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...


9. II ii

So it was that Jack found himself at a picnic bench, playing with the ice in his drink, whilst his parents shared a pot of tea and examined the surroundings with appreciation. Birds struggled against the breeze to cut a line across the whiteness of the clouds, and screeched their discomfort as they did so. Gusts of winds disturbed the once peaceful lake, and each ripple lasted but a moment before colliding with another and dispersing. All of this was wasted on Jack.

His eyes had darted around each group of visitors: Lizzie was nowhere to be seen. Despondent, but determined, he had chosen to fix his gaze on the entrance to the hotel, in the hope that she would appear from it. He resisted the temptation to scour the woodland, as from his vantage point he knew it to be too dense and impenetrable for that to be a sensible choice. The temptation was strong, nonetheless, and it was all he could do to keep his eyes trained on the hotel's cavernous doorway, which he half hoped would swallow him whole and take him inside. Fixed as his gaze was, he was oblivious to all else around him. 

"Would you like to come and play?"

This was why he had come, but he was startled, and his reaction didn't betray this. Lizzie just giggled at his confused, frightened expression. 

"I thought it was you - I was playing over there," she said, gesturing to the woods, which frustrated Jack. "I thought I recognised you so I came over, and then I recognised your mum and dad too and knew it was you!"

"Hi," was all he could manage.

Giggling again, she repeated herself: "Would you like to come and play?"

Jack's parents had provided their knowing, amused consent before he had even finished turning to request it. Quicker yet than they had permitted it, Jack and Lizzie were tearing off, hand in hand, towards the woods. They disappeared inside, vanishing instantly behind the thick greens and browns which melted quickly into deepest black.

Lizzie's mother appeared not long after their vanishing act.

"They're quite a pair," she said. Jack's parents both nodded, not uninviting, but certainly suspicious, of this surprise interaction.

"It was all my Lizzie could talk of, meeting your boy. For weeks after you'd gone! I'm glad you could make it back..."

"We won't be staying for long. We're off to Tywyn, a stretch down the road," Jack's father replied, gesturing in what he was only half confident was the right direction.

"Shame. I was wondering if you would stay here at the hotel, and let the bairns spend some time together. Lizzie did so much like having him around, if only for a day. We've got spare rooms, and I wouldn't charge you - you'd be doing us a favour! She gets so bored, and I can't afford the time to entertain her as she deserves."

Her nodding and smiling assumed agreement to a greater extent than was warranted. Jack's father informed her that he'd have to discuss it with his wife, and with that, Lizzie's mother trundled back inside. The pot of tea was half finished, and the remaining half had gone stone cold before Jack's mother ventured inside the hotel to find the proprietor. Having done so, she told her that they would be happy to stay the night, and let Jack and Lizzie play for the day and tomorrow, but that after that, they'd have to move on.

"Ooh Lizzie will be delighted! As will I! You'll have to have supper with us, this evening," was the reply.

"Oh, and we'll - of course - be paying for the use of the room." There was an awkward English sense of non-negotiability about this which amused Lizzie's mother, who nodded and smiled in agreement.

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