Tom had gone for ice creams, taking the duck-board path over the dunes.
Penny followed the children over wet sand to where the waves were breaking, rhythmically peeling in long lines. She had her phone, hoping to capture the turning light, the turquoise sea, her happy children. A Facebook holiday.
The children dug their feet into the sand, skipping up sludgy toe scoops to flick at each other. Penny suggested cartwheels, which she filmed poorly, missing turns from the camera frame.
‘Again, again’ she called.
The children obliged, nearer the water’s edge, droplets flying from their turning hands and feet.
‘How about handstands?’ Easier to capture, held and framed against the water, long shadows clowning on the sand.
When Tom returned, ice creams already softening, he found Penny, pink-faced, tear- stained, but smiling, comforting Thea in her lap, swaddled in an outsized beach towel.
‘What’s up? Did something happen?’
‘I’m afraid I’m in trouble with Thea’ said Penny.
‘Don’t start again Mummy. It’s not funny’ Thea was still very cross.
Tom recognised that Penny’s streaked face was from laughter. When deeply amused, Penny would spout joyful, uncontainable tears that streamed down her face.
‘Go and wash your sticky ice cream hands in the sea’ said Penny.
The children in sight, but gone, Penny handed Tom her phone.
‘Watch this’ she giggled.
Tom pressed play. The children turning upside-down against the sea, legs victorious V signs, holding their poses.
‘Oh, that’s brilliant’ Tom splutters. “I didn’t see that coming.” Loudly, he joins Penny in the indulgent expansive hilarity parents reserve, especially, for laughing at their children.
Thea slightly further out than the others, pony-tail dangling, grinning. Suddenly, her head disappears. Entirely submerged by a larger wave right up to her shoulders. There’s a gasp from Penny and the video ends chaotically.
© Emily MacDonald