Jack and Jill went up the hill with the pail although they could have drawn water from the spring nearer the squat, which would have been less trouble. It was Jill’s idea to go up there to get some space, away from the grown-ups.
Her mother and his father were on to them. At the last communal gathering, they’d started a big discussion on whether ‘the two teenagers’ could share one of the big rooms now they were sixteen and having sex.
‘Hippies suck,’ Jill said when they reached the top and sat in the hollow of the old oak they’d used as a refuge ever since they were kids. ‘They think they’re free but they want to control everybody. Who said we wanted to share a room?’
‘We could just leave,’ Jack said, stroking her hair and kissing her neck. ‘I’d marry you if you like. That would keep them away.’
Jill stared at him. ‘You’d marry me? What for?’
Jack frowned. ‘Normal people do get married if they love each other.’
‘Not when they’re sixteen,’ Jill said but she moved closer and put her hand down his jeans. She imagined a wedding on a beach with palm trees, a house with lamp posts outside. A kitchen with runnng water, a proper bathroom.
They stayed inside the tree for a long time, eating the snacks, smoking weed and drinking the whisky Jack had nicked from the party cupboard. They made lots of plans until Jack told her he’d been sleeping with Patsy, his father’s girlfriend.
Years afterwards, when Jill lived in her own house with her husband Ben, where she had pictures on the window sill of her wedding– the lace and silk dress, the bridesmaids, even her mother wearing a hat, she wondered what would have happened if Jack hadn’t fallen on the way down the hill and hurt his head. If they had taken him to hospital instead of sending him to bed with a brown paper plaster on his crown, if the squat hadn’t disbanded after the investigation, if she had told the police about the fight she’d had with Jack when she pushed him before he fell.
And if Jack were here now, she’d tell him they could go away. She’d leave everything behind. They’d live simply off the land, draw water from a pure spring.
Jude Higgins‘ flash fiction pamphlet ‘The Chemist’s House’ was published in 2017 by V.Press. Her flash fictions have been published in many anthologies and literary magazines. She organises Bath Flash Fiction Award and co-directs Flash Fiction Festivals, UK. @judehwriter. judehiggins.com
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