The words jerk out of my throat the same way Mum’s pulling my arm out of the socket as she drags me across the sand.
But she doesn’t hear me. Neither does Dad. They’re too busy arguing and juggling bags, my bucket and spade, the umbrella, esky and towels up the beach. Too caught up in their adult stuff to notice me.
How you could not see it?
I swear I only turned away for a second.
You were watching the girls out in the water who were topless. Don’t deny it.
There’s a silence that makes me uncomfortable – hurts more than the hot sand.
How the hell can I trust you if you can’t even keep an eye on your own daughter? For five minutes? That’s all I was gone. FIVE MINUTES!
I got distracted.
You saw the chicks with their tits out, miles away in the surf, but missed the guy flashing his dick right in front of our daughter. You’re un-be-lieveable.
Then it’s quiet again. The sand squeaks as we stumble towards the car park. Behind is the crash of the Too-Big-For-Me Waves, the babble of Happy Families having fun on the beach. Back there, not up here where the sand bites.
My feet are burning and my arm feels like it’s stretched too far. I want someone to pick me up, but there’s no room for me in either of their arms.
This isn’t going to work.
I said I’m sorry.
Dad’s voice is sort of angry – sort of sad.
I left my sandals behind. They’re my favourite.
Shush, Lilianna – please. Sorry’s not good enough this time Craig. You promised you’d behave like a responsible adult. You’re a father. A grown up. And you still can’t act like either.
YOU’RE NOT LISTENIN’. Mum. Dad. STOP! My sandals.
Dad was standing beside me as I sat in the sand digging and filling up my bucket, safe in The Shallows from the Big Waves. I was happy. We were all at the beach. Actually all here together. Mum in her yellow bikini looking beautiful. Dad in his crazy orange boardshorts.
I was watching the way the sand twinkled sometimes in the sun. The magic way the water filled up where I had dug.
Then Mum swooped down, half-picking me up, screaming at Dad, half-dragging me from The Shallows, up to our umbrella. She shoved all our stuff into bags, not worrying about shaking out the sand.
I don’t want to go home. But she wasn’t listening. In a rush like the other Mums the day the storm came, only she stopped to shake the sand out then.
It’s something I’ve done. It’s my fault they’re arguing again. I want to say sorry – but my sandals.
I cry. It’s too hot for my feet. The car park bites worse than the sand. I don’t blubber softly like I should. I wail. I’m loud. People walking a dog stare.
Not NOW Lili-an-nah.
The boot is up and I’m sobbing, hopping from foot to foot.
For Christ sakes Vicki – where are Lilianna’s sandals? Here baby.
He tosses the umbrella in the boot and picks me up. Hugs me. I’m sandy and so is he. The little hairs on his chest tickle. My bikini’s up my bum and my feet still burn, dangling above the fire in the ground.
Do your feet hurt, baby?
I nod – tears wet on my hot cheeks.
Like .. eggs .. in .. the .. frypan. I’m hiccuping between each word.
I’m sorry, I wasn’t listening. He looks like he’s sorry – not like when Mum says she’s sorry.
My sandals – my favourites. They’ve got daisies on them. That’s what they are, aren’t they Mum? The white flowers with the yellow bits in the middle of them. Nanna gave them to me when you went away last time Dad.
There’s something strange in Mum’s voice – something I can’t pick. Her face which was bunched up looks less knotted.
Is that what you’re crying about Lilianna?
I nod and the car park is quiet until a loud car drives past.
I sound just like Mum. She looks at me with her serious face on.
You’re crying because we forgot your sandals?
My feet were burning and you were just ignoring me.
She sighs and looks confused, then after a while begins to laugh. I want to be angry with her because it is not funny that my feet hurt, but tiny fairies fly out of her mouth when she laughs. I wish she would be happy more and angry less.
Dad starts to laugh too and we’re all laughing. Mum gives us both a hug.
I say it and smile. I don’t feel uncomfortable any more. My face tingles from smiling and my feet ache a bit as Mum slides me into the back seat. She does up my seatbelt and we wait in the hot car, with the engine running and the air conditioner on, waiting for Dad to come back.
I think about tits and dicks – wondering what I missed. I’m not sure what they are but they sound like ‘bum’ and I know I get in trouble for giggling and singing songs about bums, so I don’t ask about tits and dicks. I just want everyone to stay happy.
I say thank you as Dad puts my sandals on and he winks at me. I giggle. And Mum lets him kiss her on the cheek.
As we drive home I sing loudly to Snow Patrol and no one tells me to be quiet. Dad has his hand on Mum’s leg and I see fairies peeking out of her smile when she turns to look at him at a red light. I swing my feet back and forth, careful not to kick the seat in front. My favourite sandals, the ones with the white daisies on them, dance in the space Mum and Dad never see.This story was originally written on February 8th, 2009 as an entry written for Write Anything’s Picture This #10. and at the time was read by two people! Since then it’s been revised and given a new coat of pain. It was rejected for the Miscellaneous Voices first anthology of online work in January this year. Any critical comment is welcome. I hope a few more people get to enjoy it.