As she dives into the warm Mediterranean sea, the water splashes and glitters in the hot sun. Here with her sister, the two teenage girls are enjoying themselves. They are both in their element, having learned to swim when toddlers. Now, in puberty, messing about in the sea provides a great excuse for innocent but thrilling contact with boys: throwing each other off the raft anchored 100 yard out from the shore, ducking each other under with a hand pushing the top of the head, grabbing a leg from underwater. It feels like children playing and they are unaware that hormonal changes in their bodies are the reason it feels so exciting.
The father arrives to take them home, unusually early.
“Get in the car” he bellows, the anger in his voice startling the girls from a mood of gaiety to fear in an instant.
Their friends look on, bemused, sympathetic, as the two girls grab their clothes and hurry, dripping, to the car.
The ride home is short but tense. The father’s black rage fills the air in the car which is humid with the girls’ wet bodies, hair, swimsuits. The girls exchange frightened and questioning glances.
Once home, the older girl is ordered to her room, whence she scurries in relief, closing the door behind her. She will find a book to read, escape to another world within its pages, shut out the family drama.
In the living room, the mother is there, her face tense. The father confronts his younger daughter. She is still in her wet bikini and at 13, almost, but not quite, flat-chested.
“Why didn’t you help your mother with the washing-up before you went out this morning?” His voice is deep, powerful, threatening.
“I, I, I don’t know. I didn’t know I had to!” The girl is confused. She doesn’t remember her mother asking for help. She is a helpful child and she loves her mother. She would usually be happy to do any chores asked of her.
“Apologise. Apologise this minute, to your mother.”
“But what for?” she asks
“Don’t you argue with me Young Lady, say Sorry to your mother.”
“But I don’t know what I did wrong”
The father lifts his hand to strike the girl.
“No, Arthur, don’t” pleads the mother. The girl runs along the corridor away from them, but there is nowhere to escape.
The father beats the girl with a squash racket on her buttocks. He has never been physically violent towards her before, although she has learnt to fear his mood swings, and suspects her mother’s black eye last week was not caused by walking into a door, as she had awkwardly explained to anyone who asked.
Eventually the beating stops. The mother has been pleading and trying to pull him away. But it is because his rage is spent that he stops.
The girl hobbles to her room. She will be unable to sit down without pain for many days.
Sometime later, - A half hour? Two hours?-the mother comes to the girl. They hug and weep together. “You must go to him and say you are sorry”.
“Do it for me, my darling”
So she goes to him. He is lying on his bed, crying. “I’m sorry” says the girl. Her Daddy cries some more. She leaves the room.
The incident is never mentioned again, but even when she grows to maturity the girl can never understand what happened. It was a significant event in her life, but what did it signify? She never stopped loving both her parents, and she never could work out why she had to suffer and then apologise for something she didn’t do.