Anna nestled herself into the warm, soft sand of the dunes. The saltbush created the perfect hiding place for her gangly, pre-teen frame. This was her place of comfort, the one piece of land on the face of the earth where she was just her. Usually it was enough, but not tonight.
The wind was gentle and quiet, as if trying to bring comfort, but to no avail. Anna blinked as it toyed with the tears balancing on the end of her long, dark lashes. Her emotions mimicked the rhythm of the waves below; anger crashed then ebbed away, followed by embarrassment, creeping up slowly and lingering on the shore of her soul. Driftwood and dead sea kelp lay on the watermark, a permanent reminder of the waves; in Anna's heart the evening's events were permanently marked by the shattered remains of a trust, once strong and pure, now destroyed.
The dinner party had been eagerly awaited by the entire family; the good, (unchipped) crockery and polished cutlery were to be brought out of storage in honour of their guests. Friends of the family since before her birth, in April 1948, Anna delighted in the company of the Baldwin's and made special efforts to look as ladylike as possible. She blushed slightly as she thought of Harry, their eldest son, who was certain to be attending with his parents. Anna had begged for extra rations of water and shampoo from her mother, hoping this may tame the wiry mop she had inherited as hair, and had spent an hour cleaning the grime from her tomboy hands. The one dress she owned, but rarely wore, she had pressed herself; clumsily manouevring the cumbersome, stove plate-heated iron had taken great effort and time, but Anna didn't mind. The Baldwin's were worth the effort.
At last they arrived and the group of friends were soon enjoying their meal of cornish pasties and her mum's award-winning tomato sauce, followed by the long-awaited steamed raspberry jam pudding and thickened cream. The laughter warmed Anna's heart; they did not have much, but this night she felt richer than any of the farmers' daughters who paraded their coiffed hair-dos through town. Even the thought of them snubbing their perfect little noses at the shabby, oversized clothes she wore - the vast majority of which were passed down to her from her brothers - didn't dampen her spirits that night. She could not recall feeling more content than she did at that moment, sitting at the table with her beloved family and friends.
And then it happened. Out of nowhere dark tendrils of dread squeezed her from her reverie as she glimpsed a book in her mother's hands.
That's not..?! Anna's heart started to thump; the crimson tide of embarrassment crawled over her entire body. Every eye was on her face; smiling, laughing, mocking as every word from her personal journal was read out loud.
In what seemed to be her worst nightmare, Anna's private thoughts had become the evening's 'entertainment,' and there was nothing she could do about it. For what felt like an eternity Anna listened as her innermost thoughts were blabbed and bandied about; every new page brought with it fresh shades of rouge to her cheeks, now stinging from the heat contained within them.
Every private thought, every brutally honest feeling she had ever wanted to confide in a longed-for but never-produced sister was spoken out loud. Her mother didn't even have the sensibility to censor out a long-held dream that one day, she might indeed become Mrs. Harry Baldwin.
Why, look everyone! She's even practised her signature!
Anna was numb.
When they finally tired of hearing the ramblings of a 12-year-old prepubescent girl Anna quietly stood and retrieved her written thoughts from her mother, and unobtrusively walked away.
She knew she should go back; the Baldwin's would have retired by now and her mother would be getting worried.
Let her worry! Anna 's pain-wrecked voice carried far out to sea on the tail of the wind, spurred on by ashes that flew from the small, insignificant fire lit by one whose soul had been made to feel equally small and significant.
The journal's pages crackled and distorted as they singed then burnt into oblivion.
Never again to be spoken of.
And the flame died out, never again to be relit.
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