The young woman on the beach scribbled on a battered notepad feverishly. She pulled her top lip under her bottom teeth, brow creased in deep concentration, knuckles white as she gripped the weathered pen in her hand, scrawling it across the paper with deep concentration. The white silky sand that buried her toes shifted as she wiggled them, and her smooth pale legs were folded under her. The wind coming off the restless waves buffeted her hair this way and that, the warm long brown tresses tangling about her. The world crawled sleepily. The beach was trapped by a sprawling holiday town that hugged it lovingly, and burnished brown boys with tumbling gold hair stood like ancient sentries, gazing at the sea like nothing else existed. Her eyes were not on the sea, but sometimes she would gaze at it like they did, but for purposes entirely different. The waves lapped and coaxed at her mind, every hiss and rush tickling her thoughts. Right now she was in the raptures of inspiration, and she would smile every now and again like a baby learning what laughter was. She knew many like her used word processors and the like to create what she loved most in the world, but for the first stages like this, she had the need to hold her work in her hands, a real and palpable thing that she could carry with her everywhere and breathe in. The smell of the pen ink, its stain on her fingers and the rumpling of the paper - she relished every facet of it. Not long after she started though, not long after she was wrapped up in the delirium of creation, she slowed down, finding herself writing into a great big wall that did not have any windows or doors. She was stuck. Bugger.
Where was she going with this? She frowned, gripping the paper, thinking deeply.
Come on, she thought. Why am I stuck? Where have I gone wrong?
She ran the pen over the paper and scratched out a part of what she had written, and rereading her last words she growled, slapping shut the notebook in her hand and stuffing it into her bag. The young teenaged boys about her grabbed their surfboards, and with low grunts that served as communication, ran into the waves, leaping in like pale and eager sea lions. She gazed out at the sea and just listened to it. It had a music entirely unique and she knew that wherever she went in her life, wherever she found herself, she would not like to be further than a car ride away from the waves. They were sustenance to her; they were the only thing that made sense. Advance and recede, grow and fall away, roar and whisper. Perhaps I should be stronger, she thought, perhaps I should learn to live without the sea. She put that thought away. She loved it too much to try to think about a life like that yet.
She knew that logically, to make a real effort at this career that she had chosen, she would be doing herself a favour by moving to a bigger city with better research facilities and better social contacts. The bigger cities, however, did not have what this one had; a reasonably untainted beach-front. It was one weakness she had in her life, and it was one that kept her here in this funny little place few people understood. The people that lived there didn't realise what a strange place they lived in - they thought they were normal, and that it was the rest of the world that was crazy for living differently. She couldn't help but love it for that very reason.
Her eyes examined the waves, the way the sun danced upon the crisp rippling ocean with blinding beauty, and the deep blue the sky had become, as if it grew heavy and sad that the sun had to leave it once more. The froth of the waves tumbled over and over, the soft hiss of its bubbles breaking against the sand lifting into the air. Every now and again there was the rattle of rolling shells in the receding pull of the water as it readied for another breaker, filling the air with a delicate shivering tinkling sound. The unmistakable shocking whiff of seaweed mingled with the sweet scent of salt and dived into ones lungs, seeping into the skin until it felt sticky. The breeze rushing in from the waves was just as moist and clinging, yet so gentle and cool that it felt like a brush of silk against ones face.
Miriam's brown eyes glinted as they grew distant and she blinked away the frustration that could be seen in them, dark brows dipping down in a frown. There was nothing else for it - she would have to try to write later.
She toed her way back to the façade at the front of the beach kiosk that was on the dunes before the beach, sandals dangling in her fingers, mind so consumed with what she'd been writing that she did not notice the slight young man walking next to her with large bright blue eyes, his blackish-brown hair spiking up in funny tufts. He smiled at her knowingly with slightly crooked teeth, little gaps between them. He didn't say anything, he just followed her as she slapped the soles of her feet with her hands at the kiosk. Miriam sighed to herself, slipping on her sandals and standing up straight with a shake of her frame. She blinked, the young man suddenly standing right within her personal space, his face in hers. She jumped, clutching her chest and letting out a strangled yelp.
"Felix!" she cried, and slapped him on the shoulder sharply. "You nugget! Are you trying to give me a fucking heart attack?"
He broke up into laughter, shoving his hands into his pockets and watching her neaten herself up. "It's funny when you get yourself all zombied out. So you managed to write some today?"
Miriam sighed at him, throwing her bag over her shoulder and striding towards the bus stop near the beach. "Kind of."
"Kind of? Is that a kind of yes or a kind of no?"
Miriam's brows tilted down again and she shrugged. "I managed to write some, and then I hit a mind-block. God. I feel like all my emotions leave me and I have nothing to write the words with... it's so frustrating. Maybe I just suck."
Felix's cheery composure slipped a little, trying to keep up with the critical turn the conversation had made. "You gotta stop being so hard on yourself. Lots of writers have mental-blocks."
"I know," Miriam sighed. "But I mean - I have to be hard on myself. ‘Cause everyone else is going to be ten-thousand times worse when I actually get this thing to an editor." She gave a grumpy sniffle. "If it gets that far."
"Oh," Felix frowned a little. "Are we in one of those moods again?"
"Felix," she moaned. "Please... don't patronise me."
He shook his head. "Sorry."
They both walked along in silence down the busy highway that slithered along beside the beach-front, and down the road a bit sat a neglected concrete bus-stop, choked in hasty graffiti in a variety of writing styles and thicknesses. Today a new one was there, Miriam noted as she threw herself down onto the bench in the bus shelter. It was in angry red letters, and said, "Carol Fucks Pigs".
Miriam didn't look at Felix. She just opened her purse and fingered the change sitting in it.
"I wasn't patronising you."
With a heavy sigh in her chest, her heart grew heavy. Oh God, she thought. I snapped again. She dared to look up at him. Felix was pressing his lips together with a worried frown on his face. She often fancied that he looked like an old pre-Raphaelite model. She'd decided long ago that he was prettier than she was. His jaw was square, his chin had a tiny little dip in it, and his neck was pleasingly thick enough that he didn't look too effeminate. She sighed, rolling her eyes and tilting her head away contritely.
Felix shrugged. "It's okay. But I don't think it's me you should be sorry for."
She sighed again, and looked away. She often wondered how she was lucky enough to have a best friend like Felix. She was sure he was a concealed treasure, his most wonderful assets being looked over in favour of his vocation or appearance. One of the most admirable things about Felix, in Miriam's opinion, was that he was completely insane. Not in the clinical sense, just in the sense that he would mount bicycles in toy stores and cruise down the aisles, sing loudly while walking down the street and talk to complete strangers without compunction. She imagined he maybe saw the world differently from other people... or maybe saw it the same, but made an effort to react to it differently.
Felix cleared his throat, and Miriam looked to him.
"Anyway, you remember your promise about being there if I needed to have an honest opinion about any of the songs I write?" She nodded wordlessly. "Well, it goes both ways."
She clutched her back-pack containing her writing and sighed. "You know how I feel about showing people my unfinished work…"
He nodded. "I know. I promise I won't laugh or anything."
A bus rolled up to the stop and after boarding it and settling down into their seats near the back of the bus, Miriam looked to Felix defensively, wrapping her arms about the back-pack in her lap.
They were quiet for a moment as they rumbled down the highway. The bus windows rattled in their housings, and the tinny sound of the radio in the front of the vehicle barely made it down the back of the bus where Felix and Miri sat quietly. Every now and again a puff of acrid smelling exhaust would blow in their faces from the open window ahead of them, and the sharp sounds of the beach-front activity would jab at them, quickly swept away by the movement of the bus. They passed surfers toting long surfboards, usually young blonde men in throngs of six to eight, tanned and gleaming with sun-block. There were similar groups of girls, resplendent in a variety of little bikinis, and here and there were families climbing painfully out of vans and sedans, children running about without their parent's leave, some screaming at the heat of the bitumen under their bare feet or complaining about the zinc cream being slathered on their faces by doting mothers.
Miriam glanced down to her bag in her arms and blinked with fear in her eyes. "You'll hate it."
He tilted his head. "Will I?" She nodded silently. "How do you know that?"
She lifted her brows. "Cause I know you, Felix. You don't like serious stuff."
"It's serious?" he asked.
"Sort of," she said. "If I tell you the idea, will you promise not to laugh?"
He sighed, a gentle smile on his face. "Have you ever laughed at my songs?"
She looked defensive. "I laughed at that one about the llama."
Felix broke into a chuckle. "That's okay, you were meant to."
She dipped her head down and looked to her bag, sighing fitfully. "Okay. I'll tell you the idea first…" She pulled her bottom lip into her teeth a moment and sighed. "If you laugh, I'm never telling you my ideas again, and then you can forget about reading my stuff…"
The smile on his face was one of humour. "How are you ever going to be a writer if you don't take criticism?"
She frowned at that. "Well… I… I don't think I'd care if it were an editor." She blushed, looking suddenly childish. "I just don't think I could take it if you laughed at me."
Felix gazed at her, a deep blush in his own cheeks, and he smiled again, patting her hand. "Don't worry. I could never think anything bad about you."
Miriam groaned. "Not true. Remember that time you visited me when I was in the middle of writing, and you sat there on my couch watching TV and I was there in my comfy-chair writing all night and you were bitching and moaning about how neglected you were feeling?"
Felix giggled. "Yeah but, that's okay. I think I was stoned at the time."
"And then there was that time we got really drunk at that old bar near the pizza shop and we staggered back to your car after having an entire supreme pizza each and I couldn't take it and I yakked in the back seat. Remember that? I'm sure you were thinking bad things then!"
Felix laughed, bringing his feet up against the back of the seats in front of him and lazing back in his own. "Come on, yakkin's nothing, and I did get you to clean it up so I wasn't that pissed off."
She sighed, narrowing her eyes. "Stop being decent."
"Stop being a whiner!" he said with a cheeky smile.
She blew a breath through her lips. "It's about dolphins."
Felix's smile froze on his face. "What?"
"My manuscript," she said.
He shifted in his seat and faced her. "You mean, like a science thing or?"
"No," she said, her voice becoming wavered in nerves. "It's sort of… weird… it's - they're intelligent. They can speak to each other."
"And it follows a pod of dolphins and their life like… like they were a tribe of people. And it examines how humans affect them and stuff. And sometimes they meet big whales. They lament over how they're disappearing, and things like that. You know?"
Felix's face had gone from a grin to a blank look that Miriam couldn't read. She fretted, whimpering and looking away.
"Oh I knew you'd think it was crap!"
"No!" gasped Felix, grabbing her hand. "No, no, it's - it's an awesome idea!" His large blue eyes twinkled. "So… when humans take orphaned dolphin babies and then breed them in captivity and make them do tricks in theme parks and stuff, it's like slavery to them? "
Miriam turned to Felix, her eyes glinting in utter glee. "Yes! Exactly!" She grinned, and clutched Felix's hand. "I never thought… I didn't think you'd get it. Not that you're stupid or anything, it's just that it was a weird idea, and I thought people wouldn't be interested in it."
"I get it," Felix said, leaning back in his seat and just gazing at her thoughtfully. "If you didn't think people would be interested, why are you writing it?"
"I don't know," she said. "I just - I had this funny idea, and I started taking notes, and this whole world just expanded in my mind. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to know about it, the dolphins' lives, that is. I don't know. Who knows about why these things happen?"
"I sure as shit don't," said Felix. "If I did, I'd be writing ten songs a day."
Miriam smiled. She was incredibly relieved that he understood.
"Do you have work tonight?"
"Yeah," she said tiredly, "It's a Friday. Six to twelve shift. What about you?"
"Another gig at the hotel," said Felix with a nod. "Hey. You want me to come get you after you're done at the bar?" he asked.
There was an uncertain gleam in the young man's eyes, and even though he'd popped by the pub and picked her up hundreds of times in the three years that they'd known each other, each time he asked he looked as though he was expecting her to tell him to go to hell.
"Of course," she said, nudging him with her shoulder.
"Can I read your story?" he asked.
Her heart clenched up in her chest as she met his earnest expression. He had seemed to understand though, so with great hesitation, she edged her notepad towards him.
"Be gentle..." she moaned.
A fried chicken restaurant rushed by the window, and with a yelp Miriam jumped to her feet, grabbing for the bell button and pressing it frantically.
"My stop!" she yelped, "Great! Now I'm going to have to walk all the way back to Perrin Road!" She turned about, grabbing her bag. "Gotta go."
Felix stood, giving her a quick hug. "Can I keep this?"
Miriam froze. The thought of her parting with her work tore at her. She fretted.
"Oh, uh - I-"
"Lady! You gettin' off or not?!" the busdriver grunted.
"Shit!" she sighed. "Okay, but you have to bring it back to me tonight, okay?"
He nodded, smiling. "Thanks."
She pecked him on the cheek and rushed off the bus.