A mackerel landed next to her on the rock, gasping for breath, its body convulsing.
Serena reacted instinctively, reaching down to return the squirming creature back into its watery home. Her fingers were inches away when a loud squawk startled her from behind. She turned around towards the source of the sound, moving a little too quickly, and lost her footing.
“Ouch!” she yelped, as she landed squarely on her backside. Fortunately her shawl had slipped off her shoulder and cushioned her fall.
Serena looked up and found herself staring down a pair of beady eyes at the other end of a large yellow beak. She blinked and shook her head, wondering if she had knocked her head when she fell. Why else would there be a goose in the middle of an empty beach? Her anserine companion waddled closer, beak open, and Serena shrunk back instinctively. But it ignored her and craned its neck towards the flopping fish. She was quicker and got to it just in time, flicking it back to the water.
“No, you leave that poor fishy alone. There’s plenty of other things for you to snack on.” She wagged a finger at bird.
Honk! Honk! Honk! Honk! Honkkkk!
The loud squawks echoed against the rocks and carried into the sea. Serena fought the urge to cover her ears and she was glad she did or she might have missed the splash in the water next to her. She turned to look and was just in time to see an arm disappearing back into the water
This day was getting stranger and stranger. Something caught her eye on the rocky ledge by the water - a small pebble with a shimmering pattern on it. The owner of the arm must have put it there. Who or what was it? And why had it left this gift for her? She started picking her way carefully across the sea-soaked rocks. Wet, slapping steps followed and soon overtook her, clearly heading for the same bit of ledge.
Serena frowned and quickened her steps but nearly slipped on a piece of seaweed. No, rubber sandals were not match for webbed feet, she thought as she steadied herself. The goose reached the flat bit of rock well ahead of her and squawked loudly, flapping its wings in a short victory dance.
“Fine, you win. We don’t all have anti-slip feet, do we?” she muttered at the creature as she climbed onto the ledge.
Serena gave the goose a hard look before shifting her attention back onto the object that attracted her in the first place. The swirl of colours on its surface caught the sunlight and made it look even more vibrant up close. She really shouldn’t be picking up random objects left by mysterious sea inhabitants but her curiosity got the better of her. Serena was about to pick the pebble when the beak proved quicker than the hand.
The goose picked the shiny stone in its beak and made towards the water’s edge.
“Oi, you, come back with that!”
The feathered creature took another step closer to the sea, dangling the pebble above the water.
Serena’s eyes widened in dismay at what was surely about to happen. “Don’t you dare…” she said loudly in a stern voice.
As if it understood her, the goose stared back, making sure it had her full attention before opening its beak, letting the pebble plop into the sea. Serena opened her mouth in a silent groan, scrambled to the edge and peered into the water, hoping that it had landed near enough to the surface to be found.
The gentle waves moved with the light breeze and the water was clear enough for her to see the sandy surface beneath it but she couldn’t see what she was looking for. Rolling her sleeve up, she reached into the water and sifted through the sand, digging deeper with each pass when she finally closed her fingers around something smooth and egg-shaped. She was about to pull it out of the water when she felt wet feather brushing against her shoulder
Caught off-guard by the proximity and volume of the latest greeting, she teetered for a moment before falling forward. Serena clutched fruitlessly against smooth rock and found herself heading head first into the briny water. The shock of the fall and the chill paralysed her momentarily and she found herself struggling to keep her head above the water. She began to panic and was starting to sink further when she felt a strong arm curl around her waist and propel her up towards the sky.
Serena turned her head and caught a flash of bare skin and gold silken hair as her saviour brought them up to the surface. She gulped and took a deep breath, spitting out the water in her mouth before opening her eyes. The sight before her was an extraordinary one.
Pale alabaster skin, crowned with flowing locks of deep golden curls which glowed like a halo framing the most beautiful face she’d ever seen.
“Thank you,” Serena finally managed to squeak, her eyes still firmly glued to the soft brown eyes and coral pink lips.
The arm around her waist tightened and her companion mimicked her words. “Thank. You.”
Serena was about to protest when she realised that the words were directed towards the shoreline. The goose, job now done, flapped a wing at them before waddling into the sunset.