Alive and Kicking

I want to do a longer story about two kids who can only meet over summer holidays, using their different stories to chart the process of "growing up" - the idea would be to have one summer comprising one section of the story, as that seems the neatest division. The "chapters" so far will all ultimately just be part of the first "summer". I do know what I want to do further down the line but I'm struggling to make this seem 'complete' as an opener; I only really wanted them to meet in the first summer...


7. I vii

Darkness and silence smothered and surrounded Jack. He lay, face down, in a pile of brown leaves which betrayed the season. As he was panting, he had grown all too familiar with the musty, earthy odour of the woodland floor - each desperate gasp of breath brought with it more and more discomfort. He had no idea as to how long he'd been lying there. Jack made a concerted effort to control his breathing: every noise which betrayed his whereabouts was a danger, every breath a potential giveaway. Once he'd regained some composure, he - as quietly as a nervous ten year old boy could have hoped to have managed - turned his body so that he was now perpendicular to a fallen log, at least twice his length, and so that his eyes were facing towards the shattered sky. The sun stabbed through any cracks the trees left, but there was sufficient coverage for Jack to feel as though he was, decidedly, in the dark. He lay like this for an indeterminate period of time, just gazing at the rare shards of light, until a war-cry sounded and he felt a crushing weight on his chest.

"Found you!" Lizzie squeaked, giggling and pinning him.

Jack wrestled with her, and the two rolled in the leaves until eventually Jack found himself in control of the situation. It took him longer, and more effort, than he would have liked.

"How did you know where I was?"

"You're rubbish at this game. I heard you rustling around - the leaves make a lot of noise, you know..."

She had a tendency to make Jack feel ignorant. He felt like telling her that he was familiar with leaves, and that you didn't need to live in the country to know that they made a sound. He felt like telling her this, but ultimately that was how he'd given himself away, so he didn't see it as an avenue worth pursuing. He was just frustrated, more at her being condescending, but also at having lost the game they'd been playing.

"I'm glad I found you," Lizzie said. Jack lashed out at the leaves, causing a great cloud of them to briefly soar, but then even more briefly crash down again. He sighed an indignant sigh, and rolled away from her, without saying a word.

"Don't be a sore loser," was her uninvited reply. Shortly after, a pile of leaves landed on Jack's face. "I wasn't even talking about the game. I'm glad I found out you were here, at the hotel. I get lonely around here all by myself."

"Oh," he began, guilty at his petulant response to what was, seemingly, quite a nice sentiment. "Well, I'm glad I found you, too. Being here with just my mum and dad worrying would've been hell. You've saved me from hell!"

She rolled over, closer to him, and he turned onto his side to face her. She had debris from the floor in her curls of hair, and Jack reached over and removed it, piece by piece. Their eyes locked together, they lay perfectly still until the shrieking of a bird overhead disturbed them.

"I'm going to have to leave as soon as my dad gets the car fixed, you know."

"I know."

"I wish I could stay longer."

"Me too."

But Jack could not stay longer, as the car was - as they spoke - having the final necessary work done to it.

"Just don't forget about me..." was all Lizzie could think to say.

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