Page 62 of Daisy Darker

Font Size:  

“Watch it, pipsqueak,” Lily snapped. My dad’s nickname for me morphed from a term of endearment into an insult whenever she used it.

“Lily’s right,” said Rose. “Some of the others might feel a bit funny about a thirteen-year-old being on the beach and seeing what they get up to.”

“I brought this,” I said, pulling the white sheet ghost costume out of my bag.

I was allowed to stay, because none of them wanted to leave, but only if I promised to remain hidden under my makeshift costume for the entire evening. I didn’t mind. I was just excited to be out with other people, witnessing a snapshot of humanity firsthand instead of reading about it in a book or seeing it on TV. It was a big step for someone who rarely wentanywherewithout her mother. Peering through those two holes in the sheet felt like looking at life through a tunnel. A bit like the View-Master my dad gave me one Christmas. I liked the imagined safety of my disguise; it meant that I could see everything without being seen. And I wanted to make the most of it because I knew that the things, people, and partiesthat had always been out of reach before were within touching distance for one night only.

Everything that happened next was a real education.

After so many years of feeling like I’d been missing out, I actually missed being at home. It was cold on the beach at night, and curling up in an armchair in front of the fire, with a good novel and a mug of hot chocolate, suddenly seemed a lot more appealing. The “party” consisted of fifteen or so boys and girls—some of whom I’d seen before but were still strangers to me—all sitting around a small fire on the beach, drinking cheap cider and warm white wine.

Conor—our designated driver—drank Coke to begin with. I knew better than to drink alcohol with the cocktail of drugs my mother made me take every day to keep my heart ticking, but I did have an occasional sip of Rose’s wine when nobody was looking. I didn’t like the way it tasted—it was nothing like Nana’s birthday champagne, which I’d tried earlier that evening—but I wanted to know what it was like to be like the others. How it felt to benormal.After an hour of sitting on the beach with a sheet over my head, all I felt was cold, and tired, and a little bit sick. I concluded that being normal might be overrated. Lily drank more than the rest of us combined, and it was her suggestion to play spin the bottle.

“You have to kiss whoever it points to when it stops spinning. I’ll go first,” Lily said, with a naughty grin stretched across her pretty face. The other kids smiled too; everyone except Rose seemed to be having a good time. We all watched as the bottle spun, a zoetrope of drunken teenage faces lit up by the flickering light of the fire. It seemed to spin forever, but then it stopped, and the bottleneck pointed at the boy next to Conor. Without hesitation, Lily took out her bubble gum, then leaned over and kissed him. There weretongues involved, and it looked unpleasant. She popped her gum back in her mouth afterward and smiled at everyone.

Sex was a mystery to me back then. I’d read about it, and thought about it, but the idea of actually doing it seemed both unnecessary and unhygienic. Watching Lily kiss a random boy only made me feel queasier.

“Conor’s turn next,” Lily declared.

“I don’t really want to play—”

“Man up. Perhaps you can write about it for the local newspaper,” she said when he tried to refuse.

Conor—a now slightly deflated orange pumpkin—leaned forward and reluctantly played the game. He stared at Rose the whole time the bottle spun, but it stopped on Lily.

I’ve never seen her look more delighted.

Sometimes when we think we know what we want but don’t get it, we look for something or someone else to fill the gap. Lily had always been jealous of Conor and Rose being together. Not because she really wanted to be with Conor, but because she always wanted whatever Rose had. Lily couldn’t stand being left out of anything. She marched around the fire and kissed him before he had a chance to protest—or run away—and I noticed Rose drink from her bottle of wine until it looked half empty.

“Delicious,” Lily said with a drunken smile as soon as their lips parted. That was the year she started smoking, so I imagine it wasn’t delicious for him at all. “Who wants to go skinny-dipping?” she asked everyone and nobody in particular. Then she stood up and removed her witch’s hat, black dress, and shoes before running toward the sea in just her underwear. It looked whiter than white in the moonlight. Despite the cold, a few of the boys from around the fire followed her. Lily had made more than a bit of a name for herself by then. Hervariety of fun was mostly harmless, and only ever born out of a desperate need for affection, but rumors ruin far more reputations than reality. Despite the unpleasant things that people sometimes said, in that moment, I would have given anything to have been my sister. Everyone seemed to adore her. She was fun and beautiful, full of life and free. While I was only ever me.




Rose stormed off in the other direction, disappearing down the beach, her lion’s tail swinging as she walked. And Conor the pumpkin chased after her. If I didn’t feel so ill, I might have found the whole scene funny.

“You’re the youngest Darker sister under there, aren’t you?” asked a boy I recognized from Rose’s sixteenth birthday party at Seaglass. He sat down next to me, so close that I could smell the beer on his breath. The wine had made me very sleepy, and I didn’t try to stop him at first as he attempted to remove the sheet from my head and peek underneath. I was tired of pretending to be a ghost and of being treated like one all my life, but part of me wanted to stay hidden. I pulled the sheet back down. “I wish itwasDaisy Darker under there,” he said, backing off a little. “I was hoping that the bottle might land on her if I spun it,” he whispered, even though there was nobody else left by the fire to hear.

I didn’t know what to say to that, so I said nothing.

“Or maybe we could play a little game of trick-or-treat if you don’t like spin the bottle?” he suggested innocently, as though we were discussing what board game to play on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

“I don’t know how to play trick-or-treat,” I replied.

“It’s easy, I’ll teach you. But come a little closer first, you’re shivering. I’ll keep you warm.”

I looked around for my sisters, but they were nowhere to be seen. Everyone else had wandered away from the fire except the boy. And me. I shuffled an inch closer and he smiled.

“First, the trick,” he said. “If you can guess which hand I’m holding this chocolate coin in, you can eat the treat, but if you guess wrong, you have to take the sheet off your head.”

I looked at the chocolate in its shiny gold foil wrapping and nodded. The game seemed simple and harmless enough. He put his hands behind his back, then held two closed fists out in front of me to choose from. The hand I chose was empty, so I took off the sheet and he smiled.

“That’s better, and look how beautiful you are. No wonder your sisters always want to leave you at home, you outshine them both. Play again?”

I think that was the first time a stranger had ever paid me a proper compliment. I knew I wasn’t really beautiful, not compared to Rose or Lily, but I confess that I liked someone saying that I was, even if it wasn’t true. I nodded a silent agreement to play again, and he held out two closed fists. I chose wrong a second time.

Articles you may like