1. Sunset across EuropeMature

I stood on the deck of the ferry, the cool, refreshing wind rushing into my face and playing with my hair the way my absent, unknown love might; the sunset casting magnificent colours across the sky in a beautiful array that made my heart ache, like to some low, intense voice murmuring a stunning work of poetry so close to my ear that warm breath tickled and kissed my skin; breathing in the salt-flavoured air as the sea parted and sprayed around the hull. The boat cut slowly and smoothly through the water, the action seeming deliberate like the kisses and caresses of one who has regarded you with, and with whom you've regarded, a look that conveyed a chilling seriousness but thrilled you at the same time. Butterflies flew into my stomach, searching out my love-related thoughts and intensifying them.

Beside me, slightly spoiling the scene, my brother was kissing his girlfriend passionately and though I always grew annoyed by their lack of appreciation of the world around them and the way they didn't appear interested in strong, profound feelings for each other, I was in slight envy of what they had. What I wouldn't give to be able to give of my heart to a man...

I re-regarded the dazzling sky and sighed to myself: in longing, at Nature, in a calm, only slightly discontented manner; as stars appeared on the western horizon.

*

Daryl drove us off the ferry and to our hotel: a tall, flat-roofed building with orderly rows of windows, decorated internally by thick curtains, the walls of which were made of grey stone so that it was almost more like a castle for some French nobleman than temporary lodgings for the foreign tourist. The windows on the top floor had balconies on the railings of which grew roses and other pretty flowers; they overlooked the beaches which wandered forth to meet the Channel like a curious young child wanders forwards to investigate an astonishing or intriguing plant or animal in his or her amazing back garden.

Tina was talking quietly to my brother in the front seat, causing him to chuckle every now and again. Her oddly greyish green eyes were dark and flirtatious, her lips curved into a seductive smile, her short blonde hair as bright as lemons (a major influence on Daryl's attraction to her, I knew).

‘She really shouldn't be distracting him with those sorts of ideas,' I thought, frowning.

My brother glanced up at my reflection in the rearview mirror, noticing. His hair was like brown paint that kids mixed up themselves from all the primary colours - it seemed to have a reddish tinge to it in the fading light. His laughing chestnut brown eyes lingered on me and he asked "Quel est le problème, ma petite sœur?" in very British-sounding French.

I sighed. "Nothing, Daryl." I wasn't cruel enough to reply ‘Ta petite amie' and plus, I'd probably earn the Silent Treatment for it which made me feel like a naughty child.

"Sure?" he asked, with a kindness that almost deceived me into thinking I could tell him absolutely anything.

I felt a rare pang of longing for things to be the way they used to be. I remembered wonderfully pleasant road-trips, often along winding country lanes, when the 16 year old me had talked about my life and my worries to the 17 year old Daryl. I missed that privacy, that feeling that it was just him and I in the world, and that no one else would ever matter. I used to find myself thinking ‘If I don't find the right guy, I want to live with Daryl'.

But even as the memory of that thought crept up, Daryl's attention had strayed back to Tina. I hadn't had the chance to respond and this shattered my daydream, ensuring I crashed down to Earth as hard as possible.

In a few minutes, my brother was parking in the single row of spaces in front of the hotel, and as I got out of the car, I reminded myself - slightly harshly, I suppose, but with all necessity - that Tina was Daryl's favourite person now.

The End

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