‘Alula don’t chase after a boy. Ever.’ I yell after her disappearing back.
‘Why?’ she calls over her shoulder.
‘It’s not ladylike. Always let them chase you.’
She doesn’t listen. She is off tearing after Noah. The thing is Patnem beach is about two kilometres long. Ok, I’m rubbish at distance. Maybe it’s more like half a kilometre. It takes me about 25 minutes to walk end to end. But then it takes me 25 minutes to walk an aisle at Sainsbury’s – especially if it’s the chocolate one. It seems to only take little Noah about three minutes though.
But then, on the fourth lap, with Lula tiring in his wake, they disappear into the twilight. The beach bleaches out in that light and its impossible to see anything. I am not wearing the right outfit to appear on Indian news at ten, tearfully sobbing about my toddler that got washed out to sea by a rogue wave or who decided to play hide and seek down a well. So I get up and start running down the beach calling out for them.
I actually become one of those mothers who grabs passers by and asks them if they’ve seen two small children yay high running past. I’m trying to look casual about it but I think I look panic stricken. I can see them looking at me thinking ‘what kind of a MOTHER are you? You’ve lost TWO children?’
I’m thinking all sorts – I’m thinking Jaws. I’m thinking wild dogs, I’m thinking what I’m going to tell John when I get home in half an hour hysterical and childless.
And then they reappear in the twilight, like two ghosts. Grinning, stained with lolly drips, oblivious to the panic and to the sheen of sweat I am now wearing.
‘No more ice-cream for you!’ I tell her. ‘And don’t chase boys.’