I haven’t visited my grandma since I was seven, she lives in a Cornish coastal town called ‘Pur Lowen’, far away from the loud city that I come from. All I can remember about it is the fields- Wide, green, open spaces where anyone and everyone can run around and play. People would plant flowers and trees, and there’d be games of tag and relays wherever you went. For a seven year old it was a dream. In a city any green space is protected so heavily that nobody can really enjoy it, but in Pur Lowen, you can truly appreciate the possibilities that lie in a small field of grass. The only sounds are laughter and footsteps, no engines rating on the roads, in Pur Lowen everything is just a walk away, to see a car is to see a four-leaf clover. To be there is to jump inside a novel to an impossible utopia, and wonder around carelessly with the characters within it. I used to come here every year with my parents, but ten years ago my grandad passed away, and we haven’t visited since, that is, until now.
As I gaze out of the window I get an odd sense of deja vu, small buildings seem to trigger memories buried deep in my subconscious. Trees I used to climb, shops I used to visit, restaurants I used to eat in. I feel like I am seven years old again, tugging relentlessly at the sundress my mother forced me in to. She always used to make me wear dresses, I think it might have been because I detested them so much, it was an excellent way for her to exert her authority over me. She doesn’t make me wear dresses anymore.
Then again, I’m not a girl anymore though.
I suppose I never have been, a part of me always knew, but it was only four years ago that I confirmed it, and Rhiannon became Ryan. I think that might be why this visit is so important to me, because so much has changed. I’ve sent letters and email but that really isn’t the same. I need my grandma to see me as I am, seventeen years old and transgender.
We pull up at the old farm, and mum & dad get out to unload the boot of the car. I too get out of the passenger seat, but I stop and pause for a moment, letting my surroundings sink in. Back in the day this farm was alive with activity, or so I’m told. It hasn’t been in use for twenty odd years. My grandparents converted the large barn into a house, and sold off most of the land, leaving only a little vegetable garden to keep themselves busy. They said it was so they could calm down their rather hectic lives, and whether or not I believe that I still cannot decide. Nowadays the area is clean and welcoming, with flowers hanging above entrances and lavender sprouting in patches all over the place, but it’s not alive, not really. It’s sort of...sleeping, resting perhaps? Still, it is beautiful, nobody could ever question that.
“Ryan, help your mother with the bags would you?” Dad asks, carrying a suitcase over to the doorway. I nod and do as I am told, picking up my own bag from the pile.
“Jenifer? Patrick? Oh, it’s so good to see you both!” Granda rushes out of the house, encasing my mother in a big, warm hug. “Oh, and Ryan too. My my, haven’t you grown?” I too am them suffocated by her strong and loving arms squeezing my waist. I smile up at her, unable to help myself, it’s been so long…
“Hi grandma.” I grin.
“Well don’t just stand out here collecting dust! Come in, come in…” She ushers us indoors, waving her aged hands about and giving my mum a light shove over the threshold.
Inside I can see a fair amount has changed, this is no longer a house for two. One chair sits beside the window, tilted so it faces the flowerbed, a single shard of light hitting it at a forty degree angle. One coffee table stands beside it, dotted with circles and ring marks from damp and steamy mugs. One footstool lies out before it, plump and cushioning, decorated by a single grey sock. I take off my shoes and go further inside to explore. The kitchen hasn’t changed much, the furnishings are all the same, but there are no crumbs on the surfaces or dirty plates piled up beside the sink. In fact, it’s all too tidy, as if it belongs in a showroom. I turn around again, walking over to the study. Grandad’s desk is gone, there’s a bookcase in it’s place, but grandma’s is still in the same place, tidy as ever. Everything sorted and organised in a precise and consistent way, a computer there and ready for her if she needs it, but there’s still an old typewriter tucked under the desk just in case. Every letter I get from here is written on that typewriter, grandma says she likes using it ‘because there’s no backspace’.
“You make a mistake, you deal with it.”
I smile, grandma can be so frank at times. She never bothers with walking on eggshells, in fact, she’ll put some shoes on and stomp away.
I walk over and sit down in her desk-chair, spinning around in it casually. When I was younger this was as thrilling as a death-defying stunt. I was too tiny to fit in the leather seat, just getting into it felt like climbing a mountain. I’d spin and spin and spin until I felt sick, then I’d run, swaying back and forth, to the nearest toilet, and free my breakfast just in time for lunch.
I stop spinning and look dead ahead at the exit to the patio. Grandad always loved the transparent doors that allowed him to look out at the fields whilst he did his paperwork, he said it was ‘calming’. I walk over and slide them open, feeling the soothing breath of the outside air against my cheeks. I wonder outside, moving across the patio to lean against the wooden fencing that outlines it, staring out at the open green space. The sunlight hits the fields, revealing and highlighting all their colour. It’s all so quiet, so still, and yet, so obvious... grandad was right, looking out at this scene is calming. It feels as if my life has been put on pause. I turn back around to face the study, and as I do I notice two other figures.
Two girls, sat outside at a table in what appears to be their front garden. That’s odd for starters, I remember all the houses facing towards the village, not the field. They appear to be having afternoon tea, but neither one of them is speaking. They just sit stiffly opposite one another, sipping away. The one facing my direction looks down absently as she drinks her cup, her lips relaxed into a bored frown. She doesn’t appear to be having much fun, and her tired stance sort of intrigues me. I walk to the far edge of the patio to get a better look at her, my curiosity overcoming me. Her hair is black like coal, but smooth like silk, it falls like the wings of a bird to around an inch below her shoulders, her curved fringe hiding her right eyebrow. Occasionally the wind blows in her direction and ruffles the strands, separating out the waves of the inky dark ocean. Her eyes slowly drift around as she searches her surroundings for something interesting, their grey colour turning slightly blue when the sunlight hits them. There’s something about the way she moves that makes her seem timid and afraid, and yet, she also appears to be completely emotionless- almost robotic, like a body without a soul. My heart misses a beat when she suddenly looks up, noticing me staring, and I automatically look away. When I look back a few seconds later she’s being dragged back indoors by the other woman, her face down and ashamed.
“Ryan, there you are.” Mum walks outside, dad and grandma following after her. “What are you doing out here?”
“Just enjoying the view.” I shrug innocently, a part of my mind still thinking about the two girls. “Grandma, do you know who lives next door over there?”
“Oh, that house.” Grandma sighs, something odd hiding within her tone and expression that I can’t quite identify, “That’s where Mapelli and Raven June live. They’re sisters, practically inseparable, but they’re...challenged. They’ve got that selective mutism disorder thing, people say they had- well, difficult childhoods.”
“Oh.” Is all I can think of to say.