What the heck was I doing? Here I was, standing on a beach surrounded by witnesses holding a broken beer bottle in my hand. Opposite me was a guy pointing a burning stick at me, his eyes were wide and crazy and his stance looked as if he were about to launch himself at me. Two words escaped my lips and I immediately regretted it. “Bring it.”
Tyler brought the stick up above his head and slashed it down five inches in front of my face. I didn't even flinch. He lurched forward and I took a step backwards, my bare feet crunched down on the broken glass and I winced as the skin was pierced. I hobbled off the broken glass and held out the bottle in front of me, I stared at it in my hand – what the heck was I going to do with it? I didn't want to seriously hurt him...I looked up into his eyes and then my eyes fell on Hannah at his side, she was holding his arm in restraint...or did I? He had stolen the love of my life. He had messed up my life. Surely he had to pay? My ears suddenly became aware of the sound from the gathering of people, a few were still chanting 'fight' and others were mumbling to each other. “Stop!” the small tourist girl cried running forward, “This isn't helping anything!” she cried.
“Move you little piece of ****” Tyler growled as he shook Hannah off his arm and knocked Jade onto the floor, she cried out in pain as she collided with the broken glass which lay between me and her. I lobbed the bottle at his torso, it slashed his shirt, he looked down in horror as blood started to appear and soak into the cotton. He head slowly lifted up to face me, he bent down slowly and picked up the bottle. Before he could even throw it I was sprinting away from him, I heard the yells and cheers of the crowd and the heavy footsteps of Tyler a few metres behind. My whole body was tense as I awaited the splitting pain of glass colliding with my back, but nothing came. I continued to run.
Sand was getting into the cut on the bottom on my foot and I kept stumping my toes on rocks in the darkness, but despite all this I kept running for my life. Abruptly my feet became wet and as I continued running I realised I had made it to the sea, running in to my waist I heard the sound of Tyler reaching the water's edge. A sharp pain sliced across my arm as he threw the bottle towards me. I dived into the water, I was in my element here, what's more Tyler was easy to see as he held his ever-so-precious stick of fire.
I could make out the silhouettes of the people gathering at the edge of the waves.
“Come out and fight like a man!” Tyler called into the great abyss of the sea. I knew he couldn't see me and as I floated inconspicuously head-deep in water I realised I could easily escape. I dipped my head under the water and re-emerged ten metres left of the scene. “What are you waiting for?” Tyler called again, he was stood up to his knees in water waving the burning stick around searching for me.
“I've got a torch!” I heard someone say, a bright beam of light burst out from Tyler's hand and moved across the water like a spotlight. I submerged myself in the hope of not being seen, a few moments later I reappeared.
“Do you think he's drowned?”
“I couldn't care less,” Tyler answered. The water lapped at my ears making it hard to hear, it was bitterly cold in the water and my cuts were beginning to sting with the salt.
“We ought to find him,” Hannah said. I turned away from the crowd and swam towards the pier. Five minutes later I pulled myself out the water and climbed up the safety stairs onto the wooden creation, it was dark on the pier as everything had closed for the night. I took a deep breath and looked out to where the bonfire was still burning and where the group of youths were stood still searching for me. I laughed to myself and took a step away from the rails, an automatic light suddenly flashed on and I was framed in the white light.
“Over there! Look!” Someone cried,
“Be a man Nate! Don't run away. Fight your battles!” Tyler yelled. I steadied myself and took a deep breath as everyone jogged towards me. What was I going to do? Should I stay or run? It was too late to decide, Hannah was already sprinting down the pier towards me. As she reached me she wrapped her arms around my waist and began crying into my chest,
“I thought you were dead!” I pushed her away,
“Like you'd care if I was,” I muttered,
“Don't say that, of course I do!” She said swatting my arm, I flinched as she touched the gash in my skin from the bottle. “Oh God, you're hurt!” she cried.
“Get away from him!” Tyler called to Hannah as he came up the board-walk,
“Don't tell me what to do!” Hannah shouted. I put my arm across her and held her back,
“Stay out of this Hannah,” I warned,
“You can't tell me what to do either!” she protested,
“Don't touch her!” Tyler threatened,
“I'm not worth it guys, please don't fight over me – you're not animals!” Hannah pleaded,
“Sorry love, but as much as you would like it to be, this isn't all about you.” I informed her, she raised her eyebrows and glanced at Tyler.
“What is it about then?”
“How long have you got?” I asked her, “It's a long list. He isn't all he's cracked up to be Han, he isn't worth it. He can't even fight without being dirty,” I said pointing at the fire, “he's immature, spoilt and a bully – but if that's the kind of guy you like, then be my guest. I'm warning you now Hannah, he's only going to hurt you.”
“I'm sick of you telling me what to do!” she cried,
“I'm not telling you, I'm advising as a friend. A best friend. Do you remember those days Han? When we were best friends?”
“I've not forgotten,” she murmured, “you were the one, remember, who ended things? I never wanted to break up with you!”
“I'm sorry to break up this domestic, but I think we have some unfinished business.” Tyler called, I looked over to him, I'd half forgotten he was still there, with the whole crowd behind that.
“Yeah and we came to see a fight, we want a fight!”
What happened next was a blur. It was unplanned, we were unprepared. But the consequences were going to remain with us for weeks.
I looked up passed Tyler, over the crowd and saw bright orange light. The light was licking up the razor grass found on the dunes, a large pile of smoke was visible but only just from where we were. “Fire!” I yelled. There was sudden chaos, everyone turned, took in the scene and then ran towards the dunes. A sudden hostile gathering was transformed into a unit of cooperation as we tried to put the fire out. In the distance blue lights appeared. I didn't care about everyone else, I didn't want to be caught amongst all this. I grabbed my bike, jumped on it and cycled away as fast as I could. By the time I'd got the edge of town, to my house, I was dry. I left my bike in the garage and went through the front door, Mum called from the sitting room,
“Is that you Nate?”
“Did you get some dinner?” she asked,
“Yep, I went to...the pub,” I called back, “I'm tired, night!”
The next morning I was woken up early by Mum, “There's been a fire!” she exclaimed,
“Where?” I asked still groggy,
“At the beach, the police believe it was arson,” suddenly it all came back to me, my eyes widened,
“How much damage?” I asked,
“Lots, all the dunes are burnt and some of the beach houses. The whole pier went up in flame!”
“But the fire wasn't anywhere near the pier!” I cried, Mum's eyes narrowed,
“What I meant was the dunes aren't even near the pier...” I muttered trying to keep cool,
“That's why they suspect arson, the likelihood of two separate fires occurring on the same night is so small, they estimate there's about £1 million in damages,”
“Oh God,” I put my head in my hands, “did they catch anybody?”
“They've got a group of tourists in custody, three of them here on a post-exam holiday, but the police suspect it was a bigger group.”
“I'll go and explore today,” I assured Mum, “after breakfast.”
As I rode towards the beach I wondered how many others had been caught, I also wondered whether the tourists would dob me in. I severely hoped not.