New Years Day
We were off. Legs pounding, feet on hard, cold sand, biting wind sinking its teeth into our bared flesh as we thundered down the beach. I tried not to think about the grey mass of water ahead; of how it would feel to plunge into its freezing grip and the sensation of the icy water closing in around my body.
For now there was only the blood heating in my veins, the panting breath of my friends, the spinning nausea and laughter bubbling from deep down in our bellies. The tangle of pumping limbs in the dawn light.
Flashes of the evening before hurtled in and out of vision as I ran. Alex spinning madly on the empty dance floor. Lucy lining up fine glass flutes full of clear, bubbling champagne in twos along the table, like passengers in a tram, then working her way along, downing each, glass by glass, until her cheeks flushed pink and her eyes unfocused.
Ashley at midnight. Dark eyes in a dark room. Flashes of silver light and gold confetti, singing, shouting, coloured balloons and soft, hot lips brushing mine, like the end of a dream before waking.
Jodie being sick on the floor next to the toilet.
Spilled teabags and empty mugs. A half filled kettle and a broken glass in the kitchen sink.
A tumble of soft bedclothes and feather pillows. Sticky lips and sticky fingers. A head full of whispered words, half forgotten and lost forever in the wine-soaked sheets.
Then up and out of the dream, the hard lines of reality harsh against the soft focus drowsiness, the cold bite of the morning as we stumbled, half awake, half dressed, half drunk from the cottage and down the cliffs to the beach in the half light.
Goose-pimpled flesh and fingers fumbling with buttons and clasps. Glittering fabric collapsing onto sand and shivering gasps as hands chafe limbs for warmth that will not come. It is cold and will only get colder. We form a shivering, giggling line and try to prepare ourselves.
And then, suddenly, there it is, as if from nowhere, a shock of freezing water, first around your knees then worse as it crashes into your hips, the soft flesh of your belly, knocking the wind right out of you. But there’s no turning back now. We are committed. My chest is in, my shoulders. My God it’s cold, but the creeping nausea, the fuzzy headache, the inching dread are pushed back, washed away in the face of more pressing concerns.
The air is filled with screams and laughter, splashing and swearing. Legs kick and arms flail. The taste of salt is on my tongue and a hand slithers around my waist. My face sinks beneath the salty foam, the water swirling, loudly, pounding in my ears, forcing out the cold and filling me with a fierce kind of joy.
I don’t think about getting back to the cottage, or how the winter air will burn my skin with cold when we eventually clambour out. There is only now.
The morning after the night before.