The sea and water are a large part of my life, which is I suppose why they figure so prominently in many of my stories.

Those of you lucky enough to have lived in Cape Town may recognise some of this scenery.

As always, I hope you enjoy it.

- W


It was a bright Saturday morning. The damned Hadedas in the bluegums at the bottom of the garden had woken me at some ungodly hour, and I'd lain in bed, somewhat stupefied from the previous nights' raucous dinner party. But the lure of the morning was strong, and I'd decided to make best use of the glorious weather and actually get outside into it.

Half-past six saw me humping my surf ski onto the roof-racks of my battered Volkswagen Golf. It was a twenty minute drive through to the bay, where I hoped the winds of the week had generated some gentle rolling waves for me to surf. Erin had not answered my call, so I guessed the slut was still in bed with the boy she'd been flirting with the prior night. I hoped she'd used protection, he'd looked a little greasy, but I guessed a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do when pickings are slim.

Traffic was light, and I was singing Dire Straits' Romeo and Juliet out loud as I crested the pass and started the winding descent on the far side.

The beach was almost deserted; which suited me fine. I love my body, but it draws the wrong sort of attention, and the bay's seafront is not the most upmarket of places - definitely not a place I enjoy wandering around solo in skin-tight paddling shorts, a sports bra and a neoprene rash vest, especially not when handling my surf-ski. It makes a certain kind of man come up and offer to "help" me. The beach has the advantage, though, of being mostly shark-free, which on a coast otherwise infested with Great Whites is a pretty good draw card in my book.

The swell was good - not great, but good. I locked my car, secured my dry-bag to the straps behind my surf-ski's cockpit, hefted my paddle, and charged the waves, grinning.


For an hour I lost myself; the charge out into deeper water, the fast turn, and the burst of acceleration necessary to catch a wave as it rolled past; this was my favourite thing. The hiss of the wake I carved, the tumbling helter-skelter of limbs if I misjudged my exit, and the walk of shame to retrieve the ski.

I loved it.

The tide came in, as it always does, and eventually the flat white sandy bottom of the bay was too deep to generate surf - what waves there were were turning into dumpers that crashed a few metres from the shoreline. I sighed, caught one of the last decent sets in, and pulled my surf-ski up onto the beach. Tourists and locals were now out in force; it was time for me to think of moving on. Breakfast called.

I smiled quiet good-mornings to one or two local paddlers that I recognised. They'd just come in from a distance piece out into the ocean - crazy, to my mind, given what lurked out there in the water. Then, in one fluid practised movement I lifted my surf-ski over my head and slid it onto the roof racks. I unlocked my car, recovered my ratchet straps, and wound the hull down tight so it wouldn't move before I tied off the loose ends.

I flung my beach towel onto the seat, arranged it so I wouldn't further stain the fabric, and headed home.


A long, hot shower in the upstairs bathroom saw to the sea salt, and I let myself drip-dry as I tied my hair up into the habitual straggly pony tail. University holidays were a lovely opportunity to abuse my parents' hospitality, and I did so shamelessly. They were away for the week, of course, on some mad hiking sojourn up the West Coast. I wasn't complaining, it meant I could have friends over or, much more frequently, close the blinds and wander around the house nude or barely clothed, enjoying the cool inside air while the summer sweltered outside. Later I'd don a bikini and sun myself by the pool, but for now it was a pair of thin gym pants and a cotton vest as I dug in the fridge for fruit.

I put one of the innumerable movie channels on to provide background noise as I mixed strawberries, raspberries and some still-OK plums with yogurt and muesli. And then I sat, staring out the window at the water rippling in the sunlight, at the trees moving in the first hint of the morning breeze.


I lay, knees raised, on the deck chair; my tatty woven grass hat, cheapo sunglasses and a glass of white wine all the company I wanted. The day was getting hotter, and I could feel sweat starting to slick my shoulders and anywhere else that wasn't exposed to airflow. It was shaping up to be a scorcher.

I watched two gulls cut the air above me; one gave a forlorn cry as they passed. "You and me both," I answered. I sat up, flung aside my hat and sunglasses, and knifed cleanly into the pool, carving a long, slow arc through the cool water. I surfaced, turned onto my back, and floated for a while, enjoying the cold kiss of the water against my flanks and breasts.

Something made me open my eyes.

"Olly!" I shrieked, disbelieving, jerking upright in the water.

He grinned down at me from my deck chair; that shit-eating smirk I know so well.

"What the hell, asshole, when did you get here?"

"Literally this minute, I just walked in the door. It's thirty one degrees and I thought to myself 'Where could Shannon possibly be?' Answer, of course? In the water."

"You should have told me you were coming," I protested, giddy from the surprise. I swam to the steps, clambered out, and attacked him, swinging my arms up behind his neck, laughing like a carefree girl as my twin swung me around and around.

"I missed you," I yelled, as he set me down. "You dick. You didn't phone me once from Italy."

"I was having too much fun," he retorted, grinning. "Ski trips are serious business, I had a lot of drinking and so on and so forth to do."

"Uh huh. Too busy to phone your sister when you know she's eating her guts out with jealousy. You complete penis."

He laughed, and I grinned up at him.


Olly and I were born a scant few minutes apart, by C-section, after mum went into labour a week or so before term. He's supposedly the oldest, but come on, what difference does a few minutes make? We're two sides of the same coin. Except that Olly is totally adept at being an adult. While I... I pretend. Sometimes I fool even myself.

But I only feel whole when he's there.

So, unexpected surprises like this really are like all my Christmases have come at once, and I use them to their full advantage.


"You got back now, I take it," I asked, eyeing his duffel bag and ragged backpack.

"Landed at CT International a short while ago, retrieved my car, drove straight here to abuse the shower and the pool."

"Mum and Dad are away; we have the run of the place."

"Excellent. Holiday part two, fight!"

"Yeah, yeah, go shower, you reek of other people."

He snorted, and stripped off his shirt to fling it at me. I screeched, ducked, and he disappeared upstairs, laughing.

I kicked his shirt into the corner by the washing machine and straightened my pony tail. Then I broke out the coffee and plunger and boiled the kettle to make us both a cup; I could see my twin was struggling from lack of sleep - he was too tall to sit comfortably in any economy class airline seat, and even when he could stretch out his legs, he'd be awake most of the flight.

If we flew together, though, I always slept like a baby, drooling quietly on his shoulder from shortly after takeoff to shortly before breakfast in the morning.

I sat in the armchair by the sliding door, in the breeze but out of the sun, enjoying the kiss of the wind on my skin and the goosebumps it raised. I wondered how long he planned to stay this time; whether this was a whistle stop or whether he'd stick around for a few weeks and enjoy the long, hot days with me for a while.

The sea is my chapel, but Olly is my pantheon. When I'm happy, when I'm sad, when I need divine intervention, when I need my best friend - Olly is who I call.

And he always answers.


"Coffee, sahib," I murmured, fluttering my eyelashes.

"Stop it," he laughed. "You're my sister, not my body slave."

"Play-acting amuses me at times," I retorted, sticking out my tongue for good measure.

He smiled at me. "I missed you, Shan."

"Missed you too, Olly. How was Tirol?"

"Too hot. We didn't get much snowfall so I spent a lot of time sunbathing. The Italians there were telling me it's the hottest winter they've had in a couple of years. We had one or two good powder days and the pistes were OK early in the morning, but it was so busy that by mid morning we were down to ice on the lower slopes. Ice and moguls."

"Ugh," I sympathised. "Unpleasant snowboarding conditions."

"Yeah. I was on skis after the first day, easier."


"Nah, it was more about not killing myself by digging the edge of a board into a mogul and slamming myself face-first into rocks."

I yawned and stretched. "I'd love to go skiing again. It's been years."

"You should have come with this time, it was a good crowd."

"Mm. Timetable clashed. I'll make do with the ocean this year I guess."

"You go paddling this morning, then?" he asked.

"Same old, same old."

"How was the surf?"

"Reasonable till the tide came in."

"Maybe I'll join you tomorrow," he said, sipping his coffee.

"Maybe you should," I answered, softly.

I stood and stretched again, then touched his shoulder gently. "I'm going back into the water, the weather is too good to miss."

"Shall we head down to the beach later for sundowners?"

I draped my towel over my shoulder and glanced back at him. "That sounds like a great idea. It's a date. Go sleep, you look broken."

"I will now, just finishing my coffee."

"See you later, Olly."

"Later, Shan."


I ducked under the surface and pushed off the wall of the pool, gliding slowly towards the far side, watching the small whorls of bubbles I trailed in my wake. I touched the far wall, spun, and pushed off again, my hair trailing like spiderwebs over my shoulders and neck. I surfaced and floated a while, gently moving my hands and feet, keeping myself centred in the pool against the current of the filtration system and water feature's cascade.

I thought about myself, about my life. About the statistics degree I was pursuing without real conviction; about my low levels of give-a-fuck towards most things in modern life. I wondered, briefly, at what point I'd become so broken. I took a breath, submerging again, turning a somersault, two, three, before coming back to the surface once more.

It wasn't trauma. There was no abuse in my childhood; nothing had been done to me. I'd just... never fitted right into the world and the world's view of me. A tall, slender blonde girl who shows no interest in men earns herself some foul epithets in day to day life. I had guy friends and girl friends, but that was all they were; bar some senior school experimentation with a boy or three and a memorable evening with a girl in first-year, I'd stayed pretty much uninvolved.

Ditto for other real life things. I fiercely loved paddling, enjoyed socialising with my friends, but had few other real interests outside books, the occasional computer game and movie, and the ocean.

If only I could somehow make a life out of being an itinerant ocean-going bookworm... I snorted, amused at myself, and dived again, then drifted to the side, and with a leap upwards lifted myself clear of the water and onto the paving stones. I gathered my legs under myself and rose to my feet. The sun was starting to burn and, while I worshipped my tan, I worshipped my lack of wrinkles and moles more.

I dried off the worst of the water, clambered up the long tiled staircase, and popped my head into Olly's room to check on him. He was asleep, and I smiled to myself. I stripped in the bathroom, towelled myself quickly dry, pulled on some sleeping shorts and a tee-shirt, then slipped back into his room. I slowly, gently lowered myself onto his futon next to him, and rolled over so that I could watch him breathing.


I woke up wrapped up in a fluffy throw, with Oliver reading beside me.

"I forget how sneaky you can be," he observed when he noticed me stir.

"I missed you, and you looked so peaceful asleep that I thought I'd join you," I yawned.

"Mm. Well. We're probably going to miss the sunset now."

"We can watch it from the deck," I said, stretching, languid. "The beach will still be there tomorrow," I added.


"It's summer. It's holiday. Fuck the world. I'm having some delicious, well-deserved me time."

Olly snorted, but didn't disagree with my sentiment. He put his book aside and sat up, cross-legged. "How long are you here for, Shan?"

"At least the next week, maybe longer. My flat echoes; home doesn't."

"Funny that, I'd rattle around like a pea in a can if I was here alone."

"You don't spend as much time here as I do." I rolled onto my back, then sat up. "Scavenge more off mum and dad and you'll fit right in here as well," I added, grinning.

"Parasite," he smiled.

"Symbiote," I corrected him. "I provide them with amusement and excitement, and they keep me watered and fed."

"Uh huh. Speaking of... do you have plans for dinner?"

"None. Why?"

"Well, there's not much wind so we could always fire up the Weber and cook something."

"Does alcohol figure into this plan?"

"Is the Pope Catholic?" he asked.

"Mm. Deal. Olly?"


I leaned in and hugged him. "I'm glad you're home. Next time, take me with."

He squeezed me to him. "Deal, Shannon." He rose smoothly to his feet and reached down, offering me his hand. I smiled, took it, and followed him downstairs.

"You got yourself quite a tan in Italy."

"As I said. It was so hot I was running around in a tee-shirt half the time. It was amazing. Lots of good looking women in tight shirts on the slopes. Usually they'd be camouflaged. I enjoyed myself."

"Slut," I teased.

"Guy," he corrected me, laughing. "Can't blame me."

"Can. Shall," I retorted, touching his shoulder to let him know I was kidding.


"Your wine," he said as he placed a glass next to me.

I smiled thanks up at him. "Chenin Blanc?"

"No, Sav Blanc. I'm cooking fish. Snoek in apricot."

"Mm. That sounds nice. Been a while since I ate that."

"You're just too lazy to cook it for yourself, Shan. Let's admit the truth."

"I like having a personal chef," I protested - Olly sipped his own wine, and shook his head.

"You're getting skinny," he added. "Don't go to far, Shan. Don't turn from slender to skeletal."

"Or else?"

"Or else I'll tie you down and force-feed you ice cream."

"Yes, master," I slurred.

"Don't do that, Shannon," Olly growled. "Don't fuck with your body - you're stunning and healthy. Don't chase the unhealthy ideal."

I blinked up at him. "I'm not chasing anything, Oliver. I just... sometimes forget to eat."

He glared at me over his wineglass. "Nobody forgets to eat."

"I do, sometimes. Sometimes... I'm so wrapped up in my book or in watching the sea..."

"Uh huh."

He shifted his deck chair closer to mine, set his glass down next to it, and lay back, looking upwards into the early evening sky.

"What's up with you?" I asked. "You don't usually abuse me like this."

He sighed. "You worry me, Shan."


He turned his head to watch me. "Yeah, you. I worry about you when I'm not around to look after you. I don't think you take good enough care of yourself."

"I get exercise and sun and I haven't managed to croak yet."

"Mm," he answered, eyebrow raised.

I reached out; rested my left hand gently on his right shoulder. After a moment, he covered it with his own.

"I'm OK, Oliver."

"It's the just OK bit that I worry about, Shan."

I smiled wistfully. "You can't protect me from everything, Olly."

"I'll stop trying when I'm dead."

I glanced away, warmed by his concern. "So tell me about your conquests in Europe." I sipped my wine; a delicious, dry white.

"There's not much to tell," he responded. "Lots of pretty girls but nobody I'd bring home with me."

"Hah. I'm sure you had a... dalliance or two."

He shot me a strange look. "Actually... no. I kissed a girl, but it didn't feel right so I didn't take it further."

"Oh come on, Olly," I laughed. "They must have been all over a hunk like you."

"European men are good looking," he answered, shrugging. "They're immune to tall blonds."

"Poor, neglected thing," I sympathised.

"I survived," he retorted, grinning.

"Mm. Ah well, there goes that vicarious gossip. I guess we're down to discussing the weather."

"Moist and sticky."

"Now you're just being foul."

He waved an arm vaguely. "Pot, kettle."


We watched Venus appear over the mountain. Gulls, Hadedahs and the odd bat flitted over, and I enjoyed the soft soughing rattle of the bluegum's leaves as the breeze picked up. A zephyr stirred ripples on the mirror-smooth surface of the pool.

I took a breath, sighed it out.

"Time to light the fire, I think."

"On it like a bad rash," he answered, standing.


"Fish will be ready shortly, Shan."

"OK," I called out from the kitchen. "Potatoes are done, just doing the tomatoes."

"Bring some more wine with you, will you?"

"Sure thing. Which Sav Blanc was it?"

"Klein Constantia. Top right of the small rack. There's at least one more there."

"Got it."

I carried the food, cutlery and wine out and set it down on the deck table. Oliver picked up the foil packet containing the fish and set it down on the baking tray I held. We sat down next to one-another on the cushion-covered bench, and he poured a fresh glass of wine for me.

"Welcome home, Olly," I said softly, raising my glass to him.

"Good to be home, Shan," he answered, clinking his glass to mine. "Home is where the heart is after all."

"Indeed. The fish smells lovely, thank you."

"Spuds are nice," he returned. "Thanks for organising them."

"No problem. They're easy. Fish is hard."

We ate quietly, and I enjoyed the comforting sense of his proximity to me. Our shoulders bumped occasionally, and at one point he gave me a long, level look.

"What?" I growled, suspicious.

"Glad to see you eating is all."

"Oh, Olly. I promise I'm not starving myself."

"Can't blame a big brother for worrying about his baby sister, Shan."

"You're older by a few minutes."

"Still technically true."

I grinned, and laid my head against his shoulder. "Goody two-shoes."


I grabbed our plates once we were done, and carried them through to the kitchen where I quickly rinsed and stacked them for later. Olly recharged our glasses and fetched me a light thermal blanket. "Wind's getting up and cloud's rolling down over the mountain," he answered my unspoken question. "I know how you feel the cold, Shan."

"Thanks, babe," I replied, and he laughed.

The evening was my favourite kind. Wind, clouds, deep ultramarine at the zenith fading to dusky pink towards the west. Slowly the stars of the southern sky came out - Sirius, Castor, Pollux, Rigel in Orion, the Pleiades. Bats and the occasional owl darted through the circle of light cast by our windows, and I could hear Olly breathing.

"I don't look up enough," he sighed after some time.

"I never stop."

"I know."

"I want to go up north, Olly. Somewhere dark, away from city lights."

"So do it."

"Not alone."

He smiled over at me. "Like I'd let you go have fun by yourself."

"Promises, promises," I whispered; he didn't answer, but he reached out to squeeze my hand. I took a small breath, puzzled by the strange sense of dizziness I felt, before brushing it off as the effect of the wine.

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