Belief

Man is harder than rock and more fragile than an egg. (Yugoslav Proverb)

Isme thinks she will always have her brother, she can't imagine him not being there. Then suddenly, he isn't and yet he is. The horror comes not from his going, but the manner of his going. The hit and run wasn't a hit of run, and she need's Rob's help to prove this, even if he is dead.

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1. Strange Creature

 
What strange creatures brothers are!”
― Jane Austen

 

“Since when was Rob popular enough to get invited to the cool kid’s party?” I sneer from the back seat, intensely jealous that my big brother gets to spend the night partying and I am faced with the joys of drama club and homework.

“Let me think. Since I had friends,” he retorts, turning around and leering.

In a split second I lean forward, my hand itching to slap that perfect face. Instincts warn him just in time and he leans backwards, nudging mum’s elbow. The car swerves into the middle of the road and I scream, partly in terror, partly to annoy people.

“Cut it out you two!” Mum snaps, rolling her eyes. “Isme, stop winding him up.”

“I-I,” stuttering I realise my situation is hopeless. I have no chance. Rob always wins.

 

We pull up outside a squat, dump of a house. “Gross,” I chant from the back seat.

“Bye mum, I’ll see you later.” He slams the door shut and heads down the path to the front door. The car moves forward to my doom.

Every Friday afternoon, I get to celebrate the end of a long hard week by helping out at the local drama club. To make it clear, this is a chore, not a choice. If I have any chance of getting this wretched  Duke of Edinburgh  award, this is it. It is just my luck that this is the only option I have. Slowly, I make my way into the decrepit building, gagging at the stench of woman’s perfume and body odour that replaces the oxygen. Screams, shouts and the pounding of feet make my head reel and I know a headache is imminent.

Luckily, the class is only an hour, anymore and I would be in imminent danger of having a hissy fit like so many of those kids.  Mum’s tacos has never seemed so appealing as when I stagger through the door, collapsing  onto the chair.

“You look rough,” dad says with a mouthful of meat in his mouth.

“My day was great dad thank you how was yours?”

 

Homework, pj time, hot chocolate and bed. Another ordinary day done. Now at least I can relax and enjoy my weekend. Not like Rob though, he is celebrating the only way you should celebrate the weekend. Partying all night. Despite my exhaustion, I really would not mind being there. I need to climb the social ladder.

Uh, I closed my eyes for a minute and then the phone goes and interrupts my dreaming. Groaning, I look at the clock. Half three, the digits red and angry in the dark of my room. Half three. Who calls at half three! It’s ridiculous. The digitalized shrill of the phone keeps boring into my brain. “Please someone pick it up,” I moan, the warm duvet holding me too tightly for me to escape.

Mum’s feet come shuffling down the corridor, I would recognize that tread anywhere. This is what comes of buying over-sized slippers in the hope your feet will grow into them.

“Hello, who is it?” Mum’s voice is thick with sleep and tinged with annoyance. Then there’s silence. My muscles tense. Silences on the phone always worry me. Always have. This silence seems to go on a while. “Thank you,” mum closes the conversation. My premonitions were right, her voice has changed key, she sounds distant.

Concern overpowers comfort and I stumbled into the corridor. She is staring straight ahead, her eyes glazed over. Dad comes out of his room, looking like a disgruntled bear.

“Carys?” he puts a hand around her shoulder, guiding her against him. Light bounces of the silver snail trails running down her face. My anatomy rearranges itself, my stomach migrating south and my heart embarking north to my mouth. It beats so fast, the vibrations in my mouth hurt.

“Rob…accident….hospital,” Mum gasps out, unable to breath, her chest heaving. Dad’s whole body goes rigid. There is a moment of horrified silence before anyone speaks.

“I’ll get the car.”

 

We wrap up warm, our excuse is because it’s a cold night but it’s nearly summer. The cold isn’t an external thing. I sit in the back seat, numb, totally unable to feel anything, a hollowed out boat. Biting my lip, I try to force emotion into me but it’s not there. Grief has made me robotic whereas with mum, it has made her vulnerable. Dad, I don’t know but I can sense his strain, like he's balancing on a tightrope.

The darkness rushes past the window and the headlights make strange creatures. Trees, bushes, hedges, become twisted shapes that shimmer and move as the light catches their glossy leaves. Things that are beautiful have become monsters that are coming closer. Closing my eyes tight, I bring my knees to my chest and inhale the remnants of my perfume. It’s not a child’s fear; it’s a recognition of my own identity. I’m looking into a mirror but from the other side.

There is no way to escape now and I don’t think there will ever be.

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