The Playground by Jane Shemilt Read Online (FREE)
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It was surprising how quickly things took off in the end, like a bonfire, one of those big ones the children loved so much. Some nights I hear that sound of crackling again, like a bomb ticking down. I wait for the roar and see the flames; the scent of scorching fills the air. I can feel that searing heat.
The children danced around fires all summer, lit up and yelling like wild things. We left them to it, watching from a distance, watching each other more. We were kindling ourselves those long hot months, parched and waiting, though we didn’t know that till far too late.
I used to think truth was a simple thing. That there could only be one truth, single and essential—like light, say, or water. Now I know it comes in layers, some more transparent than others. If you look carefully—and we didn’t—you can see through the top layer to the darkness beneath. I’m thinking of ice on the surface of deep water.
Eve told the truth: she told the police she loved her children and that her marriage to Eric was happy. That was true, the top layer of her truth. She didn’t tell them that she hadn’t watched her children carefully; she didn’t tell them about the affair. She didn’t say how upset Sorrel had been or that she hadn’t listened to her properly, but I don’t think she was hiding that on purpose; she hadn’t seen the truth either though it was staring her in the face.
And Melissa—designer, wife, mother, hiding under that perfect exterior, we didn’t look deeper, not until later, and by then the damage was done.
The children, well, it never occurred to them to tell us the truth. But then it probably never occurred to them they were lying. They were simply surviving. We were all skating on ice, thin ice. No one was looking at the depths beneath, which was pretty stupid, considering what happened.
The day it started began the same for all of us, with blood and sunshine, with hope, with no idea at all.
Eve is in her kitchen making bread; her hands knead and press and throw. The sound will travel up through the ceiling to the beds where the children drowse. They’ll remember this, the sound and the scent, the light through the curtains, feeling safe, being safe. Beyond the open windows, the garden rolls to the wood, the long grass fringed with sun. There’s warmth in the air already. Eve divides the dough into rolls and fills a loaf pan with the rest; she takes the croissants out and stacks them on a rack.
Everything is ready: books, piles of paper, the pencils for each child, and the name tags in bright blue ink: Poppy, Isabelle, Blake. She glances at the certificates hanging by the sink: EVE PEMBERTON, BA (HONS) IN PRIMARY EDUCATION; the smaller certificate means more, the diploma in teaching learners with dyslexia, the course she did online this year, for Poppy.