Letters and Diary Fiction posted September 6, 2015

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Taken by Surprise--Part 4 of 9

by jpduck

Monday, 24th July, 1951
When I came out of the caravan this morning in my dressing gown to walk across to the shower block, Jack was standing near the door waiting for me. It was so funny. Jack didn’t know where to look. He looked down, he turned away, he jiggled about in agitation. He must have said sorry eight or nine times. He seemed appalled at his ‘indiscretion’. I grabbed his hand, mid-jiggle, “It’s okay, Jack. Calm down. Haven’t you seen a girl in a dressing gown before?”
“Well … No, actually … except for Celia, and she doesn’t count.”
“So, now you have. Make the most of it,” and I pirouetted in front of him. Poor Jack, I shouldn’t tease him. He’s so gorgeous.
My God! I just wrote that?     Yes I did.     And it’s true.
I told him I was just going to grab a shower. “I’ll be all yours in twenty minutes,” I giggled.
“I’m going back to my tent, g-give me a shout when you’re ready,” he called over his shoulder.

Jack said he heard some kids saying there was a great cave in the cliffs of the next bay along. Would I like to explore it with him?
We walked along the cliff-top path to the steps down. Sure enough, there was a black, gaping hole in the cliff near the bottom of the steps.
We peered in. It went in a long way; I couldn’t see how far. But Jack had brought a powerful torch with him. He shone it in and we could just make out what looked like it might be the back wall.
“Wow! Come on Ruth; it looks great.”
“Hang on, Jack. We don’t want to be cut off by the tide.”
“It’s not a problem, Ruth. Look, it’s a long way out. We’ve got hours to spare.” He grabbed my hand and led me in.
The floor of the cave was rough, with water-filled holes scattered about. We made our way to the back.
Jack swung the torch beam all over. “Look!” he yelled, pointing at an opening about nine feet up. “I can easily reach that; there are plenty of holds.” He raised his foot to a crevice in the rock wall.
“No! Please don’t, Jack.” I was scared. If he didn’t fall off, I could easily imagine him disappearing into the hole and leaving me in the clammy, dripping darkness. What if he got stuck deep in the hole. I wouldn’t be able to help him.
He turned and looked me in the eyes, and I returned his gaze. His face crunched into a frown. His mouth pulled questioningly to one side. He was staring at my face. Abruptly he relaxed, his eyes opened wide and he gave a little smile. “Sure. No problem. Shall we go back?” He took my hand again and led me gently towards the sunlight.
As we walked towards the steps, I said, “Jack, you’re amazing.”
He stopped and turned to me. “Eh? … What? … Why?”
“You really wanted to explore that hole, didn’t you?”
“Oh that. It didn’t matter. I think you might have hated being left in the dark.”

Monday, 24th July, 1951
I woke up rather early this morning, feeling very excited at the thought of another lovely day by the sea. I went over to Ruth’s caravan, but then realised it was a bit early to be knocking on their door. So I decided just to hang around until she came out. (Why did I do that? Why did I do that? Fool!!!!!!!).
After about fifteen minutes the caravan door opened and she came out. She was in her pyjams and a flimsy dressing gown thing. It was dreadful. I looked the other way and told her I was sorry. That may even have made it worse. I’m sure she thought I was being some sort of horrible peeping tom creature. Oh, I’m such an idiot.
I rushed back to my tent, asking her to let me know when she was ready as I fled.
I asked Dad if I could borrow his big torch.
“What do you want that for?”
“I thought I would explore the cave in the next bay.”
“Good idea. I’ll come with you. I don’t want you exploring caves on your own.”
“No, it’s okay, Dad. I won’t be on my own.”
“Oh, I seeeeee,” he said. “You’ll be going with little Ruthie, will you?” and gave me a greasy grin.
“Stop it Dad, will you? And don’t call her Ruthie; she hates it.”
“Okay, I’ll remember. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” he said as he gave me the torch. He can be such a freak.
When Ruth and I reached the cave, it was amazing. It was a bright day, but we couldn’t see the far end of the cave at all until I shone the torch in. I started to walk in, but Ruth hung back. She said she was worried about being cut off by the tide, but I think she just found the whole adventure a bit scary. So I held her hand as we walked in, and I think that helped her.
When we reached what seemed to be the back wall, I spotted an opening fairly high up on the wall. It was plenty big enough for us to get in, one at a time. I thought it might be a passage linking up to a huge network of caves. How fantastic would that be? I could see it was an easy pull up to the entrance, and I started climbing.
Ruth shouted at me to stop. I shone the torch back on her, and I could see she was really scared. I was about to tell her not to be so soft, when I realised she wasn’t kidding. I felt bad about that and went back to her, trying to smile and look happy about it all. Perhaps girls aren’t naturally adventurous; it would have been mean to carry on. I can always go back there with Dad, sometime.
As we walked back to the mouth of the cave, Ruth suddenly said I was amazing. But I hadn’t even climbed up to the tunnel, so I don’t really know what she meant. Then she said something about how I really wanted to get into the passage. All a bit odd, really; perhaps it’s something to do with being a girl. Who knows?



These are extracts from the diaries of two 12-year-old children, Ruth and Jack, who meet on a caravan holiday in Dorset, UK. It is fictionalised biography. The main characters are all real, with names changed. The broad outline of the holiday is also real.

The nine episodes will be posted on alternate Sundays, interleaved with further chapters from the novel, 'Time & Again'
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