Today I went on my first date in nine years with a handsome young chap with a charming smile. It wasn’t a fancy date, and I didn’t mind paying. Nor did I mind the chattering repetitive conversation. I only baulked slightly at the £6 bus fare to travel twenty minutes into town, or the money spent on a lunch uneaten, for the sake of a small plastic toy.
I rode the lift and the escalator as many times as he requested, I walked slowly and watched the pigeons. I left the museum willingly because “the noises were scary”. I gave him my (mostly) undivided attention (I am writing this in McD) and endured the humiliation of trying to figure out the bus timetable as a group of amused pensioners looked on and gave helpful advice (my last paying trip on a bus was more years ago than my last date.)
He has his hand around my heart, this young man of mine. I am proud to be out with him, to give him my time freely. I’m glad I cleaned house yesterday in all my angst, because I bought this day of freedom. I’m trying not to feel guilty that this is our first date or that his sister hasn’t really ever had one. Instead I’m trying to be proud of what we are doing rather than guilty for what hasn’t been done before.
Anyway, I must stop writing and get back to my date. We mustn’t miss our bus home, I’m looking forward to my cuddle on the top deck.
Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:
“Hi, I’m Paul, I’ll be your instructor for today.”
Claire nodded at the tanned man standing in front of her, blushing slightly as he returned her greeting with a grin. She tugged at the neck of her wetsuit and looked around the group, wondering what she was doing there. There were ten of them on the beach, including a young lad with his grandpa and a group of thirty-something women giggling and blushing every time the teacher looked in their direction.
At her feet a brightly patterned surfboard rested on the sand, taunting her. Claire knew there was no way she would be standing on it by the end of the two hours, despite all of Paul’s enthusiastic assurances. She thought about her previous activities and accidents; falling off her bike; spraining her arm learning to snowboard. If she could stand on solid ground by the end of the day that would be enough.
She turned to gaze down the beach. The sand stretched endlessly, glistening under the morning sun. The sea slithered up and down the shore thirty metres behind the teacher, and she could see the sand beneath the waves.
At least it isn’t deep, so I won’t drown when I fall off.
As she followed Paul’s instructions, lying on her board and pretending to paddle, Claire felt glad that there were no witnesses.
Josh would be having a field day if he was here. I expect he surfs like a champion.
She looked at the white crests breaking along the horizon and gave a shudder. Paul had told them with an unnerving grin that the waves were just right for their lesson; maybe on the high side for beginners but better than a dead calm sea. Claire wasn’t sure she agreed. Although they didn’t look huge from the beach, she was certain it would be a different matter when they were pouring over her head.
She stood bemused as she learned she had a goofy foot, not entirely sure she understood what it meant. Ignoring Paul’s guffaws, she kept her focus on the lesson, repeating the pop up technique again and again until he was happy that everyone had grasped it.
“Right, peeps, I think you’re ready. Let’s go catch some waves.”
Fear clenched her stomach as the moment she’d been dreading arrived. Despite the sun overhead, the freezing water expelled the air from Claire’s lungs and she muttered a few choice curses. Seeing the grandpa frolicking in the waves like a five year old forced her to square her shoulders and dive headlong into the water. Once she was wet it wasn’t so bad.
The air filled with the sound of laughter as everyone in the group tried to remember all they’d been taught. Getting up onto one knee wasn’t so bad, and Claire’s body filled with elation as the wave caught her board and dragged her back towards the sand.
Paddling out again, despite the water being shallow enough to wade, Claire tried to stop caring what anyone thought, concentrating instead on getting to her feet. Her confidence was premature and she toppled off the board before she’d even got onto her knees.
She surfaced coughing and spitting out water, waiting for the teasing and laughter. As she looked around, the other students were too busy pulling themselves back on their boards or brushing wet hair from their faces to notice. There was a sense of camaraderie that she hadn’t expected.
Claire pulled herself back on the board and paddled out again. The wait for the right wave was a strange sort of pause. Then she saw the perfect line of froth and positioned herself to catch it. Paddling hard, she managed to get to her knees, ignoring the throb of pain as she landed too hard. The board pulled beneath her like a dog on a lead, and she tried to decide whether to enjoy the ride or attempt getting to her feet. Before her mind was made up, the board ran into the sand and it was time to start again.
It never felt tedious, grabbing the board and propelling it back out to sea. It was a game; choosing the right wave, waiting just the right amount of time, jumping on board at the precise moment so that she swooped back to shore like a bird.
Eventually, after falling off and into the sea more times than a toddler learning to walk, she managed to climb briefly to her feet. With a loud whoop of joy, she dug her toes into the waxed plastic and rode the wave back to the sparkling sand. As it ground into the beach she jumped off and punched the air.
“Well done,” Paul said, coming over to give her a high five. “You’re a natural. Are you coming back tomorrow?”
The smile slipped slightly and Claire shook her head. “Unfortunately not; I have to keep moving.”
“Nay worry. The day’s still young. Go get those waves, girl, they’re waiting.”
With a quick nod Claire picked up her board and ran back into the sea.