It’s the grunt that makes me turn, the scraping of buckles against stone. He looks surprised, appears to be lying back, resting on his pack. His legs whisk up as he tips a little further; I notice the patterned tread on his soles as he falls away, accelerating down the shining rock face.
He hangs spreadeagled in the air before hitting the boulders far below, bouncing, a faraway doll somersaulting head first into the lake. A dozen ducks fly up; ripples head away from the foaming spot where he went in.
We’d been traversing the steep side of the lake, zigzagging up a disused fishermen’s track that skirted rock walls and vanished into sodden clumps of grass.
She and I were muttering behind him, I’m soaked, I’m tired, why are we the only people on this side? He heard and turned, put on the threatening grin, saying DARLINGS today’s adventure brings us THIS way. He took more stuff out of my rucksack until I was carrying a single water bottle; his pack was so overloaded it towered over him. But I’m strong, I said. You’re a ten-year-old shrimp, he said, your sister can help. I’m only twelve, she said, and my rucksack’s heavy, but he didn’t hear and sent us ahead.
A word is stuck in my throat as she drops her pack and leaps down the rocks, finding invisible footholds. She reaches the lake and wades in, seizes the bobbing, unravelling rucksack with him underneath, lugs the lot into the shallows. I stare, paralysed; she drags him into sitting position. He leans sideways. She’s shaking his arm.
Her voice carries: Dad, your head. He is wearing something red and flowing, a long red veil covering his face and white t-shirt.
She looks up, at me.