I was twelve years old when my father tried to kill me. We’d all gone on a day trip to the beach. I was sick of my idiot brothers splashing water all over me and throwing sand in my hair, so when Dad suggested the two of us take a walk up the cliff path, I jumped at the chance. It was such a blustery day we had the viewing point at the top all to ourselves. We scanned the horizon for fishing boats and tankers, and spent ages trying to work out if a black dot in the distance was a seal or a buoy. I was mesmerised by a gannet silently gliding past when I felt his hands on my back, pushing me. I screamed at him to stop. This was not the time or the place for Dad’s messing. But he didn’t stop. He kept pushing and pushing until, being no match for a fully grown man, I went hurtling over the edge to certain death.
Except I didn’t die. What Dad hadn’t known was that there was a small ledge thirty-feet below where we’d been standing. I landed on a thick carpet of heather that saved me from anything more serious than scrapes and bruises. A few feet to the left or right and I’d have been a goner. By the time the Coast Guard reached me two hours later, they’d already accepted Dad’s story about the wind suddenly changing direction and blowing me over the edge. Everyone at the hospital said it was a miracle I was alive. I couldn’t get to talked to Mom on her own, to tell her what really happened. When the story of my dramatic rescue was the last item on the Radio One news on our drive home that night, I knew that his version was set in stone and that no-one would ever believe the truth, so I swallowed it.
Worse than the terror of thinking Dad might strike again, was knowing that the person who was most supposed to protect me in this world, wanted me eradicated from it. It ruined me. I withdrew, not just from him, but from my mother, my friends, my teachers, everyone. With each year that passed, my world became smaller and more insular.
Twenty years on, little has changed. I’m still without a friend in the world, barely surviving on disability payments, and my OCD and anxiety are worse than ever. Yesterday, I did something stupid and ended up in an ambulance for the second time in my life.
The psychiatrist they brought down to the A&E to assess me asked me a question I’ve never considered before and it’s messed my head up even more. It made me want to vomit. It still does. I know the truth, I’ve always known the truth. Or at least I thought I did.
“What if it was the wind that day after all?” he asked me.
What if it was?
Margaret Cahill is a short story writer from Limerick, Ireland. Her fiction has been featured in The Milk House, époque press é-zine, Ogham Stone, Honest Ulsterman, HeadStuff, Silver Apples, Autonomy anthology, Incubator, Crannog, Galway Review, Limerick Magazine, Boyne Berries and The Linnet’s Wings. She also dabbles in writing about music and art, with publications on HeadStuff.org and in Circa Arts Magazine. Twitter handle: @margaretcahill_