There was a girl on the shore. Amy didn’t notice her at first and didn’t expect seeing anybody else anyway. That part of the beach was completely isolated, more than one hour by foot from the resort. That was the main reason she went there, almost every day: peace and quiet, the perfect place for a bit of tanning, bikini off, sunglasses on, a thin joint waiting in the bag.
Then she saw the girl, strolling along the shore, stopping every couple of yards and squatting, her fingers digging through the wet sand as if she’d lost something.
She noticed Amy and for a second didn’t know how to react.
‘Uh…hi, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to bother you’
She spoke English with a barely perceptible French accent. Her voice was soft, almost childish. Now that she’d got closer, Amy thought her no older than fourteen, though quite tall for her age. Shoulder-length, thick, black hair framed her heart-shaped face. Behind thin-rimmed glasses, the eyes were deep blue. The classic, one-piece yellow swimsuit underlined her boyish curves.
‘I didn’t expect anyone here’ she said.
‘That makes two of us. Thanks for not stepping on me’
She stood up, trying to shake the sand off her hair. The girl was staring her in the eyes, trying to ignore her complete lack of clothing.
‘Nice to meet you, Lea’
There was a moment of awkward silence, then the girl mumbled something like:
‘Uh…well, I should be going. Again, sorry to have bothered you’
‘Hold on, just a second. If you don’t mind, how did you get here? I’ve been coming to this place every day for the last two weeks and you’re the first person coming here all this time’
The girl pointed to the half opened bag on her shoulder and Amy saw it was filled with little beach stones, all shapes and colors.
‘I don’t get it’
‘I just like to collect them. From the shore. Guess I didn’t realize how far from the resort I’d got’
Some get stones, some get stoned Amy thought, which reminded her:
‘You want some?’
She noticed the joint Amy was holding.
‘Not legal for you yet?’ Amy smirked.
‘I’m eighteen and that stuff is illegal anyway’
The legal aspect didn’t matter, not to Amy at least, but she realized the girl was actually two years older than her, four years older than she had estimated.
‘Which is one of the main reasons I come here. Not going to tell on me, right?’ she winked.
‘Of course not!’
‘But you don’t partake. I can respect that’
Lea smiled, then took out a small stone out of her bag. It was a tiny, oval piece of quartz, a strange shade of gray but with an intricate network of thin silvery lines near the edges. For a moment, sunlight reflected in them, showing their complicated pattern.
‘Here. For you’
‘No, come on, I don’t want to mess up your collection’
‘This one, I just picked it up, from here, so I guess it’s not part of it yet. Please! Think of it as a toll for trespassing’
Amy reached out, taking the warm wet stone from Lea’s hand, their fingers touching briefly.
‘No’ she said. ‘You know what, let’s call it payment. You just bought yourself free passage’
There was something she definitely liked about the girl, though she couldn’t tell what exactly. Maybe the fact she seemed different. Amy couldn’t think of many eighteen year old girls with such a hobby. The ones in school, back home, seemed more interested in getting wasted with cheap beer and dating college freshmen. She couldn’t imagine any of them walking along the shore and collecting stones. And apparently, entire bags of them. Plus, the way she’d offered her the little stone. It was nice, a bit funny.
‘So, Lea, welcome to our little known piece of seaside, population two, clothing optional. I must ask again, not interested in any local treats?’
‘No, really, one hundred percent no. But feel free’
She sat down on the sand, watching Amy lighting up the joint and inhaling slowly. Far upfront, the sun had begun its slow descent.
‘So, you know the history of this place?’
‘What else do you collect, besides stones and local folklore?’
‘Oh, it’s just a story I heard from this old man, he owns a souvenir shop on the main street. There’s a reason why nobody ever comes here, why nobody advertises this part of the beach, besides being so far from the resort. A local girl drowned, killed herself, more than a century ago. Some versions of the story speak of unrequited love, some say she was murdered by a man she did not want to marry. She was all alone, you know, no family and no friends. It happened at sunset, right around this time, and if you watch carefully, you can see her, floating above the waves, in the same white dress she was wearing the day she died, all alone out there, calling for someone to join her’
As she spoke, she stared at the ocean and Amy was looking at her thin lips, the way they moved, the way her voice was overlapping with the sound of waves.
‘You know’ she chuckled ‘It’s not nice, telling horror stories to somebody who’s getting stoned right now’
‘Oh my God, I didn’t realize…’
‘Lea, I’m kidding. I’m way too used to this stuff, probably don’t have enough brain cells left for a bad trip. But that was mean anyway, and, given I’ve already sold you partnership to this haunted place at a fair price, I’d say you owe me’
The idea had hit her while Lea was telling the story:
‘Why don’t you come with us this evening? It’s just me and my brother and a couple of friends. No stones and no legends, one night of fun’
‘Oh, no, I wouldn’t want to bother’
‘If you’re here with someone, bring them along. The more, the merrier!’
‘I’m on my own, actually’ she admitted.
Amy had been certain of that.
‘No problem, I’ll pick you up at….’
‘You don’t even know where I’m staying’
‘Which is exactly why you should tell me’
‘Ana’s Inn, it’s right off….’
‘We’re staying there too’
‘Sorry, I didn’t notice you’
‘But you must have noticed the drunken idiot yelling some fascist rambling at 2 AM last night. My one and only brother’
‘Actually, I slept soundly’
‘Must have been a rough day. But I promise I’ll keep him in check tonight’
‘So he’s a…’
‘Lucas? He doesn’t give a flying fuck about race or politics. He just likes pissing people off, and the more he drinks the less subtle he becomes. It’s his thing. Really, don’t worry, he’ll be nice and sober if I ask him to, and we won’t bring our Klan outfits this evening’
‘Well, OK then, why not?’
‘Excellent, I’ll pick you up at eleven’
‘I’ll be ready by then. Room 37. Aren’t you…?’
The sun had finished its descent on the horizon. Cliffs projected their shadow on the sand and the cold breeze smelled like seaweed.
‘Totally forgot about it’ Amy smiled.
She took out the bathing suit from her bag and began to dress.
‘It’s good you had your new neighbor to remind you’ Lea commented.
‘Now what’s wrong with a bit of breeze in all the right places?’
The girl chuckled, but didn’t answer.
‘I detect some issues on the subject’
‘No! No, of course not, just….never mind!’
‘I have to say, you have a very live and let live attitude. Just be careful what you say around my brother or he’ll bore you to death with his pseudo-libertarian bullshit. And, as a general rule, if he approves your ideas, he’s just trying to get in your pants. Anyway, I’m off. You coming?’
‘I think I’m going to stay just a bit longer’
‘Suit yourself. And watch out for that ghost!’
‘Of course, I don’t want to die a virgin’
After a moment of disbelief Amy burst into laughter.
‘You’re weird, kid. See you later!’
The girl remained there, staring at the ocean as it got darker, her hand wrapped around the bag, her fingers tracing the stones’ contour through the fabric. The ghost however, did not appear, and anyway she was more concerned with what to wear for the upcoming evening. All across the resort, lights were being turned on. Music had started playing in the beach scattered pubs, a distant rumble growing stronger and stronger.