This piece is part of  my “Rejected Stories” collection. Click here to learn more.

Blue. Deep, bottomless, all-consuming blue—the colour of her eyes. The ocean called her into its cold-warm embrace.

Abbey shaded her eyes from the scalding rays. She glanced around, eyes alert. Beads of sweat rolled down her forehead. Her heart galloped to an erratic rhythm.

Crap. A couple approached. Look busy.

She stared at the dirt, scanning the area with fascination—pretending.

“Hey there, are you okay?”

Abbey looked up with reluctance but wore her brightest smile. “Yeah, fine.”

The woman looked around. “Your parents close?”

Abbey fought the urge to roll her eyes. She was eleven, for God’s sake, almost in high school. Not that she would be going to high school. But still.

Avoiding the woman’s concerned gaze, she nodded. “In the toilet.”

The woman looked between her partner and Abbey. “It’s quite deserted here, so be careful, okay?”

“I come here all the time.” Abbey picked up a trumpet-shaped seashell, the colour of milk that had gone off. “Tonnes of these good ones.”


A few uncertain steps onward. But damn it—they lingered.

Eyes back on the ground, picking up more odd shapes—pretending.

Abbey’s ears perked up. Her face brightened. “There, they’re coming!” Her voice fought with the smack of the waves.

She turned her back to the nosy couple and stared at the parents swinging their little boy, helping him bound forwards. She blinked away the sting in her eyes at the depressing sight.

Abbey swivelled back to the woman, whose face was filled with relief. Her partner tugged at her arm. Abbey over-enthusiastically waved them goodbye.

Alone again. She looked up.

Blue. Bubble-gum blue and white fairy-floss, hiding the sour lemon from view.

“Stupid, stupid,” she said under her breath. It was the wrong time of day to come. She had only considered the fact that she was working. She worked nights too, but less buses to the beach at night. 

Yet, her mother was always working, day, night, weekends.

“You’re old enough to look after yourself,” she would say as she smeared fluoro-pink lipstick in the mornings before the crack of dawn. Abbey never understood the point of the makeup, as if it helped her clean toilets.

“When I was your age, I did all the chores and cooking for your Nan, Pop and three uncles.”

Abbey would shrug, stare through her and her excuses for being a lousy mother, hoping the lecture would stop. But the woman never took the hint. Or maybe Abbey’s face betrayed her true thoughts, because on and on her mother drawled.

“It’s not easy being a single mum, you know. Forget about just keeping a roof over our heads, it’s your damn school that’s killing us! Like, a tablet! What the hell do you need a tablet for? Probably just to babysit you so your teachers don’t have to do their actual jobs.”

Another shrug. Abbey would zone out at this point, focusing on the hum of their dusty fan blowing hot air around their shoebox flat.

Open the fridge. Make a Nutella sandwich for school. Wait for the shuffling to stop and the door to slam shut. Alone again, always alone.

Unlike now when she wanted, needed to be.

The chocolate-haired family neared, and slowed their pace.

Abbey scrunched her face. What to do?

The mother raised an eyebrow as she caught Abbey’s hesitant glance.

Abbey took deliberate steps towards where they had come. “Just walking back to Mum,” she said with a rehearsed smile.

A surprised look before her freckled face broke into a warm grin.

Abbey kept her eyes straight ahead as she passed them. Her eyes stung again at the depressing coos of joy. Just a few more snail-paced steps, then she would look back.

Too absorbed in their own happiness to care about her for longer than a moment’s thought—as expected.

Abbey shook off her worn sneakers and grimaced at the sight of her chunky feet, which matched her fat tree-trunk legs. It was her fault she was this way.

She flinched from the sting of the hot grains under her soles. Quickly on her toes. One foot in front of another. Finally the cool consoling dampness.

Her heart drummed loudly in her chest. She turned her head left, right. She swallowed. What if she appeared? “Stay away from the water!” she would say, but no, not today, not anymore.

Abbey’s shoulders jumped as the icy waves splashed over her toes. Her legs trembled from the wind that whipped her body from all sides. But she persevered. 

Rise, pause, crash.

The repeating pattern of the ocean inhaling, exhaling, soothed her sad spirit as the water reached knee deep.

Suddenly a splash!

She jerked her head away, guarding her eyes against the unexpected spray of salt water. She frowned at the burst of colour in her peripheral vision—yellow, red, blue.

A beach ball, bobbing up and down, mocking her with its stupid dance.

Abbey turned and noticed a young boy wading his feet into the water, one step forward, two steps back. Her face softened, then anxiety struck. She lunged for the object before the ocean drew in its breath.

“Stay on the shore!” Abbey said, clutching the ball tightly, her legs fighting the current all the way back.

The boy obediently returned to safer ground, stepping around weathered down rocks and green shrubs.

Abbey approached the boy’s extended hands but stopped. She gulped when she noticed—

Blue. A sickening purplish-blue—the bruises around the boy’s knees.

“You fall down?” she asked, then held her breath.

Colour crawled up the boy’s neck onto his cheeks. His eyes darted away from Abbey’s gaze. Eventually, he shrugged.

“They did the same to me,” Abbey said in a quiet voice, motioning to the once—

Blue. A putrid bloody blue—now blackish-brown scabs on her upper-shins.

The boy’s eyes widened. “At school?”

She nodded before an unexpected surge of anger rose within her for the first time in the two years she had kept silent. She thought she was the only one. She thought it was because she inherited the ugly gene. But the boy…

“You tell your parents?” Abbey asked, her mouth dry.

He shook his head.

“Too busy to care?”

Another surprised look and a hint of an admiring smile.

His grin jumped to Abbey’s own lips before they shared a quiet look of camaraderie. 

She passed him the ball then turned back to—

Blue. Deep, bottomless, all-consuming blue—the colour of her eyes.

“Thank you,” Abbey said to the boy but didn’t look at him, didn’t explain.

“Fat ugly bitch, just kill yourself already! Nobody would miss you!” 

Their taunts became a song she loathed, stuck on replay in her head.

Now the ocean called her into its cold-warm embrace. She was sure she could hear her name in the howl of the wind, but she shook her head.

This was originally created in 2018 for a writing competition.

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Author: Raihanaty A. Jalil

Raihanaty A Jalil writes poetry and fiction and has been on a panel during Perth Festival Writers Week 2019. She has performed a reading of her work at the Wheeler Centre Melbourne during the Digital Writers’ Festival 2019. She currently sits on the board for Centre for Stories.