The Untold Magic of Beachcombing by Kate Axeford

My breath is jagged, but we can’t stop now. This beaut of a coastline stretches before us, there’s miles left to be explored. The ocean’s a sorceress, she conjures up freedom but disguises her perils: riptides, dagger-rocks, mudflats that lurk like assassins. The sorceress is ruthless, and greedy too – she takes and never returns.

For two years we’ve beachcombed, left tracks, zigzagging. A love letter footprinted between shore and dunes. It ends in the same question: why? Running fills the void, fills the silence, fills the day, fills the space in my heart between a parting shot, a door last-slammed and a last breath taken. Running fills the gaps between words once shouted but never intended. Threats, conjured up. A wish made true. Forever, I’ll weep in its echo.

Each day, Bess loops her crazy-collie circles. I hug the shoreline, leaving size-ten dints – dimples, to be filched by saltwater. It’s determined exercise, governed by the moon, by the ebb of the tide, by the sorceress too. But so far, she’s refused to relinquish. And today? I sprint towards Bess’s yip-yip-yip; clinging barnacle-tight to hope. A duffle-coat rock peeps, between breakers. Kelp crowns the swell, wild, like dreadlocks. Maybe this day our hunt will end, yet I always dread finding my treasure.

My beloved boy, Pete.

No goodbyes, just a storming out. A vodka-blitzed night when tempers were lost, and untruths found. I’d wished he would leave, and never come back. He left boots on the beach, but left me alone, to deal with the wreckage. His vanishing act, an accident. He was Abracadabra’d, tricked by the tide.

If he’d meant it, surely, he’d have left a note?

Biography: Kate Axeford (she/hers) social works by day, plays with words by night. Lives in Brighton loves the sea. Words: Fatal Flaw Lit Free Flash Fiction, nffd The Write-in, paragraphplanet, pigeonreview, Reflex Fiction Winter longlist, Retreat West micro s/l and themed Flash Competition winner, Splonk. Twitter: @KateAxeford