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Hi, everyone! I'm so excited to bring you the first chapter of a brand new summery story, Sunburn! This has been a product of my free time after uni has finished (and you may notice this in my first attempt at writing a 21-year-old character). I'm also really excited about the fact that it has a familiar setting... so any of you that have read Vanilla or Room Service, you're in for a treat!

Settle down and get ready to return to Walden-on-Sea! And, as always, let me know what you thought. Your comments are what keep me writing.


            I couldn't escape tourists.

Living in London had got me used to them – or so I thought. Maybe it was just so crowded that a few thousand people clogging the pavements with cameras and gimmicky T-shirts didn't make the world of difference. Londoners evolved to become expert dodgers, ending up in the background of ten different holiday snaps before even making it to work. There, it was kind of acceptable. You could see why people flocked to the city – because their panoramic iPhone shots of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament were actually worth showing friends back home. London was impressive.

Walden-on-Sea, on the other hand, was not.

Unfortunately, I'd had to call this sleepy seaside town on England's south coast home for my entire twenty-one years of life. In fresher's week, I'd lost count of the times I'd been met with total confusion after the constant "So where are you from?" icebreaker. It was a place familiar to almost nobody – or at least to eighteen-year-olds with any sense of fun. Most of the time, I'd settled for "Um, it's kind of near Brighton?" and hoped they were too intoxicated to want details.

Perhaps it was because I lived here, and had spent years looking out on the same stretch of ocean, but I couldn't see the slightest appeal in Walden's rickety pier and stony beach. A twenty minute drive along the coast and people could have actual sand. Surely that was a better alternative? And yet the minute May arrived, so did the beachgoers, cars piled with loungers and parasols and bottles of sun cream they really wouldn't need. The car parks filled up, queues for ice-cream stretched out the door, and the natives learnt to deal with it.

I'd noticed as soon as the road veered downhill, and my first glimpse of the sea came into view. The tourists were out in full force, coaxed by a blue sky and the subtle hint of sunshine. Our car was piled too, but with duvets and boxes and remnants of the last three years of uni life. And as the two-hour journey dwindled into its final few minutes, I couldn't shake off the feeling of mild dread that had settled in. It had been there since the first motorway sign for the coast, intensifying when it'd first specified Walden. Because when the words were in front of me, it was real: I was going home.

"Supposed to be the hottest day of the year tomorrow," Mum was saying, from her spot beside me in the driver's seat. "A good chance to get on the beach. Bet you missed that at uni, Sydney."

I glanced over, half-wondering if she was joking. "And sit amongst the five thousand day-trippers with the same idea? Less appealing."

"Oh, come on, you've spent three years in London. Don't tell me crowds bother you."

"It's not crowds." My mind wandered back to the mornings I'd spent on the tube, rammed in like sardines with dozens of other commuters. There were occasions when I'd almost been pressed in a stranger's armpit, but at least nobody made eye contact. "It's just tourists. You know – loud and rowdy, usually with a misbehaving kid or two for good measure. Hard to relax when you're at risk of being pelted with a plastic spade from afar."

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