“Never stray too far from the way off the beach. You never know when you might need to get off the shore in a hurry!”
“We’re getting pretty far from the town, Freddie.” Ayla turned to look along the beach. Cromer pier was just in sight jutting out from the old fishing town on the cliffs. The gentle breeze caught her soft straw blond hair and blew it over her face.
To Freddie, it increased the fear he felt from her. “Hey, do you trust me?” he asked.
Again, Ayla glanced back and then controlling her hair, she focused on him. Freddie had been her classmate all through school. Now, they were both twenty and this was her first time alone with him as a couple. She gave the smallest nod. “Okay.”
“Thank you.” Freddie took and kissed her trembling hand. “I really will keep you safe. I promise.”
“Okay, it’s just that you’re always told not to stray too far along the coastline. You could become cut off by high tides and things out here.” Ayla sighed as she looked over her shoulder again. This time her gaze wandered to the high sand and clay cliffs standing like an ancient wall against seaward invaders.
“I know. We’re safe here,” Freddie bent and scooped something from the sand. “This is an amazing beach. The cliffs were made as a result of glacial drift from the last Ice Age. They’re filled with fossils from the Pleistocene era like this.”
Ayla looked at the object in his hand, “It looks like a stone bullet.”
“This is a belemnite fossil. They were like prehistoric squid.” Freddie smiled as he took some fine black lace from his pocket. He’d hoped to find a fossil like this today.
“That’s cool. How do you know so much about this stuff?” Ayla said realising Freddie was more interesting than she thought.
“Well, two reasons.” Freddie began twisting the lace about the fossil. “I grew up loving dinosaurs. I have quite a collection of fossils at home. The other reason is that my grandfather loved to bring me out here to hunt for ammonites and belemnites. He told me all about the history of the cliffs.”
“That’s amazing,” Ayla smiled as they walked on while he worked. “I remember you mentioning your grandfather at school. Didn’t he die as a lifeguard?”
“That’s right. He died right out there working on the lifeboat. He saved four illegal immigrants before their boat sank and drowned him.”
“What a sad thing to happen. Your grandfather died a hero, you know that?” Ayla pointed to a hovering herring gull in the blue and white clouded sky. “Now, he’s here on the breeze, and within the souls of the creatures that make this place special.”
“Thank you, sweetheart.” Freddie brought them to a stop. “For you,” He said holding out the belemnite on its new lace necklace.
“You made that so beautiful.” Ayla turned her back and gathered her hair for him. An involuntary shiver ran through her, as she felt him draw close.
His fingers graced her hair as the necklace came to rest around her neck. He smoothed her shoulders and curled his arms about her. “There a prehistoric treasure for a princess,” he said resting his head close to hers.
Ayla took his hands and freed herself as she turned to face him. “Thank you for my gift.” Reaching forward, she permitted him a kiss.
“My pleasure, it looks pretty against your suntan. It sets off your pretty dress too.” Freddie grinned and led on again.
A short while later, he led her to a small section of sandy beach. There he removed his shorts and T-shirt, showing off his strong body. “Coming for a swim?” he beckoned.
“We don’t have any towels?” Ayla swayed on her toes. “I don’t want to get my dress wet.”
“Eh, we’ll dry in the sun before going back.” Freddie stepped into the waves and beckoned her.
“Alright!” Ayla pulled off her dress and folded it beside Freddie’s clothes. She couldn’t help feeling shy standing before him in her white bikini. Still, she slipped into the water and gasped. Even in August, the water was cold.
“There’s my pretty dolphin,” Freddie remarked as he began to dance with her in the waves.
The two frolicked in happiness for a while before retreating to the sand to dry off. They lay looking at the sun, hand in hand. Both completely relaxed in each other’s company and soothed by the sound of the waves.
“This is —Ahh!” Ayla shrieked.
“What! Freddie rolled to face her.
“My feet just got wet!” Ayla sat up. “Look at how far the tide came in. And it’s still coming!” she said as the next wave washed right over her bare knees.
“Oh, shit!” Freddie said scrambling to his feet.
“No, don’t do that to me. You said we are safe!” Ayla hurriedly pulled her dress on as the waves seemed to follow her higher up the beach.
“We should have been.” Freddie gazed back towards the town.
Ayla followed his direction and gasped. “It was clear rolling waves had already hit the bottom of the cliffs between them and the town. “Freddie, we’re cut off!”
“I noticed! But it’s not even high tide for another four hours.” Freddie scratched his head and looked the other way.
“Well, they did today!” Ayla jumped back as yet another wave washed over her feet and sucked the sand away between her toes. “We have to do something before we drown. We’re running out of beach here!”
“I promise it’ll be okay,” Freddie took her hand and began to run along the beach. “We’ll go this way and get off the beach at Runton.”
“Okay,” Ayla gazed over the flowing tide. With every passing second, it was turning greyer with sediment as it grew rougher. “Why do you think it came in so far and so quickly?”
“I don’t know for sure. It is a full moon tonight and the water was colder than normal. Maybe this is a heavy northern tide affected by the lunar —” Freddie pulled Ayla to a stop.
She watched terrified as a large wave drowned the beach ahead of them. It curled and roared into the base of the cliffs. The beach shook beneath Ayla’s toes as a large section of the sand and clay cleaved from the face and splashed into the water.
“Okay, that wasn’t good!” Freddie rubbed his face, considering the options.
“No kidding! Now, you just got us drowned!” Ayla said in full panic now.
Freddie took a by the shoulders and held her gaze. “I asked you the trust me before, do you still trust me?”
Ayla nodded although she wasn’t sure she really did.
“Thank you. Come on!” Freddie led her toward the collapsed cliffs section. He hadn’t gone far before a wave crashed into his knees and knocked him off his feet.
At that moment what had been a romantic time on the beach, descended into sheer pandemonium.
Ayla screamed as she was battered by wave after wave that relentlessly pummelled her, the beach and the cliffs.
“Swim, Ayla! Swim that way!” Freddie pointed ahead as chunks of clay splashed into the water around him.
With no choice, Ayla threw herself over a wave and began stroking through the churning saltwater as fast as she could.
Cloying seaweed assaulted her limbs. “Hel—” Her dress snagged between her legs and then she was under the water, unable to surface.
Ayla’s world turned purple as her lungs burned for oxygen. Her body convulsed and then just as the end clawed at her consciousness she felt it. A hand grabbed her hair, seized her under the arms and hauled her to the surface.
“No! I forbid you from drowning and leaving me alone!” Freddie yelled through a wave straight to the face.
Ayla choked and spat out water as she lay in his arms.
“Swim, sweetheart!” Freddie rolled her to the side and half swam, half dragged her through the pounding tide.
Just as Ayla thought she couldn’t swim anymore, her feet told her of land beneath the water. Rising, she staggered into the base of the cliff and leaned there choking through a mixture of ingested seawater and tears of relief.
“You, okay?” Freddie asked.
Ayla shook her head, “You saved me, and you’re hurt.” she managed while indicating blood oozing from his arm.
“I love you. I’m not letting you die out here!” Freddie gave the wound a cursory glance. “Just a scratch. We have to climb.”
Ayla looked at the towering cliff face above her, “We can’t do —“
“We have to. Dig your fingers and toes in and pull yourself up. I know you can do this. I’m right behind you and I won’t let you fall.” Freddie kissed her while feeling the waves creeping back up his legs again. “Now, climb!”
“Okay!” Ayla pressed her toes into the clay and hauled herself out of the water. Thanks to the relentless tide and the softness of the crumbling cliffs, it was easy to make hand and footholds as she climbed.
“That’s the way!” Freddie kissed her calf as he muscled his way up the cliff below her.
After five minutes of climbing, every part of Ayla’s body burned and complained. She was spent and still nowhere near the top. “I – need – to – rest.”
“No, it’s too dangerous. You have to keep going!” Freddie urged.
Ayla stretched up an arm and grabbed a new hold. “Okay, I’m —”
A dark split opened in the cliff face, a ragged chunk the size of a large car fell, and crashed into the waves below.
“Shit! That was too close!” Freddie groaned. An enormous hole opened up right beside him now. “Keep moving!” he yelled.
Ayla was, she knew the section of cliff she was climbing would fall next. She climbed for all she was worth, ignoring the pain in favour of living. Then her fingers found grass. Gripping handfuls, she hauled herself on top of the cliff. Rolling onto her belly, she grabbed Freddie’s hand and helped him up too.
He stood with her and ran into the caravanning field on top before collapsing into the long grasses.
“We – made – it!” She panted flat on her back.
“Just! That’s the last time I keep going after you warn me not to.” Freddie said.
“It’s the last time, I doubt your trust too.” Ayla rolled to face him. She smiled and hugged him. “You promised to keep me safe and you saved me from drowning down there. Thank you, Freddie.”
“Thank you for trusting me. What do you say, we go somewhere a little safer and drier.”
“Drier maybe. It won’t be safe for you though.” Ayla allowed him to help her stand with a furious glare in his direction.
“Just look at me!” she indicated her sodden, clay-splattered dress. “I told you I didn’t want to get my dress wet!”
Freddie straightened her belemnite around her neck with an affectionate smile. “Will, I be safe from a broken face, if I buy your new dress?”
Ayla chucked, “Well, I reckon that’ll solve the problem. Besides, I’ve always liked your face as it is.”
“Cheeky! Hey, Poseidon. You’re having a bad day, you broke the cliffs, and failed to take the most beautiful girl in Cromer away with you. You lose water god!” Freddie yelled as they walked toward town hand-in-hand.
Thanks for reading my friends.
Have a great day!