Standing on the Edge
Aoife Clifford (Ireland)
For as long as I can remember, the sea has been the only thing that calms me. When I was younger, every time I got angry or started to cry, my father would bring me to the cliff by our house and tell me to watch the waves and breathe in the sea air. We would stay like this for hours, just the two of us, lost in our own minds.
Since my dad died three years ago, I find myself on the cliff more and more often. It’s as if his death triggered more things in my life to go wrong. My mind is a constant whirlwind of anxious thoughts. Standing on the cliff, I try to forget the stressful events that unfolded today.
I take one final deep breath of the sea air and turn back towards my house when I hear a crinkling sound and remember the balled-up sheet of copybook paper scrunched in my fist. Only now, looking at the whiteness of my knuckles, do I realise that I was holding the paper way too tight: like if I squeezed hard enough, it would just cease to exist. If only. I think I see a flash of white in the corner of my eye, but dismiss it as my imagination and return my focus to the page in my hand. Against my better judgement, I smooth out the sheet and take another look at the message written on it, each word like a sword, cutting me still, even though I’ve read them many times.
I’ve always been different to the other kids in my hometown. I’ve always been quiet and preferred the company of books to people. The slight stutter I’ve had since birth doesn’t help my aversion to people. I’ve always been on the receiving end of weird looks and whispered insults, but since dad died the weird looks have become more common and people don’t bother to whisper the insults anymore. Maybe it’s because my stutter grew ten times worse after the funeral. Or maybe they’re just bored and picking on the easiest target for entertainment. Either way, it has become almost unbearable.
I take a shaky breath and take a step towards the cliff edge. “Don’t let it get to you,” I heard a voice say. I whirl around. A girl with snow white hair and pale skin stands, arms wrapped around herself, facing me.
She gives a tentative smile before adding “Some people are scared of people who are different because they don’t know how to handle it. But in reality, people who are different are the ones who matter the most.”
She takes a breath before holding a hand out to me. “Come on. I’ll help you.”