From the clifftop they could see the island of Ponza: sailboats and cruiseboats waving up from the harbour, and the countless stone arches.
“Can I keep one?” said Robin.
Tim saw the bird´s eggs before Robin´s small feet as he looked up from the chocolate bar picnic laid out on the cliff top.
“They´re protected. It´s illegal,” said Tim, with a sigh. “Think what mum will say.”
Without fail Robin spoiled everything. Tim couldn´t take his eyes off him for all the dangers. The cliff side was a wall of jagged teeth. Even the salty breeze seemed brittle.
Not to mention the real reason for the trip so high up there – exploration and all of King Solomon´s mines. The red eye in the cliff had been so tempting when he had seen it through his binoculars but now that they had taken the sheer cliff path he didn´t want to go near it, let alone enter it. The tunnel was as big as his arms outstretched, and tangled roots poked out from its crumbling walls. And it was red, blood red.
“Look, treasure,” said his brother.
“Careful,” said Tim.
Moments later, the bird´s egg broke oozily in Robin´s hand. Tim´s biology teacher, Mr.Barnes, had told his class not to disturb nature. It would all be Tim´s fault. No-one ever blamed Robin.
“You´ve gone and killed a baby bird,” said Tim.
“I did not,” said his brother, his face screwed up as it did before he started crying but that didn´t bother Tim because he was in his stride.
“That´s baby juice, in your hand,” said Tim. “Dead bird juice. It´ll stain you forever.”
His brother looked at Tim. His lip began to tremble, and his eyelid began to flutter.
“I´m sorry, Timmy,” he said. Tears poured down his cheek. “I didn´t … mean to.”
He wanted to laugh when he saw his brother´s skin cherried in the noon sun like a little tomato.
“I´m sorry,” said Tim. “If you come over here, I´ll wipe it off.”
Robin crept forward, his little hands shaking.
The tissues were at the very bottom of the bag. The egg white came off with a few judicious swipes, but the yolk clung to the ridged cuff of Robin´s sweater. Afterwards, it gave off an eggy stink. Still, Robin remained a little cautious.
“Tim,” he said. “I´m not really a bird killer, am I?”
“No, Robin,” said Tim. “You´re just a pain.”