Looking down at herself, Jessie sighed as she breathe in. She glanced in the small mirror in the tiny changing room, thankful it wasn’t full length, and tugged at the grey rubbery material sticking to her belly. Well, if this didn’t frighten Simon away, nothing would. At least it was early in their relationship.
She shook her head, rolled her shoulders back, and looked in the mirror again. How long had she been trying to work on her self-esteem? Since her breakup with Brad, she’d promised herself she’d be kinder to herself. She’d vowed to try to look at herself as others saw her.
She laughed. Who was she kidding? She was who she was. Simon could see that and had been the one to make the first move. If he hadn’t liked her for who she was, then he wouldn’t have. She could hear him speaking to the instructor outside the changing rooms. She either went out there, put all her insecurities to the back of her mind and enjoyed herself, or she got changed into her normal clothes and left.
Rolling her shoulders back, she took a deep breath and turned the lock on the changing room door.
‘Right, let’s get paddleboarding.’ The instructor grabbed a board from a stack of blue paddleboards and indicated that she and Simon should do the same.
‘Ready?’ Simon grimaced as he took a paddleboard. ‘I’m not sure I am.’
‘You’ll be fine. You literally can’t fall off as many times as I’m planning to.’ Jessie laughed, relaxing with every moment that passed. It would be good. They’d have a good time.
‘Is that a challenge I hear?’ Chuckling, Simon passed her a paddleboard before leaning in closer. ‘You look great, by the way.’
Scrunching up her nose, Jessie shook off the compliment. ‘Yes, it’s a challenge. The winner can buy dinner.’
‘Ooh, my chance to save a bit of money then.’
Jessie laughed as they made their way out onto the beach. The sun was low in the sky and the tide was already on its way in. The water looked calm, though. After the wind yesterday at the pier, she’d been worried the sea might have been rough.
‘First thing’s first. Get to know your board. Lie it flat on the surface of the water and climb up. Feel the ocean beneath you. Get to know the wave pattern.’ The instructor, Tom, threw his paddleboard into the sea, immediately jumping on top and kneeling.
‘He makes it look so easy.’ Simon glanced at her before stepping into the water.
‘He really does. I have a feeling it won’t be, though.’ Jessie laughed as she tried to copy Tom, immediately falling back into the water as she attempted to clamber onto her paddleboard.
‘Woo-hoo, I’m up.’ Simon raised his eyebrows as he moved around on the paddleboard trying to get into the middle of it. The board tipped precariously with every movement until it flipped over, and he landed back in the water. ‘Okay, I was up. You saw me, right? I wasn’t imagining that?’
‘Nope. You were definitely on the board. For a millisecond anyway.’ Jessie laughed as she lay her palms flat against the board and pulled herself up. Tucking her knees between her arms, she flung herself forward, landing in a heap on the surface of the board. She was up, now all she had to do was stay up.
‘Well done, Jessie. Now centre yourself and start using your hands to paddle against the tide. How are you getting on, Simon?’ Jumping off his board, Tom waded towards Simon’s and held it steady as Simon pulled himself on top.
‘No worries. You’re both doing great. When you’re ready, you can pull yourself to standing like this.’
Turning, Jessie watched as Tom jumped onboard again, immediately jumping into a standing position. There was no way she’d be able to do that. She was only just about staying on top of the thing.
‘If it helps, you can put your arms out. Some people find it gives them more confidence with the balancing.’ Tom demonstrated.
‘Fancy giving it a go?’ Simon propelled his board closer to hers.
‘Standing up? I can barely keep afloat.’
‘You’re doing really well. I can hold your board steady if you like?’ Reaching forward, Simon gripped her board with his hand, his other hand firmly holding onto his own.
Jessie laughed. ‘Okay, but I know it’s only so you can tip me off.’
‘I wouldn’t. Not when the person who falls in the most has to buy dinner. No, I’m holding it steady so you don’t fall in.’ He chuckled.
‘Umm, okay, we’ll see if I can trust you then.’
‘Hey, I’m a police officer. Of course you can trust me.’ Simon raised his eyebrows.
Shaking her head, Jessie grinned before biting down on her bottom lip and pushing herself to standing. She was doing it! She was standing! Holding her arms out to her sides, she focused on the lighthouse at the end of the beach in an attempt to keep as still as she possibly could. Glancing down, she watched as Simon stood up, too. ‘Look, we’re doing it! We’re paddleboarding. Well, we’re doing half of it. We’re standing up at least.’
‘Ha-ha, yes, we’re paddleboarding without the paddles. We’re boarding.’