I stood still outside our tent and gaped at a tall girl on the campsite next to ours. Even through the green foliage between us I couldn’t miss her red curly hair. It blazed like a ripe tangerine and her perfect freckles beamed through a thick layer of sunscreen.
“Hi. My name’s Abby,” she said. “What’s yours?”
I wanted to say “That’s the reddest hair I’ve ever seen!” but I knew that was rude. My mouth opened and closed but nothing came out.
“Cat got your tongue?’ she asked with a smile.
“Abby, come help unpack,” called a voice from the newly erected tent.
I ran off down the track to the creek to get some peace and quiet. For a long time I launched sticks into the flowing water and watched ducks waddling like chubby toddlers.
Back at the tent Mum bailed me up: “Where have you been Daniel? Dinner’s ready and we’ve just met the family next door. They have three kids about the same age as Sophie, Jake and you ...”
Sophie piped up: “Lara’s five like me. And guess what – she’s got red hair.”
“Ben’s really great – his surfboard’s cool like mine,” boasted Jake.
“They’ve all got red hair,” said Sophie.
“Red hair is beautiful,” said Mum. “And Abby is eight, the same as you. Isn’t that sweet?”
That tall girl was my age! I didn’t think it was sweet. Now Jake and Sophie had new camping friends, who was I supposed to play with?
The next morning I packed my bag to take to the beach, trying to ignore the whoops of laughter coming from the next tent.
Jake called out: “Hey Ben, are you going down the beach?”
A spiky red-haired fellow, who must have been Ben, poked his head through the bushes and shouted: “We’re nearly ready, so wait up.”
Both our families trotted off together to the beach: our Mum and the next-door Mum; our Dad and the next-door Dad; Jake and Ben; Sophie and Lara. I trailed behind and Abby fell into step beside me, her scarlet hair bouncing along behind her. She didn’t even have a board, only a fancy bag bulging with something weird, like toys maybe, or a doll. The girl chatted in my ear all the way – yak, yak, yak – she didn’t stop talking. Clearly we had nothing in common.
At the beach, two Dads set up one sun tent; two Mums set up the other. Sophie and Lara chirped away like little birds while they plied each other with sunscreen. Jake and Ben were long gone, paddling far out into the deep water where they were allowed to surf.
I threw my gear down, slid on my UV rashie and tore into the water with my boogie board, leaving Abby behind.
The waves were gentle that day, all mushy and slow, but better than nothing. The new girl swam out past the breakers to where I was waiting for the next wave. I noticed she was wearing bottle green swimmers and flippers.
“Waves any good?” she asked.
“Not bad.” I turned my head away.
A huge wave appeared. I was caught unawares but Abby twisted around and flicked her flippers like a mermaid’s tail. The wave picked her up and catapulted her to the shoreline.
After that I managed to catch a few slushy...