Aged 22, by Lydia Morris

Sheffield, 12 February 2015

The sheet has left the duvet and seemingly spent most of the afternoon trying to see how many things it can swallow without the two of them noticing.

“Babe, where are the scissors?”

Her eyes, as wide as her smile, glance up from the bed. Pricking her shoulders up she lets out a childlike giggle, throws her naked body into the duvet, arms spread, and pulls the covers into her chest, willing it to swallow her too. “But I love the duvet,” she shrieks.

Harry’s eyebrows furrow together and the left corner of his smile peaks at the spot that’s reserved just for her: “You’re crazy.”

She beams.

Lying now with her back against the mattress and the duvet held tightly up against her bare chest she watches him, grinning at how whimsical he looks from upside down as he stands by the bed. With her smile undisturbed, he curves his body to the side awkwardly to parallel his head with hers and their gazes lock.

“What you doing?” he whispers, standing by the side of the bed, chin jutting out provocatively.

She lets out a high-pitched cry and leaps from the bed clutching his skin with force. His body goes limp beneath her touch, a smile crosses his face. She clambers against his body and leans over him. Her upper lip brushes against his lower. Swimming in each other’s flesh she leans in further. Her hands still clasping his skin, she moves her hips lower into his, her leg sliding over his body, and like in slow motion he inhales forcefully through his nose and scrapes his bottom lip against his front teeth as he yells, “Fuck.”

Like in a cheap rendition of Cats the Musical, she pounces off him from all fours directly into the air, facial expression frozen. His hands glide through the air to his crotch, and his body creases and rolls across the bed, knees into his chest like a foetus.

Retreating to the opposite side of the bed, she pulls the duvet up to her chin, dropping the corners of her mouth, her teeth peeking though like Wallace and Gromit, and she does what social convention tells us all to do in these situations; she bares her teeth, loudly inhaling through them and lets out a low ooo-ing sound.

He looks to her through the corner of one tightened eye; she doesn’t say anything but drops the corners of her mouth in an overly sympathetic frown and creases her forehead worryingly like a blanket over her amusement. He rolls away leaving her with a lasting glare.

She giggles.

 

Rhiw, Wales, 16 April 2015

Moving along the narrowing sheep path she looks down to the thistle pit below, and up toward the slope above. She walks closer to her Granddad ahead, eager to reach the beach. Her gaze wanders to the possessive blue above, as she watches two seagulls glide over their path.

“You alright there, Lydzi?” Granddad shouts back without turning his head.

“Yes thanks, Granddad,” she answers from right behind him “Are you?”

“Oh yes.” He lowers his volume.

Eyes to the ground, she taps each section of grass with the tip of her shoe cautiously. The distance between them is slowly building.

“Granddad, what shall we have for tea?” She is waiting for him to say stir fry. She waits. “What about that stir fry?”

“Oh yes. Wait…” He turns back towards her, slapping his thigh. “We didn’t get the sauce in the end did we?”

She stops in her tracks, metres behind him, staring. “Oh God, no you’re right; they didn’t have it.”

“We could just have the ol’ chips, beans and eggs,” he says, rubbing his hands together.

“Did you bring the beans with the little sausages?”

“I think there’s some in my boot, two tins if I remember right.”

“Oh that’ll go down nicely.”

Granddad looks up towards the sky rubbing his roughly shaved chin and mumbles, “Now did I put it in the basket…?”

Shaking her head she continues along the path until she reaches him. “Come on Granddad, let’s keep going.” She places one hand on his woollen sleeve. The texture feels tough against her flustered fingertips; her other hand rests on the coarse poly-blend of his backpack.

“Eh, eh, Lydia, look at that!”

“What?” She follows the line of his arm, blue veins jutting out over his once strong muscles; she imagines him as just a mere boy pointing to the fighter jets that sliced through the sky. His battered finger pins a dark spot in the distance.

She squints. “That’s a hawk isn’t it Granddad?”

“Yes,” he whispers excitedly, “Oh look at that, isn’t it magnificent?”

Her ears rise with her grin.

“Is it holding a branch or something?”

The bird’s glide grows unsteady as it flies toward them.

“No, it can’t be.”

“Well, I haven’t got my glasses on so you’ll have to tell me,” she says, relaxing, and watching the event unfold in his expression.

“Eh, Lydia,” the back of his hand whips against her upper arm without fracturing his gaze, “that’s a snake!”

“Is it? But it’s black.” Her eyes dart back to the sky, a scowl emerging over her face as her hand rubs the burning patch on her arm left from her granddads slap. She furrows her forehead around her squinting eyes. “There aren’t any black snakes in England though are there Granddad? Or Wales even?” she mumbles.

The hawk struggles with the snake in mid-air. Trying to straighten its flight, it clamps its grip and tussles with the animal. Within seconds the bird is over their heads and the two of them have become landscape to the skies. The bird falters as the snake fights for freedom, and within a second, the thud of the snake to the ground reigns over the ocean and the wind from the hills.

Silence stills everything; the bird is gone.

Granddad looks to her; he is grinning. “Let’s get it.” Within a blink his rucksack is on the path in front of her and his once creaking body is running like water down the steep hillside.

“Be careful Granddad!”

“Come on Lydia.”

“Oh bloody hell.” She drops her bag, rolling her eyes.

Looking down to the path edge, she pauses before mumbling to herself and crouching, her clammy hands grabbing at clusters of grass as she tips one leg off the ledge and taps around for sturdy ground below.

Granddad looks up from swimming through the brambles, “Oh come on Lydia!”

“Oh for God’s sake.” She falls to her bum and slides down the bumpy slope towards him. The once seemingly dangerous drop has become her uncomfortable decline.

“What type of snake is it?” she says as she tries to find her stance.

“It’s a black adder. They’re very rare.”

She moves the bramble with finger tips, the arms of her jumper stretched over her hands protecting her fragile skin “Aren’t black adders poisonous Granddad?”

“Yeah. The only poisonous snakes in the UK.”

She bolts upright, “Well bloody hell Granddad why are we looking for it then?”

“Oh blumin’ heck Lydia, it’s not going to kill you. Just don’t get bitten.”

“Ugh.” She bends back over looking for their needle in the haystack, the thorns and thistles crunching below her boots as she fights the undergrowth with her feet.

 

London, 18 June 2015

There is a huddle of people standing on the patio in the garden; the sky is becoming light behind the ascending trunks of smoke stemming from the orange tips of their cigarettes and reaching up into the cooling night air. Their laughter is breaking up the silence of the neighbourhood.

“What, are you joking?”

“No honestly. It was hilarious. She was gone for like two hours and we were all looking for her and…”

“Yeah, Lyd. I told you she was in the toilet.” Carina appears through the patio door, her heavy Portuguese accent smothering the recently adopted London tones of Lydia’s.

“Yeah, fair play, she was there; I’m sorry. But I didn’t exactly expect you to get the bouncer!”

“Fuck, you got the bouncer? Was Ellie okay?”

“Yeah, she was fine. She just fucking went to the toilet for a nap didn’t she,” she yells with laughter, wobbling.

A deep voice passes over. “Mate you got a skin?”

They ignore it casually.

There is laughter erupting from inside. Mia is shouting, “Ed, for fuck’s sake, not in the sink. If you’re going to throw up go to the toilet.”

“No I don’t want to go up the fucking stairs,” he slurs. His face is pale and the corners of his mouth are drooping.

“Well you can’t throw up in the sink. Go outside!”

Ed groans towards her before shrugging off outside, knocking a can of beer over with his elbow, against the knitted jumper he wore to work in earlier that day.

“Ugh. Are you going to clean that up?” Fran shouts, pausing her dance.

The liquid glugs out of the can, onto the counter and seeps down the cupboard door. Someone picks it up and backs out of the scene without saying a word.

Ed throws his body towards the door, again letting out a loud grumble towards the crowd he leaves behind. A boy on the sofa grabs the DVD covered in several little discoloured lines of powder and hold it steadily as Ed speeds past.

Laughter erupts outside as he stumbles up the steps and hits the nearest flower bed, not quite missing the freshly planted seedlings.

“Aw, Ed man. They’re my fucking sunflowers,” Lydia shouts from the patio.

He ignores her.

Her hand is raised in the air like she is drunkenly imitating a Shakespearean actor; the invisible skull drops with her hand and she mumbles, “For fuck’s sake,” knowing that eyes are on her.

The sky is growing grey rapidly, the light forcing some people home.

The goodbyes seem few but the space opens like a jaw, a jaw of impending shards of glass, damp rugs, and the ash-covered cans cluttering the floor.

The loud music disturbs the now grounded girls, faces drooped, eyes tired as they stare up at their invited guests wondering when they will tire.

 

Chester, 27 June 2015

His fluffy hair softens beneath her hand like strands of silk. She pushes her face toward him, his front paws lift off the table, and he pushes the top of his head towards her lips.

She kisses him like she has done every day they have been together, since he was a kitten. His paws drop back to the varnished wood once more and his body rubs up against the back of the chairs that border the table, his thick black tail curling friskily in the air.

She runs her palm over his coat, cupping her fingers gently over his thin spine.

A loud clap cracks the air and his eyes dart to her father at the other side of the kitchen. “Come on Nero, off the table.”

“Aww, Dad, he’s so cute,” she says through clamped teeth and pursed lips.

She continues to stroke him.

Another clap splits the room and the cat leaps to the ground with a high-pitched ‘Umphh’.

“Aww baby.” She watches him waltz over to his food bowl, arse in new heights of attitude. He knows.

“So how is London? Is work okay, and the house?” The cabbages swirl red behind the wooden spoon as his wrist churns.

“Yeah Dad, everything is fine, how are you doing?” Her hand grips the back of the chair.

“Yeah I’m doing good, I’ve finished another canvas and been working on some sketches. I’ll show you them after dinner.”

“Sounds good. How is everyone else? How’s Hannah and the baby? And how’s Granddad?” Her body faces him as she watches her toes curl.

“Granddad’s good, he came round for tea last Sunday and he had a great time, all joking with Ben.”

As Ken peers into the oven the smells dart out, escaping before settling to decorate the room like hanging bunches of dried herbs, all swimming in the heat of roasting chicken.

“Have you seen much of Harry recently?” he says, taking a tea towel and attempting to waft the heat.

“Yeah I went up to see him not so long ago, he’s doing really good.”

His voice strengthens as he lifts the oven dish by one side through the gathered layers of the tea towel. “Is he still doing the music?”

“Yeah he’s getting really good now, doing a lot of gigs.” She walks towards the fridge and reaches for the gathered rolls of bamboo on top, leaning on her toes.

“Well it sounds like you’re having a great time.” He smiles glancing at her.

Nero’s meowing pierces through the sounds of BBC Radio Two.

“Yeah I just wish I could see everyone more, especially with Hannah having the baby. It’s annoying not being a part of it, it’s just with work and seeing Harry it’s hard to get the time.”

He turns to her. “Hey Lydzi, you’ve got your life now, just like Hannah and Ben.” He grabs her far arm, his arm wrapping around her as he gives her a gentle shake. “Eh, I’m proud of you girl.”

He returns back to the chicken resting on top of the oven. She rolls out the place mats and lays the cutlery on top. Ken scrapes the last bits of onion into the gravy boat while she places the bowls of roasted vegetables onto the table. The chicken takes centre place, juices seeping down over the skin, the aroma rising into the air like a small explosion. The cat goes crazy.

“Ahh Nero shut up,” her dad says, opening the back door and shooing him out with the inside of his foot.

Cath enters the room and lays out the glasses and Lydia takes her seat as Skeeter Davis sings ‘The End of the World’ on the radio.

Ken goes to the counter placing the tea towel down and picks up a small golden bell. Moving towards the kitchen door, he pinches the tip of the handle as he rings it, little finger outstretched. The jingle skips out of the room. “Alice,” he shouts, “Tea’s ready.”

“Ha Dad! You have a bell for Alice!”

“Yeah,” he chuckles. “I have to get her down some way.” He gives Lydia a cheeky look over his smile, checking Cath’s gaze is averted. Lydia smiles.

“I’ll text her,” Cath says, reaching for her phone.

They join Lydia at the table as feet thunder down the multiple flights of stairs.

Ken sits next to Lydia. “Well,” he says to her, “It’s good to have you home Lydzi.”

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