If Emily was not angry and hurt at this moment in time then this summer’s day, by Coniston water, could be one of the best Olivia had ever had. The floor burns bare feet and she can feel her freckles coming out to play. If you put a hand on her hair it would feel as though it is alight. Birds chirp, drake and mate swim along, occasionally venturing to shore for scraps of fruit thrown by the party of four. Trees sway in a blissful breeze and it offers a sweet respite from the blistering rays of the sun. The flute glasses stand empty and the foursome a jolly band of drunk youngsters, sit lounging on the patio furniture. Butterflies and bees, and bugs flit by here and there, playing amongst themselves and working hard to bring food back to the hive. There are many boats in the distance, some small some tiny, all out on the lake looking for somewhere to relax. Poppy lies at Olivia’s feet, her head lifted up like a proud lion, she blinks in the sun and wiggles her nose every time a breeze blows by. They sit in silence, soaking in the rays. Emily sits across the table from her and Lily sits between them. Olivia turns around as she hears a gentle splash and sees the drake dip its head below the water, for food; it’s webbed feet waggle in the air. She smiles. Thierry stands up, stretching his arms into the air, his shirt lifts slightly and Olivia notes the tell-tale lines of abs. She averts her eyes and can tell by the way he looks down at her, that he knows she saw. He grins cheekily. “I’ve got an idea. Give me fifteen minutes and be ready.”
“Be ready for what, Thierry?” Lily asks of her brother. He taps the side of his nose and disappears through the side gate, leading towards an open field. Emily watches him go. “Makes sense now, why you wouldn’t want to tap that.” She says to Olivia. Olivia’s face burns and she looks to Lily whose eyebrows are raised in shock. “Excuse me?” She laughs. Emily sits forward and shakes her head. “Sorry. No of course, he’s gorgeous, I’d go for it if he wasn’t clearly besotted with Olivia over here. Who can resist that raven hair?” Lily, knowing that there’s something going on, coughs uncomfortably. “I think I’m just going to use the bathroom.”
“Up the stairs.” Emily points into the house. She walks back inside leaving Olivia and Emily alone. Not a good thing at this moment in time. “You’d go for it if he didn’t like me, huh?” Olivia asks. Emily nods her head. “I don’t think you would.”
“And why’s that?” Emily snaps. Olivia is seconds away from blurting out that she knows about her plans with Loui but then she would know that Nick knew, and that Nick had told her, so she thinks better of it and plays the game a little differently. “You know why.” She says. Emily scoffs as if Olivia doesn’t actually have anything to go on. “Because you’re still in love with Loui and you miss him.” That’s a better angle. Emily rolls her eyes.
“What do you know.”
“I know.” Emily looks pointedly at her. Did Olivia just perhaps hint at feelings she has that even she didn’t know she had? “I don’t want to fight.”
“We’re not fighting.” Emily snaps, again. “We’re not anything.” Olivia can feel tears welling up in her eyes. “We’re not? Just like that? Just like that I lose my best friend?” Emily looks away, a pained look on her face that says she is just saying things she knows will hurt Olivia. Olivia doesn’t see the look. She just feels the words. “I refuse to accept that…I’d do anything for you, you know that.”
“You actually don’t understand, do you? That’s what really gets me. We’ve been friends for as long as I can remember…sisters even, and you still don’t understand why I feel this way.” Emily is out of breath, her chest heaves as she holds back her emotions. Lily returns, she looks between the two and decides to break the tension. She starts talking to Emily about a party they once went to at a school friends house and how her and a boy had gone upstairs to find somewhere to make out, only when they’d opened a bedroom door, the kids parents were doing it right there on the floor. Emily bursts out laughing. Good. Olivia thinks. At least she’s laughing. “That’s actually the same party I learned an amazing recipe with whiskey. If you guys have any, I’ll happily whip up a batch.”
“We do!” Emily stands and takes Lily by the hand, leading her back into the house and leaving Olivia alone with the dog, who glares at Olivia like she knows what she has done wrong. “What’re you looking at?” The dog huffs and jumps down off the chair, racing back into the house and leaving her alone. Olivia looks back out to the lake and imagines that she is far away on one of those boats. If ever there was a time to run away from your problems, it was now.
When Thierry returns, the girls are curious to find him wheeling a large hollow tyre down the hill, with a reel of rope slung over his shoulder. “What the heck?” Lily exhales. “What do you plan on doing with that? It won’t float you know.” He rolls his eyes.
“I know that, Lily. It’ll make a great swing though.”
“Ooh that is a great idea!” She claps and runs over to help him. Emily, who had been standing near the back door, comes forward to help as well. The three of them bring the gear over to a twisted tree next to the dock, that seems to be in need of a chiropractor. It’s roots cling to the floor like a claw and its branches are thin and crooked, and covered in bright green leaves. A single branch reaches out over the water. It is the arm of mother nature, pointing to the horizon. It’s thick enough to hold the tyre and a heavy person. The group throw the rope over the tree, something that takes a good few attempts. Eventually they get enough of it over to hoop it and make a knot. Thierry ties the end to the tyre and lifts it up off the ground, the way one would have lifted steel beams up to the empire state building during its construction. He leans back on it to test its strength and then sits in it. Lily pulls him back as far as she can and realising that she can’t quite manage alone, Emily and Olivia both jump in to help. They haul back till the tyre and Thierry are way back up the garden slope and then as one, they shove him. He swings out, far above the water and whoops as he does. “This is awesome!” He yells. He swings back, kicking his feet and clinging onto the knot that connects the rope, for dear life. “This is amazing!” He swings back and forth a few times laughing like a child. It looks like a great deal of fun. As the momentum slows, Lily and Olivia reach out for him and pulls him to a halt. He jumps off and beams widely at them all. “I’m a genius. You’ve got to try that.”
“It’s safe right?” Lily asks.
“It held me didn’t it?” Thierry says, shaking his head. “Come on, give it a go.” Lily climbs into the tyre. She looks tiny in comparison and can’t quite reach the rope, so sits sideways in it, letting her body curve around the grooves in the tyre. Thierry needs no help and pulls her even further than they had pulled him. He shoves, catapulting his sister under the tree branches and out, over the water. She squeals as she flies. Her scream echoing around the whole of Coniston. Olivia wouldn’t be surprised if they could hear her from across the lake. Her speed takes a while longer to slow down because of how small she is and when Thierry is finally able to yank hold and stop her, her hair is blown into her face. She giggles as she topples out of the wheel, stumbling a bit before finding her footing. “She nods at Olivia encouragingly and pointedly turns to Emily. “Go, you’ve got to go. It’s wicked.” Olivia nods back, understanding her meaning. Emily climbs through and holds onto the rope. She is smiling nervously as Thierry pulls her back. She flies. A scream merges with laughter as the rope spins and Emily is thrown into a spiral. It looks quite funny from land. Her legs bend one way and her hair swishes the opposite way. It’s wonderful for Olivia to see her best friend in a moment of unforced and pure happiness. As she comes back to land and it shows that she is slowing, Lily steps forward and pushes her out again. She pushes so hard that she tumbles to her knees. Olivia leans over and helps her up as Thierry laughs at her expense. “Karma from this morning.” He teases. She sticks her tongue out at him and it’s obvious that the day has brought out the child in them. She laughs it off and wipes the dirt off her knees. There are little grazes there and she shakes her head. Bloody shoes. She takes off the heeled boots and sets them aside. “Where are they from? I need them in my life.” Olivia asks. Lily’s face lights up.
“I made them!” She proudly declares. Olivia is shocked.
“Really?” Lily nods an affirmative. “That’s amazing!” Lily takes her phone out of her pocket and hands it to Olivia. “Put your number and address in my phone, I’ll make you a pair.”
“Are you serious?” Again, Lily nods. “You’re a legend.” She types in her details and hands her back the phone. “Besides, now we can stay in touch when you go back home.” Thierry is paying attention and comes to them. “Who’s handing out numbers?” The girls laugh at him knowingly. “Little help!” Emily calls. She is trying, desperately to cling onto the tree trunk so that the swing will stop enough for her to climb out however, every time she comes close, her fingers just barely touch the bark and she is pulled away again. “I’m coming!” Thierry assures her and with his help she comes to a smooth stop. Emily hops out breathing heavily, not a hair out of place. “Your go.” She laughs to Olivia, then her face falls like she has just remembered they’re not friendly anymore. She coughs and steps away slightly. Olivia can see Lily looking between them both and one quick glance to her, she can see a look of encouragement like she is silently assuring her that their plan is working. Olivia steps forward and Thierry holds the swing for her. “Careful, here let me help you in.” He tries to put his arm around her and not wanting him to get the wrong idea, she pulls the tyre away. “I’ll show you how much help I need.” She says in a confident way. She feels a surge of fearlessness and decides to stand on the tyre. She clings to the rope and turns to look down on them. “Ready when you are.” They look a little afraid for her, even Emily.
“You’re sure?” Thierry asks.
“Uh-huh.” She replies. He shrugs in an ‘okay’ kind of way and steps forward, putting his hands either side of the tyre swing. With one large heave, he pushes Olivia out. It’s amazing. She is soaring over the water and her stomach drops as she reaches the top and falls back down, then she is over land and it rushes beneath her feet. It’s exhilarating. She is well and truly happy. The land can keep her problems, she’s one with the sky and the trees. Absolutely and utterly free. That’s how she feels right now. She is airborne and she is wonderful. An angel of the swing. She closes her eyes and it’s like she is falling through the air. It feels that way because she is. The bottom of the tyre buckles and she bends inwards because of the position she stands in on the swing. Her grip slackens and she falls from the tyre into the water. Again. The water splashes loudly and her head dunks under a moment before she grapples her way to the surface. It’s cold and she shudders. Her dress floats around her waist and she yells loudly as she feels her boot slip from her foot and into the depths of the waters. What else will she lose to this bloody lake? All her irritation falls away when she looks back to the land and sees Emily, keeled over on the ground, laughing. Even if it is at the cost of her dignity, she is grateful for it and can’t help but laugh herself. Thierry runs out along the dock to her rescue. She swims over to him and as he reaches out a hand to help her up, she comes up with a brilliant idea to add to her ever changing schemes. She pulls him in. Thierry flies over her head and lands in the water with a splash. He comes to the surface gasping. “Fuck! It’s freezing!” Olivia laughs at him and he splashes her in the face. Lily sets her phone on the ground and tells Emily to do the same. From the water where Olivia and Thierry are afloat, they hear a piercing scream coming closer and Emily and Lily run hand in hand to the end of the dock and canon ball into the water. The pair raise to the surface, Emily coughing and wiping her nose. She sweeps her hair away from her face and giggles. “It’s fucking cold!” She yells. Lily laughs and swims over to Thierry.
“I lost my shoe!” Olivia cries. “My boot is at the bottom of the lake.” Thierry laughs deeply and tries to swim under her. He comes back up. “It’s gone. I can barely see past your legs…wait.” He says, then swims back under. Olivia can feel a tug at her leg and the other boot removed from her foot. When he resurfaces, he hoots wickedly. “Now you’re even.” Olivia gasps and then shrugs it off, accepting that she wasn’t going to walk around with odd shoes on. “Fair enough!” The laughter that reins out from that little lake is enough to make any person nostalgic for their youth. They push each other and dunk each other. Thierry tries to grab Olivia a few times and she gently swats him away. Lily swims over to Olivia and pulls her to one side. “How do you think it’s going?” She asks in hushed tones.
“I don’t know, in all honesty. You’re the one with the sixth sense, what do you think?” Lily looks at Emily who is now climbing on Thierry’s shoulders and balancing as his head falls below the surface of the water. She laughs wildly. “I think it’s going well. If your aim today, really was to just make her happy, then you’re achieving that.”
“I couldn’t have done it without your help though. I’m dreading you guys leaving.” Lily shakes her head. “Why do we have to go? I say we make a night of it.” Olivia’s heart flutters.
“Why are you so kind?” Lily smiles warmly at her.
“Because it’s nice to be nice.” She climbs on Olivia’s shoulders and they decide to have a wrestling match. Lily tries to grapple with Emily, and it does appear as though Emily is about to win, after all, Lily is tiny. Twin instincts seem to kick in, however, and Thierry shoves Olivia away to get Emily out of his sisters reach, then he chucks himself back and they both tumble to the water. When they both catch their breath, they swim over to the dock and cling on. Emily lifts herself out of the water onto the ledge. She shivers. “Oh god, it’s freezing.” She lies down on the warm wood and waits for the sun to warm her up. The group all congregate on the dock and take a moment to calm down. It doesn’t last long and before they know it, Thierry is back on the swing. “Right, let’s do it Olivia’s way. A little friendly competition. Who can jump the farthest?” He holds the tyre back and runs as fast as he can, at the last minute he jumps onto the tyre, swings out over the lake and let’s go at the highest point, splashing into the water a great distance away from them. He resurfaces. “Beat that!” He heckles to them.
“Not sure I can!” Lily whines. She stands and heads for the swing. This is how they continue for the next hour. Catapulting themselves into the depths of a freezing cold lake. The atmosphere couldn’t be calmer if she’d have planned it. On and on they go, throwing themselves into the air like tiny children canon balling off a springboard. Olivia inhales the summer’s day. She makes note of the sky, all the little clouds that hang in the distance. The sound of the water as is splashes where her friends land. She watches the unique way their hair falls in different positions and the colours of their clothes as they dampen and darken. She pays special attention to the way her underwear sits uncomforting and damp at her sides. It’s perfect. She breathes it into her lungs as deeply as she can, in the hopes this memory would settle in her body till she is old and grey. One of the better days of her youth.