days heaven. existing on this dichotomy of where earth meets sea insignificantly at peace. I’ve been contemplating binaries the need to know what something is by knowing what it is not. how could we tell this day was like heaven if we didn’t know hell
- Duality, by Aimée King
“Listen, Penelope, I’ve got some troubles to tell you.”
Mel’s English textbook lay forgotten on her lap. She’d had a restless night and come straight to the beach to clear her head. The sun was a copper dome at the far edge of the sea, so small and compact she could have stuck it in her pocket. The faux-gold finish on Mel’s glasses caught the light, casting slivers of brightness onto the dark rock where she’d made her perch. There was not a breeze to be felt this morning, and the flat ocean shimmered with gauzy, pink opulence.
It hadn’t taken Mel long to find the flock of plovers, and after a few minutes of searching with her binoculars she’d finally spotted Penelope, the bird with the red leg band. Mel had tried to sit down and study for her English class, but she couldn’t focus.
Illustration by: Ali Elly (https://www.aliellydesign.com/)
“I know you don’t care, because you’re a bird, but I’m going to tell you anyway,” she said. Penelope was busy preening her feathers and didn’t seem to be paying attention. “So yesterday there was this whole business about me going to uni, how we can’t afford for me to go to Bangor. So I asked my friend Jackie for advice, and she just told me to lie. I already lied about studying medicine, so what’s one lie more? Just accept the offer from Bangor without telling anyone. Let my parents think I’m going to Newcastle, and by the time I tell them otherwise, it’ll be too late for me to go anywhere else.”
Penelope stopped and cocked her head to the side as if to say, you didn’t, did you?
“Not yet, Penelope. I don’t know if I will. I’ve still got months before I have to officially accept anything,” said Mel. “It’s risky. They might retaliate by not letting me go at all. Plus, it just seems like a selfish thing to do. I mean, poor Mam had her work cut to part-time and all I care about is leaving home.”
Penelope swooped on a snail and gulped it down. Mel wondered if the snail tasted any good.
She sighed and drew a lopsided circle in the sand. “I could tell them I’ll pay for it myself, but I don’t know if I can. I’ve got 350 pounds saved up from the café, but it’s not nearly enough. I could just go to Newcastle, but then I’ll be living in the same house with them when they figure out I’m not studying medicine. And Newcastle is beautiful, but it’s not what I want.”
Mel launched into the most emotional part of her speech as Penelope snatched a tiny crustacean from the damp sand. “I do love it here. I think I live in the most beautiful place in the world, and someday I’ll want to come back. But right now I need to get away. I want to meet new people, and be independent, and learn how to dive in the Menai Strait. I need to get out of that suffocating house. I mean, if I have to share a room with Lisa one more–”
A shadow fell across her vision, and an unfamiliar, nasally voice suddenly interrupted her monologue: “Are you stoned, lass?”
About the author: Ella Shively is an undergraduate studying natural resources and writing at Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, USA. You can find her online at
About today’s featured poet: Aimée King is a 24-year-old poet from London living in West Wales studying Documentary Filmmaking for Ecology. Her writing questions the state of the world and how we can create change through a revolution of consciousness, finding inspiration through nature, her relationships and spirituality.
About this chapter's illustrator: Working from her studio on the Northumberland coastline, Ali is an environmental artist whose artworks are inspired by the seas and oceans of our fragile planet. Her work helps highlight the important issues facing vulnerable marine life. She explores the aesthetics of the underwater world to achieve a modern, clean and uncomplicated style with a strong emphasis on illustration. With a background in textile design, she is always searching for natural patterns, using organic formations and composition to make her designs flow. This unique style is further enhanced by her obsession with the colour blue. Working to connect art with science, her work helps to educate making every design the starting point of an interesting conversation.