Lily Place was born by the ocean and grew in a childhood slippery with ribbons of seaweed, and strewn with fluted shells. She climbed the backs of barnacled rocks, and took her scuffed knees to the waves who licked them clean with salted tongues. The creature that scuttled or swam there were familiar to Lily, all except the one she hid in her paintings.
From the age of two, Lily lived with her grandparents in a stone cottage that stood aloof from the small village. Her parents had drowned in an unfamiliar ocean on their only holiday together. The elderly couple remained bewildered by this. They clung to the child, and to the likeness in her of their lost daughter.
It was Miss Roberts, the schoolmistress, who recognised Lily's gift. When given a sheet of rough paper, brush, paints and a jam jar full of water, the racket of the classroom become for Lily the rattle of stones sifted by the tide's pull. Moving between the rows of desks, Miss Roberts paused behind the girl. She noted her flushed cheeks, the rapid sweep of the paintbrush, and she quietly set more paper beside Lily.
As the children streamed out of school at the end of the day, Miss Roberts sorted through the pictures heaped upon her desk. She saw oversized yellow suns. She saw thin strips of blue and orange depicting sky and shore and people who hovered in the white space between the two. The figures had stick arms ending in circles from which fingers fanned out like eyelashes and, if hair was attached, it was as a frame of three short lines, or a continuous coil that corkscrewed over their head.
Miss Roberts placed these pictures in a stack to one side, and turned to the remaining four. She arranged those across her desk. She stood back. She frowned, re-arranged the order, and backed away again. The first picture was a wide view of the shore on a bright day, but Lily's sun could be seen only in the shimmer of light upon water. Each of the pictures took the schoolmistress in a little closer. The last was of a pool between rocks, where a tiny, perfect crab clung, half submerged.
It was only after staring at the final picture for several minutes that Miss Roberts thought she saw something else. It was so imprecise that she was unsure of her conclusion that it was a woman, a young woman, who looked at her own reflection with Lily's eyes. So tenuous was the impression that, when she looked away and then back, she had to find her all over again.
FlashFlood is brought to you by National Flash-Fiction Day UK, happening this year on 27th June 2015.
In the build up to the day we have now launched our Micro-Fiction Competition (stories up to 100 words) and also our annual Anthology (stories up to 500 words). So if you have enjoyed FlashFlood, why not send us your stories?More information about these and the Day itself available at nationalflashfictionday.co.uk.