To Taste the Sun

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“It’ll be fun!”

“It’ll be dangerous!”

“Don’t be such a baby!”

The determination in your eyes twinkled in the dim orange sunlight. It was the last day of summer, and we were sitting at the lonely pier, the place beyond the Do Not Cross signs that separated the brave from the boring. Our legs dangled over the edge of the concrete harbour, and when the waves were tall enough they patted our roughened toes and tickled our feet with salty softness. We had sat at that spot every day that summer, but we never went into the sea. It was one of the few things you were afraid of. The other two were big dogs, and our school-teacher, Mrs Thomas.

“I’m not being a baby, I’m being sensible!” I whined.

“But you promised! You said at the start of summer that you’d climb the tower with me this year!”

You were right, I had promised, but I had hoped that you would forget; climbing the tower meant facing my fear of heights. Besides that, the tower was huge and unsound. Even from where we were sat we could hear the wind creaking through the gaps in its wooden walls. I said nothing, but shot you a look of apprehension which you ignored, as usual, persisting in a voice that was always far too boisterous for a girl your age, “You’re not going to break your promise, are you?”

I said nothing, widening my eyes in a plea for rationality. What I received in return, however, was certainly not what I had hoped for.

“But it’s so tall! When we reach the top, we can touch the sun! Yes, I’m sure we can! You can, even, it’s that tall!”

Trust you to bring my height into this. I could do little to restrain the giggles as you continued. “I wonder what the sun’ll feel like. I reckon it’ll be like hot treacle.”

“What’s that?” I inquired, wiping my eyes. Your face stretched as you beamed widely, accentuating your summer freckles. You always took great pleasure in knowing something I didn’t.

 “One time, when my mam was alive, she baked me a big hot treacle cake. When it was cool enough, I stuck my fingers in. It was like a gooey sea, but with sugar instead of salt, and warm instead of cold. That’s what the sun’ll feel like, I think – What’s so funny, may I ask?”

“Oh, nothing,” I said.

“Well, come on then!” You jumped to your feet, threw the ice lolly stick you had been toying with into the swirling sea, and grabbed me swiftly by the arm. I still don’t recall agreeing to this, but moments later we were running – barefooted, arm-in-arm – to the wooden tower at the pier’s corner. It seemed to me that no time had passed before we were standing beneath its hulking shadow.

The tower had existed there before anyone could remember. It was seven storeys tall, and its baby blue painted walls made it practically invisible against the cloudless cobalt sky. The top, however, had been painted white by many generations of seagulls, which we always recollect as having iced the cake. It had no windows, nor had it any doors, in the conventional sense. It did, however, have rectangular door and window frames that the wind whirred against, as it ceremonially attacked the tower’s wooden structure, pulling blue planks off into the sea, leaving another hole in the wall that the sun blazed through like a hero on a horse.

They never talked about the tower, the grown-ups. We always supposed that it was because they couldn’t see it; most of the year it was concealed by cloud, and even on a clear day it was hard to make out, being the colour it was. No-one seemed to know what it was there for, even if they knew of its existence. You did, though. I always remember your insistence that it was once a princess’ house. That you’d met her once when I hadn’t been there, and she’d told you that herself, all dressed up in a long white gown.

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