I knew it was going to be a disaster from the start. Who goes to the seaside in December? But the girls and wife instead.
‘You do know it’s going to be freezing right? And everything will be shut?’ I stated as we sat around the dinning room table eating breakfast.
‘But we can still build sand castles,’ Sky, the oldest, cut in.
‘And get ice cream? Not all the shops will be shut,’ Charlie added.
‘Can we go crabbing too?’ Ethany, the youngest, piped up.
‘I think the fresh sea air will be great for everyone and Lexie would love the change of scenery,’ my wife, Sue, finished the conversation off with.
From the closed dinning room door came the soft yipping of Lexie, the king charles spaniel puppy. She was banished to the hallway whenever we were eating as she couldn’t be trusted and the kids liked sneaking her titbits.
I grumbled into my toast, ‘this is a bad idea.’
‘Can we take, Bob?’ Charlie asked.
From under the table came the thumping of a heavy tail. My old yellow Labrador let out a soft chuffing sound. He was allowed in because he kept my feet warm and all he did now a days was sleep.
‘Maybe not…’ my wife said, ‘he’s very old and I don’t think he’d like it much.’
‘We could put his coat on and if he get’s tried dad can take him back to the car,’ Charlie suggested.
‘I’d feel bad if we left him behind,’ Ethany added with a pout.
‘Okay,’ Sue said, ‘let’s get ready then.’
So, off to the seaside we went and you know what? I was totally right.
We found a sheltered spot in the entrance to a small cave to set up camp. The girls went running about the empty sand, shouting and playing games. Lexie ran with them and also had a couple of dips in the cold sea. The waves were pretty big as it was quite windy. I, my wife and Bob sat on the picnic blanket, huddled in our coats coming to the realisation that that this was a bad idea.
Soon enough, Ethany came running back to us crying.
‘What’s wrong?’ Sue asked.
‘There’s sand in my eyes! Sky did it!’ Ethany shouted.
‘Come here. I’ve got some wipes.’
Sue pulled Ethany into her lap and cleaned her eyes.
‘Do you want to go home?’ I asked, hoping that the answer would be yes.
‘No,’ Ethany sniffed, ‘I’m okay now.’
She hugged her mum tightly then got up and walked over to her sisters. They were building a sand castle close by and Lexie was eating seaweed.
‘Stop Lexie from eat that,’ I called after her and pointed at the puppy.
Ethany nodded and broke into a run.
I watched Ethany pulling Lexie away and fought down the urge to tell my wife that we should leave for the tenth time.
A few minutes later, a huge wave crashed on to the beach. The girls screamed. Sue and I rushed up and over. The younger girls had managed to escape, but Lexie and Sky hadn’t. I grabbed Sky first and hauled her away by the hood of her coat. My wife was yelling something Lexie, but I had to make sure my daughter was safe first.
‘You okay?’ I asked her.
Sky nodded, breathlessly. She was dripping wet.
‘Lexie!’ Charlie and Ethany were screaming over and over again.
I glanced over my shoulder and saw my wife stood ankle deep in the sea. She was half bent over, her hands in the water, searching.
‘Get back to the cave,’ I said to all the girls.
I turned and made my way towards the sea. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Sky struggling across the sand then shepherding her sisters back to our camp.
‘I can’t find her!’ Sue hollered above the wind and the waves.
I quickly scanned around, looking for any flashes of black, white and brown in the grey-green-white topped sea.
‘Lexie! Puppy!’ my wife screamed.
‘There!’ I yelled and pointed at some shape far to the left of of us that seemed not to be a part of the sea.
I wadded into the freezing water. Feeling my thick wool socks and trousers getting soaked. The waves bashed around me as if threatening me to get out. Frantically, I kept looking then dipping my hands and arms under the waves. The cold shot through me and in seconds my fingers felt numb.
A voice at the back of my head was repeatedly saying, she’s gone, she’s gone. How can a little dog survive this?
I had a flash image of my little girls all crying and sobbing, ‘Daddy, why didn’t you save our puppy?’
Then my numb fingers hit something; wet fur. I clutched hold tightly and like a fisherman wrestling with a big fish, I yanked the king charles puppy from the raging sea. Holding her by her collar and scruff of her neck, I trudged back to the shore.
‘Oh my God! Lexie! Dave!’ my wife gasped.
She rushed over, out of the sea herself and joined me on the wet sand. She took the puppy from me and held it close to her chest like one of her babies. Tears were streaming down her face and her cheeks were flushed a deep red.
I watched her, struggling to steady my breathing and waiting to feel my body again. She checked the puppy over. Lexie was alive, but only just.
‘We must get her warm,’ Sue was saying.
She jogged across the beach and I saw the children rushing to meet her.
I walked back. My feet sinking into the sand, sea water dripping off me. When I reached the cave, my wife had wrapped Lexie in a towel and put the puppy inside her in coat. The girls were crowded around her, demanding to know that Lexie was okay. Bob was standing up, wagging his tail in greeting and wondering what all the fuss was about.
‘We need to go home now!’ my wife declared loudly.
‘Yes, of course. Right away!’ I said, ‘girls help pack up.’
Quickly, we packed everything away and gathered things up. My wife stood holding Lexie in her coat and giving a few instructions. I held my tongue still even though the words I told you so and this was a bad idea were on my tongue.
‘Ready? Let’s go,’ I said and went to step outside.
The sky which had always been dull grey had now turned darker and from it was falling snowflakes and sleet.
‘It’s snowing!’ Charlie declared.
‘So it is. Come on,’ Sue cut in and strolled out.
We followed after her, trying to hurry across the sand. Reaching the car, everything and everyone bungled in. I started on the engine and my wife turned up the heater.
‘Everyone okay?’ I called.
A choir of female voices answered, ‘yes.’
Nodding, I drove us home and the snow began to fall more heavily. An hour later, I pulled into the driveway and turned off the engine.
‘How’s Lexie?’ Sky asked for what felt like the millionth time.
‘Better now,’ Sue replied.
‘Do we still have to take her to the vets?’ Charlie questioned.
‘I don’t think so…but we’ll see how she is within a hour,’ Sue replied.
We all got out the car and unpacked. Once in the warmth, dry space of home, everyone got themselves sorted. I got in the shower afterwards, when the girls, wife and dogs were okay. The hot water swept the remaining coldness from me and I felt cleaner too.
Going into the living room afterwards, I saw Lexie and Bob curled up together on the big dog bed in the corner. All my girls were snuggled on the sofa under a blanket and there was a Disney Princess movie on the telly. It all seemed so normal.
‘Let’s think twice before we go to the seaside again,’ I spoke out as I sank into the armchair.
(Inspired from: https://scvincent.com/2016/12/08/thursday-photo-prompt-smoke-writephoto/ with thanks. Click to read other people’s stories or to create one yourself.)