Learning To Fly

Sonia hunched her shoulders against the bitter sea wind. She looked around. This place was grey above and grey below, with only hints of yellow from the crumbling sandstone walls. No greens, no browns even, and certainly nothing from the red family unless you counted the stones that capped the high perimeter wall. No-one looked out and no-one looked in.

There was the blue of the uniforms, she supposed, but even that seemed to melt into the gravel and tarmac underfoot an the grey-upon-grey of the clouds. Before she had come to this place, she hadn’t even known you could watch different layers of cloud race by each other. She had thought of “clouds scudding by” as something that happened in blue skies.

Everything was wrong here. The way they talked, the jokes they made. Even the games. Everything, calculated to make her feel like an outsider forever.

Sonia leaned against a drainpipe until she was barged aside by some kid flying “home”. Drainpipes! She’d had trees as home-base, climbing frames, grass underfoot, before. What kind of a place was this to send kids? Drainpipes and dreariness. It made some kind of sense.

Sonia trudged around the corner, out of the building’s measure of shelter, and staggered. The seagulls were heading inland in great coasting circles and the stormy blast almost picked Sonia up off her feet.

“C’mon Sonia!”

Sonia’s scowl slipped a little when she saw Paula beaming at her. Paula had been “assigned” to he on her first day. Not, perhaps, who Sonia would have chosen for a best friend but there as no denying she was a good choice to look after a new girl: unfailingly kind and sweet.

“Were’ve you been? C’mon, let’s be kites!”


“Uh-huh. Kites!”

The girls at this school were full of new games that left Sonia clumsy and frustrated: skipping rhymes, hand-clapping, elastics, kick the can, hares and hounds.

“What’s kites,” she shouted into the wind, dreading the answer.

Paula grinned.

“It’s magic!” The words raced past Sonia on a gust of salty air and were gone.

Paula grinned again and reached each hand down to grasp the front corners of her blue woolen blazer. With a deft move, as if throwing a skipping rope forward over her head, she pulled her jacket up, behind her and stretch her arms up high. The upside-down coat-back caught the air, ballooned out and pulled the giggling girl backwards. Paula leaned forward at an impossible angle, letting her ‘sail’ hold her up, defying gravity.

“Come ON, Sonia. Its brilliant, so it is!”

Fumbling, Sonia struggled with her own blazer. She wriggled the bottom hem up towards her neck, her head. She gasped as icy fingers of wind wrapped themselves around her shirt-clad middle, but she kept pulling at her coat until her arms were straight overhead.

Sonia staggered backwards as a huge gust of wind caught her kite-coat. She fought it and took a step forward.

“Lean into it!”

She thought she had caught all of Paula’s words as they tumbled past.

She leaned.

She strained into the wind.

She knew she ought to be falling but the very air of this place was holding her up.

And she was laughing; wild, silent laughter, erupting from her frozen belly, escaping through her wide-open mouth, sound snatched away by the wind-friend who was letting her fly.