THE TWIN: part 2
Auntie Nessa arrived at two o'clock on the dot.
Although it had stopped raining about an hour ago, the wind was still keen. Sophie's hair had been whipped up into a mass of unruly golden curls, they were fluffed out all around her little pink face. Her cheeks were red and shiny. She looked like one of the heavenly cherubs in the illustrations from my Sunday School prayer book.
Mother had asked me to open the front door to my aunt and my cousin. She was in the kitchen putting the kettle on for a cup of coffee.
Jessica was hovering about at the top of the stairs. All that could be seen of her was the toes of her scuffed brown sandals.
After giving me an obligatory peck on the cheek, and telling Sophie to be a good girl, my aunt disappeared into the kitchen. Leaving Sophie alone with me...and Jessica.
A sound behind me made me turn. My twin was making her slow way down the stairs. Jessica's eyes were fixed on Sophie's face. My sister had changed into her favourite red jumper and an old pair of faded jeans. I knew what this meant. She wanted to go outside. I turned back to Sophie. "Do you want to go for a walk?"
Sophie shook her head. Baby blue eyes wide. Rosebud mouth firm. Ringlets dancing. "It's cold," she said. "And wet."
"No it's not." I pointed out of our small hallway window. "Look, the rain's stopped. The sun's trying to come out."
"It's too cold."
I eyed up her flimsy summer dress. "I'll lend you a cardie." Before Sophie could reply I raced upstairs, shrugged into my Cookie Monster sweatshirt, grabbed up a cream kitted cardigan from my bedroom floor, and raced back down. Taking the stairs two at a time.
Jessica was nowhere insight.
I guessed she'd got fed up with waiting and gone outside.
I was right.
Jessica was marching through the five acre field behind our house. Heedless of the strong wind blowing in from the sea. Arms swinging by her sides. I knew where she was heading.
I grabbed Sophie's hand, it felt small and cold in my own.
"Come on." I said, pitching my words loud to be heard above the wind. I gave my cousin a gentle tug to get her moving.
"Where are we going?" Sophie's voice bounced in time with the rhythm of our steps.
I grinned. "Down to the beach."
Sophie jerked my hand, trying to bring me to a halt. "Mummy said I'm not to go down there. It's dangerous."
"No it's not. Come on." This time the tug I gave her was not so gentle. Tears sprang to her china blue eyes. "Mummy said I'm not to go near the cliffs. Not after what happened to..."
"Sssh." I said. "Your mummy's just being silly. Nothing happened. Come on." I tightened my grip on Sophie's hand and frogmarched her along. I could just make out Jessica starting to descend the narrow rocky pathway that led down to the shingle. "Come on." I said again. "We're getting left behind."
Battling against the wind I pulled Sophie across the field. The long coarse grass whipped at my bare legs. I began to wish I'd put my jeans on too. But Jessica had always been the smart one. The one with all the ideas. The one who had always got the praise. Even when we were tiny children, it had been Jessica with her springy black curls and big dark eyes that had received all the attention.
Even then I had hated her.
Even as a tiny child I had made plans against her.
Sophie was crying full out now. Her cherub face all red and bloated. She was trying to pull her hand from my grip, but I held her fast and firm. We stumbled together down the cliff path, and fell together in a tangled heap at the bottom. My knees stung as they hit the broken shells and pebbles. Sea spray blew into my face.
I jerked Sophie to her feet.
In front of us yawned the mouth of Hade's Bottom. Already baby waves were lapping at its edges.
I dragged Sophie across the shingle, our feet crunching, and into the cool darkness of the cave.
Last summer, while I had been exploring alone, I had discovered the shaft: a round jagged opening hidden between two upright rocks. I had tossed down a pebble. Listened with my head cocked, breath held, as the smooth grey stone had spiralled down, down, down, occasionally bouncing off the sides as it fell.
There had been no sound of it hitting the bottom.
After that I had learnt patience. Abided my time. Waiting for the perfect opportunity to lure my twin into the cave.
Two months ago that time had come.
It was funny, but now me and my sister got along just fine, just like...well, just like two peas in a pod.
I started to sing my favourite hymn as I pulled Sophie deeper into Hade's Bottom.
"All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, all things wise and wonderful..." I pushed Sophie down the shaft. "...the Lord God made them all."
By the time me and my dead sister were walking back up to the clifftop, hand in hand, Sophie's screams had stopped.