The sun set slowly over the beach, the sky afire with violet clouds and orange mists. Sidney took it all in with ease, squinting at the dropping sun with a slight smile on his face. Anthony tucked himself into Sidney’s arms, his face turned into his father’s chest. The boy was tired from the long day of beach combing, and was ready for sleep. Sidney couldn’t blame him, his own tiredness showing itself in the darkened circles under his eyes, and the lines which accompanied them. But here, resting against a dune, here, he was happy. His body was completely relaxed, almost weightless where it lay on the sand. He thought that he might never move again. Anthony shifted a little then lay completely still as well.
Walking past, Frances almost didn’t see the men lying there. She wasn’t looking for them, herself entranced by the brightness of the moment. So tripping over Sidney’s outstretched feet was a bit of a shock. Stumbling, she turned to see Sidney grinning lopsidedly in apology. She watched as the child in his arms groaned a bit and moved, but quickly fall back asleep. She grinned back, shrugged and brushed the sand from below her left knee, on to which she had fallen. When she looked back up, Sidney had closed his eyes, looking as though he too was going to fall asleep. Frances, stood up straight, looked back out at the setting sun and continued her journey.
Down the beach, the rising water lapping at his feet, James watched the connection between the man and woman with amusement. He had also been on the beach all day, the sand in his hair evidence of that fact. He had spent the last hour building a sand barricade near the water line and hoped to keep himself dry in it until high tide. He thought of it as man versus the elements – how long could he keep the walls secured before the water breached his defenses. He stood prepared to defend his little fort to the end. Waiting for the water to attack took time, however, and so he amused himself watching the others on the beach. Frances and Sidney’s moment was one he had seen coming, and he was pleased to see that it came out as expected. But now the water was beginning to fight, and he returned to the task at hand.
James’ little sister, Karen, sat a ways away, next to her mother, and was watching her brother with absolute intensity. She thought of imitating his endeavor because it looked so exciting, but she didn’t want him to know how much she wanted to join him. After all, they were mortal enemies. He was ten and she was eight, and she wasn’t about to let him know that she was aware that he was older. So she propped her slightly too big sunglasses higher up on her nose and proceeded to pretend that she wasn’t watching him.
Karen’s mother lay back on the sand, letting the warm rays drift over her. Her husband, Murray, was climbing the rocks on the jetty with Colin, her other son, their laughter reaching her even here on the sand. She smiled as she opened her eyes to see her daughter staring over at James in his fort. Karen was trying so hard to be nonchalant, without really succeeding. To Daphne, it was a typical moment.
Hillary watched the boy and his father silhouetted on the jetty with trepidation. She watched too much TV, and immediately felt that one or both of them was about to fall in. Then there was the dog. The mutt was jumping from rock to rock without a care in the world, dancing around its loved ones and trying to join in their fun. Murray and Colin encouraged the dog to play, and that only made Hillary more nervous. After all, what if it decided to bite one of them, or go crazy and bite someone else on the beach, like her? She wouldn’t let that slide, oh no. She knew her rights. TV had taught her that as well. Just you wait, doggy, she thought, pulling her towel tighter around her shoulders. Don’t even think of coming near me.
Next to Hillary, her roommate shifted position and rummaged in her bag for the camera. To her, the view was perfect for a picture on the wall. The setting sun, now even redder and fuller than before seemed to become more spectacular by the moment, and the silhouettes on the jetty made a beautiful contrast. After a moment, she pulled out the Nikon and motioned Hillary to lie back down out of the way. Huffing, Hillary complied, and watched Sonia at work. Her roommate’s fingers deftly held the lens, twisting it expertly and without compunction. She knew what she wanted. Sonia saw only the picture, grabbing it and making it hers. It would last forever now, she thought, and it will be all mine. She glanced at Hillary lying on her back, lips pursed in annoyance, and decided to snap her as well. Hillary made a funny face, and both girls ended up in giggles.
Flynn watched the two pretty girls giggling in the sand from high up the top of the dune. He was standing there, surveying his domain and nodding quietly to himself. Behind him, the car park seemed to radiate a heat to challenge that of the setting sun, rippling the deepening gloom of the air. Only a few cars left now, he thought to himself, and the day would be over. He pulled on his polo shirt over his ruddy body and stuck his aviator sunglasses back on their perch. He stood like an army general watching his troops, and looked out over the sea as if he expected to see a fleet of boats approaching the shore. The cry of seagulls melted into his ears and melded with the sunlight in his eyes. Perfection, he thought, standing a little straighter so the gold could wash more of his frame, it is possible.
Below him, Anthony snuggled more deeply into his father’s arms.