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Two Friends at Tonsai Beach

By Zoe Ngombane (she/her) | Edited by Janine Samuels (she/her)

They were in the Railay Peninsula on Tonsai Beach, they were sitting on the smooth white sand on bamboo beach mats, looking out at the crystal blue water. The day was like all other days during the dry season, hot and sticky, the air was like an oven and sweat poured from all pores. The week and month didn't matter, they were together at Tonsai Beach. They were both wearing neon coloured bikinis they had bought on the Krabi mainland before getting on a water-tearing boat and heading to the small island.

They had just eaten a fresh shrimp dish at a beachside restaurant full of sunburned foreigners and tanned islanders, fingers dripping with light garlic pepper juice, mouths sucking meat off the shell. Goong Tod Kratiem Prik Thai. She liked the way it sounded, the way the word shaped her lips into a pout, they way it rolled her tongue and pitched her voice in a sweet high note, but she thought it was just alright; she preferred Tom Yum Goong, she preferred her shrimp to swim in broth, she liked the pageantry of slurping a hot spicy soup.

Now, in the early afternoon, they sat on the white sand and looked at the blue water and talked about last night. They had spent last night apart. She had gone off with a rock climber and she had gone off with a girl who worked the hiring stand for beach chairs and umbrellas.

The boy had large, calloused hands with skin peeling slightly on the finger joints and a compact body, hard and powerful. They were in the loft of his wooden holiday-hire hut, he had laid her down on the hard wooden floor on a red and orange sleeping mat, his hand was her pillow. Corded muscles the colour of burnt sugar and just as hot to the touch, wrapped around her body. How strange that the strength of climbing, of holding onto the cliffside, of grabbing onto the jutting bits and hanging on for dear life could be borrowed to the tenderness of holding a woman, of grabbing onto the jutting bits, of hanging on for dear life.

The girl had dark eyes with sparkling whites and a tired but friendly smile. When she looked in the mirror, she also saw a tired but friendly smile. Hair and skin and feminine bodies that mirrored each other, black, brown, soft, scarred. The girl was a very good swimmer and she was too, so they braved the night depths and swam in inky black waters, dresses and shoes and underclothes abandoned on the shore. The feeling of warm water on brown nipples or the salt of the Andaman sea stinging them a little bit, pruning and hardening them. The current lapped between paddling legs, back and forth and back and forth, like a giant tongue against sun kissed limbs, mimicking what their own hands would do later on. They would mimic the sea a lot that night, the way the waves kept coming back to the shore for more and more, the way the tide rose and rose and the way the surf finally crashed and broke on the beach.

She spent the night in the arms of a boy who was a rock climber and she spent the night with the girl who worked the stall in her arms. In the morning they went back to their cabin, showered under the sky and went to eat Goong Tod Kratiem Prik Thai where she liked the way it sounded and she said she preferred Tom Yum Goong.

They talked about how they spent their nights, wonderful nights in wonderful arms, then they finished their food and walked hand in hand to the beach. A young couple was floating some metres out, heads bobbing above water, faces leaning into a kiss.

“I missed you,” she said.

“Crazy, I missed you too,” she said.

They had had a good time apart the last night, but now, in the afternoon, they sat together on the white sand and looked out at the blue water. The small see-through waves licked at their toes, their neon coloured bikinis damp on their bodies, hands held on top of wet ground. They looked at each other and smiled. This was the best part, she rested her head on her shoulder, every part they spent together was the best part. Fresh seafood, beautiful strangers and a number of orgasms later and none of it mattered that much now, they were together at Tonsai Beach.


Zoe Ngombane (she/her) is an English graduate from the University of Pretoria. She is a teacher by day and a writer by night, and an avid reader the rest of the time. Zoe currently lives on the wild coast of South Africa with the ocean as her closest companion.

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