Friday, 10 June 2016

Tiny stories 2: Bokeh

Bokeh: points of light, rendered blurry by a lens. Or by memory. 

Until, today, they all come rushing back into focus.

Your mums walk you together to your first day at primary school. You feel important in your check dresses. You both have swishy ponytails, like real ponies. Mrs McManus, your teacher, is waiting at the classroom door. Lara runs up to her and makes her laugh.

You sit at a table with Ellen and Grace. Four solemn faces. A plastic pot with four fat pencils. Four big pieces of paper, blank, ready for you to draw whatever you like. This is going to be perfect.

Ciaran moves into the estate when you're nine. His dad has a fishing boat, like your dad, and sometimes you talk to him down at the harbour. One day he shows you a black and yellow crab his dad caught. You squeal a bit, but really you think it's quite interesting. Ciaran can tell. He gives it to you to keep. 

Lara likes it when you wear the same clothes. Or, even better, mix and match versions of the same clothes. Like when you wear jeans and a pink t-shirt, and she wears pink jeans with a blue t-shirt. Yours are from the factory shop, but she says hardly anyone can tell.

Ciaran asks if you want to go to the cinema in Newtownards with him. His face is all red, even though he is quite tanned and has a lot of freckles. You have to ask your mum, because of lifts, and she dithers a bit. You're very young, she says. But she likes Ciaran, and you're allowed to go. 

You talk to Ciaran all the time at home, but this is weird at first. He doesn't seem like his normal self.

The film turns out to be really frightening, though, and after you let out a scream and he laughs and puts his arm round you, it's all fine. As you leave the cinema, you agree on a much less scary version of the plot that you'll both tell your parents later.

You and Lara do your homework together most week nights. She copies your French and science. She tells you that you would be so pretty if you plucked your eyebrows. She leaps up, vivid and eager, and fetches her mum's tweezers. She'll do it for you. She watches her mum do it all the time. Lara's mum is pretty, so you hold still. It hurts much more than you expected, and it looks quite patchy afterwards. Lara says it'll be gorgeous when the patches grow back in.

You and Ciaran are sitting quietly on the harbour wall. Penny for your thoughts, he says. You were thinking about nothing in particular. You turn towards him and smile. He smiles at the same time, big and bright, and holds your hand tighter.  

It's Lara's idea to have a girls' picnic on the beach. Once the sandwiches and cans are done, you end up lying like four sardines on her granny's rug, sharing secrets and staring out eastwards. 

Sharing secrets is also Lara's idea. Usually you hate this, but somehow the hot hazy exam-weather afternoon and the circling gulls lull your guard down. Ellen and Grace's secrets are stupid things about lifting lipsticks from McCarthy's chemists. Yours is about Ciaran.

You talk slowly, watching a trawler on the horizon. You don't see her face.

Today fast forwards. You catch your breath from time to time, for the peonies on the pew-ends in the church. His jawline, with one tiny shaving cut. Dancing on the dock to Etta James in triple time. Your mum's smiles and her old Chanel perfume, which she keeps for good. Glasses and glasses of Moet and Chandon, like it's raining stars inside your head.

Lara and Ciaran falling, laughing, through the confetti into the turquoise Beetle and driving away from the harbour into married life, tin cans rattling like hell from the back bumper.

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