The Gift

Green Sea Anemone.jpg

She was a small girl in a baggy blue bikini. Her little breathing belly hung a bit over the front of her blue and white checky pants.

She was standing on the shore contemplating the sea anemones and she squatted down to get a closer look. She didn’t have her glasses on, so she had to get down really close, and she squinted. The sun was hot and she could feel her shoulders and back tingling with the heat.

“It’s gunna crack the ton today”. This from her big brother whose smooth brown legs with their downy blonde hairs appeared beside her.

“What?” She shifted her focus from the anemones and looked up at him.

Every day this summer she’d woken up feeling squeaky with excitement and before she’d even run down the steps to the landing and into the toilet, she scrambled into her bathers. Sometimes they were still damp and sandy from the day before and they were a bit hard to put on. She’d get the top all tangled up. She’d grab her blue towelling hat and smear zinc cream on her nose.

One day, just as she had successfully wrestled her chest into her bikini top, Sean had charged into her bedroom and said “Come on Jules, we need to go now. Right now”.

It was barely dawn.  “What, without breakfast? Does Mum know?”

“Nah, no breakfast; we’ll get something later. Come On. Where’s ya hat?”

He hurried her out of the house and down the back lane. Church Street was deserted and quiet at this time of the morning, none of the shops were open yet. The street had an eerie, expectant feel as if it was lying in wait for the day to get going, as if it had something planned for the people yet to get up and start their mornings. Something that they wouldn’t get up for if they knew about it beforehand.

Sean and Julie walked hand in hand down the street and turned left when they got to the church, and then made for the beach. She was 5 and he was 8, and she had to run and skip a bit to keep up with him.

“Why are we going so fast?” she asked, panting.

“I wanna show you something, I don’t want you to miss out on seeing it”.

“Oh, what is it? Is it a s’prise?”

“Yeah, I reckon it will be. Come on, walk a bit faster Jules”.

They got to Beach Road, it was still so early, so still. And because of that there was no traffic and they didn’t have to run across to the middle of the road and stand on the traffic island, hopping from foot to foot on the hot bitumen waiting for the cars coming the other way. They crossed the road and walked down the sandy track that led to the back of the bathing boxes and then the sand.

“Are you ready Jules?” Sean let go of his sister’s hand and led the way to the front of the beach house.

“Yes! I’m ready” she whispered. She felt as though she was about to see something very big, too big for her to even imagine. She hesitated until finally Sean had to grab her by the hand again and push her through the narrow gap between the beach huts. She fell into the soft sand, and as she looked up she saw before her, hundreds, thousands, maybe a bazillion she thought, of shining, sparkly creatures waving their tendrils in the early morning sun.

Her brother had given her a gift. The gift of a sunrise so beautiful she’d remember it forever, long after he’d stopped talking to her, long after he moved to America with the Soprano, long after the bathing boxes were bulldozed to create a marina.

“Oh the sea anemones! Look how many there are!”

It was very low tide, the sun was glinting off the water and as far as she could see were the creatures she loved. She was in awe, and she crouched down and stuck a finger into the very centre of an anemone and marvelled at the strength of this magical sea animal.

They heard a strange cry and a wail, and turned to see a woman in an old fashioned dress screaming and sobbing, running towards them.

“Kids, kids! Where’s the nearest phone? My bloody shitbox of a car has conked out up there on Beach Road”.

“There’s a phone box at the lifesaving club – up the beach”.

Sean indicated a squat brown building 200 metres from where we were. She turned and ran off in the direction he’d pointed.

“Who was that?” Jules asked. “She was wearing her nightie”.

“Dunno” he said, and looked out to sea. “Jeez it’s hot. It’s gunna crack the ton today”.

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