Room to Breathe

Here’s my story which was long listed in the Brilliant Flash Fiction’s Photo Prompt Contest: 

Room to Breathe 

By Emmaleene Leahy 

 The sea charged towards them threateningly and then skulked back, before rushing in again. Waves cracked near the shore and broke in clouds of white foam all along the stretch of shore. The air fizzed with insects above bubbles of black seaweed that straggled from rocks. Scavenging seagulls wailed and screamed like banshees, with wings outstretched they glided and surged. This is where he visualised himself when he felt an asthma attack coming on, surrounded by the abundant powerful air of the ocean.

As they sauntered along the shore crunching seashells beneath their feet, Amy had sidled up to Sam. She laughed with her whole body and flicked her eyes. The wind took her long hair and whipped it against her cheek. Shards of sunlight crackled through the chalky clouds as they approached the bank fringed with tangled bushes.

They climbed the incline of the pathway worn into the bank. The wind had blown the clouds away and once again the world was veiled in golden light. Sam was still struggling to will his shyness away. He didn’t feel brave enough to look her in the eye. He knitted his fingers into hers.

They spread their towels on a plateau embedded in the summit concealed by grasses. They lay quietly beneath the sun as it crept across the sky of electric blue light. All of their muted passion was constrained by earnestness and anxieties. The air grew thick with heat.

“Come on, let’s go for a swim.” She stood and began removing her jeans to reveal swimming togs underneath.

“Ah … no thanks.” Sam faltered as he noticed her muscular thighs and felt daunted by their power.

“Why not?” she kicked her jeans onto the towel she had been sitting on.

“I … ah … just don’t feel like it.”

“Ah spoil sport, come on. The water looks lovely.”

“You go. I’ll stay here and mind the stuff.”


“Yea go on.”

As soon as she was in the water he pulled his inhaler out of his pocket and took a quick wheeze. Nervousness was making his throat dry. Taking in a deep breath, he watched her enter the ocean.

The sea folded over on itself in small waves. She splashed the frothy surface, as she skipped into the water. Every time the tide came in he took a really deep breath, inhaling slowly only to release it when the tide went out. He eventually felt relief as the tightness in his chest began to ease.

Isolated in a sea of blue that surged around her, Amy floated in the water and ebbed towards the navy depths where seaweed and fish lurked. Sam watched the motion of advance and withdrawal of the sea, in and then out, in and then out. This was a rhythm for him to hang the structure of his breathing on. Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, and breathe out.

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