My door is creaking open as I click off: it’s Erin. I consider shouting at her for breaking and entering but, seeing my deliberative expression, she holds out her hands in front of her face, a compromise between self-defence and surrender.
Whilst doing this, she quickly begins to speak. “Mum sent me up to check on you. She considers “blustering” through the door and “thundering” upstairs a cause for concern. Her words, not mine.”
When I won’t answer, my sister squints at me impatiently and asks, “So, are you okay?”
That’s it: the trigger. All thoughts of chucking my aluminium fireball at her head fly out of the window and instead I crumple to the carpet, sobbing softly.
Erin is evidently startled by this unorthodoxy, gawkily shuffling fully into the room. She doesn’t ask me what’s wrong – she knows that whatever the matter is, she won’t be adept at consoling me. That’s something we have in common, our inability to deal with shows of impassioned melancholy. Instead, Erin kneels crookedly down next to me, pencil skirt riding up in an unusual absence of decorum. Not used to sisterly contact, she simply places a hand on my right shoulder, as if about to begin a prayer for my sake.
At first I am conscious of trying not to fidget whilst fire and ice clash within my chest and head; I do not want to sabotage her attempts. Soon though, I relax into the scanty touch, a source of comfort like warm water licking my skin.
For a reasonable amount of time, we remain there, statuesque, before I nudge her away when I notice my body rising in temperature with a new emotion: love. Desiccated salt clings to my cheeks.
“Get some rest.” My sister sends out the feathery words before leaving me lonely.
I start to drag myself up the several miles onto my feet, realise that the miniature hot-water-bottle is missing from my clambering claws, and drop back down again. It is only a relief to abstain from using energy unnecessarily.
In painfully landing flat on the chest, my pursuance materialises from the fuzzy blackness under my bed. Simple-minded, I reach for it, then roll over onto my back like a dog cajoling a belly scratch. Holding the mobile vertically above my face, I unlock the screen. I have a message; it must have come whilst Erin was here. Seeing who it is from, all elements of forced calm evaporate.
Tell Thomas it was me.