I have been meditating on the very great pleasure which a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman can bestow. ~ Jane Austin, Pride & Prejudice

The first time he saw her she was with a friend and they were smiling.  He recognised the friend as the young woman who walked with the poise of a dancer.  Like his mother had.  He couldn’t remember the dancer’s name but he’d met her on the beach one day with her nephew, Noah.  It had been a blustery afternoon and he’d helped them tame a bright blue, red and yellow kite.

It was the day he came home.

It reminded him of other endless summer days he’d spent here: picnic baskets and red and white gingham; windbreaks and obligatory flasks of hot water for tea; noisy seagulls and snatching sandwiches; new friends and giggles and finding a lighthouse; sunburn and freckles and being buried in the sand. And how could he ever forget the never ending palaver of Uncle Ralph’s old camera; the precious results of which were now stored in a green and red box under the stairs.

The second time he saw her she’d passed by, only inches away, walking briskly and with purpose, head down, unaware of people around her . He remembered the floral scent that lingered after she’d gone and curiously thinking it suited her.

The third time he noticed her was from his uncle’s window; the house at the top of the hill. He’d caught sight of her on the beach after a summer storm; a lonely figure in wellington boots and a waterproof jacket that was more than a few sizes too big. Borrowed perhaps. She stood at the edge of the water as it ebbed and flowed but, unlike excited and carefree children who jump the waves, she stood motionless allowing them to wash over her feet while she stared into the distance; her fragility and vulnerability emphasised by the power and vastness of the sea in front of her.  He suddenly felt protective towards her.

Watching. Waiting. Wishing.

He needed some respite from the heavy stillness of his uncle’s house with its thin layer of dust and dependable grandmother chimes.  The tick-tock he’d found hypnotic and reassuring in childhood on quiet Sunday afternoons after church now began to irritate him; like an intruder its sound seeping into his consciousness and disturbing the peace.

Fancy a walk Harry?

He sat on the wall watching Harry run flat out towards the sea before screeching to a halt.  It amused him and he laughed out loud at his antics.  He knew he didn’t like his feet wet!  With typical boxer-like curiosity he investigated scattered pieces of driftwood and seaweed then proceeded to playfully demolish various works of sand-art created earlier that day. He’d inherited a house that came with its own faithful friend; a brown and white bundle of fun that now bounced mischievously up the beach towards him, barking for attention and carrying something in his big smiley mouth. I really hope it’s not a dead thing.

He looked around him and concentrated his gaze on the attractive white cottage. Like an artist he captured quickly its style and elegance and committed it to memory; the glossy blue door, shuttered windows with white cloth and vibrant boxes blooming with colour and the name Golly Gosh over the door. There was activity at the window and he realised he was being watched.

He smiled and waved. He knew he would visit this place. But not yet.

He joined Harry on the beach, throwing sticks for him to catch, trying to wear him out.

Tom almost missed seeing her for the fourth time.