Chasing Sunset

I wrote this for the Creative Ink Writing Prompt, but also for a special friend, my twin soul, who is forever chasing summer, and who turns 30 tomorrow. Happy Birthday, Twin xx

She had always loved sunset; the romanticism of one day coming to a close, with the promise of another soon to follow. Flying at sunset was the best, that feeling of cheating time. But it was all too fleeting. You could never cheat time, not really. And that was why she had to leave.

Liv’s phone vibrated in her pocket. She slipped her hand inside and pressed down on the power button until she was sure she had killed it. She couldn’t risk the onset of unwanted emotion. The only way out of this was cold stoicism. And when she got there, well, then she could deal with things once and for all. It would be over.

She didn’t know how long she had been asleep, but the red-rimmed sky had finally succumbed to the blackness of night. Liv rolled her neck from side to side, wincing as she cricked it back into place. The cabin was dark, save for occasional spotlights beaming down onto insomniac passengers like alien spacecraft.

Something brushed her hand, making her jump. It was the little girl sitting across the aisle. By Liv’s estimation she was four, maybe five. Tight black curls and fresh pink lips. Cherubic. Liv looked across at the girl’s mother. She too was beautiful, or at least she would have been were it not for the trail of dribble descending from her open mouth.

“Hi,” the girl whispered.

“Hi,” Liv whispered back, ignoring the tightness in her chest. Her heart.

“I’m Becky. What’s your name?”

“Liv.”

The girl regarded her with such a look of scrutiny that Liv felt unnerved. Of course she didn’t know her secret, she couldn’t know it. And yet.

“Can we be friends?”

Liv smiled. “Of course.”

Becky’s face shone from the inside out. Her lips parted to reveal a gap-toothed smile. Liv wondered if she was perhaps older than her original estimation. She watched as the girl reached into the pocket of her pinafore dress, screwing her face up in concentration as she tried to retrieve something. Eventually she pulled her hand out with a flourish, extended her arm and unfolded her fingers. In the centre of her palm was a turquoise stone. “Take it,” she said.

Liv picked up the stone and ran her finger along its surface. It was smooth and round, and though it was dark she could make out flecks of glitter in its swirling pattern. “It’s beautiful,” she said.

“It’s yours,” the girl replied.

“Oh no, I couldn’t possibly…” She offered the stone back to the girl, but she shook her head and refused to take it.

The girl’s mother stirred beside her, opened her eyes and looked down at her daughter. She followed her gaze to Liv, and when her eyes alighted on the stone in Liv’s hand her breath caught in her throat. “Becky, darling,” she said, her voice measured but tense. “Why did you give this lady your stone? Don’t you want it?”

The little girl looked up at her mother and shook her head. Her mother smiled as if this meant something momentous, but Liv had no idea what. “Thank you,” she said to the girl. “I will treasure it forever. Truly.” The girl’s mother smiled, and Liv noticed she had tears in her eyes. She blinked and looked away. Nothing more was said.

When they had touched down and were waiting to disembark the plane, Liv found the courage to turn on her phone. It buzzed immediately. She had known it would. Before she looked at the message she went through the motions of passport control and baggage reclaim. As she stood at belt six, there was a tap on her arm. It was the girl’s mother. The little girl was playing with a doll several feet away, lost in her fantasy. “I wanted to explain what happened on the plane,” the woman said. “It must have seemed strange.” Before Liv could reply, the woman spoke again. “You see, Becky lost her twin a year ago. In a car accident.”

Liv felt her lungs deflate. “I’m so sorry. How terrible for you both.”

Despite her brightly coloured and expertly applied makeup, the woman’s grief was obvious. But Liv sensed something else behind the sadness, maybe a spark of hope? “It’s been the hardest year of my life,” she said. “And for Becky, well, it’s hard to imagine how deeply this has affected her. She’s only five, and the two of them were thick as thieves.” She looked over at her daughter. “The thing is, that stone she gave you on the flight. It belonged to her sister.”

Liv pulled the stone out of her pocket. “Please, take it back. I would never have taken it if I’d known.”

The woman smiled. “But that’s the thing. She wanted you to have it. For a year she’s carried it around with her everywhere, desperate not to let it out of her sight. Her therapist said it was part of the grieving process, that she would let go of it when she had turned a corner. And now, well, now it seems she has. I just wanted you to know. Whatever you said or did on that plane, thank you.”

The woman called her daughter and they turned to leave. As they walked away Liv heard the woman ask why she had given the stone to the lady on the plane. The girl replied: “She needs it more than me Mummy. Turquoise is for strength, she has to be strong for her daughter.”

The arrivals hall began to spin. Liv steadied herself on her trolley. She put a hand to her tummy and stroked it. How had the girl known? She couldn’t have known. Remembering the message on her phone, Liv took it out and read it. It was from Mark, of course. Just seeing his name on the screen choked her up.

Seven words.

The best she had ever seen:

I KNOW. I LOVE YOU. COME HOME. X

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Dream on, Dreamer

I’m not sure if there is any correlation with this spell of scorching weather, but lately I’ve been having some epic dreams; real edge-of-your-seat, night-long dramas, with casts of thousands and plots so tightly woven I would doubtless make millions if only I could re-create them back here in the real world. Which sadly I can’t. Which sucks.

Last night, for example, involved some kind of (low recall rate being my barrier to fame and fortune) city-wide treasure hunt, at the end of which I purchased four beautiful and ingenious Dartmoor crystal tumblers (despite being pretty sure Dartmoor crystal is not even ‘a thing’, I am reluctant to divulge details of the tumblers here, seeing as that is the one part of the dream I can recall in detail – look out for me on Dragons Den at some point in the future..).

A couple of weeks ago I dreamt of losing the gem stones from my grandma’s ring, which, depending on which dream meaning website you look it up on either means I’m soon to shuffle off this mortal coil or run into a big streak of luck (I know which I’d prefer).

I’m not normally a great believer in dream interpretations, primarily because (as demonstrated above), they tend to vary wildly, implying a total lack of reliability. But many years ago two dreams I had did challenge my usual pessimism.

The first was in the summer of 1989, when I was only seven years old. I know this because it was just days before the Marchioness disaster, a fatal collision between two rivercraft on the Thames in London on 20 August 1989, which resulted in the deaths of 51 people, most of whom were in their twenties. I remember dreaming of a boat in a narrow river channel, packed with people who were dancing late into the night. And then, suddenly, the boat capsized and everyone was in the water. When I subsequently saw the news on television my blood literally ran cold.

The second was probably around the same time. In this dream, I was introduced to a girl on the first day of term at school. Her name escapes me now, but I remembered her so well from my dream that when, on the actual first day of school, I saw her sitting at the front of the hall in assembly, I walked right up to her and called her, correctly, by her name. Oddly, it transpired she lived in our parish, and subsequently our parents became friends through our local church and she would sometimes came to my house after school when her mother was working late.

It’s disappointing to me that those are the only two concrete examples I can give of dreams that were clairvoyant in their nature. Some do say that children are more likely to exhibit clairvoyant tendencies than adults, before the onset of adulthood beats their belief in anything supernatural out of them. It’s likely, therefore, that my only two chances to predict the future in my dreams have passed. But don’t expect me to give up the ingenious Dartmoor crystal tumbler design just yet…

sweet vanilla heaven