Chapter 3 : Sailing
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1 July 1965
Lily flipped over, the sheet twisting around her, and let out a sigh. In the morning she and her family were leaving for a weeklong holiday in Brighton, but Lily was beginning to doubt the morning would ever come. This must certainly be the longest night in the world.
“Are you awake?” Petunia’s whisper rose warmly in the dark room, and Lily sat up in bed, relieved to no longer be feigning sleep.
“Yes. I’m too excited to sleep,” she mumbled.
“I know, me too. Just imagine— the ocean!”
Lily leapt gracefully out of bed and took her sister’s hands in her own, leading them around in a circular dance. “Tuney, do you think the sea is as big as they say? Daddy says it’s so wide, you can’t even see across! Is that true?”
“Of course it’s true, silly! Everyone knows that!” Petunia giggled, but her voice was kind.
“And, you know, they say the waves are enormous! Mum says be careful, or they’ll snatch you right up!” With a rush of movement, she tackled Lily onto the tangled bedcovers, tickling her in that perfect, unendurable way only a big sister can manage.
“St-stop!” Lily could hardly get the words out through her laughter, her breath coming in gasps between ecstatic peals. “Stop! I—can’t—breathe!”
Petunia ceased her affectionate torture, and climbed onto the bed, where Lily lay recovering from the onslaught of giggles.
They rolled toward each other, and Petunia filled with gladness at the sight of her sister’s eyes sparkling in the darkness.
Lily inched away, uncertain for a moment if Tuney’s smile was a prelude to more tickles. Then an imagined ocean washed through her again. “What if we’re on a boat?” She began. “What if we’re on a boat, sailing to an island?”
“With mermaids!” Petunia nodded.
Lily shimmied up to her pillow and took it in both hands like the wheel of a ship, turning quickly in the strong wind. Behind her, her first mate was adjusting the sails like a pro.
“Steady as she goes!” Petunia declared, gripping tight to a rope pulled from thin air.
“Rein ‘er in!” Lily commanded, covering one eye with her hand to serve as a makeshift patch.
“Aye, aye, captain!” Petunia returned. “Oh, no! A tidal wave,” she pointed, and both girls screamed and shielded their heads as the wall of water collided with their twin-sized vessel.
“Help me, Tuney, help me!” Lily shrieked, as the tide pulled her off the bed and into the sea.
Petunia couldn’t lose her, it couldn’t be! Giving a mighty throw, she tossed the rope toward Lily, who caught it just south of the rocking chair. “Hold tight,” she instructed. “I’ll pull you in.”
With great difficulty, First Mate Petunia hauled her captain back into the boat.
“You saved me!” Captain Lily wrapped her rescuer in an enormous hug.
A moment before the rain came, a tangle of lightening flashed outside, and not a heartbeat later the whole house shook with a tremendous drumroll of thunder that ruptured the seams of the night and froze Petunia’s blood solid in shaking veins. The wind cried and swooped low, spattering heavy rain against the glass windowpane.
Lily’s heart accelerated at the sky’s fierceness, and a feeling of timid awe flickered to life within her. Then she noticed a glimmer on Tuney’s cheeks, suddenly ghostly pale.
Petunia looked up at the warmth of a small hand taking hold of her own, gifting her a warmth that thawed her fear into something malleable, pulling her gently back into their magic.
“The storm’s getting worse,” Lily said, swaying where she sat as if tossed by angry waves. “Come on, then, matey! Batten down the hatches!”
Breathing deeply, Petunia moved to follow the orders, securing her little safe haven against the increasing winds. Lily continued to issue orders, steering determinedly away from the gale as her trusty companion bailed water with dizzying speed.
And then, at last, she gave a cry and pointed wildly. “Land ho!”
Another moment of sailing brought them to the island. Lily weighed anchor, and the bone tired crew rowed to shore in a quilted dinghy. They collapsed the moment they reached land, arm in arm. Sisters, home safe.
In the morning, their mother found her two precious daughters curled up together on the floor, smiling as they slept, their hands still clasped between their gently rising hearts.
for SunshineDaisies' Short and Sweet Challenge
A/N: Thank you for reading! As my writing tends to be bttersweet bordering on angsty, this more sugary chapter was hard for me to write. I'd love to hear your thoughts about it, and please share any suggestions that you have! Reviews are better than gold :)
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