The coaster station was little more than a few concrete benches and a termite ridden veranda. Beyond the litter ridden tracks, a full parking lot housed the beginnings of a tent city. Lane checked her phone, shielding the cracked glass from the sun. Two hours until her next train.
Never the idle type, she followed the sound of gulls and the thick smell of salt. Past dirt lots and gas stations, then into residential streets with glass mosaics set into their sidewalks. The straps of her backpack dug into her shoulders and her ill-fitting boots opened up old blisters as she walked. Lane ignored the discomfort; she was going to see the ocean.
Midday sun baked everything, summoning hazy heat waves off the gates and the tiled driveways behind them. Lane could already feel a red burn stretching the skin over her nose. It would be worth it, she assumed, to experience every movie set’s paradise first hand.
The street ended abruptly with dirt and dried green scrub. A narrow path of softer silt wound its way to the cliffside and down out of sight. Beyond that, the gray blue expanse of the pacific ocean made a glittering horizon.
The scrabbly plants bordering the path raised scratches on her legs. Lane maneuvered down the first furrow set into the cliffside, using the makeshift steps others had created with now rotted wood. One turn and then another, Lane could taste the brine on the wind.
Half way down and Lane’s boots hit cement again. Covered in damp sand, the bit of pavement led right to a gate. The iron thing blocked her path, the sandy cliff walls high on either side. Lane tried the handle which didn’t turn.
She pushed at it again, the noise of metal on metal ringing through the cliff walls. Lane was considering the climb when someone cleared their throat behind her.
“What are you doing?” The man asked, behind him a young woman in a bikini squinted at Lane’s rumbled tshirt and unwashed hair.
“Trying to get to the beach.” Lane said, turning her back to the gate. The woman whispered something into the man’s shoulder while her manicured fingers fidgeted around a sleek phone.
The man took his sunglasses off revealing gentle wrinkles in his tan skin. Against his cream polo his face seemed almost orange. “This is a private beach.”
“Oh.” Lane picked up her chin and met their eyes. The young woman edged back under Lane’s attention. “Then where is the public one?” Lane asked.
“I don’t know. There isn’t any in this county anymore.” He edged off the path, making space for her to take leave. “They’re all private, we pay for them. You should go elsewhere.”
“To the beaches that don’t exist.” Lane narrowed her eyes.
He tightened his jaw in answer then pulled another phone from his pocket. The threat was clear, leave or we’ll call someone to make you.
Lane left them muttering to themselves as she trudged up the path. As she walked back towards the station, Lane’s face burned and flushed red under the sun .
Not so stolen, I was challenged with the setting “beach” by Kate Kearney at More than 1/2 Mad.