Starbars

A man with a family that is messed up.

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He sat knees to chest, curled up in a foetal position on a train station bench. From one hand hung a brown beer bottle that was half-empty. Nasty, cheap stuff it was. His mouth tasted like something had died in it. But he wasn’t drunk, no, no, this was only his third. In the other hand he had a necklace scrunched up into his fist. It was cold, despite his body heat.

Other, busier-looking people, bundled up against the heavy mist, glanced at him worriedly – or were they nervous? Maybe they though the bottle was a bomb. Though that was why stations didn’t have bins, wasn’t it? Or maybe that was just the big ones, like Piccadilly. He’d seen a clear plastic one near the sole ticket machine.

His train was late. Very late. The other people on the platform buzzed in an unhappy sort of way, irritated at the long wait. An old grandma remarked that it should have arrived a good half-hour ago in a nasal voice.

Knocking his head back, he drained the last of the beer. He stowed the empty bottle away in his bag at his side. He was a mess, he knew. Mum would probably tell him off for it, going on about respect for the dead and the expected “What would Cassie have thought?” speech. Cassie wouldn’t have minded, though, and it was Cassie’s funeral, so he figured it didn’t matter much, as long as he wore something sober and was sober. He’d never be drunk at Cassie’s funeral, though. She was the only decent one of the bunch.

He opened the hand with the necklace in it. It had been Cassie’s, before she went gallivanting off to the army, and Grandma’s before that and probably her grandma’s before that. If he were honest, it looked cheap. Brownish metal and fake mother-of-pearl made up an odd design that might have been a leaf or a swirl. The string was frayed in places and was barely holding near the bulky clasp. Cassie had adored it. She had polished it every night when she’d last visited. She’d pressed it into his hands when she left him at the airport, giving a mini-speech about how it was her promise to him. Her promise that she’d stay safe. Cassie had promised

He quickly unwrapped a Starbar from his bag and shoved half of it into his mouth. He had four others hiding under his clothes as comfort food. Finishing the bar of chewy goodness, he released the death-grip he didn’t realise he had had on the necklace. An imprint of the design was left in the flesh of his hand, dark pink against his pale skin. He peered it, wondering why Cassie had liked it. Cassie had never liked old things, and the spots of rust near the joints made it clear that it was. Then again, Grandma had left it to Cassie in her will, and left Mum practically nothing – a house in Happisburgh full of damp and the odd dead cat. Not that Mum was poor or anything: she worked as a book cover designer for some big publishing company or other.

He was tugged out of his thoughts when the train arrived. Uncurling from his seat, he boarded the train, tucking the necklace into an inner pocket as he walked. He looked around for a free seat, only to find the train crowded. He checked the time on his battered mobile. 07:08am. Rush hour. He went through into the next compartment along and perched on a cushioned lump in the wall by the door. The train jerked into movement soon enough, flying past greenery and the odd building.

He wondered what he should do with the necklace. Giving it to Mum wouldn’t have sat well with Cassie. He didn’t particularly want to keep it as he would probably forget about it. It seemed to be a family thing so giving the thing to a charity shop was out of the question. He could bury at with Cassie at Cassie’s funeral; throw it in after the coffin or something. Not in the coffin: it was the closed-casket sort of funeral. It was prettier that way, he guessed.

He stuffed another Starbar down his throat before that line of thought could go any further.

He idly wondered if they would last until London.

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