This is a bit new for me its more YA than i’ve done before – very teenagey!!!
They grew up just two miles from each other and spent endless days on the beach or climbing trees together. Despite the two year age gap they were close and the fondness grew to so much more. But falling in love with your cousin couldn’t happen and could never be admitted to.
When you love someone it’s your job to make sure they don’t get hurt. But what if the only way to protect them is to make them hate you…could you do it?
The sun danced and played through the gaps in the leaves, making his head of golden waves sparkle and glimmer. I couldn’t look up for too long the brightness made my eyes water. My fingers clawed against the bark and skimmed the fresh leaves sprouting close to their mother’s body. Slow down, slow down, my mind screamed at me as hot, sharp breaths steamed my glasses. He was two years older, a foot taller and a natural tree climber, but I wouldn’t give in. The climb was always worth it. Just his hand outstretched towards me was the only inspiration I needed to force myself up, even though my knees were ripped to shreds and my fingertips throbbed with the pain of a million punctures. The dip where the two biggest branches crossed was the perfect perch for a couple of teenagers hiding out. We had to sit so close that sometimes, on really hot days, I could feel the warmth of his skin through my thin cotton shirt, pushing against my arm. The sun and the demanding climb given the blame for my flushed cheeks and sweaty palms. It wasn’t the first time we’d climbed the old tree, just yards from the house, and yet not another soul knew we were up there. If the weather was good it was our spot, away from nagging sounds of overprotective mothers and the monotony of daily chores. The tree had barely aged in the past three years, it was steadfast in its place, and looked as tall and as unforgiving as ever. When the wind rustled the leaves and whipped them against my window I cursed the memories it evoked. Stupid, stupid girl, I said over and over to myself. He must have known how I felt about him. I cringed at the thought of him feeling sorry for his little love-sick cousin. Telling anyone would have been social suicide. What thirteen year old girl has a crush on her fifteen year old cousin, even if he was the fittest guy in the village. For me the crush wasn’t just about how totally gorgeous and amazingly fit he was, he was my best friend too. He didn’t mock girls like the other half-wits masquerading as boys. Vulgarity and impropriety would never be words used to describe him. My mum must have known, mum’s always do. She would give me that look, you know the one where their eyes go wide and their cheeks hunch up and a toothless smile precedes the words, Jesse’s coming over’. She didn’t make that look today though. It had been three years since we’d seen him or uncle Paul. Aunty Jen wasn’t coming, I wasn’t at all surprised about that.
“So is it just ‘cos grandpa is ill that uncle Paul’s coming home?” I asked, hoping that she’d say they were coming back for good.
“Yeah, They’ll be here about a week, or maybe a little longer. It depends how grandpa is.” The last of mum’s words barely made it to open air. Her voice gave way under the realisation of what she meant. If grandpa looked like he would be sticking around for a while then Paul would go back to Oz. But if it looked like the inevitable might happen within the week then he would stay for the funeral. Even I had a hard time squaring that thought away in my mind. Grandpa was big and strong and never smoked or ate rubbish, as he called it, from the gaudy looking building down the road. He always made me laugh by saying the big yellow ‘M’ stood for Muck and not Mac.
Now I hardly recognised the ghostly figure, bed ridden and barely able to crack a smile. It hurt my heart so much I even thought about sitting in the tree to hide on the days we had to go and visit.
“Mum, how come Aunty Jen isn’t coming?”
“She’s busy with work and…well…” She paused, colour blotching out all over her face and neck. “She’s just busy that’s all.” The answer was final and came with one of those, now don’t bother me anymore looks. The windows were having the clean of their lives and I was glad they were on the receiving end of whatever I’d just sparked inside her. I should have walked away there and then but I couldn’t so I didn’t.
“Did you and Aunty Jen have a falling out?” I knew the answer but time had blurred the events of the row in my head and part of me wondered whether my imagination had played a part in making more of it than I remembered.
A loud sigh brought to an end the vigorous swiping of glass. My mother rested her head against the gleaming pane then carefully and slowly wiped away the smudge left behind.
“I wouldn’t exactly call it a falling out, it was more of a dis-agreement.” She finally said after pondering my question for a few seconds.
“A pretty loud dis-agreement.” She didn’t seem too impressed by my offer of an opinion on the matter.
“Sometimes adults have heated debates, and young children can misconstrue them when they don’t know the content.” The blotches of red were coming thick and fast again, but she kept on with her fumbled answer.
“You know there are times when you get a gut feeling that someone has done something wrong and no matter how much you want to ignore it you just can’t.” Her eyes were pooling with tears and if her shoulders slumping were conveyed as a sound it would have been the equivalent of a heavy door slamming.
“So…Did Aunty Jen do something wrong?”
“It’s in the past now, so maybe we should just leave it there.” She was picking up her cleaning bottles and pushing the sofa back against the doors, giving me a substantial hint that we were done.
“Did it have anything to do with that man who came to our table in the pub?”
Her hair whipped around and nearly knocked me across the room. Her eyes bulged and looked ready to burst with the unleashed tears still ebbing at the edges.
“What do you mean and what man are you talking about?” If her arms weren’t full of cleaning stuff I swear she would have had me in a death grip.
“You remember the day we went to the pub for grandpa’s birthday lunch. There was that man who came over to say hi and Aunty Jen practically took the table with her when she bolted for the play park where Jesse was.”
“Well I think she was just worried he was going to hurt himself on the swing.”
A laugh shot through my lips and hung petrified in the air between us. “He was fifteen and the swings were two feet from the ground.” I stared at her in disbelief.
“I don’t know maybe she thought he might hurt one of the little kids out there.” She was getting huffy now and her answers more and more cryptic.
“You spoke to the guy, so you must have known who he was.”
“I can’t think who you mean, he must have been a friend of dad’s or something.” Mum left the kitchen in a flash, pushing by me and losing her grip on the bottles in her hand. She knew. She just wasn’t telling, and now I so had to know who he was.
“Why don’t I describe him to you.” I said, with a hint of sarcasm sidling it’s way in. It didn’t go unnoticed and the raised eyebrow was strike one on my chances list.
“He was really tall and tanned, ooh and he had really blonde curly hair like Jesse’s.” Her face froze, fear lashing out from behind clear blue eyes.
“Oh, you mean Edward, yes he was just a friend of your dad and uncle Paul’s. He was never very nice to Jen so she didn’t want to pretend to be polite to him. You know it being grandpa’s birthday an’ all she didn’t want to risk him causing a scene.” Her fingers trembled and her teeth hovered nervously over a tight pink lip.
“So how come you and her were yelling at each other in the front lounge at Grandpa’s house when Dad and Uncle Paul went for a walk?” I was on a roll and knew I needed to keep going while she was willing to talk about it.
“I thought you went with them.”
I shook my head. Her eyes closed momentarily.
“How much did you hear?” More fear pulled her lips tighter and flickered through her eyes making them look more grey than blue.
“I couldn’t really hear much other than her telling you that you didn’t understand what it was like and then Aunty Jen started saying that you would regret it.” I stopped, my mum looked like she was ready to hurl the meagre contents of her lighter life, stomach. “Mum, you okay you look really bad.”
Shaking her head and placing the cans of polish and latest ‘no smear’ household cleaners back in the cupboard she looked slightly more composed.
“Ed was an ex of mine while we were all at Uni. You remember I told you that’s how I met Jen.” I nodded, remembering an early conversation when I asked why Jen spoke funny. I eagerly waited for more. “Well I found out that day that she’d had a bit of a thing with him while he was still with me, and I got a bit narky with her and that’s what you heard us rowing over.” She said it so matter of fact that I almost didn’t believe her.
“What, you mean all that shouting and crying and then her storming out of the house dragging Jesse with her was over some old boyfriend. Mum that is so lame. I can’t believe you haven’t spoken for three years over something that stupid.” Her eyes moved everywhere at once, except they didn’t settle in my direction and she was cleaning again. Rubbing down the work top and rearranging the tea cups.
“You know things can get out of hand sometimes and before you know it too much time has passed and you feel like you’ve missed the moment of reconciliation.” When mum was nervous or hiding the bank statement from dad, she cleaned. Now she was buffing the work top for the third time. Something wasn’t right.
“Mum, if that’s all it is then I’m sure you could still put it right. I always thought that we were the reason she moved back to Australia.” The greyness was back, a sickening pallor saturating her face. Shit! I wasn’t right was I?
“Don’t be daft, Jen was just homesick and uncle Paul thought it would be a great opportunity for Jesse. Now come on your supposed to be helping me get the spare rooms sorted.”
I wasn’t buying it, but my mind was buzzing with crazy alternatives and I just needed to sift through everything before I asked anymore questions. Her last words only just filtered through, but when they did, POW. What a slap they made.
“What do you mean spare rooms. I thought they’d be staying with grandma.” It was my turn to look like the walking dead. I’d need a mop fast to catch the colour pouring from my body and pooling at my feet.
“Of course not. I couldn’t have my brother and nephew putting on my mum when she’s worried sick about dad. Anyway Paul gave Jesse the choice and he said he’d rather stay here.” My mouth was drier than Oscars kitty litter tray and I wondered if he could lend me some of his nine lives. Over the next week I was bound to die of mortification at least that many times. Hauling myself up to the attic rooms with armfuls of crisp white sheets and fluffy fresh towels, I contemplated how I should behave. He was still my cousin, that hadn’t changed, but neither had my feelings. Older, should have meant wiser, but at least at sixteen I should be able to hide my crush a bit better. Thank God for the makers of dream matte mousse, maybe a good layer would hide my unfaithful blushes.