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Cariba's Braids

by Tim Boxer 2 years ago in family · updated 10 months ago
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Zoe finally has to leave her childhood dream island

Cariba's Braids
Photo by Etty Fidele on Unsplash

The propeller wash is knocking back my braids as I step onto the baking tarmac runway. Mum, Dad and Missy are behind me, but they are silent.

There are stern hugs from Mum and Dad, but Missy buries herself into my chest and I feel her fingers clutching, then digging hard into my back. And then the tears.

I cannot cry, my insides feel like hardened clay. I try to smile at Mum, but her brown eyes scare me - they are vacant, and I do not want to become that person.

The minder is waving me over, and I know this is the moment I have to leave so I turn my back and stride forward. He is white as white, not only his skin but his shirt and the badge strung around his neck.

“Well done,” he says, taking my hand. “I know this is hard”.

But he does not know. He and his badge are from another place where everything is grey right angles and clean shiny floors.

I feel myself sinking into the chair and suddenly hands are reaching around my waist and I jolt back shouting at the minder.

“It’s the seat belt, you have to wear it, Zoe,” he says, stepping back.

I knew he wouldn’t understand. I do not want a belt.

“No,” I say. “I do not.” He stares at the floor and looks exactly like he wishes I was easier but half expected me to be this way. I don’t know what he’ll do with me.

There’s a pathetic window next to my chair and I glimpse our house in the distance nestled among a thicket of papaya trees on the hill, half way between the village and the beacon. I can just pick out my bedroom window glinting in the sunlight, my perfect portal over the island from which I'd spent hours, days, weeks spotting these noisy metal birds. I just never thought I'd be forced to use one.

I refuse the seat belt three more times and Minder clenches his jaw and walks up the narrow passage murmuring to the pilot. They think I cannot hear a word. Do they think I am stupid?

“She won’t!” he says, desperate.

I hear the pilot unbuckle his belt and he is stepping out of the cockpit and his face is very red ... but I can’t really hear him above the deadening hum of this machine.


I assume they gave up because the plane is moving. As we pivot onto the runway, I see Mum and Dad standing outside the customs hut, arm in arm; Missy is on the brown grass with her face in her hands. For some reason, I start rocking back and forth and I see my hand reaching for the glass window. And there's a tightness in my chest and a choking sensation I can’t stop, like every unstoppable wave I’ve ever surfed. My eyes are filling with water as I rest my forehead on the window and watch my family become smaller and smaller.

The hum is rising to a deafening roar and it feels like I am being pressed back into my seat. I try to lean forward but I’m thrown backward as the plane jolts and suddenly the deafening roar is gone.

My eyes widen, we must be flying. I look at Minder across the aisle - he is smiling at me so I turn away and look down over the blue bay beneath - it is studded with skiffs, and I think I spot Liberty. Her sail is neatly stowed around the boom.

I wonder if I will sail again?

I wipe my eyes, but I can’t stop crying.


“She has a lump,” they’d said.

“I won’t go,” I’d said.

Nothing had stopped me before, why now? I’d overcome every obstacle Cariba had thrown at me, my whole life. I'd practically raised Missy single handed after Mum and Dad sunk everything into rescuing the boutique; I'd dived for conch when frackles was tight and we had no food and I had learnt to sail without the 'experts'. on mainland.

But now everything has changed.

“You won’t get better here, you have to leave!” they said.

And suddenly, Cariba wasn’t enough.

For the first time there were options over there, that She couldn’t offer.

“This is about survival, Zoe!” Dad said, hysterical.

They made arrangements and said I would stay with cousins for as long as needed. They tried to make me read books about What It Will Be Like to prepare me, but I preferred shell hunting in the shallows or limbering to the tops of banana trees.

But one day I did open the book and saw a sad picture of a child with no hair. They were gazing at someone in white, like Minder, and for some reason they were smiling.

I take a handful of braids and they slot perfectly between my fingers.

I didn’t want to say that I was afraid, but I was.

Not of cancer, nor someone cutting open my body - I’d dug out enough poisonous barbs and splinters from my own flesh, and others'. In fact, I hadn’t thought I was afraid of anything, certainly not death, which She’d shown me more than once.

I am scared of something else, I will admit.

Out the window I see Her for the first time and she looks exactly like the outline of a human foot. The details are gone now, there are only shades of green and a grey strip. And the boats look like pinheads.

Minder is reaching out his hand to me; he has food. I refuse and reach instead for my writing pad, flicking to a clean page. You might be my only friend, I think.

My eyes are still wet as I grip my pen and write:

I am afraid.

I do not want to be left with Minder. His cleanness, and whiteness are real bad. I hope they aren't like that where I'm going.

But what I am most afraid of is losing Cariba's very best gift to me: These 18-year-old black salty bindings.


About the author

Tim Boxer

Tim is UK-based writer of all things family, faith and adventure.

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