Above the beach on a cliffside was the ruined garden. It was walled around, and we crept through its many doors, climbing on dry fountains where mosses softened the edges of the stones. The air was still inside, the wind softer, a place where stories could begin and end.
We ran through it, laughing, playing at knights. Dragons crouched behind the walls but we beat them back with swords and ran for the tower. Iron railings here, where the old stone was loose and crumbled, but there were stairs, a balcony, a tower room where a princess might wait.
I’d run, until all I could hear of the others was their distant voices and I’d be secret, on tip-toe in hidden paths, following echoes. And I’d think; what if I got sucked into the past?
My parents claimed it was a Folly, but it was a child’s paradise; so many places to run and climb and hide.
We thought there was a witch. Hidden in the fountain she lay in wait. We played that game until the four of us were scared into fits of laughing and electric thrills of fear ran up our backs as we hurtled down the walks.
I loved to climb. I climbed a tree whose branches went off at all angles, twisting like a monster’s arms. I went high into the thinner branches which bent under me while leaves brushed my hot back, I can remember the feel of the bark against my skin, rough and sticky with sap.
My foot slipped, my hands grabbed but the branches whipped away from me, and I fell. I landed on my back in bright green stinging nettles. I was wearing shorts; that’s all. I had to roll over in those nettles to get up, shaking and coughing where my breath had been snatched away. I can remember standing there in the nettle bed with every inch of my body stinging and prickling, red bumps raised over my chest, my arms and legs.