Wine glass

Edwardian. Such delicate glass and perfect shape, on a slender stem. Subtle engraved patterns, like translucent petals or leaves. Honesty?

They belonged to Mum’s great-grandfather, and yet we use them daily – what point in having beautiful things if they’re just locked away?

The stem is smooth, and almost too delicate to grip. The glass lip also – will it cut mine? Is it actually sharp? I overcome hesitation, led on by the melon and ginseng exoticness of Aqua Libra. The fizz gathers in a central column up from the bottom of the glass – breath bubbles from some invisible diver.

“Is there another bottle?” asks Mum – still good-naturedly, yet somewhat slurred.

Dad gets up and retrieves it from its warming-place at the back of the hob. Slitting off the maroon foil seal, gripping the brass corkscrew in place while twisting the tap-like handle. No levers to help. The bottle held between thighs, and elbow grease to heave the cork out. No spillage.

More wine, more wine. Discussion turns to argument turns to sourness. The tension builds.

Later, Alice and Mum wash the dishes, swilling the perfect glasses clean with scalding water, and placing them, up-ended, on a tea towel to dry. Ineffective – a steamy mist condenses inside each delicate bowl.

Crash.

The roasting tin slides down from the drying rack, reducing four glasses to crushed shards. A moment’s silent denial, and then both Alice and Mum turn away, in shuddering, silent tears.

Something is broken that can never be mended, and never replaced.

Elderflower wine

I’m running, flying, up the back track in the dark after Erica. My head’s spinning like the stars. The trees are just dark giants laughing down on us in our crazy, drunken escapade. I don’t know where we’re heading, or even if we’re together. I know she’s not fleeing from me, but neither is she with me.

The wine wasn’t ready, really. Some house kid stole it from her mum, still in the carboy, and donated it to the dorm full of teens. Among those pert-breasted girls, adolescent hippy dudes and alternative oddities, I too drank my fill. The sediment churned in the glass as I sat on the mattressed floor and made vain efforts to be included.

In the morning, it’s a scene of vomit. Buckets and washing-up bowls and ice cream tubs litter the floor, like boulders in a maze.

June steps into the room, a wry and patient smile of fond tolerance on her lips and in her eyes. “Let’s get this cleaned up,” is all she says. No reproach.

“June… June… I really like you,” is all I can manage. The alcohol still has its hold.

It’s true. Perhaps more than any of my cohort, my peers, I prefer one who’s one of their mothers. Hers would be the arms to hold me.

I’m just a child. This adult striving isn’t yet for my world. Perhaps just a mother to hold me.

Sand

The seabed is so pale – wave-rippled sand – just a few feet below us. Dad directs a course across the bay, paddling far out from the beach. The waves are getting quite large, and with each, the aluminium of the canoe shunks as we land, spray spraying from the bow.

Mum shifts nervously. “Is it really safe?”

“Oh, it’s OK.” says Dad, looking serious but calm. He eyes the shore, the headland and the horizon, grips the paddle a little more tightly, and smiles. This is a moment to savour.

Shunk… Shunk… 

Yet bigger waves. From my cross-leggedness on the red cushion, I grip the gunwales and just love. Alice and Lena are there too. We’re like peas in an open pod, the five of us – and a cool box.

It’s shallowing now, and the water’s paler, losing the deeper turquoise and fading to clear. Sunlight refracts and dances on the sinuously rippled sand. We can hear and see the waves hissing onto the beach.

“When we beach, can you just jump out and start to drag us up?” says Dad.

Lena and I ready ourselves.

The metal hull slides and scrapes over the shell sand, and we jump out on either side.

Fever fit

Sleeping fitfully on the youth hostel floor with baby Melissa at my side. She’s burning up – and coughing woefully. Like a pitiful kitten. I rest a paternal hand on her back as Amy and I try nonetheless to get some sleep.

Suddenly, a scream, a jolt. She’s shaking, jerking. I jump up and turn on the light.

“What…?” asks Amy, blurrily.

Melissa’s eyes are rolling back inside her head, and her back arches with involuntary spasms. She’s almost on fire. I grab her from the floor and stumble to the basin in the corner. Splash on water with cupped hand, grasping her writhing form under my other arm.

“That guy’s a doctor! The goose fat guy – the cassoulet guy!” Amy is pulling on her shoes. “I’m going to call 999.” She rushes out.

Where’s the doctor guy? At 3am, anyone’s guess. My only reference point is my mother’s room, so I go, just go. A naked man running down the corridors with a naked, fitting, baby girl.

The youth hostel is pretty much in uproar now – doors banging, the doctor summoned, lights on, on every floor. Amy, having failed with the public phone, is flagging down a lorry in her pyjamas in the snow. The young female warden appears from her room, sees me, and screams.

As doctor friend administers Calpol and confirms cooling with water had been right (although “a bit extreme”) I figure it may be time to go and find some clothes.