BY DEBBIE HEWSON
Debbie Hewson lives near the coast, likes to walk on the beach, loves to write, and dances very badly
The box sat in the very middle of my dressing table, where it had been for years, since the day I moved into my own place, and before that, at my Mum’s house. A pretty little box, with a lid that open and closed on a hinge, where my favourite things were kept. None of them were very valuable to anyone else, but they were to me.
I pulled open the lid and slipped them out onto my hand. A tiny fake flower that had been in my hair when I was a bridesmaid, a fluffy white weather I had found on the pavement, a small pebble from the beach where I had met my first love, and my most treasured possession.
I had owned it for nearly fifteen years. The day I found it had been so special, and over the years that followed, the day had taken on almost magical properties. Memories can be like that. I had been staying with my Granny and Grandad, because Mum had to work, and Dad had been gone a while. It was summer, and the days were long and sunny. I was going to be twelve, and there had been talk of a cake and fizzy drinks.
The morning of that day, the postman had knocked on the door, and Granny had taken in a parcel, shaking her head at Grandad, when she found it was addressed to him. He had jumped up from the table, his toast and marmalade forgotten.
“It’s here! Lucy! Come and help me open it.” He had danced around the living room and into the kitchen, singing at the top of his voice. “Stop, wait a minute Mr. Postman.” Laughing his high-pitched giggle, and finally brought back to earth when I sat on the floor and tried to open the box.
Inside, there were sections which needed to be joined together. We sat happily with a spanner and a screwdriver, but even when it was put together, I had no more idea than when we started what it was.
Granny was clearing away the breakfast things by then and smiled slowly. She told him to load the car, while she made us a picnic, and we set off to the beach. My Granny was probably glad of the peace. We were, however, Grandad and me, officially on an adventure. He refused to tell me what it was, and I spent the journey in the car shouting out more and more bizarre guesses. When we were with Granny, we had to be a bit calmer, but left on our own, we were loud, and silly. I miss him.
At the beach he parked the car, and we took his new and exciting thing onto the sand, he slipped the headphones onto my head and told me to listen for beeps. Immediately, he held the plate shaped end of the contraption up to my belt buckle and the beeps came loud and strong in my ears.
“It’s a treasure finder!” He declared. “Any treasure on this beach is ours, Lucy!” Setting off at a good pace, so that I had to trot to keep up, he scanned the sand, backwards and forwards until we reached the cliff. “You try. There has to be some treasure here somewhere!” He handed me the handle, and I passed over the headphones. All morning we took turns scanning the sand and listening to the beeps that never came. We stopped for lunch and found that Granny had packed pies and sandwiches, crisps and bottles of juice. “Do you think we’re doing something wrong?” Grandad asked me. “I thought we would find much more treasure than this.”
“Maybe it’s supposed to be hard to find, otherwise, someone else would have found it?” I asked him, not sure if what I was saying made sense. He snatched me up and swung me through the air.
“Genius!” He cried as I swooped through the air. “I have a super-humanly intelligent grand-daughter.” We laughed, falling onto the sand, waving our feet and arms in the air.
“We could try further down, now that the sea is further out, I suppose.” He jumped up, grabbing my hand and the metal detector.
“Fantastic idea. Come on.” He ran to the surf, and we listened and scanned, for another two hours. I believe that he was about to quit, when I heard the beeps.
“Grandad! It’s beeping.” I shouted. He scanned back again, watching my face, and then grabbed the small shovel that had been hanging from his belt all day, for just such an occasion.
He dug, and I dug. We kept going, until we found an enormous, rusty, six-inch nail. He sat on the sand, clearly disappointed.
“I’m not sad that we found this. It’s not just a nail, Grandad. It’s a nail from a pirate ship.” He took the nail that I held out to him.
“Yes. This nail has probably seen some battles at sea, and maybe even some shipwrecks.”
His eyes grew wide in his face. “It might have belonged to Black Beard himself.”
“Best treasure ever, Grandad.” I felt my hand in his, the sand rough on our skin, the salt from the water on my lips, and we walked back to the car, packing up our treasure carefully.
Twelve years later, I had reminded him of the day we searched for treasure on the beach, and we had laughed. Not so loud, and with less jumping about, but the feeling had been the same. The beeps I had listened for that day, as he closed his eyes and slipped away, had been the hospital machinery, and the treasure had been his heartbeats, which stopped. The silence had been devastating.
Today, I have another special favourite thing to add to the box, and the other treasures will, I hope, make me brave enough to do what comes next.
In the box, next to the pebble, the feather, the fake flower, and the rusty nail, now lies the white plastic wand, with two blue lines in the window. My stomach is still flat, but that will change over the next few months.
I close the lid of my box carefully and rest my hand on the top of it. I wish my Grandad would be here to meet my baby, I hope I can be strong enough to go on this new adventure without him. The sun shines in through the window, and I remember that the summers are short, and I should go now, and walk on the sand, before the wind changes, and brings clouds and rain.
Slipping my flip flops off my feet, so that I can feel the sand, I walk the length of the beach, keeping my eyes peeled for any treasure I might find.