The early morning sun reflected sparkles off the water, and a gentle breeze pushed small waves across the pond to lap against the pebbles at my feet. I sighed, revelling in the peace and stillness of the world at dawn. I was all alone here… just me, the rod in my hands, the water and the sunrise. A perfect time for doing what I loved best.
For as long as I could remember, I had been fascinated by oceans, marine life, and the sport of fishing. An interesting combination, I know, but they really do go together. I never feel more connected with the natural world than I do when I’m fishing, especially in the early mornings when the rest of the world is still asleep. This is where I find my freedom. My ‘me-time’, if you will.
I was never allowed to go out by myself when I was a child, so instead I saved up my pocket money to buy my own fishing rod, while my sister spent her own allowance on ordinary kid things like toys and candy. Once I started high school, I was allowed the freedom to go wherever I wanted as long as I was home by curfew, so every morning before school I woke up early to go out and explore the town. I found all the best fishing spots this way, and could spend an hour or two just relaxing before the day really began. Sometimes in the evenings I would go out fishing again, but I always made sure to be home for curfew to avoid getting in trouble. Bridie, who was out partying more often than not, wasn’t quite as careful, and a few times already she’d been dropped home by the police, much to our parents’ displeasure. I could hear the shouting from inside.
The spot I was fishing in today wasn’t one of the best, but it was the closest to home, and I had to get to school early today for a field trip. To the graveyard, in fact – for my history class. Some of the other students thought it was weird, but personally I found the graveyard fascinating, if a little creepy.
I checked my watch – 6:45 am. Almost time to head home. I sighed with disappointment, more for the fact that I had to leave than that I hadn’t caught anything that morning. I reeled in my line, packed up my fishing box and started to walk back to the house.
When I entered the kitchen ten minutes later, Dad was already up and making breakfast.
Usually I tried to be back in time to cook breakfast myself, but today he had beaten me to it. I couldn’t really complain, since Dad was still a much better cook than I was, and a plate of his hot pancakes with fresh fruit and cream on a cold day was just what I needed to get me started this morning.
“Catch anything today?” he asked with a grin, setting a plate of pancakes on the bar in front of me and watching as I gulped them down like my life depended on it. I shook my head, mouth too full to form a verbal response, but I appreciated his interest all the same.
Dad had always made an effort to be interested in what was going on in the lives of myself and my siblings, and while Bridie found it annoying I loved him for it. It was nice to have at least one parent who was genuinely appreciative of me and my hobbies, because it meant I had someone to talk to about it other than my siblings, none of whom really understood my fascination with fishing. Not that Dad really did either, but he was willing to listen and that meant a lot.
Lately, I had noticed both Mum and Dad making an extra effort to spend more time together with us kids. I wondered if it was because they were getting older, or if Mum had just gotten her priorities straightened out. I loved my mum, but she was always busy with her career, and Dad was the one who had really been there for us when we were growing up. I was certainly closer to him now for all that.
Sometimes in the evenings when Bridie was home, she and I would play video games in the living room together. It was one of the few activities we both enjoyed. More often than not, Dad would join us, and the three of us would sit on the sofa and play until our hands were sore. I treasured these rare times spent with my family, especially my sister, who I hardly ever saw nowadays except when were were going to school together.
While the teenagers of the household were busy in the past, Dad had also spent a lot of one-on-one time with our little brother Cody. Though he was nowhere near as able-bodied as he used to be (I had heard whispers of rheumatism between my parents, but I wasn’t too sure), he was always up for whatever games Cody had wanted to play. Since Cody had grown into a teenager, Dad had been given a bit of a rest, but still he never complained or burdened us with his problems. All of us, except maybe Bridie, who was often in trouble with our parents, thought that he was the greatest dad in the world.
Clunk. Clunk. Clunk.
I was startled out of my thoughts by the heavy footfalls of my brother and sister as they rushed down the stairs in the next room. The distant sound of raised voices told me they were engaged in yet another argument. I grimaced to myself. So much for a peaceful morning.
“Bianca!” my sister whined at me as she came around the corner into the kitchen. “Have you seen my shoes? Cody’s hidden them somewhere again!”
“I didn’t touch your stupid shoes!” Cody retorted. “Stop blaming me every time you lose your crap, Bridie!”
“They’re not where I left them! I know you took them, now tell me where they are, you little creep!”
Sigh. My brother, the prankster. In fairness to Bridie, Cody did take and hide her things a lot of the time just to get a rise out of her. On this particular occasion, however, I was pretty sure I knew where they were.
“Try checking under our bed,” I advised her, scooping the last of the cream onto one of my fingers and popping it in my mouth. If Mum had seen me do that, the neat-freak in her would be traumatised. Lucky she was already at work, I guess.
Fifteen minutes later the familiar honk of the school bus sounded outside the house. Bridie, still pulling on one of her shoes, and Cody emerged at the same time and the three of us went to meet the bus, calling goodbye to our dad as we left.
“Shit, it’s raining!” Bridie squealed as soon as we got outside. “My hair! I need to get an umbrella!”
“We’ll be late if you do that,” I told her. For some reason I was always the one who had to talk sense into my sister. “You can fix it on the bus, come on.” I took her hand and dragged my unwilling twin towards the street where the school bus was waiting.
All three of us were scheduled to go on the field trip today, so we took the same bus directly to the graveyard. Bridie shared the popular opinion of the location being weird and spooky and wondered at me for enjoying it, while Cody was only interested in finding ways to scare her. I spent the time wandering around reading all the different epitaphs, and trying to imagine what the people buried might have been like. When the supervising teacher asked if we wanted to explore the catacombs underground, I jumped at the chance. The other two preferred to stay outside.
The catacombs were dark and quite scary, but also fascinating. The richest citizens of historical Bridgeport were buried here, along with their finest possessions which they had apparently requested be buried with them. There were a bunch of tunnels connecting the cavernous rooms, some of them quite long and twisted. Around halfway through one of the tunnels I felt my foot nudge something on the ground, which clattered loudly on the stone floor. I reached down and picked up what appeared to be a very old, very dusty discarded oil lamp. We were too far from any of the graves for it to have been someone’s treasured possession, but it didn’t look like the kind of thing visitors would just throw on the ground like trash. I offered it to the tour guide on the off-chance that someone might have lost it, but he thought it unlikely, and told me I could take it with me if I wanted it. Otherwise it might as well be thrown out. I politely thanked him, and said I’d take it.
The rest of the family were less impressed.
“That’s gross, Bianca. Why didn’t you just throw it away?” Bridie said with disgust when I showed it to her on the way home.
“It’s kind of cool-looking, I guess,” Cody countered. “But what are you going to do with it?” he asked me. I told him I had no idea… I just liked the way it looked.
Mum, who was a total germophobe and hated anything dusty, was even more against it than Bridie was. She didn’t explicitly forbid me from keeping it, but she avoided it as much as possible and always looked horrified when she spotted it lying around the house.
To make mum happy, I usually kept it on me, or hidden in the old toybox in the room I shared with Bridie. It wasn’t like I had to have it on display, I just liked the intrigue of not knowing where it came from or how old it really was. For now, I had more important things to worry about.
I didn’t mean for this chapter to turn out quite so long, so I hope it doesn’t bother anyone. As a side note, I just noticed that I had comments disabled on this and the last few pages. That mistake has now been sorted, so go ahead and let me know what you think 🙂