Warm weather settled in and, over a plate of chips in the hospital cafe, Maggie proposed a trip to the beach.
Pop had had an up day which meant Raine was open to enjoyment.
‘Sea air would be great. Bit cold for swimming though.’
‘Guess so.’ Maggie waved a chip. ‘Although your so-called spring passes for summer back home.’
Maggie and Arthur, Alf, Teddy, Doris and Raine caught the tram to the Bay and walked the white beach under a sun which heated Raine’s cheeks. She tied her cardigan around her waist, rolled up the wide legs of her cotton trousers, carried her shoes and paddled in the lacy froth of the shallows. A soft breeze gently warned of summer’s heat. Raine sucked the breeze into her lungs, tasting salt and sunshine.
‘Almost warm enough to swim,’ she said to the air. ‘If you were brave enough.’
Teddy was the only one not to laugh.
‘Plenty warm enough,’ he said. ‘I’m going in.’
He pulled off his trousers to show off red bathing trunks which didn’t flatter his white, slim legs. Next came his pullover and shirt, this time showing off a hairless chest. Well-muscled though, Raine saw before turning away.
Other people wandered on the beach. Children dug in the soft sand. No one had dared the glittering blue water.
‘Coming?’ Teddy challenged Alf.
‘No fear, mate. Too cold for me.’ Alf hugged his arms around his chest and shivered.
‘Arthur?’
Arthur snorted. ‘Might be sharks.’
‘Too cold for sharks,’ Alf said.
‘Lily-livered cowards.’ Teddy shrugged hugely, smirked at Raine and ran towards the sea, waving an arm in farewell.
The tide was out and Teddy splashed a long way, arms flailing, legs kicking up glittering sprays before Raine saw him dive into the water. His dark head emerged, then one arm and another as he swam on, in the direction he’d been running, towards the horizon.
They all watched.
‘Stupid blighter’ll end up home in England if he keeps on,’ Maggie muttered.
‘He can only go as far as the other side of the gulf,’ Raine said. ‘Won’t find much there.’
Teddy kept swimming, a black dot against the silver water.
Maggie shaded her eyes from the glare. ‘He should be heading back.’
Raine thought so too.
‘Silly bugger.’ Alf shook his head. ‘Hope there’s no currents out there.’
No one knew about currents. Teddy swam on.
‘Heading off into the blue, just like that.’ Alf snapped his fingers. ‘No thought about how he’s gonna get back.’
‘Should we shout for a lifeguard?’ It was Doris, chewing on a fingernail and casting quick looks between Maggie and the tiny figure out in the gulf.
‘Nah.’ Maggie pointed. ‘See, he’s stopped.’
Raine squinted. Teddy had indeed stopped. Was he resting? Or in trouble?
‘Come on,’ Maggie urged the group. ‘Let’s walk along the beach, pretend we never saw him.’ She laughed. ‘That’ll teach the bleeder to get us all agitated.’ She linked her arm in Arthur’s and strolled along the sand, head down searching for shells.
The others followed.
Raine stayed where she was, her hand to her forehead, gaze fixed on the water. Someone needed to make sure Teddy wasn’t in trouble. Ah! Here he came, swimming, slowly, to the shore.
‘He’ll be all right.’ Alf stood a little way ahead, calling to Raine. ‘He won’t drown today. Coming?’
Raine dropped her hand and kicked at the soft sand. She was angry at herself for letting Teddy’s silly antics trouble her. She shouldn’t think about Teddy. She waved at Alf, shrugged her shoulders high. Better to think about Alf, looking out for her as always.
‘Coming,’ she called and turned away from the sea.