Chesil Beach: An extract

Chesil Beach: An extract

A Story by CharlieO

This is a section of a potential novel, I had a chance to right this as a part of my degree course.



The sound of sighing and the crunch of feet on shingle forced Lily’s attention away from the sea. The sun is warm with the promise of spring, but there is a hint of winter in the wind still, especially close to the shore. The sky is almost cloudless. The beach is still sparsely populated, too far from the main land to have attracted the attentions of the first horde of tourists. The sea itself is clear blue with the occasional patch of turquoise, whilst further out there are larger expanses of purple. Lily saw all this as she forced herself to return her attention to the sea.
Further crunches on the shingle interrupt her thoughts. Each one feels heavy with anticipation. She can feel a hollow feeling in her stomach begin to grow, after a few moments it feels to her that it has become the size of a bowling ball. Sometimes such a feeling can be a sign of satisfaction, when it comes with the expectation of seeing someone or going somewhere new. But then sometimes it can be created by situations like this, when someone else’s expectations are placed upon you. She can feel her mouth start to go dry whilst he stands there. Dry like a desert she thinks or maybe dried out like all the sandstone of the cliffs or the shingle of the beach.
His steps have brought him level with her. They are stood side by side. Not close enough to be touching, but close enough for it to feel like they are. Their shoulders are inches apart, his a little higher than her own. For a minute Lily is temped to reach out and touch him, she can’t, and she wonders how he would respond if she did.
“You can just lose yourself looking out there.” She says turning to him. Frank is slightly taller than her, by maybe five inches, although when you talk to him he appears taller. He stands in his usual posture, legs and back poker straight, feet a little apart, but his shoulders slightly hunched where his hands are in his pockets, his jeans sitting slightly low on his waist. Lily can tell that he is thinking, although he is trying to hide this from her. His eyes, pale blue and clear, pupils tiny, are staring out into the distance but still somehow focused, he twitches and fidgets along with his thoughts. “All of your problems seem so small in comparison.” She has no idea why she is still trying to talk. Now the air around them seems to have gotten heavier. She shoves her hands into her cardigan pockets, she finds a piece of shingle, she was going to try and skim it along the water. As the silence continues she runs her fingers along the edge, smoothed by the sea, until her finger comes across a jagged end. Taking itout of her pocket she traces the white line that runs through the stone.   
“Do you remember we had a picnic on this bit of beach? You barely ate a thing.” He looks at her intently. He always manages to make things sound like they are a matter of fact and that he is doing this for your benefit. She hadn’t asked to be brought here and she certainly hasn’t asked him to bring up the past.
“I was nervous.” She had been, so nervous that each mouthful had made her feel sick into the pit of her stomach. Her arms and hands had felt like dead weights, like that feeling you get when you sit too long on your feet, and they go numb, and then you put weight back on them and they feel heavy.
His hair had been longer, with dark brown waves over his eyes, which he would have to flick away with a move of his head. His arm muscles had been less well defined than they now were. Lily attempted to judge whether he had grown, even just a little, since then, and thought maybe he had. He had more stubble now; it made him look older, especially after he had taken to shaving his hair so short.
“What was there to be nervous about?” He asked her. It felt like an accusation. Turning her attention back to the sea she found it easier to justify her actions that day, it was a bit like now, the weight of expectation had become too much. She knew that these expectations meant she could only disappoint. Lily thought that perhaps this was why she had started the fight with Frank; here on this spot on the beach, it was better to ruin things before they started, than have to live with the disappointment later on. Thinking back upon those memories she could barely remember what she had said, whilst every other detail of the day seemed to her so vivid. She could remember so distinctly the sound his trainers made as he stormeddown the beach away from her, his white t-shirt growing smaller and smaller as he gotfurther down the beach, until he disappeared around a bend on the shore. She must have watched him for a good ten minutes, and spent longer after that waiting for him to come back. When he didn’t she had gathered up all their picnic stuff, blanket and all, and thrown them into a bin on the way back to their hotel.
‘Just everything I suppose.’ She answered. This appeared to silence him.
Just as she had done that day she began to think that she had done all she could for him. There was no way that either of them could benefit from this particular performance. Lily took a step forward and then another. She felt far enough away from him, because really she knew she was, there was no way he could drag her back now.
When Frank got back to the hotel she had gone. He had spent an hour walking along the shore, sometimes pacing back and forward talking to himself, until he noticed other people were looking. He stopped when he came to a small space in the cliff and he sat there, that part of the beach wasn’t used much by the tourists so he was sure that he could be on his own to think.
He must have lost track of time, because it had started to get dark as he headed back and he worried that he wouldn’t be able to find his way. He thought back to the hollow feeling he had had in his stomach when he did get there. How the bed was creased in one corner where her suitcase had been, and how sure he had been that he could smell the vanilla of her perfume. She hadn’t stayed to say goodbye or talk about what had happened. She hadn’t even thought to leave him a note.
Standing on the beach beside Lily, Frank thinks about touching the small of her back. Just resting his hand there to remind her that he is still there. He tries to focus on the sea and make out what she is looking at so intently, but fails. The wind whips up a corner of her cardigan and it brusheshis skin. The cold of the wind has coloured her cheeks slightly, like she is blushing.
The day they came to this beach it had been a hot day in mid July. Walking down the steep hill from the hotel they had bumped into other couples, he remembered in particular an old couple walking close together, carrying an old-fashioned picnic basket, and a faded umbrella. He felt that it put there own offerings to shame, their Co-Op plastic bag and the blanket she had stolen from the hotel lobby from the back of a chair. She had giggled and blushed as she did it.
He lets a sigh escape his mouth and realises that this is not the first time he has done this. She doesn’t seem to have noticed. She is again looking out to sea.
“You can just lose yourself looking out there.” Her words came as a shock. They interrupt his own thoughts, which he had finally allowed to slip into his mind, having avoided them for so long. He had felt them biting away at the sides of his mind. They threatened to win each time he spoke to her and it had become more of a problem with each moment that passed. He had begun to think that meeting again had been a mistake. There was just something about her, the actual real physical her, stood there in her flowered dress, still smelling of vanilla, this is what caused the problem. 
“All of your problems seem so small in comparison.” He wondered what she meant by problems. Was she talking about them? This situation. Frank suddenly realised that he had no idea what was going on in her life, what had happened to her in the past few months. He had spoken to her on the way down to the beach about his plans for the future, to move away from his hometown and work abroad; she had nodded in the appropriate places saying very little.
“Do you remember we had a picnic on this bit of beach? You barely ate a thing.” It feels good to remind her of this. In his mind she ruined that day.
“I was nervous.” He felt himself become weightless for a while whilst the words began to sink in. He couldn’t think why she had said that. He tried not to get annoyed. But he could feel the anger rising from his feet upwards, burning and tingling at his fingertips. He tries to breathe it down, deep into his stomach, to settle down the hollow feeling the anger is creating. He can remember when they were last here, when he last had that feeling towards her.
‘What was there to be nervous about?’ It wasn’t meant to sound like an accusation and yet somehow it did.
‘Just everything I suppose.’ She answered.
He could remember every word of the conversation they had had. And how, with so few words from her, it had escalated into something he could no longer control. None of it had been the way he planned or how it deserved to be. He could never, no matter how hard he tried, find a reason for this. He marvelled, stood there on the beach with her all those months later, at their ability to hurt each other without intending to.
Having watched her break her food up into little pieces he began to feel awkward in the silence. Lily had looked up at him from her sandwich and asked ‘What are you thinking about, like right now?’
He paused a moment. She would regularly do this. Laying in silence she would stare at him, for disconcertingly long periods of time and ask him this question. She probably didn’t want to know the answer; it was never good news for her. He wondered why she continued asking. 
‘I don’t think you want to know.’
‘I do, really I do.’ She had tentatively moved towards him and then retreated. Perhaps he shouldn’t have taken so long to reply to her question.
‘This is odd. It’s not how I expected it would be.’ When he stopped talking he had looked at her. She was looking down at her knees that she had brought up to her chin. She wasn’t going to say anything back. He had felt angry, what had she expected him to say? He had been honest and he felt no need to lie to her.
‘Oh. What is that supposed to mean?’ She hadn’t moved the whole time she said this. There was something quite childlike about her, as he looked at her now he saw that she had lost none of this quality, and that was one of the problems. How could he love someone as childish as that?
‘I just meant it’s not how I imagined.’ Only he really didn’t know what he meant. And now looking back on it he realised what an idiot he had been. It was true that the physical her caused him to have doubts, but how could two people be so linked and it not mean something. ‘I guess it makes me wonder, well, whether it is all worth it.’
After that it was all a blur. He remembered the tears in her eyes and that she had told him he was ‘ridiculous’ and ‘unfeeling’. He could remember the crunch of the shingle as he had walked away and the stinging of his eyes as tears threatened. He felt that they were in danger of reacting that whole scene again, just months later.

© 2009 CharlieO

Author's Note

THe point of this piece was to write from two different perspective

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Added on July 3, 2009



Southampton, United Kingdom

Hello there, I'm have been on this site for a couple of months now.I have just started writing again having gotten bogged down in work for my university course (English Literature at Southampton Uni).. more..

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