Lori stopped and looked down at the dark yellow sand where Jink’s tennis ball had rolled to. She picked it up and the black Labrador began barking excitedly. He pawed at the sand as if he was digging a hole then stopped and stared at her. Lori threw the ball, watched it fly against the darkening sky and land with a thud a few feet away. Jink pelted after it, leaving rushed paw prints in the sand.
Staring out across the grey ocean in the distance, Lori looked for the lighthouse. The white tower and red bricked light keeper’s house next door where behind her, balanced on the only cliff top to be found on this stretch of the coast. Her hands went to her stomach and she thought about all the work waiting for her back there. Breathing deeply, she decided to walk further along the empty beach.
The sea rolled about to her right, white topped waves thundering powerfully. The second sign of stormy weather to come, she thought. With her boots sinking into the soft sand, she followed Jink’s paw prints and whistled for him to come back. He paused, looked at her with the sand coated ball in his mouth then turned away and began shaking his head about. The ball dropped from his mouth and the dog scrambled after it.
‘Jink! Come on!’ Lori called.
She walked over, pulling back a loose strand of her dark brown hair with a gloved hand. She tucked it back under her woollen hat as the wind suddenly picked up. She shut her eyes as sand whipped around her and pressed her hands down her long wool skirt. Lori heard Jink barking and looked around for him. The black lab was bouncing back to her, ball nowhere to be seen.
The wind and sand died down enough for her to clear her throat and question him, ‘where’s you ball? Go find it!’
Jink barked, jumped up at her and covered everything in damp sand. Tutting, Lori caught his front paws and swung them away from her. His lolling, sand covered tongue tried to lick her hands, but she avoided it and carried on walking.
‘Where’s your ball?’ she repeated and pointed across the beach, ‘go get it, Jink! Go on!’
He shot off and tumbled into the sand a couple of feet ahead of her. She saw him snatch something up then race away. Lori went over and paused. There was something in the sand at her feet. She bent, thinking it nothing more than a shell or a piece of rubbish. As her gloved fingers closed over it, she felt a fat drop of rain on the back of her neck. Straightening quickly, she called the dog back to her and looked down at her palm. Amongst the sand was a sliver ring.
She put it in her pocket and turned about, calling Jink again. The lab bounded passed her, did a sharp twist and came trotting over. He dropped the ball at her feet then sat down, his tail sweeping about in the sand.
‘No more now. Home time,’ she told him firmly.
Lori kicked the ball. Jink picked it up and walked just ahead of her. She hugged into her long coat, feeling the cold wind seeping in. The rain began falling heavily causing her to pulled up her hood and hold the edges tightly with her fingers. The sea roared loudly in her ears and she stole some quick glances over to it. The huge waves were coming in fast and crashing into the beach.
She picked up her pace into a jog and aimed diagonally along the sand. Far in the distance, a white beam of light shone out. Lori looked up and saw the lighthouse light had come on. The light was circling the sea, beach and coastline. A ship’s bell rang somewhere and she all most paused to look for it but a clap of thunder moved her on.
Jink barked and rushed back towards her. Lori nearly tripped over him and her own feet.
‘It’s okay, Jink,’ she shouted above the wind.
He barked again and kept it up as he ran alongside of her. Lori fixed her eyes on the lighthouse and headed straight for it. A streak of lightening lit up the growing black sky and the sea seemed to boom in response. Aware of the ever approaching waves, Lori went towards the safety of some small dunes. The wind was thrashing the marram grass making the spikey blades more deadly.
Jink ploughed into them, before she could stop him then shot again, yelping in pain.
‘It’s okay. You’re all right,’ she shouted and reached down to pat him.
The wind blew sand up into her face and crying out Lori stumbled backwards. She fell heavily on the edge of a dune, her right arm colliding with some marram grass. She went to rub her eyes, but remembered she was wearing gloves as she felt the material brush her cheek. Tugging a glove off, she rubbed both her eyes and felt grains of sand against her skin.
A rumble of thunder echoed overhead and Jink threw himself at her. He slammed in her stomach and chest, sending Lori sprawled across the sand. He hoovered over her, licking her face with a rough, sandy tongue. Lori tried to push him away as she struggled to breath with pain shooting around her lungs.
The black lab whimpered loudly and didn’t get the hint to give her some room. A flash of lightening lit up the fear in his eyes and his tail curling between his legs. He nuzzled Lori, who grabbed his red collar and used it to pull herself up with.
Letting go, Lori tugged off her other glove then wiped her face on the hood of her coat. She pulled herself upwards, pocking her gloves and pulling out Jink’s lead. Clipping it on, they walked steadily across the rest of the beach. Lori found the stone steps out of familiarity and began climbing them. Jink scampered up alongside her then at the top, took the lead and followed the path to the lighthouse.
They passed the white electric and gas outbuilding then turned upwards towards the main house. Lori let go of Jink’s led and feeling freedom, the dog rushed up to the door and began barking. She ran after him and on reaching the door, put her hands into her pocket for her keys. Panic prickled her as she didn’t feel them. Did I lose then on the beach? Lori thought, No, there they are. Pulling them out, she fumbled with the lock then swung the door open.
To Be Continued…