Sandystone

Evie loves Sandystone; its where she's gone to celebrate anything of importance since she was little. But Evie is going away to Spain and she's at Sandystone for the last time, for a very long time.

Just a small story to start me off onto the site!

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1. I hate change.

 

My family had always loved the beach.
There were different aspects of it that we each enjoyed.
For example, I had always loved the tender lapping waves of the sea and the serenity and peace it brought me.
My mum had always said that it was because I was a water baby; but I had always thought that it was totally irrelevant.
My older sister Lily on the other hand adored the sand and the soft, cushiony bed that it offered for sunbathing, despite the rare sunbathing opportunities available in Wales, infamous for its blustery weather and rain.
My cousins Jasper and Aaron prized the amount of activities and sports that they could play on the sloping sands; rounders, bowls, cricket.
And my mum, my mum loved how the beach was natural and gorgeous and provided spectacular views, especially at sunset, the sky blood red and the sun a semi-circle on the horizon, sending golden patterns to dance gracefully across the sea’s calm waves.
However, there was one reason that the beach held a soft spot in all of our hearts.
It was because one beach in particular was where we went to celebrate anything of significance in our lives. 
Birthdays, retirements, promotions, Christenings, you name it, come rain or shine the whole family packed their cars and met at Sandystone beach.
Whenever I explained our ritual to anyone outside our family, I almost expected the cynical expressions that I received.
I could understand that it was a strange idea that a beach could be the suitable environment to host any celebration imaginable.
“Well before you say anything, picture this,” I found myself saying to numerous people, “a small pale wooden beach house perched on top of a verge, surrounded by a plentiful garden of green grass. Picturesque, cute and cosy at, least twenty meters between it and the next beach house, with sea shells and pebbles collected from the beach below, lined up carefully on the windowsills, a shingle path leading onto the slope of smooth round pebbles, a perfect stage for summer BBQs and bonfires.
Then past the pebbles is a wide stretch if golden sand, sometimes perfect, smooth and untouched, other times covered in sets of footsteps, each set telling a different story, a different journey.
On the sand, any multitude of games can be played and sandcastles made.
The sand stretches for miles and leads on to the soft lapping waves of the mighty sea that offers many enjoyable hours padding ling and body boarding in the summer.
Now imagine the Winter, the opposite to the summer in almost all ways, except for the availability of Sandystone.
Imagine sitting in the kitchen of the little wooden house, playing cards and drinking hot chocolate while stoking the real log fire and gazing at the beautiful view outside. The ferocious crashing waves and rain drops like shimmering pearls rolling slowly down the glass pane of the window. Bliss.” 
At this point in my recollection, I would clear my throat to rouse my audience who would be staring at me in awe.
“So, yeah, like I said, any celebration, whatever the weather can take place at our Sandystone.”
Then I would be bombarded with questions.
“Where exactly is Sandystone?” 
“Are you sure you’re not making this up?”
 “Can we rent it?” Was the most common question asked.
We didn’t rent it out though. It belonged to my grandparents on my mother’s side; they’d spent their retirement money on it fifteen years ago and didn’t like the idea of trusting their most prized possession to strangers. 
They also refrained from renting it so that it could be used for the short notice celebrations, like when Lily had become head girl a few years back or when Jasper made our regional rugby team.
On these occasions we would jump straight into our cars with any food that we could find  and then made the one hour and a half journey to the Pembrokeshire coast.
My mother’s parents, Me, Lily, Mum and Dad, Mum’s younger sister Eleanor, her husband James and their son’s Jasper and Aaron and Mum’s older sister Rhian and her daughter Seren.
Not the biggest family but not the smallest either.
Every single person would just drop what they were doing, cancel their plans and meet at Sandystone.
The last minute gatherings like those were always the best, everyone still buzzing with the adrenaline of dropping their usual responsibilities and driving to our favorite place.  

As I walked down the shingle path, my eyes set on the glittering waves, I realised how the visit that we were presently on wasn’t one of those times.
In fact this visit to Sandystone was the complete opposite; it had been planned for a very long time.
It was ironic how mournful the celebration seemed to me, especially since it was a joint birthday and farewell party, in my honor.
On every other birthday that I had celebrated at Sandystone I had been ecstatic, completely overjoyed and thankful.
This time was different though.
“This is going to be another celebration that we will treasure forever!” Nan had greeted me with, from the door of the beach house when Mum, Dad, Lily and I had arrived just twenty minutes earlier.
I wasn’t really in the mood for celebrating but I didn’t have the heart to tell her that.
Then I had unpacked in the little attic room where I slept before taking a  tour of the house.
The four bedrooms, two bathrooms, living room and kitchen come dining room.
Lily didn’t leave my side, commenting on each room, saying things like,
“This room has the best lighting.”
“Remember when we blackmailed mum and dad into letting us sleep in here and them in our attic room?” “Has the kitchen always been yellow?”
  You would think that she had the mental age of a six year old, the way she kept going on.
So by the time mum and nan sent me out whilst they put the finishing touches to surprise for me, I was pleased and had willingly obliged, needing a moment to myself.

  I slumped down onto the sun warmed pebbles, flinging my bare legs out in front of me, tempting the sun to kiss them.
I took a pebble into the palm of my hand and rolled it over a few times.
It was grey, speckled with spots of brown. I pivoted my body slightly before throwing the pebble through the air.
The tide was far out and never truly reached the pebble banking anyway, so as usual, the pebble hit the sand with a ‘thump’, small grains of sand puffing into the air before settling again.
The action was so familiar, yet not familiar at all.
Nothing felt the same to me anymore, not even being at Sandystone I realised sadly.
I pretended not to know why.
I told myself that it was perhaps because I was about to celebrate my eighteenth birthday. Perhaps the magic of childhood that had previously transformed the beach into a dream world where everything was perfect had worn off. But deep down I knew that wasn’t it.
The last time we had visited Sandystone had been a couple of weeks ago to celebrate Aaron’s GSCE results and everything had felt perfectly fine then.
Everything had felt normal.
And really, there wasn’t much difference between being seventeen and being eighteen. 
In all honesty, I knew why I felt so strange. It was because I was leaving.
As the thought entered my mind, I covered my face with my hands and pulled my knees into my chest, allowing my long, dark hair to fall forwards and cover my face and hands.
I was leaving for university in a week. And said university was in Spain; sunny, half way across the continent, Spain.
Therefore, not only would I have to leave home, my family and friends, I was moving to another country and had to adapt to another culture.
I wouldn’t see another celebration at Sandystone for a very long time. 
Suddenly the whole thing felt like a lot to deal with, the heavy weight of it all pushing me down into the pebbles, crippling my posture.
Of course at first I had been over the moon. Where else better to study the beautiful Spanish language than in Spain? Hadn’t I always wanted to travel the world and have experiences outside Wales? It was life changing, once in a life time kind of stuff.
In fact, I hadn’t really thought of the negatives at all. That was, not until I had taken a step out of my Dad’s car only twenty minutes ago, caught sight of Sandystone, the house and the beach and had realised that the next day I would have to say goodbye to it and in turn, say goodbye to all the great memories that it held. After that, the joint celebration felt more like a funeral than anything else.
Just then I felt a hand on my slumped shoulder.
I removed my hands from my face and turned around quickly, shrugging hair out of my eyes as I did.
“Hey Evie!”
It was Jasper, my cousin, the eldest of all us ‘children’, although I wouldn’t call any of us children anymore.
Even Aaron the youngest was already sixteen.  I gave Jasper a quick hug.
“Hey! When did you lot get here?” I said as Jasper pulled me to my feet.
“Just now,” Jasper said, as I brushed small specks of sand from my shorts.
“I’ve just come down to let you know that aunt Emma and nan want you back at the house for your surprise, which reminds me, happy birthday!”
“Thanks,” I gave a half smile and the two of us began to walk back up towards the house.
“You’ve got the weather for it!” Jasper said, gazing up at the clear blue sky and glowing sun.
I nodded. At least the weather allowed me to fully enjoy every aspect of Sandystone for the last time.
At least for a while anyway.

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