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Four Years Ago

March, it turns out, is really not the best time to visit the seaside.

When John had first suggested they go away somewhere for the day, 'To the beach perhaps,' Ruby had imagined warm golden sands, a clear blue sea and the smell of ice cream and candy-floss filling the air. Because, it's always sunny and nice at the seaside, isn't it?

Well, no, apparently it's not.

The train had taken nearly four hours. They'd reached Scarborough, on the east coast just before twelve, and just in time for the sky to open an almighty downpour.

They sheltered in the railway station awning, watching the rain splattering up from the street as people outside dashed for cover. John's face was almost as black as the sky. Ruby tried to cheer him up and make him laugh to varying degrees of success.

'Oh, come on,' she said as he frowned and turned away. 'We're only here for a few hours, we might as well enjoy ourselves.'

John forced a thin smile. 'It's just, I wanted it to be perfect.'

'It will be,' she said, taking his hand.

The rain abated after a few minutes, almost as suddenly as it had begun, so they battled their way down to the north bay. Scarborough was split into two beaches - the north and south, overlooked and divided by the ruin of a 12th century castle that stood on the cliff above the town. The north beach was abandoned. Rough waves splashed against the sands and the sea wall further along. All the seaside chalets were locked and the one solitary cafe was closed, so they continued along the marine road, fighting against the wind which made walking difficult and conversation impossible.

Once they reached the south bay there was finally a little bit more life. No one braved the beach, except for an optimistic lone deckchair seller who eyed John and Ruby hopefully as they passed him, but the promenade was lined with cafes, pubs, arcades and souvenir shops. Rock and roll music flooded out of most of the doors, colliding in a noisy cacophony.

'This is a bit more like it,' John said, brightening up.

They wandered down the promenade, pausing every now and again to look at the sun faded postcards, sticks of rock and kiss me quick hats. John offered to pinch one for her; Ruby stared at him aghast and hurried him on down the road.

Rain began to fall again, a little more gently this time, but after a short while they ducked into a cafe for a cup of tea to warm up. After they exhausted their welcome there, they had to take shelter in one of the arcades, full of fairground and carnival games, one arm bandits and fruit machines, all designed to separate you from your money. Penny pushers, hooplas, and test your strength machines twinkled enticingly. Elvis and Bill Haley played on a loop in the background, but the arcade was more or less empty, except for an old man leaning on a cigarette machine, marking the betting form in a newspaper and the odd hopeful gambler forcing pennies into the naughts and crosses machines like there was no tomorrow.

'Want me to win you a goldfish?' John offered as they passed the hook-a-duck again, on their third tour of the arcade.

Ruby looked at the poor tiny fish hanging in little bags behind the pool of yellow rubber ducks. 'I'd look well taking that back on the train with me,' she laughed.

'We could release it back into the sea,' John said.

'That's saltwater. They need fresh water or he'd die.'

'Better not then,' John said, nodding to the man who stood behind the duck pool.

They went to stand beside the front of the arcade to watch the rain. John leaned on one of the penny pusher machines and finding a coin from somewhere, fed it into the machine. Ruby watched as the bronze penny fell down in a jerky fashion, finally coming to rest on the moving shelf at the bottom. As the shelf swept backwards John's coin pushed the other money forward and a handful of coins fell out in the the drawer below. John bent down and scooped it out.

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