The spring breeze prickled my skin as I balanced on the wall. It was a Thursday afternoon in late November, and my neighbor – Lily – and I were relishing in her pool, practicing our backflips.
Lily’s mum had rattled off the usual boring speech earlier.
‘Lily!’ she called from the verandah. ‘No backflips!’
Lil winked at me and I grinned.
‘Ok! Go!’ Lil said.
I bent my knees for a greater leap and glanced down at the water, ignoring the submerged step beneath. I didn’t consider how far I had to jump to miss it. I was nine-years-old and absolutely invincible. Nothing could hurt me because life was not that cruel; in fact, it was the most care-free thing in the world.
I landed clumsily. The minute I surfaced I heard Lily laughing and swam to the edge to try again. Yet before I reached the wall my mum burst through the gate, ordering me to come home. I was confused by her pushy demeanor, my mum was, and is, the calmest person I know.
I was still struggling with my left thong when mum grabbed my hand, pulled me across the street and into our driveway. I thought I had done something terribly wrong and quickly racked my brain.
Unpacked the dishwasher, took out the –
That was all she said, yet the way her voice cracked made me freeze.
‘I got a text from Al today. Macey – ‘
She collapsed in tears on the drive. My stomach lurched in my throat and my vision blurred with hot tears. Any news about Macey was never good.
My best friend. A math whiz. Slightly obsessed with Hello Kitty. The only person to sit with me on the first day of preschool. And, also, the girl with the brain tumour.
I subconsciously knew that Macey would never make it to high-school. That knowledge was a product of all the adults around me – my parents, Macey’s parents, teachers – crumbling into sheer anxiety whenever Macey was mentioned.
But on a conscious level, I had convinced myself that we were invincible. We lived in the privileged bubble of Noosa, our greatest worry of the day was over friendships, and the beach was our backyard playground. We had dreams that to us were easily attainable; aspirations of being astronauts or pirates. We were untouchable. Relishing every day with our imaginations full, and life laid out uninterruptedly ahead.
That night, with my dried swimsuit stuck to my body, I cried in disbelief as I sat on Macey’s bed. An attendee from the funeral home was outside with her parents.
I was prepared to scream and claw – do anything – in a desperate attempt to stop them from taking her. Because to do so would mean that she was really gone. Physically away from my clutch. It meant she would become a painful thought that would gradually fade into a distant memory, and eventually a simple tattoo on my foot. That she would debunk our childish belief of invincibility. That the idea of an unavoidable death would be something we’d need to start grasping.
Invincibility, I quickly learned, was a dangerous thought to entertain.
with a honey-soaked heart,