“Come on Buster!” Laura Marshall was too tired to be bothered with errant dogs, Buster was an overweight Boxer dog that LOVED diving in water - stream, sea or puddle, he wasn’t bothered. Normally Laura embraced that, but today she wasn’t in the mood. Fortunately Marco the poodle, Chardonnay the unfit and overweight Golden Retriever and Peachy the pampered mongrel were all behaving well. Laura dragged the Boxer out of the puddle, his latest source of water, and bundled the animals into the back of her van.
Winding around the country roads she distributed the animals back to their owners providing them with a drink and following each owner’s individual instruction. It took almost an hour, but then she still had a couple of hours before her afternoon dog walking session. Climbing back in her van she drove to the coastal town that she called home.
Ben smiled as she entered the Early Bird cafe, it was quiet, but then it was still early in the season. In another few weeks the town would be inundated with tourists. If the weather was good it wouldn’t just be the hotels and holiday cottages that were full, there were dozens of campsites that surrounded the town too. It was in these early months that they prepared for the onslaught of June to September.
“How were the mutts?”
She shrugged, “it pays my bills Ben!”
His eyes widened, and he paused from restocking the shelves behind the counter, he’d known Laura a long time, and she loved animals, and she was the perfect person to run a dog walking service. He’d never seen her curse the job.
“What’s up Marshall? You’re not your usual cheery self!”
She merely scowled, “what’s the forecast?”
He shook his head, “flat as a pancake mate, I’d get some food and chill out, no surf today!”
Groaning she cut through the back of the shop and climbed the stairs to the living quarters that she shared with Ben and his girlfriend Alana.
She’d lived in this Welsh coastal village since graduating from University seven years earlier. During her time in the Cardiff college she’d rediscovered a childhood love of surfing, mainly through the surfing guru and addict that was her housemate Ben. Having lived in London she loved the proximity to the coast, and Ben had been more than happy to corrupt her.
Once they’d graduated, Ben had headed to Hawaii to try and compete in some of the amateur competitions, he’d done quite well, but a knee injury forced him home. He’d bought this building overlooking one of the best surf spots on the west coast afterwards. At the time Laura had been working in the local pub, surfing as much as she could, but as soon as Ben returned, she moved in and helped him run his cafe and surf school.
Laura flopped down onto her bed, burying her face in the pillow. There was only one thing that would quash her free spirit like this - her father. He’d sent her a message earlier in the day and it had set her nerves on edge.
Rolling on to her back, she dug her phone out of her pocket and opened the text message.
“Are you coming home for your mother’s birthday? I want to talk to you and I can’t travel that far west to see you. I’m too busy.”
She knew what ‘talk’ meant, his disproval of her lifestyle was the topic of every Christmas, holiday or family occasion, she had the fact that she was ruining her life, throwing away her education, or embarrassing him, all rammed down her throat on a regular basis.
How could a successful businessman like her father understand that she hated the thought of a nine to five job? They were so different in so many ways. Not that she hadn’t had a privileged upbringing, private schooling, amazing holidays, everything a girl could ask for. But surely that didn’t mean that she owed her father her life did it? She wasn’t the same as him, and hell her mother had been a model! That was not exactly a career to broadcast, was it?
Groaning Laura sat up, she had an hour before her second dog walking stint, fortunately her afternoon walk was half a dozen small dogs. A much easier option. Pulling her boots back on she sighed, it had been her best idea, dog walking. She lived in an idyllic area, a maze of coastal villages over an hour from the nearest city, it was an attractive area for rich up and coming wannabees, but they all had to commute. So poor puppy spent the day at home - alone, and because of the commute, they were long days alone. Up step Laura, in her most shrewd moment, she’d spotted an untapped market. Within weeks she was busier than she could ever imagine.
Two to three walks a day, six dogs at a time was a very profitable industry for Laura. She wasn’t going to make a million, but it allowed her to live the life she wanted. Then it was supplemented with surf lessons, or shifts in the cafe. She loved her life; she just wished that she wasn’t made to feel so guilty for it.
Her afternoon pampered pooches were a funny bunch, and her mood was a lot lighter when she returned for the evening session at the cafe. As she walked in Ben smiled to see her looking happier, it made her laugh, he was a typical man, hating dealing with emotional women.
“So where are you taking Alana?” She asked reaching for an apron and tying it around her waist.
“Cinema. New Bond film.” He turned to her, “action for me, hot man for her. Everyone’s a winner hey?”
Laura laughed, knowing that Alana would realistically go anywhere with him, she was devoted. She had to be to have given up her home in Hawaii to follow Ben here. They were the perfect couple, but she knew that Alana was waiting desperately hoping for something more. Ben was the most laidback man she knew, and she feared that Alana might leave him if he didn’t do something soon.
With a smile and a wave he left the building. Laura looked around, as usual the cafe was immaculately clean, there were only eight small tables scattered around half of the room, and a few outside the building overlooking the lush but exposed beach, the other half of the room was the ‘SurfShack’, board and wet suit rental, along with a range of surf style clothing. In the height of summer they were run as two separate businesses, there was always a glut of students looking for summer work, but today, it was just Laura.
Looking to her left, Laura studied the surf forecast board. Early the following morning six foot waves were predicted. That meant that they’d open early, offer a place for the surfers who flocked to the beach a place to leave belongings, and then to offer breakfast and hot drinks to those coming out of the sea. It meant they had to rota who actually surfed and who worked from the staff, Laura smiled when she saw the initials L and A next to the date, she had done her turn the previous week, her and Alana were free to play!
She wished she could bottle the feeling that realisation brought. She lived to surf, that moment when she fought the strength of nature, trying to ride an out of control wave. It was the greatest feeling, and made all this worthwhile.
Once again her father came back to the forefront of her mind, and she sighed. This was a no win thought process, so she shook her head to clear it. The phone ringing was a welcome diversion, and she was pleased for Ben that she’d secured a booking for three days of surf lessons the following week. Six business men were on a stag weekend, and they wanted to learn to surf. Ben was the perfect man for the job.
Securing the details in the diary, she was still smiling as she locked up two hours later. A hammering at the door as she was just switching off the lights delayed her, but Laura was full of smiles when she turned to see Michaela at the door.
“You look excited!” Laura offered pulling back the door.
The other woman smiled, Michaela Dawson worked in the local Tourism office. They’d become firm friends over the last few years, and most of the trade directed to Ben’s businesses were via Michaela.
“Just heard!” She gasped, obviously having run to catch her before closing. “Daniel Martin is back tonight! Playing at the Sheep’s Head! We HAVE to go!”
Laura groaned, Dan Martin was a very fit and quite talented singer who circulated around the pub circuit playing to usually sell out crowds. He was well worth a trip to the pub ten miles away, but Laura was shattered, she’d envisaged a night in front of the TV, but that was looking like a distant fantasy.
“You look undecided!” Michaela looked shocked, “he is clearly the hottest man this side of the Severn Bridge! What are you waiting for?”
Michaela was right, Daniel Martin was worth making the effort for, and she knew her friend wouldn’t travel to the pub without her, so she knew she could not say no. Breaking into a beaming smile she offered, “just wondering who we can con into giving us a lift there!”
Michaela met her with an equally devastating smile, “already dealt with. My little bro has a hot date, needs to borrow a car for it...We’ll pick you up at eight?”
Laura watched her friend disappear back in the direction of town. A night out it was!
Upstairs she surveyed her bedroom, she needed a sort out, it was a small room and the double bed, wardrobe and large chest of drawers took up all the reasonable floor space. There was no room for slovenly behaviour in a room this size. The other bedroom was bigger, but with both Ben and Alana rammed into, they hardly had much more room. But the flat did have a huge lounge, which was great as they all had bikes, more than one board each, wetsuits...the list was endless. And the whole of the home was a precarious equilibrium.
After a quick shower, she stood in her room and tried to decide what to wear, the pub wasn’t a high spot, but it would be full, she couldn’t cope with standing in heels all night, and with Michaela only being five foot one to her five foot nine, any increase made it impossible to converse over loud music.
Pulling out a pair of skinny jeans and a fitted black ‘Surf’s Up’ t-shirt, she slid them on, then added red converse and some chunky jewellery. Her long blonde hair took ages to dry; it was so thick, so she twirled it up into a scruffy bun.
Glancing at her reflection she shrugged, she was too tall really, though there was nothing she could do about that, and she was athletic in build - too muscular to be either feminine or fashionable. She looked at her chest, her small high breasts were her biggest disappointment, Michaela, dark and petite was the complete opposite to her, and she was so jealous of her curves. But then she also knew her friend was very envious of her height.
Never happy with what we’ve got!
A honk outside told her that Michaela and her brother Dominic had arrived, so she grabbed her bag and rushed down the stairs.