SHELLS AND SNEAKINESS

Cousins are your first friends as a child. They’re family; they always have your back. Lily and I were inseparable in our younger years, spending hours lost in our imaginations and made up games. The family holiday to Wales every year was greatly anticipated by us both. Golden beaches and deliciously cold waves were sources of immense joy to us; we would spend the two weeks we had collecting shells and building sand castles. Although we were almost complete opposites, we almost always got along, aside from the odd disagreement. Take the shell fight for example.

“Hey! I saw that shell first Grace: its mine!”

“Well I picked it up first so its mine”, I would retort. Lily would then begin to cry. 

“Don’t be so mean! I want it!” she would wail. So I would give it to her.

This was our friendship. She was always the strong one (otherwise known as bossy), but I didn’t really mind; I let her lead. I’m wondering now: when did it become so complicated? As kids it was so fun and simple, now it was silent and difficult. I wish it didn’t have to happen, but it did.

Like I said, every year we went on a family holiday to wales, not the most exotic of places, but we all loved it. This year seemed no different, and I suppose, on the surface, it wasn’t. However as Lily and I grew up, our differences grew too… as did the rivalry and tension. The older we got the more we changed and grew apart. Still, we loved each other and were good friends. Although many little arguments broke out, we never spoke of them afterwards. Looking back on it, this was not the best strategy. Tension levels grew, until one night a storm broke out.

All because of a photograph. Such an ordinary object became the subject of conflict and confrontation. Other disagreements on their own would have been fine, but the sheer number of them, and now this photograph, just tipped the balance. Things had to be sorted. The silence had to be broken.

Back at our summer house,in mine and Lily’s room, on the bed, there lay a photograph of Lily and I, with our grandad in the water on the canoe. A happy, treasured memory, reminding us of an amazing, carefree childhood and our beloved Grandfather. It had been torn, extremely neatly; the precision was amazing, but I didn’t stop to marvel at it for a moment. Bizarrely, I had been torn out of the photograph, the memory. Upon seeing this, I couldn’t believe it. Mybody started to shake, my stomach dropped.I felt the shock spreading through me,someone had deliberately tried to erase me.Thoughts were racing through my brain, who wouldwant to do this?  Lily. It had to be. This time she  had taken it too far.

Our Grandfather was the most incredible man. As kids, he would join in our ridiculous games and become the centre of our mischief. Sailing and water sports were also his forte. Countless hours were spent in the freezing sea, ‘training’ us up to be his crew, and teaching us the basic skills, and at the end of a long day,he still managed to smuggle a tub of ice cream away from the watchful eye of Nana and share it with us.

Upon finding the photograph, I tore down stairs to find and confront Lily. Eventually, I found her hidden away in the garden room, drawing her idiotic caricatures. Always, she was drawing. I snatched up the paper and shredded it to pieces.

“How do you like it, huh?” I snarled.

Guilt was written all over her face.

“Grace, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean it” she tried to defend herself. In order to try and placate me, she placed her hand on my shoulder, and my whole body tensed. Emotion was radiating off of me in waves. Anger. Frustration. Hurt. Why would she want to erase me? I knew we hadn’t been getting on well lately, but surely she couldn’t hate me that much?

“Why do you hate me so much Lily?” I blurted, I had to ask. Suddenly, her face crumpled. Tears trickled down her face, slowly at first, and then the flood came.

“I don’t hate you at all. You’re my cousin, I love you more than anything”.

Now I had to make my decision. To forgive or not to forgive? Yes, she was my cousin and yes, I loved her, but what she did was beyond wrong. Trying to erase me from our lives? That hurt. I lifted my head to look at her face, her desperate, tear stained face. Following the path of the tear back to its source, I saw the deep pain and sorrow in her eyes. Strangely, I felt a twinge of empathy for her. My decision was no longer difficult. Just as suddenly as she had welled up with tears, my anger had flooded out of me. I rushed to her side.

“Then why did you do it?”

“I’m jealous of you”, she confessed, “you’re athletic and sporty, everything I’m not.”

“Lily, you don’t need to be jealous.” Finally I understood all of the competing, the rivalry. “You’re artistic and creative, everything I’m not, it’s okay to be different.”

All through the night we talked, pouring our feelings out to each other. Everything was going to be alright again, I knew it. Early the following morning, we strolled along the beach, looking for shells. Pastel blue and pink colours shimmered on the water, a reflection of the dawn sky – a perfect scene. In the sand, there lay a temptingly sparkling shell. Each of us gazed at it in admiration and delight. Lily turned to look at me, as in unison, we both cried “I saw it first!” and burst into laughter. 

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