The air is saturated with her: her sobs and silences. Her ghost drapes the bed, blots the window, watches me from the dressing table mirror.
She threatened so many times. Just more wounding words, I thought. Empty, cruel.
But finally, she’s gone.
I’m terrified of this tiny spark of hope.
“What’s his name?” Liz asked her sister.
“Donald” Sofia said, gazing at the blond-curled head against her chest.
Liz swallowed laughter. Like the duck? she might once have scoffed. She noticed Sofa’s shoulders: tensed, waiting.
Sofia’s surprised smile made her think, maybe friendship is possible, after all these years.
Glenn beckons to the line. A shrunken woman timidly steps forward, stiff new passport outstretched.
“First time flying?”
She nods. “Visiting my daughter. She always loved aeroplanes, even as a baby, she’d point out those vapour trails, what d’you call ’em? Never thought I’d get on one. But here we are!” She stops, embarrassed at prattling on at a stranger.
The endless line of passports and boarding passes continues. But for Glenn, there’s something a little brighter in the monotony. Who knows what new experiences are waiting twenty, thirty years from now?
From here, high above the city haze, the mob resembles a horde of ants. I press a fingertip to the tinted glass, imagining the popping of tiny bodies and that crushed-ant scent.
The soft symphony of beeps, from offices and server rooms, continues its countdown to self-destruct.
Time to go.
“Look! This is what they do, those animals! We must stop them.”
Thomas brandished the poster. I twisted in my armchair, squeezing shut my eyes, trying to avoid the graphic images of drowning children, of heaped bodies, of war.
I heard paper crumpled angrily with Thomas’ sigh, then his quick, heavy footsteps.
I opened my eyes. The room was dark and cold. Thomas took his fire with him. I hoped and prayed it would keep him safe. I resisted, but it wasn’t in him to stay home while those animals were free.
Those animals. Will he become one of them?
My fingers are stiff and swollen with the damp today. Chill air seeps from the tenement walls, bringing muffled shouts and sirens and a flurry of pounding footsteps. I knit doggedly by touch in the brown-lit room. A blanket for my great-grandson.
At least the magic still flows. I mutter the finger-tingling words, weaving protection strong into each row.
“Still doing your spells, Granny?”
Janet rocks the baby by the sputtering electric heater, watching me with tired, indulgent eyes.
Still doing my spells. And they work too. See: we’re still here, four generations, when all around us is crumbling chaos.
Dom’s on nights again. He comes home 7am, as I’m getting up.
“Hey, mate! Good night?”
He winces. “Alright. Knackered.” The stairs groan under him.
Longest conversation in months. Hardly our imagined extension of uni. We coexist in opposite timezones, headphone-cocooned.
Has he changed? Did I ever really know him?
Who do I measure myself against now? With whom do I share glances, thoughts, and silence?
Ever-present idol and tyrant. My neck has fused from gazing upwards: I will have to break it to refocus.
I’m no longer little sister, but I don’t know how to just be me.
I’ve never considered myself irrational. Or easily provoked. Picture of calm; that’s me. So you can imagine my surprise when I bashed my husband’s head in.
The little things just built up. The snoring, the endless belching. The nail-clippers.
Please officer, do you have to click your pen like that?
“Peter, you know I don’t eat anchovies now.”
Julie stares at nothing, her husband’s signature pasta untouched.
“I’m so old,” she says to the mirror, fingering her tissue-soft cheeks.
He smiles, searching for her eyes. “You don’t look a day over thirty.”
She frowns and prods. Peter watches her shell.