Sylvia followed my mum out of the room firmly hanging on to her arm. I felt the sudden urge to feel my baby brother, I craved for his innocence and beaming smile.
I pressed my ear to the door of his bedroom. I could hear humming sounds. I gently pushed the door open and sure enough, there he was playing on his bed with one of his galactic spaceship creations. He looked up as I closed the door and beamed, although his face was drawn.
The first sincere smile I had met with since I had left school.I felt a surge of affection for this little man, so strong and intelligent, yet so vulnerable still and oblivious of all that was happening.
“What are those policemen doing her Mickey?” he asked more out of curiosity than apprehension.
“Oh, well probably checking up on security measures for the coming winter season,” I replied evasively.
He looked at me with a quizzical expression, then frowned as he added,” are you sure? Whoever heard of such silly security controls, do they think we’re stupid or something?”
It was hard to fool Raphael, but he let go of the issue. His cheeks were flushed and eyes slightly glassy. But he just looked tired and not seriously ill. I sat down on his bed, and asked him what kind of space craft it was he had conjured up this time. That got him all bubbly and enthusiastic despite his condition, and he went into a long explanation on the mechanics and missions his new Star-wind Vega II was capable of.
I froze at his next words.
“Mickey?” he said nonchalantly as he pushed his Vega II along the surface of the duvet, “why did daddy say mummy deserved what she got?”
My ears rang as the blood in my head pulsed hard at the harshness of those words. Apparently, my brother had been disturbed by my mum’s knocking. Before I could answer he went on, “and isn’t bitch a bad word,”’ he frowned wincing a bit at his audacity at repeating such a word.
My heart was beating harder now, but I could just pick up drifts of my father’s voice. Then I heard footsteps climbing the stairs that led up to our parent’s bedroom. My mum was no doubt going upstairs to throw some of her things into a bag for the night. I needed to to know how close I felt to her, give her my support although I wasn’t prepared to leave home. I wasn’t sure now it was a good idea to stay…
“You must be hallucinating baby brother,” I said my voice a pitch too high. I hastily brushed his forehead with a kiss, and said, “stay in bed you don’t look that great.”
Raphael glared at me, either because he was annoyed that I had called him a baby or because he would not admit he was feeling sick. A moment later, however, he was lying back in his bed with his arm outstretched as he launched an attack with his ‘Star-wind Vega II’ suspended in mid-air. I sighed with relief. Raphael was all right and should be spared from the crisis. I just hoped he would soon forget our father’s words.
I slipped out quietly and walked into the lounge again. Only the policeman who had remained silent was there, leaning against the fireplace. He stood up straight when he saw me, as if I had caught him in flagrant violation of his duties.
I found a sadistic pleasure in making him feel guilty, and my stare didn’t waver until I got to the stairs that led to my parent’s bedroom.
I could hear voices from upstairs. My mum and sister were obviously up there, although the only voices I could here were my father’s and the other policeman’s. They seemed to be discussing soccer like two pals in a bar. My father hated soccer.
The whole situation was ludicrous, a parody. These men were acting as if nothing had happened, depriving the event of its gravity, stripping it to a bare and flimsy act of female hysteria.
Despite my mum’s and Sylvia’s utter silence the air was charged with feverish energy. The frenzied bustling noise alerted me that my mum was frantically trying to get as much out of the house as possible, especially her computer, in which she meticulously kept all her English lessons and worksheets she needed for her teaching job at the village primary school.
Finally Sylvia’s lace up black sneakers appeared behind the banister, followed by my mum’s mud splattered trainers. I realised we still had our shoes on, as if ready to leave again soon. Maybe I should follow my mum…
“Right,” said the policeman near the fireplace, who had managed to reclaim his dignity. “Have you got all you need Mr Laurent?”
My mum barely nodded. I could see didn’t dare to talk, lest she should break down in tears. She slowly headed towards Raphael’s door and slipped through into his bedroom.
My stomach was aching badly. I couldn’t breathe or swallow. I stood there next to Sylvia, who reached out for my hand and squeezed it ever so gently, as if all her energy had dissipated. Her soft touch was warm and reassuring. We didn’t dare look at each other, but the mere contact of our skin suffused us with warmth and love giving room for hope.
My mum reappeared, her face was a blank and as white as a sheet. Her hair hung limply across her face, but did little to conceal the tears running down her cheeks. Leaving Raphael behind was the hardest choice she had made tonight. But she realised she had to spare him from the harsh reality.
She beckoned to us, and our father took a step forward as if to stop us. I could see he desperately wanted to keep control of the situation, but the policemen nearest to him discreetly lifted his arm in front of him stopping him in his tracks.
My mum took us into her arms, squeezing us as tightly as she could, forgetting the pain it was causing her.
“Believe in your mother and hold on tight, this moment will pass and be forgotten, but my love for you will never falter,” the words were so faint I could barely catch them, but they cut deep inside my soul, and Sylvia started sobbing again.
She then dropped her arms and walked mechanically towards the front entrance, past my father who looked on her nonchalantly, as if simply witnessing the departure of a guest.
Sylvia stepped forward and I caught her arm before she could rush out after my mum. I felt like a traitor disavowing her best friend-the echo of my mum’s words still rang in my ears as I watched her hesitantly walk out the door and disappear into the cold darkness, while my father looked on impassively. Could I detect a flicker of satisfaction in those eyes, or was my mind playing tricks?
The hand was gripping at my throat again. I desperately wanted to run after my mum and beg her to stay. My world was going up in smoke and my vision was blurring. What am I supposed to do? Follow her?
But I couldn’t bring myself to leave my house, by bedroom, my belongings. All I could hope for was that my mum would keep her word. She never broke her promises. I breathed in deeply. Hoping she wouldn’t forsake us as I had done.
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