Easter Sunday

As I sit and write this, I think of children and their craving for more experience. They wish, as I once did, to advance time beyond themselves. For myself, it was those dinner table exclusions that would pass eye-to-eye between parents over the top of wine glasses. They were almost jokes at my expense- I would 'get it when I was older'. Oh how I wished and wished to be older. I begged to not be treated like, for God's sake, a baby. I wanted to be a grown up but the concept was so abstract to me at that age, so foreign, that I thought it meant a dream house like the ones I'd drawn on wax paper with crayons; a smoking chimney, a strip of acid-green grass and blue sky all for myself. Something of my very own.

I strained to carve out those fragments of imagined maturity for myself, back when I thought maturity could only bring me good things and freedom.

It was Easter Sunday fourteen years ago. My parents weren't rich but we were well-off enough to afford an in-country getaway during school holidays. We often spent time at the Ponteville Caravan Park, too far from the lakes to be described as in the Lake District but still tucked neatly away from it all in the countryside. Thirty or so yellow painted vans in a spiral formation around a log-cabin clubhouse referred to as The Den. The site was only accessible via a dirt road and was enclosed on all sides by farmland and patches of forest.

Those vans were well-kept but always had that blueish taxi smell- of cigarettes leaking through air freshener. They hadn't been re-decorated since the seventies and if the weather strayed outside the realm of mild the TV would static and fuzz. This was only an issue to my brother, already mature, a cool-ish 13-year-old. He felt worlds away, only my brother by blood. He was embarrassed by me and I'm sure he dreaded these caravan reprieves as much as I loved them.

You see, far from being upset by a dodgy TV, I had my own little cohort of holiday friends that I would busy myself with. Other kids who would habitually come to Ponteville over school breaks. Our get-togethers being brief made them all the more special, particularly over Easter, when we would all join forces to complete an egg-hunt arranged by the site managers, a lovely old couple who kept cats. They would hide these plastic egg-capsules- the type you crack open to reveal chocolate- around the site and parts of the woods every year for the seven-or-so kids who were regulars. Well, six by that time, I guess, since my brother was all grown up.

Easter was tomorrow, but I looked out the window of the room I shared with my brother and felt the disappointment already setting in. It had been raining the previous few days, badly, and was still coming down in grey sheets just a few inches from my face. The type of rain I now know sweeps students off the streets and into the library. I'll always now associate that rain with mouldy air conditioning and a stale book smell. Deodorant spiked through with sweat and the clacking of keys hurrying to finish a paper. Back then, the rain only meant ensuing boredom.

Still, Easter morning, and although it was cloudy, blue-tinged, the rain seemed to have cleared up. Now all we had to worry about were those marshed patches that could sink and stick wellington boots. We were all given warnings not to climb over fences into farmland, and with our over-sized wicker baskets, we were off to hunt eggs.

Sweat sticking down fringes, rosy cheeked and insulated by raincoats, our parents glanced out at us periodically from the windows of The Den where they had congregated for coffee, as every so often one of us would shriek and run past. Eventually we had swept the whole site from top to bottom and found what I now assume was all of the eggs, shining jewel-like in our baskets, those cheap things. At the far end of the site, the furthest part of fence away from that dirt road and The Den, was a gap of wooden fence we all leaned on to peer at the disused barn on the other side, only about fifty metres away. Even at that age I knew about disused. Old, broken, nobody there. I don't remember who it was that suggested we check the place for eggs, but we were all so giggly and flushed that even the crybabies amongst us, pedants before knowing the meaning of pedantic, hopped the fence. We didn't have to use the door as there was a sizeable hole in the wooden exterior of the barn that we all crouched through. It was dry inside, and inside, slumped on a wall, we saw the Easter Bunny.

It sat still and watched us, not giving any clues, but we felt sure it meant there were eggs nearby. We went methodically through the barn. It was empty, but that didnt stop us sifting through rotting piles of hay. Really, its lucky none of us got tetanus- anything could have been hidden in there. Anything apart from eggs- I don't remember what the others said or did, but I remember feeling easily accepting of the fact that the Easter Bunny hadn't tricked us, nothing like that! I thought it might have been sitting against the barn wall watching the hunt from afar!

We said our goodbyes to it and although it didnt reply (I do remember one of the other little boys at this point reminding us that rabbits couldnt speak English), I thought I saw its ears twitch in recognition. We headed back to The Den with such a tall tale, though we didn't say where exactly we had met the Easter Bunny- after all, we knew we weren't supposed to be in that barn. Of course, we went back the next day, our little procession, but by then it had left, with only the blackened imprint on the dirt barn floor of where it had been sitting to prove it was ever there.

I always looked back on that memory so fondly. Some piece of magic that was for me and only me. Something, for once, that adults didn't understand. Mine.

I'm not quite sure what to say next. Every time I think of it now my mouth goes dry. I'm twenty years old, of quite a nervous disposition, but this makes me go even paler, clutch even harder and more fleetingly at my hands whenever a new piece of the puzzle resurfaces and comes into form.

It's not a perfectly clear memory, not even a silhouette, but shards of it replay themselves for me sometimes and I still cant quite believe we didn't notice the track marks, or the fact she was only in lingerie.

I remember the way she was crooked against the barn wall and the pale tinge of scar tissue and the plastic carrier bag over her face- her head had been shoved through a tear in the bottom of the bag, and it was secured with a cord at her neck. Atop her head, the handles, knotted, stood stiff and straight up. They had looked like rabbit ears.

My maturity. In my maturity I realise that her spiriting away the following morning had less to do with the stroke of midnight on a holiday and probably more to do with a group of people, a van, strong hands to break the rigor-mortis. Oh yes, she was probably dead. She might not have been when we found her. Perhaps she was comatose, listening to our sickening inflections. "Goodbye Bunny!" I had said. For God's sake.

I truly have something of my very own, something I haven't told a soul. That we might have been able to do something if we werent dopey middle-class kids. I haven't seen any of my caravan friends for many years, but I wonder if they have warped it over so many times in their heads, as I have. An abscess with constant pressure. I would trade that coloured-crayon house in my sketchbook to be able to go back and give myself that sliver of maturity that might have helped her.

Or maybe I wouldn't. Maybe I would wish to take it all back. I would be Peter Pan and keep that childhood memory soft-tinged. I wish to still tell people that I met the Easter Bunny.