The waves hit the shore with tremendous force and struck rock so hard the cliffs threatened to topple over.
The shore was alive with the sea, joined by the seabirds making the sounds that came naturally to them. Every blade of grass was moving in the wind and it howled as if it were a little girl who had just grazed her knee and been told she couldn’t have a lollipop. It sounded like a haunted house’s ghost, poorly constructed with every element of the voice perfected to impossibility.
In the distance, the village clock struck midnight but the chimes were only vaguely made out. A person in the midst of this would not know the exact time. In any way, they would have to use the moon to predict how long it was until the sunrise. The moon was high in the sky, casting a peaceful feel over the wild landscape which was strange, considering at present, there was nothing calm around. There was activity and there was commotion and there was noise and wakefulness—but definitely not tranquil.
There were little bright dots in the darkness, the rabbits’ eyes reflecting off the light provided by the moon. One of the hikers that passed through during the day had left a chocolate wrapper which shone in the unknown.
A lonesome maa reached the rabbits’ ears, clear by the way they were suddenly alert. Some darted back to their burrows, jumping at even the smallest out of place noise in the blackness. Others propped themselves up on their hind legs, whiskers quivering and ears twitching sensitively. One rabbit with drooping ears stayed still and did not get up, lying inert in the earth.
A softer piece of rock from the cliff face was suddenly falling, and crashing through the surface of the water, acting as fuel for the next wave to lap even higher. The ammunition was not long-term, however, as on the next circuit it had broken down once more.
It was a starless night, the sky pitch black, only lightened by the light of the moon. It cast the heavens in white light, slowly fading to grey, until it was all mixed in darkness. Still, the moon remained a shining golf ball in the galaxy.
Then there was a small crunch on the ground, acting as a signal for the remaining rabbits to scatter. The noise was obviously a footstep, proved further by its repetitive nature. They were slow, careful, and soft and as a result did not startle anything other than the sharp-eared rabbits.
It was a girl. She was small but no younger than sixteen and even in the midnight chill she wore a summer dress and her hair was in a braid over her shoulder. Everything about her was petite except the fat tear on her cheek. Her face was flushed and despite her lightness of foot she seemed to be shaking uncontrollably. She held her hands at her chest, fingertips touching. Between them was one large lily.
Despite the gale force winds, as she moved along the shore, she did not stumble and was never threatened to fall off the cliff edge. She left next to no space between her and the fall that would be sure to kill her, but she did not wince or falter. She was graceful.
She stopped, and a bystander may have thought she was going to jump as she turned to face the water. Instead, she knelt down and laid the flower at the cliff’s edge. Looking up at the moon, she began counting back from ten, her voice trembling and uneasy.
“Ten… nine… eight… seven… six… five… four… three… two…” She paused for such a long time, doubt as to whether she would continue but after a while she whispered in a hoarse voice, “…one.”
She closed her eyes and more tears fell, slowly gliding down her cheek and dropping off her chin. She opened her eyes to slits and they were filled with tears. She reached up and touched one drop with her finger, retracted it, and stared at her wet finger. She tried to force a smile but it would not come.
“Take me with you, Dad,” she said at last, her voice stronger than before but beneath it was the irreconcilable feel of heartbreak. “Like you used to. You promised you’d never leave me. But it’s been a year. And I can’t live another like this. I don’t have a dad anymore. And no girl should have to live without a father. They need someone to think no guy will ever be good enough for them and to embarrass them in front of the entire popular crowd. I just wanna know what it’s like. Just once.” She glanced around and her eyes, which had been welling up again, let more tears fall.
Her eye caught the rabbit, dead in the mud. “Were you a father too?” she asked it, and waited for no reply. “Did you have children? A family? Do they even know you’re gone?” She then laughed under her breath and muttered to herself, “Great. Your sadness has driven you to talk to rabbits.”
She sniffed and rubbed her nose. Examining her fingernails, she said, “I miss you, Mum. Every day, I just can’t talk about it because I know that if I do, I won’t be able to stop myself from giving away every last detail of how I feel and that is the scariest thought of them all. A girl needs her mum to help her… with girl things.” She laughed an unfunny laugh and sniffed again. “And other stuff. I have Mother Helena but she’s not the same, she’s… Catholic! Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but they’re not the best for confiding in, are they? Which is good, I guess, ’cause I’m not the best at confiding.”
She paused, sniffed once more, ran her hand down her braid, and looked back up at the moon. “I got you a lily,” she announced and held up the flower briefly before setting it down again. “Sorry I could only get one, everything’s in short supply now. I could have really used you. To help me through all of this. Well, just life in general, really. Mother Helena says I can’t get breaks anymore; that nobody remembers that I’m an orphan, so I should try and forget too. But how do you forget your own life? It’s simple to forget, but not when it’s your life and you have to live it day after day after day… after day.” She finally broke down and began to cry. “It’s just so hard. Living. Growing up. I always knew it was gonna be. But at least I thought I’d have my parents to help me. I have no one. I feel so alone. And no one understands, they think I should have moved on… a year on… but it’s not that simple. You said you were always gonna be there; whenever life got tough for me. And I was only six, so I believed you. The most naïve six year old ever. Can’t you do something to show me that I’m not as alone as I think I am? As I feel? As everyone else is making me feel?”
She began picking at a hangnail on her thumb and bit her lip in nervousness. She didn’t visit her parents as often as she would like. She didn’t get out that much anyway, so any time she could gain some freedom, she used it to try and right her wrongs with her parents—if at all possible.
“I’m sorry I don’t visit more. I’ll try, but… I doubt it’ll work in the long term. I just wanna see you again. It doesn’t have to be in the flesh, but if you could send me some sort of signal that I’m not just talking to a cloud—make a flower blossom? Hell, I’d even be happy to die. As long as you’re there, waiting to guide me to whatever sad reality I’d have to accept.”
She ran one cold finger along the stem of the lily she had brought. She longed to be warm, but thought it too risky to bring a jumper. Besides, her chills would assure anyone up there that she really cared. Hopefully.
Not able to stand the goose bumps rising on her legs, she tucked her knees under her chin and held them to her. Her chin was now not only quivering with grief, but shivering in the freezing temperatures around her.
She looked up at the moon and then at one of the few stars in the sky. “Are you my mother?” she asked it tenderly. “Are you my father?” She considered it before adding, “Or have they abandoned me forever?” These questions, in all their unanswered glory, prompted her to ask another: “Who are you?” Secretly, she wondered if the stars were the fallen like she had always believed; that shooting stars were the most recently, just taking their place between their ancestors; and falling stars were those who had fallen… and who were destined for hell.
She also wondered if that star to which she had been talking had a daughter, a son, a family, still on Earth, or if they still thought of whoever it was. If this star was hundreds of years old or still fresh in people’s minds. Then, again, she wondered if it was one of her parents. If they really did watch over her. If they had the choice.
Did they even want to?
The wind picked up, bringing more cold air with it, and she shuddered with resentment. Everything had been taken from her. Her parents… her freedom… her whole life was just snatched from her. But that did not hurt the most. The worst thing was that she had stood idly by, a spectator in her own ruin. She had done nothing to stop it.
Everyone thought she was crazy. Everyone said it. Whenever she heard, “That girl’s not right in the head” or “Poor girl, she can’t help her condition,” she knew it was about her. And she most certainly did not have a condition, either.
The waves hit the shore hard again and sent spray so high it threatened to soak her. But she was safe on the cliff edge. Perched on the side of the large rock, ready to blow off the exact moment the wind changed or picked up, and yet… it had already. Several times. She remained unfazed, as if nothing had happened; as if it was normal to not detect the gusts of air which threatened to claim her life at that precise moment. Even if it was normal to be so sensitive to it, she would not flinch. She wanted to fall—so, so badly. She wanted to fall so she could sparkle and shine for the first time in her life.
She wanted to fall to be with them. Even if they had lost all hope in her, she would never lose faith in them. She held that with her.
She closed her eyes, wanting to savour the moment with every morsel of her body. “I will never leave you, you have my word. I love you with all my heart and I could never give up on you. As long as I live with a beating heart, you will not send me away. Even if you want to.” She paused. “I’m annoying that way.”
Suddenly there was a louder noise, rushed and uneven. A combination of two different sounds—the footsteps of a person who was running, and the breathing of someone who had been running a while. Then Mother Helena’s son Billy burst out of the undergrowth and stared at the quivering silhouette in the darkness.
Billy sighed deeply; the sound disguised in his heavy panting, and started walking toward her. “April,” he said, as if he expected what he had found, as if it was no surprise. “Come on. It’s morning soon. Mother Helena will know you’re missing.”
She said simply, “I’m not missing.”
Billy waited. “You will be in her mind. You’re insane to her. That’ll be enough for her to call the police the minute she sees you’re out of bed.”
The girl, April, looked up at Billy with big brown eyes. Understanding and confusion, combined, flooded her features. “How did you notice I was gone?”
He seemed uncomfortable with this question and rubbed the back of his neck. He then crouched down to look at her, examine her, and plead with her. But one look into her own begging eyes stopped him. He could not force her.
He sighed deeply again, frustrated by her ability to make him doubt even himself. “What do you expect me to do, April? Lie to my mother? Have you forgotten this?” Billy reached into his shirt and pulled out his crucifix, on a chain around his neck. “I’m pretty sure this all goes against Him.” He put his palms together, fingertips facing the sky. She knew what he meant.
April’s eyes were filled with tears. “I’m sorry for putting you in this position. You don’t have to admit you knew. She’d never suspect you did. I’m not gonna drag you down with me.”
Billy was suddenly overwhelmed with guilt. This girl was locked up so much she had to sneak out on the anniversary of her parents’ deaths to speak with them—or try to. He wanted to go, and take no responsibility for this, but the instinct to stay—for her—was greater. He shook his head at her suggestion. “You already have. I’m not leaving.”
One side of April’s mouth twitched upwards, the shadow of a smile. This girl was always so positive, Billy reminded himself, look at what Mother Helena’s done to her.
Because despite his certainty that she was crying for her parents, he also knew that she could not smile because of the isolation his mother had given her. He suddenly felt anger towards Mother Helena, for she should not have done this to poor, sweet, innocent April. But then he felt shame towards himself, for he had been told long ago not to sympathise with the girls. But April’s different, he thought, April’s not mad or insane or crazy. April shouldn’t be here. But I’m glad she is. He ended his mental decision on feeling disrespect for his own mother for despite his feelings for April she was not just any girl who passed through their clinic. She was special.
Billy remembered how before April had arrived, he had seen only girls—broken, spoiled girls who had no hope left for themselves. They were all destroyed. And he had thought April to be the same, but when he saw her sitting by herself, almost in a self-pitying way, and snooped through her file in his mother’s office, he developed a fondness for her. He told her which girls to avoid, which girls were the worst off, and he knew it all made her feel better. For despite her lack of troubled mind, it gave her some peace to look at the others and think herself not the worst.
He had taught her everything he thought important, things she had not had the chance to learn before. He found it sad but did not teach her out of pity. He wanted her to be the best. He wanted her to be better, so that she wouldn’t have to suffer in their clinic for much longer.
Nonetheless, he enjoyed his time with her but eventually came to cancel the lessons. He didn’t want to be mean, but he was selfish and didn’t want her to go. He didn’t want her to leave him by himself. Without her, he would have to go back to the way he had lived life before she had arrived—avoiding every single messed up girl in there. He still felt guilty for his decision to quit on her, but he knew the second she was better, she would no longer be there.
Only now did he decide on his own—if she left, he left. He would go any place, anytime, anywhere just to be with her, spend time with her, and never ever lose her.
Only now did he realise how deep his feelings for her ran.
Only now did he realise that he was in love with her.