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With my fingers still sticky from the caramel sweets softened by the afternoon sun, I wander home.

Perhaps one cannot really wander if you have a destination in mind, but wonder nevertheless I do.

My skin is tacky and covered with a layer of salt, drawn from the ocean air. I detest this part of summer for this very reason: everything sticks – my clothes to my skin; my hair to my neck; badly written pop songs in my head.

No one eats cake by the ocean. Maybe it’s not supposed to be taken literally.

My nail polish is chipped from wading around in the ocean too long. It’s like it wanted a piece of me. Although flakes of red paint aren’t exactly what I had in mind.

Sand engulfed my toes as soon as I dragged myself from the water. I’ll be picking sand out of all sorts of nooks and crannies until winter.

The smell of melting sunscreen on my skin is also no more. Instead, the slightly bitter odour of my sweat envelops me. The towel stuffed still wet in my tote bag bumps damply against my skin.

The street is empty. I slip my flip flops off my sandy feet, and stuff that too in my damp bag. The tar is pleasantly warm now – not like a few hours before when you had to tiptoe from one foot to the next, doing a sacrificial dance to the heavens, praying the soles of your feet aren’t scorched clean off.

My skin is still warm too and I wonder if I drank enough water today. Probably not. Mother will fuss. She doesn’t want me dehydrated again.

They don’t like me going to the beach on my own. I think they’re afraid I meet up with my boyfriend and have sex on the wet concrete floor of the public bathroom. The only problem with that suspicion is that I don’t have a boyfriend.

I go alone because I want to be alone.

They’re scared of that too I suppose. I risk my mind wandering and actually thinking. That’s dangerous. Especially for a girl like me, they say. I don’t quite know what that means. Maybe I’ll start to wonder why I don’t have friends or where my sister disappeared to last spring. Mags stopped eating, got dreadfully thin and then one morning, her bed was made and she was gone. Her oversized clothing still hung in her closet, untouched, but reeking of mothballs.

Mother simply said Mags was taking a bit of a break. I’m not sure from what. Or whom perhaps.

My feet are feeling sore, so I slip my flip flops back on.

The light in our living room is on. The silhouettes of my mother and father are absolutely still, and it almost seems like they’re dead. I wonder sometimes if they are. Ghosts in roaming bodies.

Then there’s a third shadow. My heart jumps. Maybe Mags has returned from her break.

But then I see the car parked across the road. The rusty, brick red colour makes my stomach churn.

Uncle is here. It’s time to collect again.


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