‘You can’t do that!’ Madeleine yelled.
She watched as her brother, Billy, kicked over her sandcastle.
‘Mum!’ she screamed. She glanced around the beach for her mum. There she was, back with little Ollie, rubbing sunscreen on his body. His hat had an elastic strap under his neck, making his chin look chubbier than usual.
Madeleine’s mum looked her. Shook her head, as if to say you need to work it out between yourselves.
Huffing, she snatched her spade from Billy’s hands and began to build her castle again. She fashioned a moat, three turrets and a drawbridge that she’d used from bark fallen from a tree under the picnic table.
Billy lurked. Waiting to sabotage.
She watched him carefully, from under her eyelids. At only fifteen, Billy’s constant tormenting presence had turned Madeleine into a cynic. Why doesn’t her mum do more to stop him from being so awful.
A cry from Ollie gave the answer. Born twelve years after Billy, Ollie’s arrival into their home had pulled the rug out from under everyone’s feet. Madeleine felt abandoned by her mum. Their dad had moved out six months ago, blaming a black cloud. It was summer; there were only clear blue skies. They said it was temporary. They said once his head was clear he’d come home. But Madeleine knew he’d never come home. Her friend Zara’s dad had never come back either.
Billy’s foot smashed her castle.
‘You’re a shit Billy Thomas!’ she screamed, fighting back tears.
‘Madeleine!’ admonished her mother. ‘Watch your language.’
Of course Mum hadn’t seen Billy’s part. She never did.
Madeleine ran into the surf, to hide her tears.