I first saw Sky on a fine afternoon at the end of August last summer. Of course, I didn’t know who he was then ...in fact, come to think of it; I didn’t know what he was then. All I remember seeing from the backseat of the bus is a green-clad blur padding along The Line in a shimmering haze of heat; a slight and ragged figure with a mop of hazel brown hair and a way of walking that whispered secrets to the world.
We were on our way back to the village. My brother, Dylan had stayed behind with friends in England after being accepted to university there. We’d had a month of no contact, and then out of the blue he’d told us that he was coming home. His boat was due in at three, and obviously we had to pick him up. Now, dad normally hates being disturbed when he’s writing (which is just about all the time), and he also hates going anywhere, but today, despite the usual moans and groans of why can’t he walk? I could tell from the sparkle in his eyes that he was really looking forward to see Dylan again.
It wasn’t that dad was unhappy spending all his time with me, but with Dylan away in England I think he felt something missing from his life. I’m 16, and Dad’s forty-something. We can’t always give each other what we need or want, no matter how hard we try, and sometimes it helps to have someone to fill the emptiness in the middle, someone to turn to when things get too much. Dylan was good at that.
Of course, that wasn’t the only reason dad was looking forward to seeing Dylan. He was his son, he cared about him, worried about him, loved him.
And so did I.
But, for some reason, I wasn’t as excited to see Dylan as Dad was, and I don’t know why, I wish I had been, but I wasn’t. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to see him, because I did... I don’t know. Something didn’t feel right. “Are you ready Iz?”Dad asked in anticipation. “Why don’t you go on your own? You can have a father-son chat on the way back.” I’d suggested. “No, no, he’ll want to see his little sister.”
Dad’s been petrified of driving on his own, ever since mum died in a car crash 7 years ago. I try to encourage him, but I haven’t the heart to push it too hard.
The bus had picked up Dylan from the docks, so there we all were. The remainder of the Anderson family, crammed into a dirty, decrepit old bus, heading back to the island. Dylan and Dad in front, and me in the seats behind. As expected, Dylan couldn’t stop talking, uni this and uni that. I hated it. It wasn’t Dylan anymore, my big brother, who I could talk to about anything, who knew me. No, Dylan was gone, and in his place stood this; thing. A ghost, a clone, or perhaps a hologram of someone I once knew, but knew no more.
“So, Dad you won’t believe this, this teacher told me off for not taking notes, but university is meant to be a free place right? So, I was like just arguing back and he was shouting so I just walked out!” See what I mean? In all his desperation to tell Dad about his ‘new’ life as a university graduate, he hadn’t said a word to me, but I was ok with that, for some reason. That’s when I saw Sky.
We were about half way across the Line by now, I remember it so clearly.
Dylan was laughing at something Dad had just said whilst frantically patting his jeans in search of another cigarette. Dad was tugging somewhat wearily at his beard, amused but not really there, and I. I was leaning out of my open window, embracing the harsh wind as it lashed my face. My right hand was clinging to the seat and my left to the window frame.
That was the moment I first saw him.
A small silhouette against the burning daylight; a figure that never seemed to grow bigger or smaller; an outline that never wavered. Time dawdled, loitered, and ultimately stopped. As I’ve already mentioned, the memory of Sky’s walk brings a smile to my face. It’s an implausibly vivid memory, and if I close my eyes for a second I can see it now. An easygoing lope. Nice and steady. Not too fast and not too slow. Fast enough to get somewhere but not too fast to miss anything. Lively, aware, definite, without concern and without vanity. A walk that belonged solely to him, and was secluded by everything else around it.
You can tell a lot about a person from the way they walk.
As we drew closer, I realised that Dad and Dylan had stopped talking, and I was aware of an eerie silence in the air. Birds had stopped calling, the wind had stopped singing, and the sky in the distance was a violent shade of indigo. Something was about to happen.
All of a sudden time and distance caught up with one another and with a lurch we drew level with him. As we did so, he turned and looked right at us. No - right at me. It was a face I’ll never forget. Not simply because of its splendour – and there was no denying it, but more of its phenomenal sense of being beyond things. Beyond the acid green eyes, and the dark matted hair and the sad smile...no, beyond all this there was something else. Something.
And then, he was gone. My mind became agitated, impatient for knowledge. Who was he? Where was he from? And where was he going? Questions reverberated around in my head. Questions with no answers. Questions about the boy. The brief moment when our eyes connected had sent my mind whirling and me into a stupor. I felt embarrassed, and it confused me. How could I be embarrassed? More questions began to emanate from within from the caverns of my mind. I didn’t know him, but I felt compelled to find him again. I had to, I just had to.
We were at the end of the Line by now. I wanted to turn around, to look back at the boy, but I couldn’t will myself to. What if he saw me? I racked my brains for something to do, or say. Something to conceal my feelings. But what feelings? The abrupt sound of people had broken the serenity of thought echoing through me. Like an alarm clock in the early hours. Unwanted. Stop day dreaming Iz I told myself. Dad and Dylan had recovered from the silence and were nattering away again. Well at least Dylan was. Dad was calm, calmer than usual. Maybe the mix of whisky and fresh air had somehow jumbled things up in his head, like an anagram of prospect. He’d seen him too. His electric blue eyes x-rayed the beach, the sea, the sky, searching for him. Constantly searching.
Back at home, things were different. The peace that belonged to our house was stolen. Shouts and arguments broke out like wild fire between Dad and Dylan. The freedom had evaporated. We were now trapped. Dad obviously, had confined himself to his study and to his whisky. Dylan on the other hand, had imprisoned himself within his room. Endlessly smoking and drinking. Both of them alone. It took me a while to get my head around the tranquillity, the mysterious silence. The word tranquillity sounds so welcoming and gentle. But this was a harsh tranquillity a redundant, failed tranquillity.
I scampered down the stairs the next morning, ready and prepared for summer, the previous day forgotten; at least for now. Dad was up in his dressing gown, arranging pots and pans, shuffling as he went. I watched him for a while, bleary eyed and smiling. He looked up. “Oh, morning sweetheart. Eggs?” “Yes please.” So, after a fulfilling breakfast, I was wide awake and raring to go. I was meeting Adrianne at 1 o’clock by the bus stop. With my bag now packed full of spare clothes, and a small pen-knife, I was equipped. So I set off into the sun.
Adrianne was waiting for me by the bus stop clad in make- up and jewellery, loose clothes hanging from her petite frame. A bright pair of red leather heels cradled her tiny feet, they looked like they were about to snap. She’d told me to dress up too, maybe put some make up on. I’d contemplated it for a minute, before pulling on my customary shorts and t-shirt. The sun was shimmering contentedly, the jewel of the sky. It was certainly a beautiful day. “Hello.” I said. “Oh Iz, you could have dressed up a little.” I smiled gently, searching the mask of make-up for the old Adrianne, but to no avail. “Right, shall we head off into town?” “let’s go.” After waiting another ten minutes we finally heard the clunks and squeaks of the island bus. Almost brown with filth with only tiny yellow shapes managing to escape dirt. It was not my first choice of vehicle. We looked at each other, stifling a laugh and clambered on.