Makarelle Spring 2022: 'Landmarks'

Short Story - Fiction “ The Copse ” by Sue Davnall

She shrugged, and looked vaguely past the boy’s shoulder. In spite of the heat, he wore a thick purple hoodie with a leather jacket over the top. From the waist down, ripped jeans again and over- sized gleaming white trainers. ‘Wha’ we gonna do, then?’ ‘Wanna fag?’ The girl pulled out a packet from her back pocket. He walked over and sat beside her on the tree. She took out two sticks from the packet, putting one in his mouth and the other in her own. He produced a cheap plastic lighter from inside his jacket and lit both cigarettes. ‘Ta.’ They sat silently for a while, looking across the clearing, with no idea what to say or do next. A hundred years before, her great-great- grandfather and his great-great-grandmother had sat in the same spot. The fallen tree was a magnificent oak then, the finest specimen in the wood. The young couple had spread the woman’s cloak on the mossy grass below the tree and shared a jug of cider. She was the daughter of the big house; he was one of the under-gardeners. The tides of custom, class and prejudice had swept them away from each other, to the regret of both, and their story had fallen from memory. The girl leaned a little towards the boy. He took the cigarette from his mouth and tossed it aside, uncaring of the possible outcome of discarding a lit object into dry undergrowth. He put an arm around her shoulders and pulled her towards him, tipping his head towards her upturned face. ‘Oi! Fat Boy! Wha’ you doin’ over ‘ere?’ Three lads clumped into the clearing. They were dressed much the same as the young lover, but they wore on their faces expressions of scorn, distrust and bravado. The boy rose, his hands spread out be- fore him, palms upwards. His skinny form belied their name for him, but insult has no truck with fact. ‘I’m going. I’ll go now.’ He edged along the fallen log and then back towards the trees behind him. As he reached the edge of the clearing he turned and ran. Two of the others chased after him, yelling the worst words they could think of, intent on terrifying him into never coming back. The third turned to the girl. ‘Slag.’ ‘Bastard.’ ‘Cow.’ ‘I’m tellin’ Mum.’ ‘You do tha’.’ ‘She’ll roast yer.’ ‘Why should she care? She’ll be halfway down a bottle by now anyway.’ They glared at each other, but fell silent. They were picturing the scene at home, the prone body on the grubby couch, the empty bottles and overflowing ashtray on the sticky, ring-marked table beside her. Clothes, newspapers and empty takeaway cartons on

the floor. In the kitchen, dirty plates and cutlery fill- ing the sink and obscuring the worktops. When the kids were younger, they had tried to help. Before and after school they would wash up, put things away, try to persuade their mother into the bathroom to clean herself up a bit. Now, they just looked after each other and never, ever let any of their mates come back to the house. ‘Wha’s wrong with him, anyway? Why shouldn’ I hang out with him?’ ‘Don’t be a twat, Pen. You know he’s from over Benton way. Not one of us.’ ‘Don’ care. I like him.’ ‘If he keeps hangin’ round here he’s gonna to get shanked sooner or later. Is that what you want?’ The girl looked as if she might cry, and much younger than when she had first entered the clearing. ‘Come on, you don’ wanna hang around here on your own.’ He put a brotherly arm around her and steered her towards the path by which he had arrived. Time passed. Nothing changed for a while. Then the bulldozers and diggers came. New streets, new houses. All that was left was a small stand of trees on a roundabout. Some years later a man and a woman stood at the side of the road looking at the roundabout over the top of the rush-hour traffic. Two small children nes- tled into their sides, disconcerted by the noise and the choking smell of petrol. ‘See there, kids?’ said the man. ‘There was a whole wood there once. That’s where your mum and I used to meet.’ ‘Why, Daddy? Why did you go into the wood to meet Mummy?’ ‘It’s a long story, sweetie. Uncle Rob didn’t like me very much then and we had to find some- where secret and special to hide.’ ‘Uncle Rob who lives in the big building with the high walls and the bars? Why does he live there?’ The man looked over at the woman, who shook her head. ‘Er, yeah. That’s a story for another time. Now, who’s for an ice cream?’

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Makarelle

Page 36

Landmarks Spring 2022

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