I thought I’d post another extract from my story – this time about Ivy and her sister…
There were six years between us, but at the creek it never seemed to matter.
We existed in a timeless bubble shin-deep in the creek’s shallows, with the moss between our toes. When we got tired of the water we’d sprawl out on the sun-warmed banks like seal pups. We’d play games, trace letters on each other’s backs to guess the words, chase each other between the trees, make up stories of mermaids, elves and prehistoric sea-creatures. We’d construct forts out of old sheets and low branches, imagine each other’s futures, aim pebbles at floating Coke cans, do cartwheels, handstands, collect rocks and laugh like fools until the end of each day, when the low sun splashed salmon streaks across the sky. We were bonded in our sisterhood, and even when everything fell apart on my seventh birthday, we stuck together. We didn’t talk about what happened – we never did, but we shared the same confused pain, and there was comfort in that.
But the summers crept by and, like a silent riptide, they soon swept my big sister out into the great open ocean of adolescence, far away from me.
The changes happened slowly, almost imperceptibly – her disdain for things she used to take pleasure in, like rock pooling, or shopping with mum at the Providence shopping centre. There was a lot more shouting, swearing, slammed doors – but the moment I realised things had really changed was when I found the plastic box. It appeared on the windowsill in the bathroom. Inside I found it stuffed with pink plastic-wrapped pouches that, on further inspection, featured little white tabs inviting me to pull the wrappers apart. Quickly, before my curiosity got the better of me, I shut the box. I wasn’t supposed to touch them, just like I wasn’t supposed to touch any of the bottles of bubblegum-coloured lotions and potions on the third shelf in the bathroom cupboard, or the big-girl magazines and books Melissa left lying around the house. Sweet Valley High, with the palm trees and photos of the girls with their identical white teeth and long flaxen hair caught somewhere between Disney princesses and Hollywood whores. It was the seductive whisper of a life off limits to me. I was acutely aware of that other life. It lived in our house like a ghost. I caught glimpses of it in the rows of pots and bottles on Melissa’s dressing table, the way she pressed her lips together with a pptt sound after applying her lip-gloss. It was in the lingering strawberry-sweet body spray in the bathroom, the hot pink and purple thongs I saw in the laundry basket, the pop music that thumped through the wall. But it was like watching everything from behind a two-way mirror.
I had my own shelf in the bathroom, one I was free to rummage in with abandon. But the nit comb and big grey tub of Sudocrem for my eczema somehow lacked the glamour of Melissa’s cosmetics. Our paths diverged. She breezed through airport security into a glossy new duty-free world paved in glittery tiles and I — I was left standing in the barren terminal building of childhood without a passport.
We don’t realise it at the time, but teenhood is a kind of death. We’re rushing forward so keenly that we forget to say goodbye to our child-selves. I felt my sister’s departure from my life like a slamball in the chest.