“Anonymous Was a Woman” © Natascha Graham
Alex & Lucy
There is something magical about walking down coastal paths and witnessing the glittering ocean gradually appear.
The sand of Redbill Beach is beneath my toes again. What were at first specks amidst a turbulent blue canvas have now transformed into humans on boards.
I sit and admire how they effortlessly harness the power of Mother Nature.
A girl, who I first noticed when stepping onto the beach, is now leaving the water and looking my direction.
Ooops! Had she caught me staring?
I abruptly hoist my novel to my face, attempting to hide my blatant gawking.
“Your book is upside down.”
The girl smiles and continues towards me, surfboard in arm and blonde hair blowing across her face.
“Do you always read books upside down?” she asks playfully.
She places her board beside me and sits down.
“It must be all this sea air” I hopelessly stammer.
“The name’s Lucy.”
“Nice to meet you, Lucy. I’m Alex.”
“Short for Alexandra or something?”
“No. Just Alex.”
“Cool. So, do you surf, Alex? I haven’t seen you here before.”
“No, I’ve never surfed.”
“Want to try?” she asked, gesturing to her surfboard.
I immediately feel self-conscious.
“I can’t swim. I nearly drowned in childhood and fear the water.”
“I’m sorry. It’s okay. Everyone has the ability to swim. You just have to learn how.”
I’m impressed at this girl’s way of appearing both laid back and sure of herself.
“So, what do you do when you wipe-out?”
Lucy laughs and ponders my question.
“You kinda just go ‘Ooops!’ and get back on your board. There will always be another wave.”
My morning ritual soon mirrored the surfers’, except this awkward tomboy never ventured into the sea.
There was a beauty in the way Lucy tamed something that evoked such fear in me. We began spending every day together.
“Dad thinks it’s nice I’ve made a new friend.”
She lived with her Dad in a caravan near the beach.
“So, do I get to meet your Dad?”
“Maybe. Hey! Low tide! Let’s walk to Diamond Island.”
We walked across the sandbar separating the island from Redbill, while Lucy gave running commentary on the penguin population.
“Careful of penguin burrows. They’re scattered everywhere. Little fellas spend every day at sea catching fish. Seals, sharks, rough weather – it’s all out to get them. They just embrace the challenge.”
Time moved differently when Lucy spoke. We had been so busy exploring, we neglected to notice the tide had returned.
“Can’t walk back now” Lucy observed. “Have to wait ‘til low tide again. People drowned here in the ‘90s.”
This information did nothing to ease my fears, but Lucy’s reassuring arm around me did. We sat and talked for hours.
“I’m gay” Lucy confessed. “Dad doesn’t know. I’m scared he will abandon me, like how Mum abandoned us years ago.”
“He might surprise you? Mine were unexpectedly supportive.”
“Hey look!” Lucy whispered, pointing towards the shore.
A group of little penguins were disembarking from the ocean and waddling up rocks toward home. We sat in silence, excitedly watching them return from their day of embracing danger.
“They made it.”
The scattered pile of surfboards indicated this was Lucy’s place.
A man came to the door. Lucy froze, before grabbing my hand.
“Hi Dad” she responded. “We’re together.”
“Yes, I see that.”
“No, I mean, she’s my girlfriend. This is Alex.”
Lucy’s Dad smiled.
“It’s good to meet you, Alex. Wondered how long it would take for Luce to find herself a girlfriend. Congrats to you both. Want a cuppa? I just popped the kettle on.”
Lucy blushed, with a weight seemingly lifted from her shoulders. She squeezed my hand.
The ocean was calmer than usual, despite a sea breeze.
Lucy smiled, just like that first day on Redbill.
I placed my hand in hers and we walked tentatively into the ocean.
White foam from breaking waves passed over my legs.
My heart thumped harder and at this point, I realized it was not so much because of the ocean but the girl in front of me.
A larger wave rolled in, pushing me into Alex. She held me in her arms.
I gently took her face in my hands, as another wave moved beneath us.
I felt her lips on mine for the first time as we softly kissed, and it was then that I knew.
We had made it. I was home.
Ellen McDarby is a queer writer based in Australia. When not writing, she can be found sipping tea, talking to her dog and attempting to surf at her local beach.
Influenced by David Bowie, Virginia Woolf and Sally Wainwright, Natascha Graham is a lesbian writer of stage, screen, fiction, poetry and radio from the UK. Her novel, Everland has been selected for the Penguin and Random House WriteNow 2021 Editorial Programme, and her short films have been selected by Pinewood Studios & Lift-Off Sessions, Cannes Film Festival, Raindance Film Festival, Camden Fringe Festival and Edinburgh Fringe Festival, while her theatre shows have been performed in London’s West End and on Broadway, where she won the award for Best Monologue. Natascha is also working on The Art of Almost, a lesbian comedy-drama radio series as well as writing a television drama series and the sequel to her novel, Everland.