Drama Coming of Age

Daisy didn’t have much time for boys, and Leo didn’t have much time for girls. But they had all the time in the world for each other. And they had both sneaked out of their houses to watch the sun rise on Midsummer Day. They lived on the East Coast, so in June daybreak came early. Very early. It wasn’t quite like the land of the midnight sun, but it didn’t seem to go properly dark at this time for year. Anyone who first met them and didn’t know would have presumed that the 2 ten year olds had known each other since they were in the same maternity ward. But it wasn’t so. They had known each other for two years. Daisy’s mother had worked on reception at the Lavender Lakes Chalet park for six years, and Leo’s father had only come to run the bar two years ago. Their classmates sometimes asked them if it was like being on holiday all the time, and of course it wasn’t, not really, but they still thought it was a wonderful place to live. “Why is it called Lavender Lakes?” folk wondered. Well, it was a fair enough point, they supposed. To start with there was only one lake on the chalet park site, and apart from that, it wasn’t lavender at all, not lavender in colour and with no lavender growing near it, even at the right time of year. It was blue or grey depending on the sky, though just occasionally, if you looked really hard and believed in it, at one of the special times, at sunrise or sunset, there could be the tiniest hint of – well, it was violet really, more than lavender, but it didn’t matter. 

     It was a busy time of year, but not quite their busiest. That would be when the school holidays started. But most of the chalets were occupied, and before long the artificial lake would be bobbing with boats shaped like swans, and with rowing boats, and ducks would be clamouring to be fed. You weren’t supposed to, not really, but everyone did. Daisy and Leo often wondered where ducks went to sleep. They liked the ducks, but were glad that at the moment they were silent, although they could hear the dawn chorus welling up, and not too far away, over the sea, there was the odd plaintive call of a seagull. That was the odd thing about seagulls. When there were lots of them, they were raucous and harsh, but just one or two sounded lost, somehow, and haunted. Daisy had said they sounded haunted, and though Leo laughed and said houses were haunted, not seagulls, well, at any rate if you believed in ghosts, he liked Daisy’s way of looking at things.

     He supposed he should be used to Daisy’s way of looking at things, but she could still take him by surprise. “There’s something sad about midsummer day,” she said, suddenly, “Because after this the nights and the mornings start to get darker.”

     “I s’pose that’s true,” Leo said, “But you don’t notice it for ages.”

     “You’re right,” she said, and he was glad to see that the shadow that had fallen across her face had gone.

     “Good morning, young ‘uns!” They recognised that voice! It was Olive who ran the gift shop, and everybody called her just Olive, and she called everybody “young ‘un”, even people who were older than she was, though they were pretty sure that nobody worked at Lavender Lakes who was older than Olive! But she was sprightly (they were fond of that word that Daisy had read in a book!) and had all her wits about her, even if her face was wreathed in wrinkles. “Oh, don’t worry, I won’t tell your parents,” she said, with a twinkle in her eye. “As long as you don’t go doing anything silly and wading in the lake and all such nonsense.”

     “We can both swim, Olive!” Daisy reminded her indignantly, “We’ve both got our 100 metre badges!”

     “Aye, well, there’s a difference between a nice safe swimming pool and a lake, even if it was one that was made by human hands - I reckon by now there’ll be stuff that can drag you down and make you ill, ‘cos it’s hardly dredged and drained that often, and it was made for boats and ducks, not for humans.”

     “So you’ve come down to the lake on Midsummer Morning, too, “ said Leo.

     “Full marks for observation, young ‘un! Yes, I reckon it’s a special time of year, like the winter solstice and like the equinoxes,” A shared glance confirmed that even Daisy didn’t know what the word equinoxes meant, but they could look it up later and didn’t want either to admit that they didn’t understand or to interrupt what Olive was saying. “A time when the veil’s drawn back, some would say. When we can know things and sense things. When there’s something in the air and in the light. And this lake is going to be a special place for you young ‘uns, even if it is just one that was made by human hands to put ducks and boats in. Well, midsummer it might be, but it’s still a chilly morning, and my old bones are getting chilled. You mind what I say, now!”

     They did not ask if she meant about not wading in the lake or about the lake being a special place for them. They knew she meant both. Well, the first one was only common sense and nothing their own parents hadn’t told them, it was only the children of the holidaymakers who did anything so silly, and the second – well, it was just the kind of thing Olive said. All the same, she had been quite right when she said that a certain guest was up to no good, and he had left his chalet without paying, which led to a change in the rules about paying on advance or on arrival, not at the end of the stay. They hadn’t been supposed to know about that, but that didn’t mean they didn’t. 

     “I don’t know if I’m glad it’s a schoolday or not,” Daisy said, thoughtfully, “I mean, I don’t feel like doing sums and learning lists of capital cities and all that, but I don’t really feel like hanging around here now the special time is over.”

     Because it was, and they both knew it. They slipped home, and it turned into a normal day. Because one thing they both knew was that they couldn’t do the same the next day. They would not be able to tell the difference about the time the sun rose, not really but they would know and would know that it was just a sad and pointless thing to do, like playing Christmas carols in January. That night Daisy told them what the word Equinox meant.

     The Lavender Lakes Chalet Park went through bad times and good times, but somehow it survived. It survived the rise of budget airlines, and it survived when the town’s secondary school did not. It came very close to closing more than once, but it always opened again, and the guests came back, not as many, but enough, just about enough. It survived lockdown, and it survived bad publicity when a visiting child nearly drowned in the lake. Except it wasn’t true, despite what some of the papers and websites said, he didn’t nearly drown, at all, he was fished out and was sick before he was in any real danger, and it was his own and his parents’ fault, but there was a big to-do about it. 

     Some things changed, of course. Despite everyone thinking she was immortal, Olive passed away peacefully in her sleep when she was in her nineties, after putting the shutters down on the gift shop for the last time. But the management agreed there was no point to getting someone new to run it – it had had its day, and fewer people bought souvenirs anyway, and if they did, they bought them in town, where they were cheaper, and there was more variety. The chalets had TVs as a given instead of an extra you had to pay for, and the park had its own website. They saw Elvis lookalike conventions and Christian music festivals come and go.

     Daisy and Leo grew up. Daisy was a psychologist and Leo was a solicitor. They were both doing very well for themselves, and their friendship never wavered, even when it was conducted over a long distance at times.

     Now Daisy was standing by Lavender Lake, twisting a glass of wine round in her hand, looking up at the moonlight, and down at its shimmering reflection on the surface of the lake, making the pedalos and the rowing boats look like boats from some fairy story or mythical land. It was as if time had slipped away and she was back there on midsummer morning, hand in hand with Leo, wondering where ducks went to sleep and why one seagull always sounded mournful, and what the word equinox meant. I wonder if you’re thinking that, Leo, she thought. Her chain of thought was broken as Leo came up to her and slipped his hand in hers again. “Our special place, still,” he said, quietly. “And it looks so lovely in the moonlight.”

     “It does,” she nodded, “I know folk said that a wedding in the evening was a curious idea, but I never thought it was. It’s just not what they’re used to.”

     “Maybe it will set a fashion,” he said, and they laughed, but the kind of laugh that is not that far from tears – happy tears, when emotion just spills over. “You look lovely.” 

     “You scrub up pretty well yourself!”

     They heard someone in the little throng of people that they had barely notice they were there mutter, “Well, it took them long enough to get round to it!”

     “They’re not wrong,” Leo admitted.

     And that evening, as the moon shimmered over Lavender Lake, Leo’s father and Daisy’s mother finally got married!

     It was the autumnal equinox, and the harvest moon was gleaming.

November 19, 2020 07:36

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