Copyright Rob Lowe 2011
Published by Atlantic Bay Press at Smashwords
Saturdays were the worst. At least in term-time these were her own but as soon as school broke up she found herself standing behind the glass counter in the deli serving people making holidays out of the raw material of her lost summer.
The other girls were older, some were back from university supposedly paying off loans but actually spending them in the pubs or on trains to London. Others were marooned here, scraping together a living out of several different jobs, observing the grades of sunburn on the visitors as the day wore on, pink and white flesh cut by dress-straps, the napes of necks like ham hocks.
Her days were measured by the progress of the shadows that slowly crossed the street, her own sundial. When at last keys were turned and blinds lowered and only the yellow of the chiller cabinet and the electric blue of the fly killer upon the wall remained, she set out into the streets alone, the day’s leftovers in a paper bag, the grease marks already showing.
Too young and too well-known to get served anything worth drinking in the local pubs and hotel bars, she spent her evenings at the beach, occasionally sipping warm cans of lager cadged from boys she barely knew, coughing on cigarettes she didn’t want. Most nights, though, she walked beyond the last of the brightly painted beach huts where the forced festive air gave out to flat sand-dunes, bristling grass and the first of the tar-black fishermen’s huts by the river. Alone, more often than not, she would stand listening to the hiss and scrape of the sea against the shore, staring out at the night, until at last she heeded the relentless, cold white flash cast across the night sky by the lighthouse, and allowed it to reel her homewards. Next year, she thought. Humiliation has a half-life and with her brother finally leaving, she hoped that her reputation would start to recover.