By J. A. Weymouth
It was midday but it felt like evening. Grey clouds overtook the brightness of the sky, but nothing could dampen their spirits. To them, it was the brightest of days. Their father had just made them a brand new kite – cobalt blue – brighter than the sky and he was taking them out for their first test run.
The winds were high. A perfect day for kite flying. Noah took charge.
‘Me first!’ Noah demanded as he eagerly clung to his father with the kite in his eyes. But his father turned to Mary – his four year old sister – and gave her the kite.
Mary accepted the handle with a nervous hand as Noah looked at her in contempt. He pouted and waited for their father to explain. Why did dad ignore me? Noah wondered hurt from the neglect. It was supposed to be his turn first, it had been his right since he and their father had worked on that kite together. He had helped weave the tail tying the bows together. Mary had done nothing but watched.
‘Why does she get to go first?’ Noah demanded but their father continued to ignore him as he gave Mary instruction on how to fly the kite, the timing, the speed, the pull of the string. But as their father gave instruction Mary looked at Noah. Grey eyes looked at him, steadily gazing with curiosity. It was but a moment that she watched him and he in return saw her. There was a glimmer in those strikingly clear, grey eyes. They were the eyes of innocence. And as he began to recognise that innocence and understand why his father chose his little sister over himself, a gust of wind suddenly picked up. Mary’s auburn hair flicked upwards against the gale hiding her eyes. The moment was lost and then they both turned away.
‘Okay Mary, now’s your chance!’ their father called out to her encouraging her to run with the kite in response to the quickening wind. It seemed like such an enormous effort for a little girl, but determination was in her run. Instructions continually flashed in her mind by concentration. She pulled in the prime moment and so the kite obeyed, spreading out in full glory, out and free.
While Mary ran with the kite their father, still in sight of Mary had walked over to Noah.
‘Son,’ he said as he kneeled, ‘I want you to understand something very important.’ He put a hand on Noah’s shoulder. It was a kind hand. A hand that never rose in violence or threat but instead, with firm discipline, it had guided over growing children. It was a hand that lectured, that advised and cautioned. It was the peace bringer between childish tantrums but had always nurtured in pride. To Noah, his father’s hand would always comfort him, calming him so he would take any advisory word seriously. Even, in regard to his little sister (maybe even especially).
‘You’re my son,’ his father said affectionately, the knot in Noah’s throat growing tighter with his words. ‘You are my first born,’ Noah thought he could hear the faint catch of breath as he spoke, ‘and as an older brother you have a responsibility to uphold and that is to watch over your little sister even if it means that you might have to sacrifice your turn first every once and a while,’ he continued with a smile. He was like a lion, the freed sun now glowing behind him like a proud, golden main had somehow magnified his smile. ‘I would hope that you would always watch over her, to look out for each other because maybe one day,’ his father paused the smile now somewhat obscured by the troubled – yet somewhat forced – expression on his face, ‘I won’t be around.’
Starting to feel angry at himself for losing his sister, for failing to be the protective brother their father had brought him up to be, Noah looked up again and in a flash of light he thought he saw the blue fabric of the kite. It was there and then it was gone but hope reignited.
Now that Noah had an idea where Mary might be, he took a turn as he ran into the direction of where he saw the kite. The rain continued to fall, fast and hard. It was cold but as uncomfortable as he was, the weather did nothing to Noah’s determination, he moved fast, unaffected.
A flash of blue fabric stood out as a warning.
Rain continued to fall. The sound of rushing water came from a distance behind a gathering of overbearing trees. A blue ribbon flicked and waved in a clutter of dying twigs trapped between two trees. Noah caught it when it freed itself from the entangled grasp. As Noah came closer to where he found the ribbon, the sound of water grew louder and more ferocious.
He thought the sound was familiar when he arrived at the bank of a river. What little he could see, he could just make out the outline of the kite. He forced his eyes to adjust to the dark, darting about to find his sister. Nothing but the faint reflection of light against water and the flicker of a nervous kite could be seen.
It happened that Mary tried to cross the river in an attempt to reach the kite. Finally having been caught by a rogue log against the other side of the river the kite appeared battered and lethargic in the dying wind, but Mary had not made it. Instead, Noah thought that she must have slipped in her desperate effort to save the kite because now she was clinging onto a low branch, shoulder deep in water.
‘Mary!’ Noah yelled, upset and angry at Mary for getting herself into danger but soon his frustration turned into worry as he came to realise her present situation. Her head rested above the water by an inch as she breathed and gasped for air, exhausted. With her hands still clasped around the branch and her grip fragile but sturdy, she called out for help.
Noah saw that Mary had her eyes shut tightly, concentrating on her severe resilience to fight against the force of water and be swept away.
Realising she could not see him Noah called out for her again. When she heard him she cried out his name and then lunged herself forward for a better grip and cried out again, eyes wide open and searching.
It was pitch black. The river steadily grew more ferocious as the rain increased. Mary still could not see him but her situation became more difficult with the rising water level. Noah managed to find himself wrapped around the low branch (the same branch in which Mary still clung to) in an attempt to rescue Mary. She cried out when the branch dipped in adjusting itself to Noah’s weight.
He scuffled forward and when he got close to Mary he leaned over and opened his hand out for his sister. Noah could see the whites of her knuckles as she clung to the branch in an effort to hold on. The strong grip was desperate. Noah realised that she was too scared to let go and hold his hand so he was forced to move closer. He would need to catch her wrist and pull her up instead.
Sliding down towards her, Noah stretched out but he was still too far from her to hold her steady. He would need to reassure her, give her courage to let go and thrust herself into his arms to be free.
There was only one way now as they were running out of time. Even Noah began to shiver at the vile cold, its iciness licking his skin, soaking him in cold even through layers of his thick coat but whatever cold he felt then could not be anywhere near as unbearable as the cold Mary was feeling now. The thought worried him, because surely she would be losing feeling in her hands, making it even more difficult for her to hold on. Noah saw his sister struggling and despite her sheer grit to hold on – as only a seven year old could – her strong grip was weakening and would not last for much longer.
‘Mary,’ Noah called, in a desperate attempt to encourage her, ‘you’re going to have to let go and grab my hand! It’s the only way!’
Mary seemed unsure. Despite his hand only being inches away from her, she saw it as something of an obstacle. It meant that she would have to let go of the safety of the log and with the dark shrouding her surroundings she would have to take a leap of faith into Noah’s hands. As Mary thought about it more, he appeared further and further away. Anxiously, she began to plan her attempt concentrating on her left hand (the hand closest to his). She told herself to do it, over and over again. Finally, Mary took a chance.
Mary caught his hand and as the feeling that she could do it began to occur to her Noah struggled to hold onto her. His hand had been wet from rain water and she could not feel her hand for the cold had numbed it. She could not grip. She was slipping.
The imbalance of the loss of grip made Mary lose her hold over the branch. A sudden wave of fresh rain water took her and she became overwhelmed under water. The force of the impact pushed her to the bottom of the river, where sharp rocks and twigs lay rested but because she lost control over herself Mary could not protect her head from hitting the corner of a rock.
There was pain and then the darkness swept her away with the water, flowing onwards to an unknown path.
Looking out in despair as the water raged like a tyrant sweeping away the earth – Noah cried out.
Part 3 will be up Saturday 🙂