A kaleidoscope of colours swirled before her. Vibrant streaks of red and daubs of yellow. Azure splashes reminded her of the sea; flecks of shimmering white, the foam of the surf. Her head swam with the dizzying image, and she rocked back and forth as cool ocean memories washed over her.
“Is everything okay?” a voice said, as if from far away.
Julia blinked at the intrusion as glaring down-lights and clinking glasses leaked into her solitude.
“Do you need to sit down?” the voice came again.
She pulled her gaze from the painting and turned towards the interruption. “Huh?” she said, as she slowly focused on the man standing in front of her. He was tall, and fair, with concern etched into his rather handsome face
“You were swaying.”
Heat rushed to Julia’s cheeks, and she unintentionally fussed with her hair, pushing a ginger strand behind one ear “Oh. No,” she said. “I’m fine. I just… I got kind of lost in this piece.”
The man lit up. “Really? That’s pretty cool. I’m the artist,” and he reached out his hand. “Alec Masters.”
Julia shook Alec’s hand, their grasp lingering a little longer than it should, as a squeak of something almost intangible passed between them.
“You’re the artist?” she said, trying to ignore the goosebumps that had erupted along her arms. “Well, I love it. What did you call it?”
“Summers at Freshie.”
“Like, Freshwater Beach?”
“Yeah. You know it?”
“I painted it from my memories as a kid,” Alec said. “Going to Freshie at Christmastime. The gentle waves. The scorching sand!”
“The smell of pies wafting from the canteen at the surf club. The chocolate paddle pops. Or Icy Poles!”
“Yes! The lemonade ones!”
They both laughed.
Silence rested easily between them, as reflections of their childhoods rippled through the air.
“You didn’t tell me your name,” Alec said, breaking the stillness, and shifting closer to her.
“Hi Julia,” and he turned towards his painting. “I dug those summers. The carefree, lazy days. Hanging with my mates. I even fell in love one year. Though, I don’t think she knew I existed.”
Julia watched him as he considered his work. “I get the yellows, blues and whites,” she said. “But what does the red represent?”
“That’s the love part. She wore the cutest red bikini and her hair was… like yours, actually. Ginger.”
A whole raft of butterflies started flapping inside Julia’s stomach. She studied Alec out the corner of her eye. His sandy locks, the freckles across the bridge of his nose, the familiar way he chewed on his lip.
“I fell in love too,” she said, her voice so soft it was barely audible. “With a boy in bright orange boardies.” She held her breath as Alec turned towards her.
“I wore bright orange boardies.”
“I wore a red bikini.”
“I never knew your name,” he said.
She smiled. “Now you do.”
Alec stepped up to the piece of card on the wall beside his painting and took a Sharpie from his pocket. “Now I do,” he said, and he crossed out the title, and in its place wrote a new one. Julia.
© Amy Hutton 2020