Leia has loathed seagulls since the last time she went to the beach with her dad. She remembers them flying above her head, their squawk as they fell from the sky, how he laughed when they stole her chips from right under her nose, saying she’d never be a soldier because she couldn’t anticipate an attack, how he laughed again when she said she didn’t want to be, how the noise he made was the same as on those nights when she was supposed to be asleep, when she heard her mum give a sound as soft as the sea when Leia dangled her feet into the water, laughing as he did when he warned them both not to be such babies. When her Mum was pregnant, her dad decided his child would be the youngest sailor to cross the Atlantic solo. Leia is old enough now to sit by the water alone, old enough to know that salt tastes different on chips, on lips, and ships. Leia is old enough to know records won’t be broken, but hearts will. She remembers that same day, the salty taste of her tears, how he flung the food away in fury because she was not quick enough to duck when they divebombed. Seagulls are scavengers, her Mum told her when they got home, when her dad stormed off to the pub because of something someone did or didn’t say, and Leia remembers looking up ‘scavenger’ in a dictionary because she didn’t know what it meant and how the definition reminded her of her dad, how he would collect the things that other people threw away, polish them and place them next to the medal he kept in the shoe box beneath the bed. She remembers asking him once why he didn’t have more medals if he had been such a good soldier and his answer afterwards which made her cry again, and how much later on, her Mum said she hated seagulls too because they were aggressive and would shit all over things and leave a lot of mess then fly away. Leia dangles her feet over the water’s edge, feathers the Atlantic with her toes, turns to her Mum who is carrying ice-cream, not chips. They both know it’s easier to hide. They both prefer sweetness to salt. Leia looks up to the sky, searching for the sound, knowing exactly what to do if attacked.
Hannah Storm writes narratives of fiction and non-fiction and the spaces in between. Her stories are inspired by her years of travelling the world as a journalist, the people she has met and the places she has been. Her debut collection, ‘The Thin Line Between Everything and Nothing’, is published by Reflex Press. Her writing has been named in Best Microfictions, the BIFFY 50 and placed second in the Bath Flash Fiction Collection. Her memoir was recently shortlisted in the Mslexia annual award. Hannah lives in Yorkshire, England, with her family, from where she works as a media consultant and mental health advocate, as well as writing and offering writing workshops.
Photograph by Chanan Greenblatt (@chanan) | Unsplash Photo Community