International Writers Magazine:
There were some enticing
looking rock pools nearby but these had been colonised by some older boys
who were busy hunting for crabs.
Nina sat back
on her heels and surveyed her handiwork. In all of her eight years
she did not think that she had seen a finer example of a sandcastle.
It had, in her view, everything a sandcastle should have
turrets, a moat, shells even a drawbridge fashioned from
a piece of driftwood provided by her father, before he had got bored
and, much to Ninas relief, left her to it. Suffused with satisfaction
she looked around her wondering what to do next.
Ninas tummy rumbled quietly. Perhaps it was time for lunch. She
looked over to the café clock and was disappointed to discover
that it was only half past ten. She turned her attention to her family
who sat nearby. Her mother was lying prostrate in the sun, snoring softly.
Ninas baby sister Grace lay in her carrycot gurgling happily to
herself, surrounded by nappies, toys and plastic containers. It had taken
several journeys to and from the car to bring all of Graces things
as well as the picnic, the windbreak, books, newspapers, magazines, spare
clothes, towels, not to mention Ninas bucket and spade. Despite
all of this paraphernalia however Nina was still getting bored. She looked
over to her father sitting slumped in a deckchair, staring into the distance.
They caught each others glance and recognising their mutual restlessness
he got to his feet.
"Want to go for a wander?" he asked. "
stretch to an ice cream!"
Nina nodded enthusiastically and before long they were strolling side
by side along the promenade. Occasionally they paused as Ninas attention
was caught by various brightly coloured plastic items displayed outside
the many beach side shops windmills on sticks, their sails fluttering
gaily round in the wind, beach balls, fishing nets, neon coloured sandals,
pac-a-macs , rain-hoods, umbrellas they all fascinated Nina who
stared goggle-eyed at them, willing her father to offer to buy something.
He though was in a different world altogether and strode along whistling
to himself, just glad to be here in the sunshine and not in his stuffy
office. Then as they turned a corner Nina saw the ice cream van in the
distance. She ran ahead, eager to have as much time as possible to make
Suddenly she stopped short as a figure blocked her path. He was tall and
loomed over her. She looked up at him curiously, wondering what he wanted.
He knelt down to her level. She caught his sour smell and stepped back,
suddenly wary, though she wasnt sure why. The sun disappeared behind
a cloud and Nina shivered. The day had definitely darkened.
"Would you like to come and play? Ive got some smashing toys."
breathed the stranger. "Whats your name?"
"Nnnina" she stammered.
"Well Nina, why dont we go for some sweeties?"
Nina looked behind her. Her father couldnt be far away. He would
know what to do.
The stranger stood up warily. He grasped her by the elbow.
"You are on your own, arent you?"
"No, Im with my Daddy."
She turned and pointed vaguely behind her. When she looked back the stranger
had disappeared as suddenly as he had arrived.
As she looked behind her again she saw her father turning the corner and
hurrying towards her.
"Where did you get to? You shouldnt run off like that!"
Nina nodded vigorously. Never had she been so sure that her father was
absolutely right. He took her by the hand and they set off to the ice
As the day wore on Nina could have sworn that she saw the stranger again,
but it was in the distance so she couldnt be sure. She hadnt
told anyone of her encounter. She didnt want to worry anyone and
anyway nothing much had happened so what would she tell them exactly?
Before long the day that had stretched before her was coming to a close.
But one more treat was in store. They stopped at a newsagents on
the way home for her father to get an evening paper. He said that as she
had been such a good girl that day, Nina could choose a present. She was
peering at the various toys on display when she saw it a photo
behind the counter. It was the stranger. Above his picture was the word
WANTED. Nina pointed excitedly at it and, forgetting she hadnt said
anything, blurted out "I met him today, when we went for an ice cream.
He asked me to go and play with him."
Ninas father blanched visibly as he read the remainder of the wording
on the poster.
He bent down to her, his face etched with concern.
"Whatever you do
" he whispered urgently, "Dont
tell your mother!"
© Diana Bretherick October 2007
Diana.Bretherick at port.ac.uk
Diana is studying for her Creative Writring Masters at the University
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