Isabelle McManus 2021
The leaves rustled in the cool oceanic breeze. Clouds danced around the sun, creating pockets of
light and shadow amidst the cape. I was hiding behind a stout tree trunk, my eyes widening with envy. I don’t even know why my older sister, Kate, is always running off with her friend Harriet. I am her sister after all, she should spend more time with me. I wish that there were girls my age at the cape, that way I wouldn’t feel so lonely. I have two brothers, William and James. I sometimes play with them, but father often needs them to help him with work around the lighthouse. I’m drowning in desperation for a companion, a real sister. I would even do boy’s work in the lighthouse with my brothers if it meant that I didn’t have to spend my afternoons talking to myself. Actually, I don’t talk to myself all the time. You see, Nellie and I sometimes walk to school together, or tell each other secrets. The problem is that I’m the only person who can see her, but she’s been with me for a long time. Kate has a best friend, so I thought that if there are no suitable companions for me on the cape, I should just imagine one of my own. It seems to be working so far, although Nellie would be more useful if her footsteps made permanent impressions on the grass.
I continued to watch the two friends. They were whispering, talking, laughing. I could make out some conversation about McPhail, a new fisherman at the cape. This intrigued me, although I couldn’t exactly hear what they were saying. The voluminous layers of their petticoats flapping in the wind looked like rippling waves in a deep winter storm. Their skirts were twirling as the two of them spun around until they felt dizzy. Kate dropped her knees on the grass, and Harriet did the same shortly after. I heard an abundance of giggles, I want that to be me.
I leaned further around the tree to get a closer look at my sister. Mother thinks that it’s a sin to watch people without their consent, however I just can’t help but fantasize about Kate’s perfect life. I abruptly lost my balance and stumbled forwards, but I managed to save myself from a face full of dirt by latching on to a nearby branch. The sound of a large stick fracturing sent a piercing noise through the air, alerting Kate as the sprung up from her slumber. ‘Who’s there’, she spoke in a forceful manner, immediately asserting her dominance over the situation. Harriet retired from her romantic dream-like state, separating her finger from her golden ringlets. She sat up and her eyebrows folded together. ‘What’s wrong Kate?’ Her sweet voice was easily distinguishable from Kate’s strident tone. The two girls shared a glance, before Kate pointed in my direction and responded to Harriet’s question, however I couldn’t grasp her words from behind the tree. I held my breath, trying to make myself as small as possible. Kate doesn’t like it when I spy on her. ‘Emmaline’, Kate huffed, ‘is that you?’ Meanwhile, Harriet was freeing her skirt from dirt with her fingers, looking rather oblivious to my apparent presence at her and Kate’s secret spot. I slowly revealed myself from behind the tree in a sheepish manner, avoiding eye contact with my sister. Kate folded her arms, narrowing her gaze towards me. Before she could scold me, I fled the scene and ran back up to the house.
The floorboards let out a squeak as I flopped onto the floor in my room. A blazing red colour was emitted from my cheeks, as I was exhausted from running all the way back from the cliffs. I turned my head to look at myself in the mirror, yet I only saw the curious eyes of Nellie staring back at me. I pressed my hand against the mirror, convincing myself that it will somehow transport my imaginary friend into reality. Maybe Nellie knows what it’s like to live a lonely life, constantly searching for acceptance among others. Sure my sister and I sometimes spend time together, but I feel like ever since she made friends with Harriet, she has no time for me. ‘Hey Nell, later do you want to-’ I started, but my Kate burst into our room before I could finish my sentence. Her strong-willed nature often spelt trouble, especially because mother thought that she would have grown out of it by now. ‘What were you doing down by the cliffs, Em?’ she said with a sickeningly sweet expression, although I could tell that she truly felt sour towards me. Kate was walking through a midfield, afraid to make a misstep and set me off. She knows how I can be, well, sensitive towards things like this. ‘Oh, um’, I was struggling to find the right words to explain myself. ‘I just wanted to play with you and Harriet for once’. Nothing but a bird’s merry whispers could be heard from the room, the tension was thick and humid. ‘I promise I tell you one day Emmaline’, I felt a comforting hand on my shoulder, ‘but right now I’m just confused about certain things, and I think that today’s talk was only for me and Harriet’, she said in an unusually soft voice. I stood up abruptly, but I heard an intrusive crack from behind me. I had accidentally knocked over the mirror. The crystalline shards were splattered like lots of tiny stars among the floor. Kate let out a frustrated sigh, before I walked out of the room, trying to hold back the tears that were stinging my eyes.
That night, me and Kate said our prayers and walked to our sides of the room. We said goodnight to each other, albeit reluctantly, before Kate blew out the candle. The thick branches of an oak tree brushed up against the window. The howling wind caused the floorboards to creek throughout the house, sounding like a deserted shipwreck. Broken shards from the mirror caught the shimmering moonlight, and reflected it to create pockets of floating light around the room. ‘Kate’ I peeped. I didn’t hear a response, but I continued anyway. ‘Can you tell me what you and Harriet were talking about now? Please?’ I was aware that I was annoyingly stubborn, but if I kept asking then Kate just had to tell me eventually.
Kate’s mattress folded and her sheets crinkled as she moved around in her bed. ‘It’s nothing’, she said defensively, ‘just big girl stuff’.
I grinded my teeth in annoyance. I knew she was going to say that.
‘But I am a big girl, you can tell me!’
‘Not yet Emmaline, you wouldn’t understand.’ Kate snarled. It seemed that all civilised behaviours from earlier had disappeared, and now we were both just frustrated.
I began to whinge. ‘Just because you’re a little bit older than me doesn’t mean that you can just ignore me.’
‘It does tonight, because I want to go to sleep. Besides, I’m a whole four years older than you, not just a little bit older’. Kate raised the pitch of her voice to imitate me.
‘But Kate! I began to holler now. ‘Please please please tell me!’
‘Hush will you! You’re going to wake James and William!’ Kate whispered as the put her hand over my mouth. I sank my teeth into her palm, causing her to pull away and let out a penetrating yelp. She then lowered her voice when she realised that she too was being loud. She narrowed her eyes, shooting me a murderous look.
‘Why do you think that I’m a baby? You alwa-’.
I got cut off by mother. ‘For goodness sake girls, that’s enough!’ Her voice echoed into our room. Kate and I glared at each other, before I turned my back to her and closed my eyes.
Part 2 – Written explanation
My creative response focused on Kate’s little sister, Emmaline. In Skylarking, Kate briefly mentions that she often leaves her little sister out, so I wanted to expand on that and give more characterisation and insight into Emmaline by adding new scenes. In this creative response, we see that Emmaline is clearly frustrated with her situation of having no body to hang out with, as in skylarking she always wanted to tag along with Kate and Harriet. I added certain things to the response in order to expand on already established characters, for example I reflected on Kate’s assertiveness in her relationship with Harriet, “Kate spoke in a forceful manner, immediately asserting her dominance over the situation”. I also intentionally made Emmaline’s choice of words sound young and somewhat immature, for example she said “please please please” instead of a simple “please”. She also said “me and Kate” instead of “Kate and I”. When Kate and Harriet were talking about McPhail, I emphasized that Harriet was in a “romantic dream-like state” due to her apparent feelings towards McPhail in Skylarking. I also stated that Harriet was brushing the dirt off her skirt, to emphasize her prim character. Furthermore, I added some foreshadowing at the end of my response, “[Kate] shooting me a murderous look”. This of course is referencing Harriet’s dreadful fate, and how Kate murdered Harriet by shooting her, although it was accidental.
Moreover, I established the setting by describing the seaside weather on the cape numerous times, as well as using time-appropriate words such as “mother”, “hush”, and “stout”. To add to the time period, I also mentioned 1800’s things like candles and petticoats. I often referenced the ocean, for example “sounding like a deserted shipwreck” to reiterate where Skylarking takes place. Additionally, I tried my best to write in the style of Skylarking, in the same narrative voice and perspective.
I utilized literary techniques such as personification, “clouds danced around the sun” and metaphors, “Kate was walking through a minefield”. I also used similes “their petticoats flapping in the wind looked like rippling waves in a deep winter storm”, and descriptive language such as “blazing red”, and “sickeningly sweet expression”. I added these things so the reader could really visualise what was happening. I added in lots of body language to explain how the characters were feeling without directly stating it. Furthermore, I utilized the mirror for symbolism. Not only does it serve as a ‘portal’ to Emmaline’s (imaginary) friend, but it also symbolises Emmaline and Kate’s fractured relationship when the mirror cracks. The theme of women’s roles in 1800’s society was also referenced when Emmaline was talking about “boy’s work” at the beginning of the story.