- Vol. 02
- Chapter 11
Image by Vestry House Museum
Step Back in TimeMum was on the beach, fanning herself with a broad-brimmed hat while Mary made sandcastles, her small pink tongue like a heart protruding from her lips in an act of deep concentration. Raking her fingers through the sand, I watched as the moat finally started to take shape.
Overhead, the sky was a perfect turquoise, unmarred by candyfloss clouds, and the gentle sloshing of the waves beat its lullaby into my listening ears.
Mary suddenly looked up from her artistry, squinting in the sunlight to where Mum and I sat. She smelled of vanilla and something slightly fruity. Mary swung her bucket it in the air.
‘Can I go and fetch some water in my bucket please?’
‘Of course dear but take Arthur with you.’
Mary sighed. Being her younger brother, I was used to this sort of response. Mary got to her feet, still clutching her bucket and dusted the sand from her knees.
‘Come on then, Artie.’
I hated being called Artie. And she knew it. A sly grin smeared itself across her face. Then she turned and ran towards the sea, her bucket swinging furiously by her side. I zipped up my jacket and ran after her, Mum calling after us.
‘Be careful you two.’
When I joined her at the water's edge, I was all puffed out; my lungs iron tight, a small trail of perspiration beading my forehead. Mary wasn't looking at me though but at Dad who stood tall like a commander on this large boat full of other men and a sail that was impossibly white.
Step Back in Time'Dad!' Mary called, quickly forgetting about her mission to collect water. She dropped her bucket on the sand, small waves lapping at it. I bent down and picked it up.
Dad looked at me; his eyes like pale diamonds.
‘Hey champ! What do you think?’
He gestured at the boat.
‘Amazing.’ Mary beamed. ‘Can I get on now?’
I didn’t say anything and simply took in the enormity of it; my stomach secretly doing somersaults beneath my jacket. Dad must have seen the look of pure wonder on my face because he stepped off the boat and held out his hand.
'Come on, champ. Let's find out what it feels like to be captain of this ship.'
I was surprised he hadn't answered Mary's question: perhaps he hadn't heard her, but no, there was something else behind his smile. Disappointment perhaps? Anger? Mary started stamping her feet.
‘That’s not fair! I asked first!’
'Why don't you run along Mary and give Mum some company? She'd like that.'
I could see tears in her eyes.
‘I said I was sorry!’
But Dad had his arm around me, and turning away, steered me onto the boat.
‘We’ll discuss this later, Mary.’
He dug his bony fingers into my equally bony shoulder, and I knew that Mary had a long way to go before she was back in Dad's good books.