Four sisters run ahead of their parents, giving each other piggy backs until they’re out of sight. It was a tradition to go for these walks, up onto the cliffs of the Isle of Wight and further along.
Laughing and shrieking, the girls barely look where they’re walking as they head through the bare trees towards the cliffs. Their faces are ablaze with smiles, heads thrown back with bellowing laughter. The youngest one trails behind slightly, collecting rocks, laughing along when the others do.
They are high up now; they stand behind a barrier which embraces them, protecting them from the cold dark cliff face that falls away beneath them.
One of the girls climbs over the barrier with that same mischievous grin she always wears; her straggly hair flies about her face.
Her eyes are wild like the wind that almost knocks her over; but she fights against it, and begins to make her way tantalizingly slowly towards the edge.
Her sister, the older one, cries out with nervous laughter, telling her to stop and come back. She carries on, deaf to the noise of disapproval.
She doesn’t care. She doesn’t care about anything.
Slowly she edges closer; she can see the waves crashing against the bay, eroding it and turning it to nothing. There’s a second when she thinks about jumping – but she doesn’t.
Instead, now at the very edge of the cliff rock, she pushes her dirty hands against it and gradually begins to rise to her feet.
Up and up she goes until – she’s made it. She looks out at the world which stretches wider and wider in front of her, a never-ending horizon. Her life falls away below her feet, as fragile as the crumbling rock face that mocks her insignificance. She is breathless, taken aback by the beauty of it all. Shaking legs threaten to give her away but she is intoxicated by the grandness, and how small she is in comparison.
She stretches her arms out wide, as wide as the earth itself, and cries out in bittersweet joy. She’s embracing everything and nothing at the same time.
Her sisters voices are disappearing into the background now; their shouts have become part of the wind, part of the ebbing tide of life that washes over her like the waves below.
She could have been there for a minute or an hour, she didn’t know. Captivated by the universe, she walked home a little behind her sisters with glazed eyes, dreaming of foreign lands and uncharted oceans.
Written by Katie Harrower