Stacy stood at the sink, looking out the window at the back garden. She didn’t notice the kettle had started to overflow. Some cold water splashed up onto her hand, she looked down, startled, then shut the tap off. It was far, far too early for this. She had been up late the night before with work, but of course she was the one expected to do this, not Tom, it wasn’t like he got to have an early night last night. She flicked on the kettle and got out a mug, then, she started getting everything else ready.
First things first, while her tea was brewing she would make the kids sandwiches, get that out of the way. Ham and cheese, simple, easy. She was just thankful they both still ate ham and cheese. Todd was starting to get picky and she couldn’t figure out why, Anna had always been a bit of a strange eater. She had gone through a weeks phase of demanding pickles and only pickles for every meal. It hadn’t worked, but it had taken her the full week to finally give up on it. Stacy paused, knife halfway through the sandwich, diagonally of course, cutting it into direct halves would have made it worthless, lower in taste than even dreaded tuna. Was this her life? Was it all she was now? The knife finished it’s cut. She placed the halves into the lunchbox, then added some snacks. An orange for Todd, apple for Anna and a small bar of chocolate each. With that done she sealed the boxes and placed them in their usual places. She could hear the kids upstairs, getting ready. At least she wouldn’t have to go back up there to get them ready. She placed two bowls onto the table and put out the cereal and milk. They had cereal yesterday and she didn’t like giving it to them two days in a row, but she just wasn’t up for cooking anything this morning. She picked up her mug of tea and took a sip, testing it, finding it cool enough she took a longer drink.
The children thundered in and she became caught up in getting them to eat and making sure they had packed everything, then suddenly there was a knock on the door and it was time to go. Thank god for carpooling. With one final slam of the door the children were gone and off to school. Upstairs she could hear the shower, Tom getting ready for work. She’d have to start getting ready soon. She looked at the clock, then at her tea, making a decision she sat at the table and took another drink.
Tom came down a short while later and made some tea for himself, he talked while eating breakfast and Stacy knew she replied, but she couldn’t remember anything either of them had said. It must not have been important. Her phone rang twice, she glanced at it, work. She looked at the clock, she was already late. Oh well, not much she could do about it now. She went to sip her tea again but found that the mug was empty. Tom had left long ago, but she couldn’t remember him actually leaving. She stood from the table and went upstairs.
In the bathroom she stripped from her robe and nightie, then got into the shower. The water was hot and soothing, steam gently filling the room. She didn’t know how long she was in the shower, but when she stepped out her skin was wrinkled.
When she dried herself she dressed in a pair of tracksuit bottoms and a large t-shirt. Dressed, she went back downstairs and made herself another cup of tea. She glanced at the phone again, the missed calls had multiplied to seven, and Tom was getting in on the action too. They must have rang him. She’d get to it later. For now though, it wasn’t important.
At noon she considered going for a run, but she was comfortable just sitting. It wasn’t a day for expending energy, it was a day of peace and solitude. They kids had day care until four, then Tom was to collect them on his way home, she had some time left.
At three she scribbled a note and left it on the kitchen counter. Then, she took the car keys and left.
Stacy didn’t know where she was driving to, so instead she just drove. The car had sat nav inside it, she’d be able to find her way back. She took turns at random, sometimes doubling back for a while. It was peaceful, relaxing.
She ended up at the beach. She parked up, the only car in the lot, and got out. The sun was warm, but there was a faint bite to the wind. The beach was mostly empty which surprised her, surely there would be some families out, or people going for walks, but along the stretch of sand she could see only a man and his dog and a woman who was jogging away from her. Stacy walked down the beach, feeling the sand between her toes, how it shifted beneath her as she walked. Finally, she found the perfect spot and she sat, looking out at the sea, listening to the calm rhythm of the waves.
It was dark when she finally stood, dark and cold. Shivering, she started back towards the car. She hadn’t walked that far from it surely. The sand on the beach took a silvery sheen under the light of the moon, she was the only one on the beach, there were no fishermen, no parties.
She stopped for a moment, wondering how far she had walked, her legs had started to burn steadily, her breathing heavier. She could see no streetlights, no houselights, only the light of the moon. She started to walk again. She’d get to the car and drive home, heater up full blast, maybe get some fast food. She looked at her wrist, then realised she hadn’t put on a watch, she didn’t have her phone either. God, what time was it? It was late, Tom must but worried sick about her.
She started to walk again. It couldn’t be all that far, but then what if she passed it already? Were the streetlights in the parking lot? There must have been but she couldn’t remember seeing any.
She had been walking for what seemed like hours when she finally gave up and sat down on the cold sand. The warmth she had from moving quickly left, leaving her shivering. The sound of the sea was no longer calming and relaxing, it was mocking laughter, steady and cruel. Why had she come here? Why had she skipped out on work? She looked around, trying to see if there was any driftwood, perhaps she could make a fire, the deep and slowly shifting shadows of the beach revealed nothing. She’d go to the top of the dunes, from there she’d be able to see something or someone surely. Besides, people must be looking for her, her note to Tom had promised she wouldn’t be out that late, it must be at least one in the morning by now. She stood, her legs shaky and protesting, then she turned and began to climb.
The sands shifted underneath her as she went up the dune, sending her a little bit back with each step. Finally, she reached the crest and stood, breathing heavily and staring into the darkness. There was nothing but vague lumps and outlines. She turned slowly, scanning the area for some sign of life, but there was nothing. It almost looked like the dunes just continued to stretch on forever, but that must be the moonlight playing tricks on her vision.
She started down the dune again, resolving to walk along the harder surface of the beach. She was halfway down when the sands shifted again and she stumbled, running down the dune to stop herself falling, when she reached the bottom she tumbled forward and fell. Stacy groand and rolled onto her back, turning her head sideways, she spat the sand from her mouth as best she could. Her body was tired and sore, she didn’t want to get up, to keep going.
The sky was lightening, she didn’t know when she had fallen asleep, but she must have at some point. Stacy moved slowly, her muscles uncooperative. She rubbed her arms along her body, trying to get some warmth into it. She looked around in the light, there stretching back were her footprints, in front there was nothing but smooth sand. The beach stretched on and on, there was no car park, no sign of buildings. Stacy took a deep breath, she was tired, confused. She probably passed the lifeguard hut in the dark without realising it. She didn’t look behind herself to confirm it.
People would be looking for her now, they’d be able to track the car down easily enough, she knew that much. They’d start searching the beach for her, then she’d be saved. But now, now she had a choice. She could wait here and hope someone came across her, or she could keep walking and hope she finally came to the car. The sun was fully up, it was warm, but there was still a chill in the air. Finally making her decision Stacy started to walk. She’d get to the car soon, she’d have to. As she walked she kept her head up, scanning the distance for any signs of people or the parking lot. She walked until the sun was high in the sky, until it was starting to sink again, but there was nothing on the horizon, just more sand, stretching out for what seemed liked eternity.