The wind lashes my cheeks and strands of untamed hair escape from my scarf. False footed by the incline, I lose my nerve and shelter by the rocks. But Tommy strides the beach, his eyes fixed to the ground. Each time he shows a specimen to the expert, his shoulders hunch when the bearded man shakes his head. Other fossil hunters in flapping raincoats scurry like crabs, picking and turning pebbles. Screwed up with anticipation, Tommy continues to look, forcing over boulders too heavy to carry, examining the stones like jewels beneath. When it’s time to walk back, he stiffens, shoving his hands in his pockets, shrugging off the arm I place around his shoulders. With his elbows sticking out like wings, he bends over and concentrates on searching with each step. The others wander off, but I stay and watch him, my face wet with drizzle. At a rock pool he drops to his knees, the water like obscured glass, he trails a finger through the weeds and shells. Removing a cylinder of black stone, he runs along the shingle to catch up with the guide.
As he walks back he smiles, his wet hair springy like a sheep’s coat, a glint in his navy rimmed eyes.
‘It’s a Belemnite, Mum.’ Tommy places the bullet shaped fossil in my hand; I turn it over studying the surface marked with indents.
‘Well done, Tommy. Now you can start a collection.’
‘Naah.’ He crinkles his nose. ‘It’s a present for you.’