Skimming stones

By Penny Jones

It is only as I reach the ocean that I remember. Looking out across its vast, grey, never-ending vista, I think of the first time that I stood here; you were next to me then, your arm strong across my shoulders, sheltering me from the wind and the cold. Now there is no-one. I stand on this isolated stretch of coast alone, not a soul visible in any direction.

Cold, I rub my hands together, trying get some semblance of warmth back into them, they feel cold, lifeless, there is no-one here to warm them now, only me. My hands start to prickle as I rub life back into them, they start to fidget, wanting, reaching, yearning for something. I stoop, my fingertips gently stroking the sand, searching, examining the gritty shore, the pebble smooth and cold under my hand, my fingers gently stroke the surface, feeling every small groove and mark. I remember the last time, how I stood here with my hand in yours, my fingers tracing the lines of your hand, safe in the knowledge that together we could face the world. Now you are gone, now all I have is this stone, hard and unyielding; a poor substitute for the pliant warmth of you hand, just a cold dead thing, lying lifeless in my palm; only a stone, not you my rock.

The sky darkens, it is still early but the clouds are building, rolling turbulently in the tempestuous sky, the wind starts to pick up, whipping my hair around my face, the grey glass surface of the ocean starts to roll. The air squalling, angrily scatters tiny grains of sharp piercing sand against my bare legs, stinging, turning the exposed skin red. Salty water from the growing white caps peppers my face, irritating my eyes making them tear up, determinedly I grit my teeth trying to prevent any more tears from flowing, pressing my lips together I can taste the salty tang which coats my dry, cracked, lips. I raise my one hand and absent-mindedly wipe the water away from my face, uncaring if it is rain, or spray, or tears; as my other hand continues to grip the cold, hard stone, squeezing. All the anger, all the unfairness of it all travels through my body, the pressure building until it’s in my hand, flowing through my fingertips and into the stone. If I can exert enough pressure maybe I can change this lump of stone from a hard, cold, lifeless mass, in to a soft, warm, cascade of sand; falling softly through my fingers, gently caressing my hand. If I am able to bring some semblance of life to this stone, could I bring that to you?

I open my hand and look at the stone. Seemingly without any control I raise it higher, I gaze at it as it passes my eye line, my arm cocks behind my head, the muscles in my body thrumming, I stop.

The wind buffets against me, as if it is trying to stop me. My hair caught in the wind dances, covering my vision, as above my head a single gull screams into the blackening sky. My arm whips forward, the stone flying from my grasp, I push the hair out of my face as I watch the stone fly far out into the now turbulent sea, crashing through the surface it disappears, no sign that it was ever even here as it slowly sinks to the bottom.

I never could skim stones; I always gazed at you in wonder, at how elegantly your stones could skip across the glass surface of the vast ocean. You used to laugh at me, at how my clumsy attempts always sunk to the bottom.

I pick up another stone, slowly turning it over in my hand, I feel the cool smoothness of it as I raise it high, letting it go, I watch as it hits the water’s surface; it bounces and hits the surface again and again and again.

I smile, for a moment happy in my accomplishment. You always told me there was a knack to skimming stones and once I had it, I would have it always. I look back towards my car; a step in that direction and there will be words of comfort, of arms to warm me and platitudes to make the pain go away. I look towards the car and then towards the vast ocean. I take a step. It is only as I reach the ocean that I remember.

About Penny

Find out more about Penny at her author website.