Not for the First Time

By Sumojo
  • 24 Sep - 30 Sep, 2022
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Fiction

If there had been anyone had been on the isolated beach, they would have heard the faint sound of a vehicle coming ever closer. But the soft sand simply shifted in the wind, unheeding. The dunes delicately, imperceptibly, morphed their sensuous shapes and forms, and black, slimy seaweed swept in and out of the swirling foam, some being left high on the white sand, waiting for the next high tide. In this deserted landscape the only signs of life were the seabirds hovering over the waves searching for food, their calls barely discernible above the roar of the surf.

A 1985 Ford Ranger utility appeared on the horizon and slowly, carefully made its way down through the whispering sand. The wide tires kept a firm grip, eventually the vehicle came to a halt at the bottom of the dunes. The driver, a young woman, turned off the engine. She rested both slim arms on the steering wheel and sat for a while staring out at the waves as they crashed onto the beach. Eventually, she stepped from the vehicle, breathed in the salty air and stretched her arms to the blue sky. Closing her eyes for a minute she held her beautiful face to the sun before opening the tailgate and setting up her solitary campsite.

The slim figure ran down toward the sea, red surfboard tucked under her arm. A black wetsuit clung to her frame, her athleticism obvious as she paddled out. Time and time again she caught the enormous waves, happy, it seemed, to go it alone. Independent and in harmony with the environment, she surfed until almost dark. Only then did she emerge from the water, her long ebony hair streaming down her back as she trotted up the beach to her campsite.

Unconsciously peeling off her wetsuit she stood naked, safe in the knowledge she was alone and at the start of her, as yet unknown, new life. Pulling on jeans and a sweatshirt, she busied herself lighting a campfire and starting a simple supper.

Shades of light crept into the blue dome tent; indicating day-break. The girl relished the thought of the waiting surf. Crawling out of her sleeping bag, she opened the tent flap and smiled, readying herself for another perfect day. Then she heard a vehicle approaching. She screwed up her eyes and watched the beach buggy make its way, following the tracks she’d made only yesterday. The vehicle closed in on her campsite. She stood unsmiling as the rider pulled off his black helmet, and ruffled his shaggy dark hair.

“Hi, I’m Ryan.” She took his proffered hand with no intentions of making him feel welcome, but a sudden jolt of recognition and a sense of connection with this person overwhelmed her the moment she felt the touch of his hand on hers.

“Serena,” she said, her voice trembled. It was as if she had always known this man, and yet it was impossible.

“You here by yourself?” he asked.

It was strange, but Serena sensed no danger, even though she was alone and seemingly without protection. “Yes. I thought I’d have the place to myself. The woman at the tourist information place, told me no one usually comes here.”

“She’s right, the ocean can get a little too wild here for most people.” He smiled, perhaps to show he was friendly and she had nothing to fear. “Where are you from? You’re obviously new around here.”

“This is my first trip to Australia. I’m from the States. Just needed to get away by myself for a while. So I rented the truck and I’m going to look around the place for a few weeks.”

“Wow, you’re a long way from home.” He nodded to the Ford. “Well, that old truck should get you around okay. Anyway I won’t bother you,” he said, pointing to a spot a few hundred yards up the beach, “I’ll camp up near the rocks.”

Several days had passed since Ryan’s arrival. They’d barely acknowledged each other, but both were fully aware of being observed. Serena saw he was in his element as he became part of the wild sea.ÊMaybe the ocean is where he also finds solace when life bites back.

She sat on a folding beach chair outside her tent, sipping a green tea, watching Ryan out in the surf. His athletic body on the black surfboard glided across the surface until the waves lost their energy and he would paddle out once more.

Serena loved the ocean. Never tiring of watching the water, she loved how minute to minute it changed, the colours and the way the sunlight bounced off the waves. It was then she thought she saw Ryan waving his arm in the boiling sea.

Hesitant, she stood to get a better look before walking down to the edge of the surf. The sun’s reflections bouncing off the waves made it difficult to see. Her eyes hurt from the glare. Wading further out she saw it again. Yes, there it was, a raised arm, the universal signal for help.

Diving beneath the incoming surf, Serena swam out to him. She saw how pale his face was. “Shark!” he gasped. Without a thought for her own safety, she grabbed him under his arms and towed the badly injured man back to shore. His body became even heavier when he lost consciousness. Exhausted, and after a tremendous struggle, she dragged him onto the sand where she lay next to his lifeless body until her breathing became regular and she could check his injuries.

The shark’s teeth had ripped open his wet suit. Blood dripped steadily from a large gash on his lower leg. Serena quickly stripped off her tee shirt and made a tourniquet to stop the flow.

Opening his eyes into the blue light of her tent, he felt firm arms holding him. He could barely believe he was alive, albeit naked and shivering. She had wrapped them both in her sleeping bag, attempting to warm his chilled body with her own.

“I need to get you to hospital,” she told him. “I’ve stopped the bleeding, but you need medical attention. You’re in shock.”

He nodded. His face only inches from hers, but she barely heard him whisper, “Thank you, I almost died. If it hadn’t been for you…”

“Shh. You knew I’d never let that happen, didn’t you? This isn’t the first time.” Their eyes met and she dared herself to ask. Is it?”

His look acknowledged what they both knew somewhere deep in their souls. He whispered, “It’s impossible, but I remember too.”

A smile passed her lips, a smile he returned with one of recognition. They knew it couldn’t be true. How could it be? But when he’d taken her hand, they’d both remembered that time, that other place, in the mountains so long, long ago.

How could it be they would find each other in such a remote and wild place. She, just a girl on vacation from a faraway land. Yet their eyes had met and both realised in an instant this wasn’t their first encounter. Neither had it been in this life, but in another land and time. A time before either had even been born.