by Mary Thompson

I don’t know why I went with George. I was supposed to be in charge. But Mummy and Daddy were slumbering like dragons, and the little wood wasn’t far – just five minutes across the beach. 

‘We’ll be back soon,’ he told my sisters and gave them some Kit-Kats. 

And so I went. He’d been watching me the whole way through that rounders game. High-fiving me when I scored a rounder. Grinning when I glanced his way. And as soon as we left the beach, his hand was in mine. Warm and large, just like Daddy’s. 

We ambled on through spiky brambles and dock leaves till he stopped eventually beneath a lattice of branches. 

‘I like you, Freya,’ he said and ran his tongue along his top lip. ‘What d’ya think of me?’

‘I like you too, George,’ I said, feeling my face turn red.

‘Good, good,’ he said and grinned.

Then his legs nudged between mine and he began to tickle me. Slowly at first, then faster. Pinching me with his fingers, pushing them in between my ribs. 

‘No,’ I whispered as he tugged at my bikini top.

‘Freya, where are you?’

He slammed his hand across my face. ‘Not. Just. Yet.’ 

Spangles of sunlight filtered through the bracken and I heard Daddy again as the man pressed down on me, pushing his tongue deep inside my mouth. My head banged back against the tree. Tears. 

‘Stop.’

His breath quickened. 

‘Stop.’ 

He laughed. 

‘STOP!’

Then Daddy rushed over and pulled him off me. Shouting. Thumping.

‘Why did you go with him?’ screamed Mummy as we walked towards the car park,          

‘Why?  After everything we’ve said.’

‘I don’t know.’ 

She had her head down but I knew she was crying as every so often she sniffed and wiped her eyes.

‘I keep thinking you’re all grown up,’ she said, ‘but you’re really just a child.’

The sun was blinding on the way home, so Daddy pulled down the visor and gripped the steering wheel so tightly his knuckles went white, while Mummy sat beside me and stroked my arm. We stopped for fish and chips, which we ate on our knees in front of the telly, and after supper Daddy disappeared into the garden. It was still warm and there was a soft, repetitive bird call that made me feel calm.

Later, I saw him reclining in a deckchair with his back to me and a leather-bound Bible open in his lap. He was moving his forefinger along the words, and gazing up into the burnished sky. How I longed to run outside and jump into his arms, but I was too old for that now. And I had this sudden, desperate yearning for Mummy to hug me and say that everything would be fine but I knew she had other stuff to deal with, so I went up to my room, switched off the light and lay in the encroaching darkness, listening to the bird call and watching the strange, amorphous shapes drift across the ceiling.

Mary Thompson works as a freelance teacher in London. Her work has recently featured in journals and competitions including Flash 500, Fish, Retreat West, Reflex Fiction, Ellipsis ZineSpelk, Firewords, Ghost Parachute and LISP.

Her work is also forthcoming at Literary Orphans and Riggwelter. She is a first reader for Craft Literary Journal. Mary tweets at @MaryRuth69.