WRITTEN BY JOANNA BARNDEN
Why had sun, sea and shrimping suddenly lost their holiday magic for Briony?
“A shrimp! I’ve got a shrimp and it’s a big one, too! Look, Briony!”
Briony’s younger brother Callum thrust the sloshing bucket under her nose.
“Lovely,” she managed to say weakly.
“Have you not got one yet? Oh come on, Bri, shrimps are easy.”
Briony sighed and swirled her net half-heartedly in the sparkly rock pool. She wanted to be interested, she really did, but somehow catching shrimps just didn’t seem as exciting as it used to. If this was growing up, then she wasn’t as keen on it as she’d thought.
This year, nothing felt “usual”
She stood up and looked across to the next pool where her dad was staring intently into the depths, no doubt on his usual crab hunt. He didn’t seem to have lost interest and he was nearly forty, so how come Briony, at just fourteen, was struggling to see the point these days?
“You’ve got one, Bri, you’ve got one. Scoop it up-quick!”
Callum was jumping impatiently up and down pointing to her net. Briony glanced absently down and the shrimp darted for freedom.
“What’s up with you?”
You are, Briony wanted to snap but she bit her tongue. She and Callum, for all their fighting at home, usually got on really well on holiday. This year, though, nothing felt “usual”. She was bored and restless and she couldn’t even text her best mate because she was in Florida.
Florida! How cool was that? And wouldn’t she laugh if she could see Briony rockpooling like a baby.
She loved her family, but…
Briony shook her hair back crossly. She wasn’t going to think like some spoilt brat. She loved Cornwall, and she loved her family. She just didn’t care much for shrimps any more. She’d find somewhere to sit down and read.
“I think I’ll go for a walk,” she told her younger brother.
“Suit yourself,” he shot back, though he looked disappointed.
Luckily at that moment a strangled yelp from Dad suggested a crab had been sighted and Callum bounded over, leaving Briony free to turn her step towards the sea. She walked slowly, admiring the way the wild droplets of spray flung sunlight in a thousand directions as they crashed against the rocks. She wanted to leap in the air like those waves. She wanted to be thrilled, as she’d once been thrilled by crabs and shrimps. She wanted that holiday feeling back.
Just then a movement to her left caught her eye. A boy about her own age in a white T-shirt and running shorts was trotting nimbly past.
He knelt at a big rock pool and scooped water up to toss it over his hot face. Her breath caught…
As Briony watched, he knelt at a big rock pool and scooped water up to toss it over his hot face. Her breath caught, and suddenly the rocks didn’t seem such a dull place any more.
“Watch out for shrimps,” she dared to call as he scooped more water over his head.
He looked up and laughed. “Good point. I used to catch them here all the time when I was little.”
“Me too,” Briony agreed, edging closer. “I did it for hours.”
“Did it?” He nodded cheekily at her hand and Briony realised with horror that she was still holding her bright green net.
“I was helping my little brother,” she stuttered.
The boy grimaced
“Nightmare. I’ve got two and they’ve been driving me mad. I had to go for a run to escape.”
“Do you run a lot?”
“No way. I just got a bit, well, bored.” He looked shy suddenly. “Could I… ?”
He held out a hand for the net and Briony moved eagerly forward. As he took it from her their hands touched briefly and she felt a jolt of excitement as sharp as a crab’s pinch.
“I’m Kieran, by the way,” he told her. “I’m here all week on holiday – you too?”
“Hmm,” Briony agreed casually, though suddenly it seemed all too short a time.
“Oh, look!” he said, delighted. “I’ve got a shrimp. It’s a big one too.”
And as Briony crouched at Kieran’s side, their shoulders touching lightly as they both peered at the little creature, suddenly rockpooling felt like even more fun than it had before. The holiday feeling was back.
Joanna Barnden is the pen-name of Joanna Courtney who has gone on to write a wonder trilogy, Queens of the Conquest. Read our review of her latest book, The Conqueror’s Queen, out now in paperback.