Everyone was wearing black. No one spoke. You are the centre of attention, sister. Music surrounded Freya, voices wailing, trying hard to communicate their pain. Freya didn’t sing. She watched and she thought. I know you’re there, although your shell is hard and dark and shiny. But I also know you’re not. You’re still at home, painting your eyes and back-combing your hair. You’re still in the park. I can hear your screams every time I pass the gates. Most of all you’re inside me. Your rage fills me. Your spit runs from my eyes. Your hatred tastes bitter in my mouth.
All but one of the heads bowed, a room of whispers. As the shell descended, the machinery groaned as if unwilling to accept one so young. Freya shook. A desire to run to the altar and throw herself into the flames with the coffin pumped adrenaline around her body. I cannot take this burden, the only daughter. I cannot be protected, feared for, held forever—a double image on a single face.
Her brother’s fingers reached across her lap and grasped her hand. He held her still. Then she bowed her head and tears fell from her face. Not her sister’s spit this time but a spring of regret. I will miss you.
Ivan’s hand still held hers as they walked outside. The sunshine hid its face. The sky’s funeral garb may have been faded over the years of grief but it served its purpose and its own cold tears fell on mourners’ heads. The mother and father cried too. Lorraine, the mother, cried loudest. She couldn’t accept it, what they did to her baby, her daughter, her life. That beautiful face squashed beneath boots. Her ribs crushed and her vagina torn. Why? Freya loosened the grip on her fist and ran to her mother. Arms opened to hold her and her mother washed her hair with tears.
‘I love you,’ Lorraine whispered.
Is she telling me or you? Maybe both of us.
‘Who are you going to see?’ Lorraine calls through the kitchen door.
‘Just friends,’ Freya answers.
‘Dad will drive you,’ Lorraine insists.
Mother always insists. At fifteen I’ve never had a boyfriend. My sister died two years ago. I wish it had been me instead. ‘Forget it. I’ll stay home. I’ve just remembered I’ve got homework to do anyway.’
Freya trudges back up the stairs, wearing one of her sister Tanya’s skirts. Tanya’s bedroom remains untouched, except by Freya: a shrine to the girl who once was. Freya moves her hips in circles, like a belly dancer, as she walks towards her room. Satin brushes against her ankles. She feels romantic yet powerful, but has no one to test the effect on. Her eyes linger on her brother’s door for a moment. Her heart pounds as she listens to the movements inside. Does he have a girlfriend? Her hand hovers at his door-handle. One smooth click and she could open the door. She pauses there, frozen in time, a statue pointing towards temptation or salvation. She bites her lip then turns away. He’s my brother.
Throwing herself onto her bed, Freya sighs. Routine crushes her. She can feel it squeeze the life from her until only husk is left. She opens her school bag. The smell of old pages escapes into the air. Her electrified hand reaches towards the book.
On the way home she’d passed a bookshop. A book called to her through the window. She wanted it so badly it made her shake. Checking her purse she almost walked away. Three pounds would never be enough, but the book dragged her back, its promise like claws tugging her hair. The coins felt like concrete in her purse. So what if don’t have enough money? I’ll ask about it anyway. The shopkeeper smiled and took the book from its stand, his eyes never leaving her. She felt his stare as she grasped the paperback from his hand. Her ragged breath ruffled the yellowed pages.
‘Pay me what you have and call in with the rest next week,’ he said.
‘I will pay you every penny.’ Even if it takes longer than a week. ‘Thank you.’
Freya stares at the cover; a beautiful woman with long hair and a snake between her legs laughs at the world. She traces the image’s naked curves with her finger. If I cannot kiss boys I can at least drink words of love and sex.
Lying on her bed, thighs squeezed tightly together, she flicks through the pages. She needs to pee, but holds it inside her, luxuriating in the feeling. It adds to the tingle. On almost every page there are line drawings, unusual and exotic people, men with beards, asleep yet ecstatic, mounted by a woman. So many drawings, most, but not all, are sexual. Her mouth feels dry, and her thighs moist. She tries to ignore the burning sensation in her bladder. Wanting to stay like this, to feel this heaviness inside of her. She reads the first paragraph. The words are hard to understand. She rereads it, trying to make sense of them. Urgency builds inside her. She really needs that piss. Throwing the book across her mattress, she crosses her legs. Almost too late, she sprints to the bathroom, harnessing her bladder for a few more moments before warm relief then the familiar emptiness returns.
As she walks back to her room her fingertips brush against the painted wood of her brother’s door. She pictures him in his faded jeans and white t-shirt, bare-footed, his nose buried in a book while his iPod whispers music into his ears, lost in his own world.