Fiction Friday | 'Sea Star Summer' by Sally Partridge

24 April 2020 - 10:34
'Sea Star Summer' by Sally Partridge.
'Sea Star Summer' by Sally Partridge.
Image: Supplied

All 16-year­-old Naomi wants to do over December is to read her books and avoid other people.

Jeffreys Bay promises the perfect drama-­free holiday, but when she encounters the strange and imaginative Elize on the beach, a budding friendship blooms.

Elize, however, isn't the first to notice the awkward, red-­haired newcomer and soon Naomi finds herself at the centre of a love triangle between a blue-eyed local surfer and Elize's dark and mysterious brother.

Handsome Daniel would be the perfect addition to her Instagram stories, while brooding Marius offers the chance of real adventure. But what if the person Naomi really wants to be with is Elize?

A touching coming-­of-­age story about young love and self-­discovery.

Pre-order your copy of Sea Star Summer here.

Extract:

The clouds are gathering ominously, and the air is tensed for rain. When I reach the rocks where the fishermen usually stand, the first clap of thunder rumbles above me, followed quickly by a bright stab of lightning.

Panic shoots through me. What if I get struck by lightning? I whip my head around, searching for shelter, but there is nowhere to hide and nothing between me and the sea.

I pick up the pace as the sky shouts and rages above me. Not Poseidon this time but Zeus. Or as Daniel would say, Jupiter.

I smile at my own joke, and before I know it, I’m laughing. It breaks the spell of fear.

I stretch out my arms and spin on the spot, marvelling at how bright the sky looks through the cracks in the dark clouds and how different and brilliant the storms are here compared to Cape Town’s dull downpours. I dance in circles, feeling the cold sand slide between my toes and the air lift my hair with invisible fingers.

I have never seen the sky so illuminated, as if everything I’ve read about the old gods was real after all. The air is electric. I imagine them warring up there, gigantic and raging. The thunder booms again. I change course towards the caravan park to find Elize.

No one here seems to be bothered by the weather. Small children chase each other, oblivious to the rumbling clouds, and people stand at communal taps filling plastic containers with water. I walk around the campsite searching for my dark-haired friend. It’s a dense maze of tents, caravans and ubiquitous Venter trailers. The hem of my dress trails behind me, soaking up mud.

I spot Elize at the entrance to the park, talking to someone on a motorbike. I rush up to her before she has a chance to disappear.

At the sound of thunder, both Elize and the biker look up at the sky. He doesn’t look that much older than she is and has the same dark hair.

“Hey, Elize.”

She turns her head at the sound of her name and smiles widely when she sees me. “Naomi, the pirate queen. There you are.”

“The pirate what?” asks the guy on the bike.

Elize glares at him. “Please ignore my brother. Marius is extremely boring.”

I laugh. “How many more of you are there?”

Marius runs a hand through his scruffy mop of dark hair, messing it up further.

“Just three irritating brothers and my parents.”

“Just checking.”

Marius stares at me and frowns. “I see my sister is spreading her weirdness around. Are you one too?”

“One what?” I ask, surprised and impressed at my sudden ability to talk to strangers. It must be the storm or the family resemblance fooling me into thinking we’re on speaking terms.

“A weirdo.”

Elize punches her brother hard on the arm, and he tries to protect himself, laughing.

“I guess I am,” I say with a smirk. “So what?”

He raises an eyebrow. I can’t tell if he’s impressed or if he thinks I’m crazy. Not that it matters. I’m not going to see him again after today.

Elize turns her back on her brother and loops her arm through mine, steering me away. “I hear the beach calling. Later, loser,” she says to Marius.

The motorbike roars behind us, and we both burst out laughing.

“Seriously. Ignore Marius. He’s currently going through his rebellious phase and is rude to everyone.” 

“I don’t care. I find most teenage boys intolerable anyway.”

“What does intolerable mean? My English isn’t as good as yours.”

“Beastly. Unbearable. Too much.”

“You and your big words. Let’s go with beastly. I like that one. It describes my brother exactly. You should see his room. It’s like an animal’s cave.”

We walk arm in arm down the beach as the sky continues its unearthly light show. I don’t mind the close contact this time. At least it’s invited.

The tide is out, and the grey waves have pulled back, revealing a new landscape of rocks to explore.

Elize breaks free and goes off to explore a rock pool.

“Oh look, a crab,” I say, squatting down to take a picture of it with my phone. Its eyes swivel around as it gauges the danger before zig-zagging away.

I smile and hurry over to join Elize on the rocks and bend down to study the pool that’s caught her attention. A school of tiny pale fish circle the trapped pool of seawater. A neon-purple anemone extends its tentacles hopefully.

She touches my arm. “Look at all the sea stars,” she says.

I turn to where she’s pointing. Four or five orange starfish vie for space on a submerged rock.

“They’re called starfish in English,” I explain.

“Oh. I didn’t know that. I’ve always thought they were called sea stars, ever since I was little.” Her smile slips.

“I like your version better,” I say quickly, regretting I said anything. “I think they should always be called sea stars from now on.”