Disclaimer: I do not own Noughts and Crosses or any of its sequels.
The gentle waves lapped up and down the beach, breaking on the rocks with a wash of white foam. I let the breeze ruffle my hair playfully as I leaned my head back to face the clear blue sky that stretched beyond imagination. The sharp smell of sea salt stung my nose, but added to the illusion of tranquility. Illusion, what a word. This is no illusion - I'm sitting next to the most important person in my life. These are the times I wished that would last forever.
I turned to look at him with curiousity. His voice was strained. I gave him a tentative smile, trying to reassure him.
This is after all life. Trying to win a game that cannot be won, trying to stay together in a world trying to force us apart...
"Shall we get going then?" Callum suggested suddenly, standing up.
He brushed the sand off his jeans and smiled at me.
I sighed inwardly. Knowing that he had something on his mind that troubled him troubled me too.
"So it's to Celebration Park for the picnic?" I said as I got up and followed him up the stone stairs.
"Yeah," he answered stiffly.
He was still angry at what happened at the lunch table.
"Still angry about the lunch table business?" I sighed. "I don't care what others think about us."
"Thats out of the question. You should care - you're a Cross, the daughter of the great Kamal Hadley." I heard the mockery in his voice as he uttered that name. "What if they-"
"All I care about is being with you. I don't care. I'm not a hypocrite or a snob."
There's that twisting sensation in my stomach. I always get that whenever she says awkward things.
"Callum?" she said uneasily.
Her mouth twisted uneasily.
"Lets go, we'll miss the train," I said. "Got the tickets?"
"Yeah," she said fishing them out of her pocket.
The walk to the train station was in silence. Neither of us had anything to say, so we remained silent. My fists were starting to clench. Why aren't things simple anymore? I feel so rejected despite the fact that I passed that ruddy exam. All those Crosses hate my guts.
When we reached the station I felt a feeling of déja vu creep up on me. As we boarded the train I silently prayed that the officers wouldn't inspect us. I think Sephy must've had an inkling - she'd purchased second-class tickets this time. I could feel her gaze searching me as I sat down on the worn out seat at the back of the train. She frowned.
"Sure you want to sit here?" she said skeptically. "Why don't we choose better seats? I bought second-class for a reason."
Her smile was teasing but it didn't reach her eyes.
"No thanks, I think I'd rather avoid them," I said pointedly, looking at a group of Cross businessmen who had settled into their seats in the middle of the carriage. They had an air of authority as they withdrew their expensive laptops and plugged in their earphones. I gazed at them longingly.
"Ok, if you say so. I could always get them to move you know, I am Kamal Hadley's daughter," Sephy teased. "Like last time-"
She shut up.
"Sorry," she said timidly.
"It's ok. I am a Nought - they wouldn't want me in the way. Besides you probably don't want be seen..."
"Like I said - I don't care."
I occupied myself by staring out of the window for the rest of the journey. Occasionally we would indulge ourselves in mildly interesting chatter but otherwise we didn't speak. I was regretting that I'd ever planned this trip. It was drastic, to try and get Sephy to be my Sephy again. The dull look in her eyes as she watched me from that distance. The empty worn out stance she held, the wind billowing her jacket and skirt out... that scene was like something out of a movie, not my life. But what should I have done? Welcome her with open arms? I would look like a complete and utter fool.
"This is the stop Callum."
We got off the train and walked to Celebration Park.
In an attempt to make things less awkward I suggested that we take a picture when we got to our usual picnic spot..
"So how about it Callum?" I asked eagerly, swinging my camera infront of his face.
I looked around for the most suitable place to take it and spotted a stream with the most beautiful lilies and trees surrounding it. Branches draped over it like a curtain. The scent of the fresh grass made my mouth water.
"Hold on, let me set the tripod up," I said rather flippantly unzipping the tripod bag.
I wasn't really into photography so I had no idea to set it up. I paused and stared at it hoping that some sort of clue was written on one of the legs.
"Here - let me set it up."
Callum took the tripod out of my unresisting hands and unscrewed the legs. He managed to set it up in less than a minute.
"Where's the camera?"
I gave it to him and waited as he fitted it on. He looked through it and gave me a thumbs up.
"Great view too," Callum said wistfully.
"Yeah," I agreed.
"Ok, shall I put it in Burst Mode then? We'll need a couple. And I'll need to get there in time "
"Good idea! Can you do that?"
I heard a click and the red light started to flash.
He ran to my side and wrapped his arm tightly round my shoulders - not in his usually casual way though. This time he clutched me with longing and caring. My heart started to thud uncontrollably.
I grinned as hard as I could, happy that he had loosened up and become my Callum again.
The camera flashed 5 times.
I laughed today more than I ever had. Ever. Even with Sephy on our last trip. I forgot who I was and what had happened over the past few days, something I never thought was possible.
Of course we had to have a food fight - they're expected. We got all messy and threw ourselves into the stream, or rather I pushed Sephy and she dragged me in!
"It's sooo cold," I complained as the water lapped against my knees.
Not that it was cold! The sun was beating down on us and it felt like an oven - what luck. The weatherman claimed that it would rain.
Sephy just laughed. "Coward!"
She splashed me, making me shiver uncontrollably. I gave her a sneaky look and splashed her back.
"C'mon Callum!" she cried, standing up and running off. "Catch me!"
i grinned as I chased her round the park, getting odd looks from old Cross woman and disapproving scowls from the park keeper.
"C'mon Callum you can do better than that!"
Her laugh was so carefree, and so young. If only I could somhow relive the experiences the tender age of 14 gave me. Fun and laughter before the reality sunk in.
She stopped and collapsed suddenly. My heart stopped as I rushed to her side. I crouched beside her and cradled her panic, hoping that she was ok. Until she opened her eyes suddenly. She went into hysterics of laughter.
"Gotcha Callum!" she teased, her laughter lighting up her cheeks and eyes.
I sighed, shaking my head. "What am I going to do with you?"
"I'm just... happy."
"Thats a terrible understatement," I muttered.
Sephy grinned and shifted so that she was in a more comfortable position on my legs. My heart was starting to plummet down a rollarcoster.
I looked up at the sky, wistfully. The sleepiness eluded me but I was determined to stay awake. Callum's head obsucured most of my view. His head was over mine, making it seem like an eclipse blocking the sky. Although I wasn't complaining. His eyes were full of questions.
"Don't you wish that these times last forever Callum?" I sighed sleepily.
Callum gently brushed my hair out of my eyes with a slight smile. "It depends really. Wouldn't we get bored of each other?" He said the last bit with a mocking tone.
"I was naive then. I didn't know..."
"You still are Sephy. It's not good for us to be together, this is a Nought and Cross world. There are boundaries and rules unfair or not..."
How many times do I have to tell him? I gazed at him with skepticism.
"Nevermind. We're here now and nothing can change that," I pointed out.
"You'll never understand Sephy, you're in the inside, I'm on the out. You're a Cross and I'm a Nought..."
"Don't believe what they say Callum, I know you know better!" I whispered, reaching out for his face and brushing his lips gently. He shifted slightly.
"Lets just enjoy this moment of peace ok?" Callum suggested, leaning back onto the grass. I snuggled up to him, amazed by the way he casually held a position of ease as the grass ruffled around him. I took his hand and warmed it against mine. He's always cold, so very cold...
Callum, why won't you just forget yourself sometimes and enjoy yourself?
On the journey back we were a lot more relaxed and chilled. We walked to the beach to catch the last rays of the sunset, still grinning. Sephy collapsed on the sand. I watched her from a distance and marvelled at the way she looked like a model from a painting; the way she sat, the way the rays framed her figure, truly beautiful. Her long shadow shifted as she turned to grin at me.
"It's a great sunset don't you think Callum?" Sephy said beckoning me.
I went up to her and sat next to her. She was right - it was. The sun was on the peak of the horizon and a beautiful blend of red, gold, and yellow blotted the sky.
I put my arm round Sephy's shoulder's and she immediately put her head on my chest. She shivered slightly and I regarded her.
"Wear my jacket," I insisted.
"I did that last time," she protested but she didn't shrug it off as I hung in over her shoulders.
The silence stretched between us. A strange feeling enveloped me. It was a... a desperation. I had a feeling that this would be the last time I'd be happy... honestly. It wasn't a true positive feeling, so maybe I should ignore it. But it was unbearable to spend these last few minutes of the day in silence.
"Sephy, will we be able to do this again sometime?" I asked gently.
"I don't think so, not till next summer," she sighed. "Mother won't let me."
My grip tightened on her shoulders and she frowned at me.
"It's getting late. Shouldn't you be going back?" I said.
She shrugged. "So be it. I'm staying here as long as I can."
I smiled wryly. "Your Mother won't like it."
"I don't care about Mother. I care about you."
I didn't speak until I was sure that I would respond in a sane way.
"Me too. Despite everything," I admitted.
"Thats alright then," Sephy said, satisfied.
"My Mum's going to freak, so I'm going," I sighed in regret. "Sorry."
Sephy shrugged. "Not like you can help it."
"Are you staying here longer?"
"Yes, it truly is beautiful when it's twilight," Sephy said wistfully. "Shame we can't share it."
"Yeah. See you in... school on Monday Sephy."
I walked up the stone steps in a slow motion. Like I was going to leave her, on her own, defenseless. I hid in the shadows and shared the beauty of twilight without her even knowing.
That was the last time I saw her before she was beaten up by Lola, Joanne, and Dionne.