by Aimee Wilkinson
Grey waves of clouds lap though the sky and shield the summer sun. The wind tickles my hair as I watch you lift my brother, Michael, so he can aim at the targets with the pellet gun. Our fortnightly outings have become a succession of enforced fun activities, the park, the beach, the cinema. Anything to keep us occupied and away from your pristine Ikea clad home. You’ve yet to explain to Michael why your girlfriend’s tummy is getting fat, or why her patience with us is now unbearably thin. He’s too young to understand, but I’m not.
Michael hits the target, the pellet brushes the tin with a loud clang and both you and the stall owner cheer. I turn away, the red and white crabstick now warm in my hand. Attributing my silence as a by-product of my ‘funny age’, you had bought the seaside treat to tease a smile from me. In your eyes, I’ve been at a funny age all my life; your oldest child and a tepid experiment with parenthood until your anticipated son was born. I weave in and out of the crowd, walk over to the pier railings and rest my hands over the top. Above me seagulls spin summersaults in the sky, call to each other and swoop down in search of food. The sea stretches its vast body to the horizon, glinting silver as it catches the sunlight. I inhale and consume the sea air deep into my body.
I bite down on the crabstick and salty lines of processed fish fill my mouth. I remember how you used to buy me the treat in Asda, when I was very small as a reward for good behaviour. You would ruffle my hair and make jovial remarks about not telling mum for fear of spoiling my appetite; but it never did. It was a little secret you and I shared, something just for us. The treat, intended to bridge the gulf that extended between us only serves to remind me of what you once were, and what now you are not. I hear you calling my name and I walk over to you, remembering to wear a smile.