I count the change out into the boy’s hand. He must only be five or six and his pockets are bulging with change. I bet he’s been saving up for weeks; swapping a 20 pence piece with his dad for a tower of bright pennies, just to make sure he has a morning’s worth of coppers to spend on the pier.
A gleaming pile teeters over the edge of a precipice, waiting to tumble clattering down and be fished out by little sticky fingers; my brother and I elbowing each other out of the way to snatch up the lion’s share.
The hands on my watch seem to have halved their speed and the morning crawls slowly toward lunchtime. I know she’s back. I see the flash of her pink jacket as she saunters past the ticket booth, turning her head to grin back at the face behind the glass. I won’t stop her; she’ll not stay long.
She presses against the railing, holding on tight but leaning right over; wind whipping through her long blonde hair, its full length picking up the flow of the current and ribboning out. Her hair is tangled now and she desperately rakes her fingers through it, trying to loosen the knots and smooth it out.
She looks expectant, checking her watch. Her dark, hopeful eyes scan the prom at the end of the pier. Turning her back to the railings, she puts the heels of her palms on top of the cold smoothness and sinks back, nervously drumming her fingers on the hollow, ringing metal; waiting.
I recognise what her bit lip is telling me. I breathe in the salty air, sighing deeply to release the breath, the ghost, the memory. I turn back and she has gone.
Painting details: Untitled (2010), Laura Lancaster, Workplace Gallery, UK