Lorri dares walk out on the estuary to where the red-shanks strut on long legs. She dares climb the tall twisted oak where she says she can see her apartment block three hundred miles away in the city. She crosses the fast-flowing stream on a slick and mossy log. She throws stones down hundred foot mine-shafts, she picks up hairy spiders in her small hands, and she runs across the road between cars while I remain glued to the pavement, my head swivelling from side to side like a mechanical doll.
This afternoon I am far out and she is on dry land, safe in the dune grass.
The quicksand reaches out and sucks at me with its thick, cold hands and the tide races in, as fast and furious as the smacks my mother sometimes doles out when I rebel.
I shout out to Lorri but my voice is as thin as her legs. Lorri’s face is white against the blurred trees. Can’t she see my mouth moving, my panic?
I’m in up to my knees. Lorri is waving now. My tears are salt like the sea.
Don’t you know how dangerous the bay is, the man says, his forehead a thicket of frowns.
It was just a dare, Lorri says.
Damned kids, he says.
Lorri sticks her tongue out and careers off down the gravelly lane. I find her fallen at the corner, clutching her leg, blood trickling into the flowery verge.
It was just a dare, she says.
Lorri’s leg mends but she no longer climbs trees. Instead she dares men to climb inside her open legs and she dares drinks vodka by the bottle and by the time she is twenty she has two kids and a black eye.
Lorri dares coke and speed; she dares life on the streets, she dares life itself.
She is only past forty when she dies in her sleep. After the funeral her voice slips into my ear in the middle of the night, death is just another dare. I wonder what else she might say but soon I can no longer hear her voice. She is in the distance, waving, and this time she is the one far out and I am the one on solid ground.
Bronwen Griffiths is the author of two published novels and two collections of flash fiction. Her flash pieces have been published online and in a number of print anthologies – both in the UK and USA. Two of her novellas-in-flash have been short-listed/long-listed for the Bath award. She lives in East Sussex, UK. She tweets @bronwengwriter.