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Home Ground

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Karma
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'For Mum, always.'

****

          As I lay there facing the skylight, I could feel myself slowly drowning. It was as if there was this invisible magnetic force drawing me in and I was being consumed; slowly engulfed in the intensity of the colour; the hue having a hypnotic effect and those clouds; as they moved you could feel time moving; like a pendulum moving back and forth working you into a trance; only this whiteness it goes on and on travelling at an ever slow pace forcing you to remain lying there neither asleep nor really awake.

          And that was how it went for the rest of the morning - the 31st of January on my 21st second birthday. I just lay there staring at the skylight dreaming my life away, recalling the phone conversation.

"Hello?"

"Chris."

"How did you get this number?"

"Isn't it more important that I've finally managed to talk to you?"

"I should've known. Ben. Typical."

I grit my teeth in frustration. Jason sighs on the other end of the line.

"Christine, it's been ages now. Come home, will you? I need to see you. Please?"

There was a long, uncomfortable silence.

" Chris, please."

" Alright. Will do."

          I sat up and contemplated. I should've done this a long time ago - but that's just me - gutless. I knew one thing for sure. Things would definitely change. I snapped out of the hypnosis and got ready to pack. I didn't bring a lot of stuff; just a couple of dresses, a tartan skirt, two pairs of jeans and a small assortment of tops that would go with my skirt and jeans. I grabbed my other belongings from on top of the bureau and went down to hail a cab.

          It was pretty cold outside, and the rather icy wind blowing in my direction definitely didn't seem to help ease matters. I stood there, holding my arm out in the hope that one of the many cabs (there seemed to be so many that afternoon) would hopefully stop for me. I was in luck. 10 minutes later I was seated on the rather dingy but comfortably worn-in seats.

"Bad weather we got out there, eh?"

"Uh-huh."

"S'always like this around this time of year."

"Uh-huh."

"Hey you not from around here, are ya?"

He glanced into the rear view mirror.

"Nope."

"You not much of a talker, are ya?

I just kept silent and stared sullenly as he glanced into the rear view mirror again.

"Listen, if ya ain't a good talker, y'can be a good listener, eh?

"What's your story?"

"It's a good one."

"Alright then."

"It starts off like this…"

          You can never really tell a story is a real story until you realise that it's become a part of you. That's the thing with stories. They have this strange effect on you. You either hear them or read them and you tell yourself it's just a little tale but somehow, just someway you find yourself looking back on it and thinking - 'There's a part of me in that'.

"So, did you like it?"

"What?"

"Did you like my story?"

"It was good."

"Well, you sure don't seem impressed."

"You want to hear mine?"

"So, you are a talker! Just needed to warm you up to get you out of that shell! Alright. Let's hear it."

I took a deep breath and began.

**** 

          Jason had always been there for me. Throughout the years I knew he was someone I could trust; someone I could really count on when things were bad. Jason, with his smiling eyes and the way his hair fell and flopped over to one side of his face was endearing. There were times when things got really bad; he would come up from behind me, poke me in the ribs and put on his best Miss Piggie voice and say  "Oh, Kermie. I love you so much Kermie. Muah! Muah! Muah!" fluttering his eyelashes while kissing the air around me. I couldn't help but feel a bit cheered up. We were both big fans of The Muppet Show and would occasionally launch into the theme song together when we were feeling less than normal or in exceptionally high spirits. Jason. I idolised him and loved him to the core. I think that was why I never knew and never guessed for a minute that he would lie to me.

         It happened when I decided to go through my old school photos. I missed those times; the times when I had a lot of laughs and things were so much simpler. The times when all I needed to think of was to study, do well and hang out with friends in my spare time. I have to admit; I had a pretty easy life. Mum had never meant to spoil me but I was. I had it all as a child and more so as a teenager. Now, as a young adult, Mum had paid for my tuition in London. All I needed to do was ask and I would get. The fact that I was the youngest did not help in making me less spoilt so naturally the rest of them resented me for it. Except Jason. He was always on my side; while my other brothers and sisters; they ganged up on me. My nickname among my elder brothers and sisters was 'Cry-Baby Christine.'

          It didn't take me long to find the album. It was in pretty good condition considering it had been kept in the attic for some time. I was surprised because it wasn't like it was a very expensive one. The cover had this blue flower motif on a brown background. I started turning the pages and realised I had made a mistake. The album wasn't mine. Instead, they belonged to Jason. Apparently, he had bought an exact copy. I took a good look at the pictures and realised that I had never seen a lot of them before. They were pictures of Jason throughout the years with some woman I had never seen. Most of the pictures were when he was in his teens and I was only about six or seven then. This was very strange. Who was she? Jason would never keep things from me.

           I went downstairs, carrying the album with me. Jason was happily munching on a biscuit.

"Hey Chris! What's up with my fave sis?"

He looked at me expectantly.

"Jace, who is this?"

I pointed to the woman in the picture. She had on a pink dress and was smiling serenely. I watched him pale and his mouth hung open in mid-air. I laid the book on the table. Jason just stared at it and his eyes glazed over.

"I'm real sorry, Chris. I should've told you sooner."

"Told me what?"

Jason looked at me unhappily.

"Chris, I'm so sorry. I didn't know then; either - I mean - I was a bit older when I knew."

"Knew what?"

Jason sighed and struggled to find the words.

"She passed on before I had the chance to tell you. I was sixteen then and you were only eight."

"Who? Who passed on, Jace?"

By now, my voice sounded shrill. I needed to know.

"Her-her name was Linda. Your, our mother."

His voice was a bare whisper.  And suddenly I understood. I understood the resentment, the cutting remarks they made at me saying that I didn't deserve the royal treatment, their exclusion and the jealousy I endured.

"Why am I the last to know? How come they knew and everybody else knew except me? And why did you exclude me from all this?"

I pointed my finger accusingly at him.

"Christine, I'm really sorry. I honestly thought you were too young to understand and Linda, Ma, she thought so too. Tell you when you turned ten. But then, Linda had a tragic accident. And then I lost my nerve. "

He looked at me pleadingly.

"It was a long time ago Chris. I didn't want to spoil it for you."

He didn't realise. He had spoilt it for me. He had utterly destroyed it. What, he thought I couldn't handle the truth? He was so wrong. I ran out there and then. It's a tough thing finding out you don't belong. That what you thought was real isn't even if the 'fantasy' happened to be great or rosy. No one wants to live a lie and I certainly didn't.

          I ended my summer holidays early and flew back to London. I moved out from the student resident halls and changed my number. I didn't make any attempt to contact them until Jason managed to find out that Ben had my new number. It took him a whole nine months to get in touch with me again. That was two weeks ago. And here I am now, more composed but still somewhat unprepared to face things.

****

          "Listen. It must have been tough knowing about this so late. No matter how old you are; finding out about something like this is bound to have some kind of effect on ya." 

"Yeah it does."

"So, whatcha gonna do now?"

"I'm going back. I need to do this. Confront my demons. It's the only way."

"You have a safe journey, O.K.?"

"Harry?"

"Yeah, sweetheart?"

"Thanks."

I paid my fare and waved Harry goodbye.

****

          Everyone was waiting for me expectantly as I came through to the living room. The flight had been relatively uneventful or in other words; safe. It was a sixteen hour flight, from Heathrow to Hong Kong with a transit at Singapore. I got back that night and there they were. All waiting for me, except Jason. Mum looked a bit apprehensive. She hovered around me, fussing over me.

"Darling, did you have a good flight?"

"Yes, mum."

"Darling, you will be strong, won't you?"

"Yes, mum."

"Good, good."

She let out a sigh of relief and patted me gently on the back. She hesitated; then hugged me.

"I love you, honey. We all do. I know Jace would have said the same thing."

I turned quickly to look at Mum.

"What do you mean, mum?"

"Oh, honey. He was so young...it was so unexpected..." she sighed, her voice drifting off. 

I could see she was teary-eyed. I didn't want to know anymore. I understood. I looked away, avoiding her eyes; the anger I had felt now only replaced with an overwhelmed feeling of sadness. I don't know how I managed it but I went upstairs and unpacked.

          It was a rather bright day that day as I made the walk down the pathway. It did little to change the way I felt. The rest of them; they followed from behind while I led the way. I was the first to enter. I looked at him. He just looked so peaceful there, so sweet just the way he had always been to me. I knew at that moment that I had been wrong and Jason was right. It didn't matter. I could be anyone I wanted to be. The fact that Jason had met her behind my back was so he could protect me. He loved me and I loved him. That was what mattered. It was too late for me to tell him that now. Death had dealt its hand and Jason had suffered the same fate as Linda. As I watched him lie in that coffin I knew it would be an unsaid goodbye.

****

Previous short story:
Karma
Next short story:
Toxic
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about the writer

Sal Safie

Miss-Stress by day, Miss-ion (to write) by night. Fave writer Roald Dahl for his twisted style and poet Lord Byron for his poking sarcasm.Pretty pleased with this site cos' it gives me the opportunity to experiment, I guess. Hope Kapasitor goes all the way...:D
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