Nurcan Kocak 2021
“Seems only fair that the girls get their own little party,” Mr. Jackson cheered, and grunts and murmurs of approval followed with the raise of glasses. I however had no glass of ale to raise. My hands felt empty, and I coaxed to myself that the time would come soon. The time where I would be able to drink however much of ale as I wanted, to work with my own blood and sweat and come home to a hearty hot meal cooked from my wife. The time where I would no longer be seen as a boy but a man, the thought made me shift my eyes to Kate. Kate held Harriet’s hand the entire time, both of them looking at each other as if they were the only ones in the entire world. I couldn’t help but envy their friendship between one another. Kate was always the happiest with Harriet and I wanted her to act that cheerful when she was with me. Ever since our last encounter we had stayed away from one another, drifting apart. I so desperately wanted to mend the awkward and insufferable tension between us, so I could once again be faced with the intelligent and smiling Kate that I knew. She glanced at me, still holding hands with Harriet; my breath caught in my throat. She looked lovely today with her midnight hair falling in waves, and the evening sun illuminating her regal cheekbones. She furrowed her dark eyebrows and stiffened as I continued looking at her before quickly looking down, dipping her head as if remembering our broken friendship. I clenched my teeth, trying to shove the disappointment deep down so it wouldn’t be masked on my face. Mother always said that I was an open book, and one look was all that was needed for one to know my thoughts. As Kate and Harriet was handed kerosene and matches by Mr. Gilbert I walked away. As the increasing steps between me and Kate grew, the aching disappointment in the pit of my stomach never truly went away. I helped lift the rough and heavy pieces of chopped wood to the nest of where the fire would burn. I wondered if Kate saw and understood how much I treasured our friendship. I shook my head, trying to shake the thought away. I was to think like a man now and real men didn’t go around thinking about their emotions every second.
It was time to light the bonfire and I positioned myself opposite of Kate, a nest of wood the only thing separating us. I could clearly see her from this view. Kate had no trouble throwing the kerosene, I grinned at her success. This was my Kate. My Kate who was capable of handling anything. Harriet struggled with lighting the match but finally she managed to light the fire. Orange waves soared high almost as if inviting the leaves and branches that hanged low. I took note on how everyone seemed to relax slightly at the girls succeeding. The orange embers highlighted once again Kate’s soft fair skin and chiselled jaw. Her eyes were twins of flames and those sparkling eyes turned to me. She smiled. A lovely smile that showed a hint of her front tooth, and the shape of her eyes in moons. The loveliness of her smile was mesmerizing and felt warmer than the crackling fire in front of me. My chest fluttered. I wanted to be closer to that warmth. For so long we had only shared cold encounters from one another, not including each other’s presence and this warmth was what we both needed. The steps I took towards her felt like my heart was closer to leaping out of my chest.
“Isn’t it wonderful?” I asked, forcing myself to stare at the fire and not her.
“It is,” she murmured, her voice drawn and quiet.
I turned to look at her before rustling of leaves took my attention. I whipped forward and a long branch was falling towards our direction. It landed with a huge rustle and bursts of red sparks bounced off. Kate and Harriet drew back, the fear masked in their eyes. I grabbed the unburnt bit of the branch and threw it into the fire. I didn’t get the chance to check if Kate or Harriet was okay, if they were hurt. I chastised myself for that and quickly turned around. “Are you okay?” I asked. The fear that was present in Kate’s eyes a moment ago were no longer, “of course” she said, and I didn’t miss how she shifted towards Harriet. My heart broke a little at the sight. Did Kate no longer trust me because I failed to protect her? Could she no longer stand to be close to me? I was getting over myself, I needed to let go of unnecessary thoughts. I wanted to talk about a topic that we both were enthusiastic about.
“I wonder if the ships at sea will see the fire, when it gets dark,” I said, vocalising my thoughts. “Perhaps,” Kate muttered, placing her arm out to touch Harriet’s shoulder. I cleared my throat trying not to take offense to Kate not caring about our conversation enough. The bitter smell of burnt wood enveloped me. I tried to think of a reasoning towards Kate’s dismissal to our conversation. Kate probably missed Harriet dearly and wanted to spend all the time she could with her now that she was back in Melbourne. I was in no position to take offence.
“Look here, what the children are doing” chirped Kate pointing to Will and Harry. Will and Harry were acting evil, throwing something into the nest of the fire, a loud cracking sound resonating around us. Will and Harry giggled at their mischief. Some of the ladies gasped and shook their head in annoyance. Harriet and Kate laughed. I had to put a stop to this childish act. I stormed towards Will and Harry, calling out Harry’s name. I grabbed their shoulders roughly pulling them aside, I tried to mimic how my father gave stern warnings, my voice rough and low. Harry and Will looked at one another before they threw something again into the fire. They weren’t bothered at all. My stern talking had not worked and I clenched my fists; fury coursing through me. How dare my own little brother not listen to me? Did he not see me as an older figure, one to respect? If I couldn’t make him respect me, I would punish him. I repeated in my head that this is what every brother did as I dragged Harry away. He was squirming underneath me trying to run away but my hold was tight as I walked to the edge of the paddock, the smell of fire wafting away. With the anger that was coursing through me I raised my arm and slammed down, cuffing Harry’s ear. He flinched back and whimpered. He shot accusing eyes at me as if not believing that I could do such a thing. Guilt surged through me as he ran away. I clenched and unclenched my fists, feeling the burn of the cuffing on my hand. No matter that Harry was upset, he didn’t listen, and he was taught a lesson by a man.
I stood next to Kate again, her lavender scent pleasant and comforting against the bitter smell of burning wood. “The troublemakers, throwing old shot” I announced, “I taught them a lesson”. Harriet perked up her eyes, furrowing her light eyebrows. “You did, did you?” she asked, pointing. “They obviously take you very seriously” disapproval and disdain clear in her voice. I looked at where she pointed, and the boys once again had resumed their mischief. I tried to take Harriet’s disapproval lightly not wanting to turn things sour between us as Kate loved her so much. “Well, they are boys, I s’pose. What should we expect?” I attempted to laugh, but it came croaky to my own ears. I glanced at Kate waiting for her approval. She knew what it was like having a younger sibling herself, surely, she would agree. She bristled, glancing at Harriet and then me as if uncomfortable.
“You are wrong to hit your brother like that, Albert. He is only young, and you are not much older than him yourself,” proclaimed Kate. The aching pit in my stomach returned worse than before. I dug the toe of my boots into the dry soil, wishing I could dig Kate’s words out instead.
“I suppose you and Harriet have much to catch up on now that she has returned,” I uttered. Kate scanned my face and I let the bitter ache of her disapproval show in my eyes. I cleared my throat. There was nothing left to do with Kate so obvious that she would never truly show the warmth inside her to me again. I walked away, a sour tang in my mouth, and the beat of my heart driving out every sound; hoping it would drive out this ugly bitter ache in my stomach as well.