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We were skipping stones into the waves of the ocean. My brother was seven, my cousin was six and I was five. I had no clue what I was doing. My brother meticulously chose smooth, round stones that flew from his hand and cut through the waves with ease. I grabbed a rock. It was bulky and heavy but I was desperate to play along too. I vaulted my rock towards the water but instead of slicing through the waves, it hit my cousin smack in the centre of her forehead.
I panicked. My gut sank. My feet were momentarily unable to move. Mandy was an authoritative young girl. While she was only older than me by a year, I found her summer presence in my life to be a combination of intimidation, learning and awe. I saw the flash of anger cloud her eyes as they locked with mine. A small trickle of blood was quickly pooling on her forehead, making its way towards her deep, brown eyes. My heart was pounding so loud, I could barely hear the ocean’s surf.
I ran. I headed over the dune and through the knee high sea grass that whipped against my shins. Where the sand tapered off, it combined with worn dirt and rock creating a path that would lead to my safety. The path from the beach to our campsite was root bare and slippery. I did not slow down, nor did I look back to see if she was coming.
Breathless and heady, I reached the site. My mother took one look at me and said, “What’s wrong?”
My words would not come but hot tears spilled down my cheeks instantly. Through caught breaths and snotty sniffles, I whispered, “I hit Mandy.”
“Ohhh dear,” my mother said, sighing. “What happened?”
Mandy appeared from nowhere, interrupting my moment of sanctuary and my tears began again.
“She did this to me.” Mandy pointed to her blood smeared forehead. The sleeve of her sweater had clearly been used to smear the evidence from her forehead to her cheek. She looked like she had been on the losing side of a dreadful crime, and I was the suspect on the stand for questioning.
“What’s going on girls?” My mother’s voice had gone up by a few octaves and her sense of urgency to solve the mystery, went from zero to 60. Mandy glared at me. No words were necessary. I knew she was going to implicate me and I had nowhere to run. I slid behind my mother’s leg waiting for Mandy to declare her side of the story.
“She took the biggest rock she could find and threw it right at me!” She was incredulous. I was speechless and opted to say nothing. My mother shooed me away from the safety of her legs and called my cousin over so that she could get a better look at the wound. I slinked towards the back of the trailer in silence. If I could have disappeared in that moment, I would have.
I took solace in a spruce cone lying on the ground at the back of the trailer. I nudged it with my shoe and waited quietly for my mother’s cue. I wasn’t really sure what would happen next, but my refuge felt momentarily safe. I sat silently, cross legged in the dirt and picked at pine needles and pebbles. My hands were filthy, I smelled like sweat, tears and sea salt, and my fingernails were filled with sand and grit.
Mandy appeared with a pink band aid on her forehead and a clean face. The evidence had been removed, aside from the rusty blood stain on the sleeve of her sweater. “You could have broken my glasses you know. You’re very lucky that that did not happen. What do you want to say to me?”
Looking up, I uttered a quiet and humble “sorry”. The sun was shining and her body cast an oblong shadow in my direction. I was sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt her. I wanted to skip stones like my brother. I loved the sound of the waves. I loved the salty air. The ocean has always made me feel special and at home, all at once. It was a wonderful feeling to be by the sea. Skipping stones was unfortunately not a specialty of mine . . . yet.