‘Go on Lily, really get that dirt ground into your hair’ Ahlaam said laughing as she stood over us. Ahlaam
We must have looked a weird bunch, as indeed we were, rolling around in the dust and dirt outside the chalet. Occasionally one of us would throw some dirt at another and the laughter and banter would start. It wasn’t only a good way of getting the grime and dirt into our disguises.
I think we’d all tried to carry on as normal during that day. It seemed that the camaraderie, that last night’s fun and games had brought, was forgotten on rising in the morning and we more or less split into two groups. Prez and Ahlaam announced their intentions to spend the days hunting rabbits and squirrels in the woods. Lily suggested that we all met at the lake on the Long Field later in the day so that we could all have a meal together. Prez sort of nodded before they left the chalet.
It was a day of contemplation, a day to be with your own thoughts. For me the day was mostly spent on the edge of the Long Field, just under the treeline. The sun was high in the sky for most of the day, the heat reflecting off the grass increasing the temperature of the air on the field to record levels. I wasn’t a fan of such heat, found it hard to function and think straight when the levels rose to those levels. Just in below the trees the levels were more manageable. I sat with a book I wanted to finish. I’d been reading it for quite a while, the book, Lightning Fires by Crawford Thomson wasn’t a best seller but had intrigued me for a while, a fantasy set in an alternative world. Zee was in the car park near the chalet, pulling tricks no doubt on a longboard that Jacqueline had somehow produced the other day. I noticed Lily and EH picking some wildflowers about 100 metres from where I was sat. I could make out the animation in their faces even through the heat haze that had developed on the field was distorting reality. Crissy was sat near them, she also below the trees. She was sketching away on a pad, her paints and a jar of water laid out in front of her on a picnic rug. Occasionally I caught her glancing in my direction. Every time ours eyes met we averted our eyes as if looking elsewhere.
After an hour or two, with the book nowhere near finished, I stood up and stretched. Lily and EH were near the other side of the field still collecting flowers. They now had quite a sizeable bunch in their hands. Crissy was now applying paint to her paper deep in concentration, her eyes occasionally squinting into the distance. I wandered over, unsure if she wanted company or not. I don’t think she heard me come up behind her because she jumped slightly as I asked her what she was painting.
‘Oh, just some fairies in the woods’ she replied
‘May I look?’
She shrugged, unsure whether to allow me to view her work, maybe a little unsure how I would react. Eventually she moved slightly and I could see her work. I kneelt down and looked at the paper. Although some might call it a simple watercolour, it was enchanting. Two fairies were flying through long grass carrying a huge daisy between them. The way the colours blended into each other gave it a magical, ethereal feel to it. I glanced across the field to where Lily and EH were, now skipping along the edge of the dam, their flowers bouncing as they went.
‘Lily and EH?’ I asked
She smiled and looked at me nodding, I could smell a slight perfumed smell, the smell of jasmines around her, not overpowering but as usual for Crissy, understated.
‘I really like this, you’re very talented, and I’m not just saying that,’ I added as I saw the look that said you’re winding me up.
‘Thanks,’ she said looking away from me across the field, ‘I wish this time would never end, I wish we could all stay in this moment for ever, but that’s not going to happen is it?”
I looked out at the field as well, taking in the day and the carefree laughter of the two girls as they made their way across the field back towards us.
‘I wish it could as well, but no you’re right’ I said evenly.
‘Hey you two, OK ‘ I heard a voice behind me. I swivelled around and saw Zee stood there, her board in her right hand resting on the floor like a stick. She was smiling, her blondish hair reflecting the rays from the sun that had penetrated the leaf canopy, a few beads of sweat running down her face and neck.
I reached out my hand and she pulled me up from the ground.
‘Anything exciting happened?’ she said with a huge smile on her face. Her mood was infectious and any dark thoughts were pushed to the back of the mind.
At the lake it was just like the old days. We ate a wonderful meal that Lily had sourced from somewhere. I could see the pride in her eyes as she watched everyone thank her for what she’d produced. The flowers they’d collected were in a vase, in the middle of Crissy’s picnic rug. Afterwards we all messed around in the shallows of the lake, kicking water at each other. For another wonderful precious moment, we were young again being able to laugh and have fun away from the looming doom. As we lay drying in the sun afterwards, Prez started to talk of home for the first time. She talked of the little brother she’d left behind. Her eloquent memories of him and the torment she felt not having him around cam through clear. Prez had this soft side, which she unfortunately didn’t let through very often. Her life had been hard at home, she suffered from depression at times, but even when she was at her lowest, she would still fight your corner, still have a reassuring word even though something was eating away inside her.
‘When tomorrow is over,’ she said, ‘I’m going back to the US’
We all pulled ourselves up and looked across at her not quite believing what we were hearing. Prez, the princess of the fight was leaving our group and heading home. We all started to talk at once, but it was predictably Ahlaam whose voice cut through our cattle and found its mark.
‘We’ll be sorry to see you go Prez, we’re really grateful to your help. We’d love you to stay but we know how much you miss your brother. Hopefully this will all be over soon and we can come visit you.’ Ahlaam said before jumping on Prez and hugging her. At that point we all joined in and there was a huge ruck on the floor. Prez emerged minutes later from the bottom and tears were flooding down her cheeks. This time there was no attempt to hide them. In fact we were all streaming tears down our cheeks. How could we ever survive without Prez and her humour?
After that the day went fast, Jacqueline had turned up with the disguises we’d have to wear. They were two tone blue wide striped jackets and the trousers that were were made of a rough material rather like burlap. They were itchy to touch and once on scratched at our bodies and made them itch. They gave off this weird smell, sweat, urine and something I didn’t quite like thinking of. However, our pallor and complexions were too much of a giveaway inside a camp. The rolling in the dirt was a genius thought from Jacqueline.
After half an hour grinding the dirt into our clothes and hair on the floor, we looked dirty beyond compare. Lily kept being told to get herself dirtier; it made us all laugh the way she kept trying to avoid getting dirty.
We stood in front of chalet, this last day had been wonderful and we’d all enjoyed the previous week in our own ways. I put my arm around Zee and the other around Lily and the rest of the gang joined together as we gazed at the place for what may have been the last time. Even if we came out of the camp, we’d have to move on. Our life from now on would be spent constantly on the move. We hugged each other in turn. I clung to Prez for a while knowing that soon our adventures together would be over. Finally, I embraced Zee, holding her tight, not wanting to let go. I looked over her shoulder at the hut one last time, taking a mental photograph, before following the rest towards the minibus.