I'm not sure why I killed my sister. Looking back, I probably should have thought of a better solution that wouldn't have put me in prison, but it's not like I actually regret killing her or anything. I'd say that she deserved it, but she didn't, not really. I don’t really believe that death is earned; death just happens, and sometimes other people make it happen for you.
Making death happen was fun. Best fun I'd had in weeks, ever since I got out of Belnesse.
That's what I told the police, when they asked. They sat me in a chair and got out this voice recorder, and then they asked me why I killed Isabelle. Before I answered, I started unplaiting my hair and blinking my eyes really wide, hoping that doing this wouldn't get on their nerves. I wanted to answer them, but my hair being tied up was giving me a headache and I couldn't just wait until after the interview to put it down. I thought that maybe the big eyes would make them feel sorry for me or something. It always works in movies, anyway.
They were a little surprised by my appearance, I think. I suppose they expected someone fairly strong looking and domineering, someone like Sorianne, but I'm not strong looking, and I don't look all that domineering either, mostly because I'm not.
They expected me to be more fierce as well. I could tell. Calling someone a criminal is calling them an untameable beast, but I'm kind of prim and proper by most standards. My voice is pretty frail, and when I'm scared it gets shaky with apprehension, sort of like the moon when it sees the sun waiting to swallow the stars. Not that I was scared of the police officers, but I never actually sound particularly savage, like murderers are supposed to.
There are only eight things I am afraid of, and the law is not one of them.
Fourteen months ago, I was also scared of Belnesse. It sounds stupid now, when it was basically the making of me, but I was worried it would crumple my heart, my mind, my everything like dirty sheets and use my body to blow its nose on. Metaphorically speaking, of course, but that didn't mean I wasn't petrified of going to the place.
The past me, the even-more-timid-than-I-currently-am me, thought that the idea of mixing with criminals was terrifying. Singing arm in arm around a campfire with jewel-thieves? Horrifying. Sipping hot chocolate and gossiping with drug addicts? Even worse. I barely considered myself 'wayward' (mainly because I hadn't gone and killed anyone yet) and I was hardly tripping over myself to lay claim to the title.
Before Belnesse, all I'd done was slip some stuff in a couple of people's drinks. They deserved it, and I was happy that it got them sent to A&E for a little while. It was all non-lethal, and there was no way they would have died or anything, so I don't see what all the fuss their parents threw was about. These kids had done worse to other poor idiots before, and no one said anything about it.
I was defending my sister, ironically enough. She's autistic. Or rather, she was autistic. She's not now; now she's dead.
It wasn't like I'd done anything serious, but it was enough for their mum and dad to complain to my mum and dad, and enough for my parents to decide that enough was enough and Something Big was going to have to be done about my behaviour. I hadn't done anything specifically out of line before that - I mean, I'd be rude to my parents and I'd had a few detentions and stuff, but it was never anything properly serious. It's still my opinion now that it wasn't the sort of thing that should end in BELNESSE BEHAVIOURAL CENTRE FOR WAYWARD GIRLS in large, black letters on a sign above your head, but it did.
Now I'm better off because of it, apart from my sister being dead, and me being imprisoned and all that. But I suppose that's just a slight liability. I'm planning to get out soon enough, anyway. I got a message from Meela last week, so I shouldn't have to wait too much longer now.
I'm sure Isabelle's much happier too, now that she's eternally peaceful. She's safer that way, at least, much safer than when she was alive. My grandmother always used to tell me that you're not going to die if you've already been murdered once before.
She was clever, my grandmother.
The first time I saw Belnesse I was dressed in white, and Isabelle was dressed in red. She wasn't going to stay there with me, but she wanted to say goodbye seeing as it was partly her fault I was there in the first place. She banged her head on the sign on the way in to the main office, and must have had to bite her tongue to stop the curses from dancing the quick-step with our parents, because they were there too, dressed in black like the patent-leather suitcase I was clutching.
It was new, and stuffed with clothes and books like the world is crammed full with people, but I never read any of the books in it. I didn't need them, the same way the world would probably be better off without all of us. They were all dull, stupidly pretentious self-help books, which Belnesse has hundreds of. It's not like I hate things for being pretentious, (Sorianne always used to tell me I was pretentious and I'd be contradictory as well as a murderer if I had to hate myself) but self-help books are the sort of thing no-one's going to appreciate a mountain of flowery language in. My mother had packed them, with the odd superstition that any of the fantasy I liked to flick through would inspire me to go feral, and maybe she was right.
When she hit her head Isabelle reeled back, her face staring up into the sky's. "It's pink," she said. "The sky is pink." My mother looked up first, then my father and then me. It was like my dress and her dress mixed together, the melted icing on the burnt birthday cake of the earth. I remember smiling, and it had been such a long time since I smiled.
Smiling was nice. It was almost as good as laughter, but wasn't quite the same.
It was the last time I smiled in a long time, but I didn't feel too bad about it. There is so much more to life than smiling, after all.
My mother grabbed at my sleeve, tugging me towards the main office and away from the serenity of the sky. "Haydrienne, come on," she said, and each word seemed like a knife to my brain, except colder and more impassive and with a whole lot less blood. I shrugged at her, because I didn't want to say anything except maybe plead with her to change her mind, to pretend we only came all this way to admire the sky, and now we were going home. I didn't want to come to Belnesse. My mother knew this.
I stood still, wondering if I stayed there for long enough my feet would do something useful and root themselves to the ground, like something from Ancient Greek mythology. My father and sister were in front of us now. My father threw up his arms at my mother as if to say, 'What are you waiting for?', and then he started striding back towards us. His fists were clenched.
"Haydrienne," said my mother, her voice the eerie calm that comes before the universe explodes. "Haydrienne, I want you to be a good girl and come inside the main office with me. Do you want me to carry your suitcase?"
I shook my head. I fiddled with my plaits a little. No. I wanted to go home.
My mother snatched my suitcase from me, her fingernails so long that they left claw marks on my hands. "Haydrienne, I'm going to go inside, and you're going to follow me. Okay?" She didn't wait for an answer, probably because she didn't expect to get one. I stayed still for one moment longer, just to pretend to myself that I was the defiant kind of teenager who was going to survive at a place like this. Then I followed my mother inside, because my father looked like he might hit me if I didn't.
I'm scared of my father.
It's funny. Now I've killed my sister, he's probably scared of me. Maybe he thinks that he's next on my hit-list or whatever, like I'm the sort of person to have a hit-list. Still. He's right. If I had a hit-list, he'd be next. It's funny, but no one's laughing.
Inside the Belnesse Main Office, there was a very big painting of a bowl of fruit on one wall, and a slightly smaller map of the site on another. Underneath the painting of the bowl of fruit there was a table and a chair, and just left to the map of the site there was a shelf of books. Right in the middle of the room there was a counter, and behind the counter there was nearly always a very fat lady sitting on a stool. Her name was Ms. Cassels, and anyone who met her would be very lucky if they managed to stay away from a conversation on whatever abstract philosophy she’d most recently taken on. She was the sort of person who wanted everyone to believe she was very, very deeply poetic, but in actuality she normally had no idea what she was saying.
I’d say she was pretentious but I guess that would be hypocritical.
She grinned a lipstick beam at us as we trudged inside, forcing herself out from behind the counter with a squeak. With a quick gesture she wafted in the general direction of the case in my mother's hands, clipping forwards smartly in her heels. "Oh, just put that down in the corner, sweetheart. Are you sure that's not too heavy for you? You know, that should be a man's job, lugging big, heavy objects like that."
Ms. Cassels fixed my father with a pointed look, which he returned.
“You know,” said Ms. Cassels seriously, “I’m not saying that because I’m misanthropic or anything, sugar-pie.” My father looked like he was going to object to being called ‘sugar-pie’, but Ms. Cassels cut him off. “No,” she continued, “I actually saw an article the other day about the spiritual and psychological impacts on women’s bodies if they’re forced to pick up heavy objects.” She nodded sternly, as if what she was saying made some kind of sense.
My mother shook her head. "Actually, I'm perfectly fine with lifting it myself, Mrs...?"
"It's Ms. Cassels," she supplied promptly, pointing to her name-badge. She turned to me, reaching out and attempting to pat me on the head like I was some annoying-but-loveable pet or something. "You must be Haydrienne!" It was kind of unnerving, the way she knew my name so automatically. I suppose my parents had phoned up ages ago in advance to book my place here, so it wasn't really all that weird. She turned to my father doubtfully, attempting to whisper to him but failing. "She doesn't look very wayward, does she?"
For some reason, it sounded like an insult.
Ms. Cassels smiled at me again, chivvying us over to the map on the wall. "Nevertheless, all the girls are here for a reason," she said to my father, nodding her head like one of those plastic dogs people put at the back of their car. "I'm sure she'll fit in just fine." She stabbed at the map with one of her stubby fingers. "Don’t you worry, my dandelions. This is where you'll be staying, Haydrienne. You'll have your own separate room for the first few weeks, just until you've settled down. Then we'll move you to one of the dorms."
I opened my mouth to say something, but my father gave me the sort of look that would make anyone sensible stop short.
"We're so glad you could find room for her, Mrs Cassels," he started, about to make some kind of tedious speech before Ms. Cassels interrupted.
"Yes, well, it wasn’t exactly easy. If you hadn’t given me the reference the police totted up, I don’t know if we could have offered it to her. There are many more wayward girls out there, and all are looking for a way out of the chasm of their sin.” She paused, holding her hands out as if she expected applause. “And like I said, Haydrienne doesn’t exactly look the most wayward, now, does she?”
My father blinked. He flushed pink, and my mother gave him a bizarre grimacing sort of thing I suppose she thought was sympathetic look. "I- I know that this is a highly recognised centre, and we're very grateful that you decided to give a place here to Haydriene. If you should have any trouble with her then-"
Ms. Cassels shook her head in shock, forcing a few trills of laughter. "Mr. Wilson! Honeybun, I'm positive we'll get no trouble from Haydrienne, and if we do we'll nip it in the bud - see if we don't!" She paused, collecting herself. "I suppose you'll want to know about parental visiting hours?"
"Of course you'll want to know about visiting hours! Here, wait, one moment, I'll just get the pamphlets..." She trundled off down a corridor, calling back over her shoulder, "Haydrienne, I'll send for one of the girls to show you round, help you get settled in, you know?"
I nodded woodenly. My father didn't say anything to me and neither did my mother or Isabelle, so I looked out of the window at the fading pink sky. It was the sort of colour I wish I could name after myself, and one I was certain I'd never see again as I watched it melt into twilight.
I don't know how long it took until Ms. Cassels came back, and to be honest, it's not important. She took some time, I guess, but not so long that we'd all decayed into creepy, crumbled versions of ourselves. The thing I noticed most at the time was that she'd come back with a girl, her blonde hair nearly shoulder length, and tied back into a brusque kind of ponytail. Ms. Cassels waved at the girl off-handedly. "This is Sorianne. She'll show you around. If you just go with her while I talk to your parents about specific therapy treatments and visiting hours? Boring stuff, you wouldn't be interested."
She smiled at me, and her smile was fake.
Sorianne met my eyes, nodding towards the corridor she'd just come through. "Come on." We walked in silence for a minute or so, her stalking forwards and me following uselessly behind. It seemed like longer, but I'd place bets that it wasn't. Time tricks you like that.
"Uh- I'm Haydrienne," I attempted. I offered out my hand for her to shake but she ignored it, just kept on walking like I wasn't even there. "I'm, erm, not exactly sure-"
Sorianne growled, this low, ethereal kind of roar that crept up from the back of her throat like shredded sandpaper. Slamming me against the wall, she pushed my head backwards and kneed me in the groin, holding her fist against my throat like I was going to attempt to try and escape. I croaked somewhat pathetically, flailing my arms like a dying beached whale. Her gaze hardened as she gritted her teeth, moving her fist backwards to punch me in the mouth.
I tried to scream, but all that escaped my lips was a squeak as she hit me again, her fists clenched and knuckles white, like angry burns on her finger bones. If she'd been able to, I know she'd have killed me there and then. Maybe she should have. It would've saved my sister a whole lot of trouble, at least.
"Shut up," she said. "Shut up!" I stopped screaming. "My name," the girl whispered, her lips curled backwards into a snarl, "Is Sorianne. Kleptomaniac, pyromaniac, a whole load of other crap, but I don't think you'd be interested. I got the choice of this or prison, and I thought this sounded better. It's not."
I swallowed, shaking my head slowly.
"So," she said quietly. "What did you do? How'd you land up here? Runt like you?"
"I-uh- I sort-of-but-not-exactly poisoned some people. And stuff." I furrowed my face, attempting to look menacing, like I'd ever have the guts to beat her up.
"And stuff?" She laughed silently, creasing up her face like crinkled wrapping paper. When she threw back her head and punched me in the mouth, I can't say that I expected it.
Still. I can't say I expected to kill my sister, either.