Summer 2005. I was ten. It was two years ago that I had seen the baby fox and their mother. I would sometimes wonder if they were still out there, flashing through the woods.
I stomped through the landscape, looking for fun, growing bored of what the countryside of Devon could offer.I was growing restless in the fields and hedgerows, which manifested in a lethargy. I didn’t want to go walking, and I didn’t want to build tree swings.
Robins nested in the shrubs outside, hiding in the green; intent on their secrets, they flew to and from their invisible babies with mouths full of white grubs. They knew something I didn’t. Their wings flitted faster than the eye could see, whilst rabbits sat in pairs, noses twitching in the grass. I saw pigeons outside, often, pursuing each other on the wire fences; then they mounted one another for a brief few seconds of frantic fluttering. I moved through the landscape, growing tall and full of dread. I stomped on earwigs and chopped worms into three pieces.
The summer passed this way, full of torrid hours spent alone. I was ready to move to ‘big school’ as my mum had called it, in the way mothers often term things in their own, euphemistic language. ‘Big school’, was secondary school, when I broke objects around the house it was ‘an oopsie’, and the boy from my class, whose shadow I had adopted, was ‘a bad influence.’ When I had the chance, I clung to this boy like the summer heat. He lived across the fields and towards the adjacent estate.
His name was Oscar.
He had skin like a speckled egg shell, yellow hair, and spoke as though he was never sure where he was going with his sentences. He always had flecks of biro on his forearm. His noised pointed upwards, and his nostrils flared when he spoke to me. He knew things about the world I didn’t understand, and didn’t know where he’d learnt them, but I believed him all the same. How could I question him when I was shorter than him—one growth spurt behind?
We saw each other infrequently, but I was desperate to earn his respect, and enter his world: some world beyond these fields, some world in which I wasn’t alone.
The air was electric, brimming with the charge of change.