We were as tall as the Hollyhocks were the year you had to leave me. When fairies could still be seen sleeping in the perfume of lilacs, and bumble bees loved the sweet flesh of snap dragons. We were frail like flowers too, giggling the seeds of our laughter up and away in the kite-flying wind. The whole world was spectacular and small.
We tried to keep you, we tried our best. But in the end, none of our spells or hexes or potions worked on your parents- nobody else could see our magic. You were led by the hand of the red-haired woman with beads round her neck and all I could do was wave. She was your parents’ friend I think. She was helping them out as your snatcher. Our limbs were tired from the long walk home, but I wanted to run after you. I dream now of feet thumping on the pavement, hurling myself away from home’s cruel door and towards you for one last attempt. Now, I am glad that my heart was too hurting. I never wanted to make you cry, and I know how confused we both were. If I had made it difficult for us, if I’d have torn off the cotton bracelets we made together and handed them to you with little blue tears in my eyes, it would have made you difficult. You’d have tugged on the red-haired woman’s hand and kicked and screamed. Familiar air dissipates and silence falls like dust through church windows. I stood and waved. The sun behind you was melting like syrup into the cupped and golden hands of short grasses. You held to her hand and kept on walking. It was the first time my body became accustomed to loneliness- my limbs had no edges. The glory of summer faded back into legend locked behind your garden fence.
I sometimes feel us loitering there and memory suffocates.
I can’t help but feel an embellishment now, a selfish guilt for making our pain seem beautiful. At the time, it just wasn’t true. You ended up smoking cigarettes in Olive Groves and I ate candy with a mouth that was dead. We were not martyrs, we were just unlucky. You may have been the one who left to drive across Europe, buckled up and chasing your parents’ sad beautiful hope- but we were both of us abandoned on that pavement. I sometimes feel us loitering there and memory suffocates. I see us laughing and shining, holding hands in our muddied dresses and eating sugared biscuits. Thoughts of you live all over me. It hurts me and I grow older.
Your legend breaks sunshine like gobstoppers. In the clip clap and sweet-hay smell of horses I remember the wild way you ran, barefoot and screaming through grasses. The blackberry bushes are lighthouses. Tasting autumn exploding into purple brings back warm evenings snuggled up on your itchy carpet, colouring pictures or pressing flowers. Even then, I sensed it was too sweetly, that I was not allowed to have you and to be so lucky. Our swan song was that last sleepover. It felt final and strange. Suddenly the hours had invaded our safe haven and the walls were infiltrated by some awful truth. We were clumsy and our hearts kept slipping through our hands like frogs.
Now I think of how you tried to make it better, you didn’t want me to be upset. It makes me think about the years. All the times I wished I had waved even though the platform was full and everybody would have stared. All the times we let go too soon in the last hug. We all hurt so badly, and nobody understands.
I can’t remember how we discovered your Leaving. Perhaps we spied on our mothers whilst they toyed with their afternoon wine- cackling like gypsies over pale crystal potions. Or maybe you told me in the playground. You maybe said it in passing, and then we dropped it, going back to collecting conkers or daisies.
Were you excited to go? I can’t remember that either. Were you promised dreams of endless groves filled with oranges and lemons hanging bright like heavy jewels against the silk canopy of sky? Were you promised red dahlias and hot evenings laced with gold nectar and moon-dancing? Were you afraid of life without thick woodland and bluebells? Did you think you would miss the smell of rain drenched grass steaming up in late July, or the taste of Cadbury’s dairy milk? I suppose none of this matters. It is not like our understanding what was going to happen could have altered anything. You packed up your bags and waved goodbye. Our old world snapped like sweet peas.
You told me your aunt was a witch and all my milk-teeth shuddered.
I wanted us to last forever, hold on tight the way stars cling onto night. I wanted it all to stay, to keep childhood safe and loved like apricot jam in a thick glass jar. Why do people have to dream and my hands have to grow? I have cried silently for all the away years. We begged and lit candles for the lost boys to come and find us. Salvation was a land we could never set sail for. I think back on all the silly things we used to covet and believe. You told me your aunt was a witch and all my milk-teeth shuddered. Back then, we believed in pirate gold and fairy dens. The forests suspect me now, imagination won’t let me stay. I am locked out of our home. Now all we know is that parents aren’t heroes and hearts never die. They wither and pine across distances so long and slow we can feel the beats leave, like the hug-run I never made. Self-doubt cripples and time never quits.
We never grew up together. We never got to catch the school bus and we never got to skip class. I was so jealous of the other girls walking ahead of me, braiding their hair at lunch time and sharing cherry lip balm whilst I ran to eat in locked cubicles. We never whispered in thin cotton night dresses about the boys who we thought were gods and the ways we wanted to catch them. We had time to catch. Seize back the moments we did not spend by the sea, laughing and dancing in violet waves and blue sands. You are close enough to smell the violets now. When you were gone, life was experienced as a continual farewell. Without you, who would I be?
Molly Beale is currently studying English and American Literature with Creative Writing at the University of Kent in Canterbury. Aside from radical love of poetry and dancing half-naked with her best friends to feminist rap, Molly seeks peace with her two dogs by the river – Nelson the one-eyed seadog, and Pogo the puppy disco queen. She hopes one day people will stop questioning the importance of poetry and start actually giving a damn about each other. She has had poems published online in Datableed zine, and more of her work can be found on her blog Tomboy.