My legs shake as I stand in the crowd. Watching. Bile fills my throat. No, no, no.
‘The beach, right?’ Emily tugged her bathing suit from her case, bras and knickers tumbling out of the way to spill over the bed.
‘We’ve only just got here.’ A cool drink beckoned.
She held the suit against her, its scarlet glare a resounding clash with her Brit-white bare arms. ‘Please?’
‘There’s a storm coming. Didn’t you see the size of those waves as we flew in?’
My near-adult reasoning failed to resonate.
‘You’re boring. Just like on the plane.’
I’d refused to let her have wine, pointing out to the stewardess Emily was 16, not 19 as claimed. She’d sulked, muttering how this was the first time she was allowed out without parents and I was as bad as her damn mother, forever fussing.
‘I need a rest.’ I was tired from the trip, from the hassle with the rip-off taxi driver, with the abruptness of the receptionist.
Emily pouted, dived into the bathroom to emerge two minutes later like a red and white stick of rock.
I put my hands on my hips, glared. ‘It’s too rough. I promised your mum I’d be the sensible one.’
Emily lifted her head, sharply. Her hair fell back from her sharp-cheeked face. ‘I don’t care what you promised. I’ll do what I want.’ She grabbed a hotel towel – I winced – and stamped barefoot from the room.
I sat on the bed, sighed. I’d promised her mum. I collected our beach towels and slowly wandered after Emily.
I stand in the crowd. My heart bangs against my ribs in an arrhythmic staccato to counter the lifesaver’s measured push, breathe, push.
The red swimsuit clings to her skinny frame, her dark hair spreads on the yellow sand.
Push, breathe, push. My head nods with the rhythm, tight, short.
Emily gags, spews water. Music to my ears!
The crowd releases its collective tension in one resounding breath.