The Death of Coleridge

Stefanie looked out from the large rock she stood high on. Everything was grey. The sea didn’t shine sapphire but glooped together liked liquid steel, instead of an azure sky above, the clouds gathered ashen, the stone, once warm and smooth, now seemed cold and sharp as sediment gathered in the cracks.
“Hmm?” Stefanie turned around to see her brother. He was younger than her by six years. Standing there in his blue wellies, swamped by his oversized green raincoat that had once belonged to her, he tilted his head sideways in an attempt to look up from beneath his hood.
“Coleridge. We could call him, Coleridge.” Jake pointed at the starfish in his bucket. It was a blue plastic bucket shaped like a castle, the four turrets, one in each corner, were scuffed from being dragged back and forth along the road between their house and the beach, on each of their many expeditions. Stefanie walked over to her brother. She was wearing an old wedding dress she’d found in a charity shop the previous week. The fitted lace sleeves reached down to her elbows, the body, vaguely corseted, hung loosely around her frame as she had failed to pull the ribbon tight at the back, allowing one shoulder of the dress to occasionally slip down. The petticoat underneath was torn by age and ripped where someone had trodden on it too often, giving the skirt a zigzag shape that left her legs partly exposed.
“I think it’s dead, Jake.” She knelt down next to her brother, her black wellies chaffing the inside of her calves as she did so.
“He’s not dead! He’s sleeping.” Jake looked at Stefanie indignantly and then back to the starfish, his frown melting away as he refocused on his new favourite friend. Stefanie looked at the starfish submerged in sea water and the sea weed that Jake had thoughtfully collected. She’d studied echinoderms at school in Biology, and remembered her teacher standing at the front of the class explaining how they pushed their stomachs out of their mouths in order to digest their food.
“He can live in the bath,” Jake smiled proudly, the starfish saga unravelling in his mind, “and I’ll buy him some toys, and feed him every day!” Whilst Jake saw triumph and friendship in the upside down plastic castle holding Coleridge, Stefanie saw only an untimely death followed by sticky tears and snot on her brother’s behalf. Why can’t he find a cat for once? She thought.
“Are you sure you want to take it home, Jake? He might be happier here. How do you know he doesn’t already have a home?”
“He told me.” Jake looked at Stefanie with such sincere conviction, she knew the battle ahead would be one of familiar futility.
“Ohhh, he told you,” she said, raising an eyebrow, “well, if that’s the case…” Standing up, Stefanie felt the blood running from her thighs back down into her calves. The hot pain made her wince as she stretched out her muscles.
“Wait! I’m not ready to go yet.” Jake dropped his fishing net and ran past Stefanie towards a pile of driftwood and dead seaweed further up the beach, the lace at the back of her dress catching the small gust of wind tailing behind him as he sped past.
Stefanie returned to the tall rock she’d been standing on previously. With arms outstretched either side and her eyes closed, she stood their motionless like the Angel of the North. A cat. That would definitely be better. Her brow furrowed as she thought about it. I wonder why we’ve never had a pet… I guess there’s no need with Jake bringing them home all the time.
“Stefanieeeeee!” Jake’s voice sailed across the salty air in that unmistakable sing song tone, “Are you looking after Coleridge?”
“Of course I am!”
“You don’t look like you are,” Stefanie could hear Jake’s voice starting to wobble with concern, “you look like you’re pretending to be how Mrs Woodgate said Jesus was!” Laughing, Stefanie turned around and smiled at her brother who was chewing his thumb anxiously.

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