His voice was calming and I relaxed a little bit. As long as he stayed close to me I was going to be okay, I told myself.
I heard a loud yell and looked up to see Neil standing on his board and crouching into the curl of a wave. He looked so poetic that I wished I could do that, even though I knew I would never be able to balance, let alone stand with my leg the way it was. Michael went past as well with a look of total concentration on his face.
I turned to Shawn. ‘You can surf too if you want, you don’t have to stay with me.’
‘It’s okay, I don’t mind being here. I like it.’
I looked at him and smiled and he smiled back with that lopsided grin I remembered so well. We stayed out there like that for ages, just riding on the swell of the waves and paddling into the bigger ones so that we didn’t get washed back onto the beach. Once I got comfortable and relaxed a bit we started talking. There was so much I wanted to know about Shawn and what he had been doing all these years. He told me all about how he spent most of his spare time out surfing whenever he could.
‘What about your school work?’ I asked. He looked away and gazed out to sea.
‘I don’t like school much,’ he said. ‘I’d much rather surf and play my guitar than go to school.’
‘Oh wow, you play guitar? I started learning to play a couple of years ago but it hurt my fingers too much.’
‘Really? You should try again, it just takes practice.’ He was beaming now and seemed excited to be talking about his guitar. ‘I could teach you,’ he added. ‘I’ve got my guitar in the car. I always carry it with me everywhere I go.’
I tried to tell him that I wouldn’t be very good at it, but he wouldn’t listen.
‘Why don’t we swim back to the beach and I’ll play you a song?’ He started paddling and I had no choice but to follow him. I was glad to be getting out of the water anyway.
As my surfboard slid up onto the sand I crawled to my knees and was just about to try and stand up on one leg when Shawn suddenly picked me up in his arms.
‘Oh gosh,’ was all I could say as I felt myself being lifted. I didn’t know what I should do so I threw one arm over his shoulder and tried to hang on, but he was strong and I felt safe in his arms. I looked up at Shawn’s face and he looked down and smiled at me and held me tighter as I felt the smooth skin of his shoulder against my cheek.
He laid me gently on my towel and then ran off to get his guitar from the car. I slipped my sun dress back on and put my shady straw hat on to keep the sun off my face. I was putting some more sunscreen on my arms when he came bounding over the sand dunes with a guitar case and flopped down beside me. He opened the guitar case and pulled the instrument out and strummed the strings.
‘Let me sing you a song,’ he said, then looked thoughtful for a moment. He started running his fingers over the silver strings and the most beautiful melody filled the air. Every note seemed like a drop of liquid crystal that just floated from his fingertips. He licked his lips and opened his mouth to start singing with a voice that sounded husky and soulful.
‘Can you imagine anything?
As long as it could make your heart sing,
Go round forever like a golden ring,
Leave behind all this aching,
If you could be anything?
Can you imagine life on the moon?
Or sailing the world to a beautiful tune,
Find a tropic island, be marooned,
Or maybe hide in a cocoon,
As long as you don’t come home too soon.’
He stopped singing and hummed along with the guitar for a little while and then stopped. ‘That’s all I’ve written so far, I’m not sure what to say next,’ he said with an embarrassed grin.
‘Shawn, that was beautiful. I loved it.’ I couldn’t believe he had written it himself and I suddenly found myself telling him all about how I had started writing poetry. I told him that I never showed it to anybody because it was just my way of capturing all those random thoughts that float around in my head. But I was so impressed that he had written his own song that as we talked I started to get an idea that I could help him finish it.
‘Why don’t you have a go at the guitar,’ he said and handed the instrument to me.
I placed it across my lap and tried to remember how to put my fingers on the strings. As I strummed the guitar made a terrible noise, and I was about to hand it back in embarrassment but Shawn wouldn’t let me.
‘Take your time, Molly. Give yourself a chance.’ He showed me how to make a chord and then when I strummed again it came out sounding like music. Shawn spent ages showing me how to make different chords and I knew there was no way I would ever remember them all, but I really started to enjoy being able to make this instrument produce such pretty sounds, even if I didn’t know what I was doing.
I kept practicing until the others came out of the surf for a break, and then Shawn took the guitar back and started singing. We all sat around in a group then and sang songs together, and while Debbie was the loudest, of course, she was soon encouraging me to sing out as well. My voice was more of a whisper compared with hers but I soon found that I was enjoying myself as much as I had when I sang on my own as a little girl.