Chapter 7 Irreparable

Chapter 7 Normalcy

Nanny had told me that I would draw or read in my spare time. I was afraid of trying to draw; I thought that if I couldn’t, I’d know there is something wrong with me. What if I couldn’t think of anything to draw? What if my talent was lost? I took a book from my overflowing bookshelf without looking at it and headed towards the garden. Nanny had said that I had read every book on the shelf at least twice, but as I turned the thickly covered book in my hands I couldn’t remember it.

The sun was just as bright as the day before. It hung almost in the middle of the sky, telling me it was noon. Nanny’s garden was bigger than I expected, a large expanse of lush green grass with daisies scattered everywhere. It was beautiful. "Whenever you’d leave your daisies in your bedroom, I would throw them out of the window...so that they would grow out here" Nanny had told me.

The sun kissed my skin as I lay down on the cool grass. I rolled onto my stomach and opened the book. It was called Petals in the Ashes by Marjorie Newman. I read the blurb again and again trying to familiarise myself with the story but it wasn’t clear. I started to read it flicking through the pages one after the other until I got bored with it. The slow prose was not what I thought I would find interesting at all. I sighed and closed the book, laying it next to my head.

I flipped onto my back and let the sun bake my face. It was a familiar situation, to have the sun brightly visible through my eyelids, the grass pressing into the skin on my arms and legs. I lay there for minutes at a time keeping my thoughts on the things that kept me here. Nanny and Ryan, their kindness, their touch, their knowledge – both of them never wanted me to leave. Both of them made me promise. The wind around me started to falter, I felt it become heavy and change as though there were someone else with me.

Well done sweetie

a faint female voice whispered. I wouldn’t have heard it at all if it were not like the wind had blown the words into my ears. I sat up in shock, the eerie feeling in the air had gone and a dark blue car was pulling up at the front of the house.

I couldn’t believe that was the voice I heard, had I really heard it? The memory of the words were slowly dissolving in my mind. I couldn’t hold on to them to check. Had my mother called me sweetie? What had I done well?

*

Ryan got out of the blue car that had pulled up, heading immediately for me as I waved towards him. He was wearing brightly floral printed shorts, with a green t-shirt with the words "SHABBA" written across his chest. Although I didn’t know what the word meant it made me chuckle as he got closer and closer.

"Hi" I said squinting up at him. His head was directly next to the sun when he stopped in front of me.

"Hey" he pulled my hands up so that I stood next to him. Again it was so strange to see his face, it was unbelievable that he really existed; his beautiful face was so perfect to me. It was hard to believe he was really mine.

"How’s your day been so far?"

"Mmm..." Ryan’s hand wound around my back, bringing my face closer to his, I felt the heat of his skin scorch mine, and then he whispered "It’s getting better" before his lips brushed with mine.

"Hey you two!" my grandmothers voice bellowed from the kitchen window. "I’ve made lunch" her voice hinted giggles as she closed the window with a crunch.

Ryan sighed into my face; his hand brushed my hair away from my face and behind my ear. I wanted to forget that Nanny had spoken; I wanted his lips on mine again. But just as he read my smile and lent forward again there was a quick tap, tap, tap on the window.

"Great timing" I breathed, taking Ryan’s warm hand in mine and dragging him towards the kitchen.

Nanny was humming to herself, which I guessed was another usual habit of hers. One I hope I did not also have. She turned and smiled serenely at Ryan as he came around to her. To my delight he walked around the counter to kiss her cheek, she blushed and batted him away lightly with her spoon. I could smell batter, sweet and sickly. The smell made my mouth water.

"I am hungry" Ryan said, sitting himself down and grabbing three sandwiches in one hand. My memory flickered to other days when Ryan had come round; I sat next to him and sipped my glass of water. I could hear Ryan chewing, but there was a heavy silence setting over the kitchen. It was hard to know what to talk about. I could tell that they both wanted to ask me questions but they couldn’t word them. They exchanged polite happy smiles over their food but continued to eat in silence. It was driving me crazy; I had to break it.

"So does everyone know that I'm – I'm back?" I heard Ryan swallow his food and Nanny slurped on her drink.

I knew Ryan would be the first to speak. "Err...yeah, yeah news like that moves around pretty quickly, but it’s fine. Everyone is really happy that you’re back" Ryan’s hand rubbed the top of my thigh affectionately, Nanny nodded.

"Who do you mean by ‘everyone’? Do I have friends?" I was looking at Ryan when I asked, his eyes widened a little when I asked this and I knew he wasn’t expecting me to ask. I sighed and looked at my hands. I tried to remember, I really strained for a face to call a friend.

"Yeah, you have friends" Ryan said slowly. His hand on my thigh tightened. "But we’ll talk about it later ok?" I wondered why he wouldn’t talk about it with Nanny but I had a more pressing question that I wanted to ask.

"What happened to my parents?" the question came out louder and bolder than I expected. I felt myself shrink away from it as I waited; Ryan looked upset as he looked at me. Nanny had started clearing the plates although it was clear neither she nor I had finished. She turned her back on us to place them in the sink.

I felt the change in the air. I understood why Nanny probably did not want to talk about it; it was obvious that we would be breeching the subject of her daughter’s death. Ryan took my hand as I stared at her back. He was leading me away when I called "Leave the drying up, I’ll do that"

"Ok hon" she replied quietly.

Ryan sat me outside on the porch swing, nestling my head into the dip of his shoulder like always. The sun was still high and strong in the sky. It beat down on the soil surrounding the house - Ryan’s dark blue car reflecting it off the bonnet.

There was no wind today, the air was thick with the heat and it clung to everything outside it. Ryan’s skin was the only thing hotter, but I would never complain. I curled myself closer to him and waited for him to talk. He was taking deep breaths, his chest falling and rising beneath my hand that lay on it.

"Your Nanny doesn’t really like talking about your parents" he began, he cleared his throat and I could feel him looking down at me. I continued to look out across the porch. "When we were six, we used to go and play hide and seek like every other kid y’know?" his fingers were tracing the skin on my arms and I was remembering the game, playing with Ryan in my head. Ryan sniffed and continued "We used to go through the Silvanus woods, which is just through those trees" he pointed behind his car, to the trees "where it was cool to run around." I remembered it as the words were formed on his lips, the woods were dark, the trees stood close together. "And then one day...we were playing, you were hiding and I was seeking. You were always better than me and it took me a long time to find you and whilst I was looking I noticed a huge tower of smoke billowing up into the sky" his head looked up to the porch light, he was remembering it "the smoke frightened me, but I was drawn to it, I thought maybe that you were near it...but when I got closer I realised that it was not just a fire, but it was a house on fire. The wood from the porch was black and there were flames shooting up into the sky. I could hear crying nearby and I knew it was you I-I..." he faulted in his words, but he didn’t need to say anymore. The memory was so clear to me now that new sobs were erupting from my throat. I covered my mouth with my hand.

I bolted upright and ran as fast I could into the trees, following my childhood memories to that house. Ryan called after me again and again and I could hear him not far behind me. The broken branches on the ground snapped beneath my trainers, the soil was soft and thick. I remembered where to turn left and where to go right until I was right outside it. The place where my parent’s house had been was flat, undisturbed soil. No efforts had been made to rebuild the house, but the remains had gone. I remembered this now that I had reached it, remembering that I returned to this place secretly on the day of their deaths every year. The pain of loss didn’t feel as though it were mine as I knelt to the ground in sobs, I cried in the mind of the six year old Natali, who lost her parents. When I had seen my childhood home in flames and the feeling of helplessness was so raw in my gut it broke new sobs from my throat.

Ryan burst through the clearing seconds later. He bent beside me, holding me to his chest, he told me how brave I had been, how Nanny had taken me to live with her. He told me, although it only made me cry harder that they loved me very much.

*

My mother’s name was Anita and my father’s was Ray. They got married at the age of nineteen and like Ryan and I, were friends all of their lives. Anita was a nurse and Ray was a construction worker. They were really good people, people who everyone liked. My memories of them are sluggish, returning to me whenever Ryan said their names.

We sat facing each other, our legs crossed. I picked at the dirt around us as he spoke looking up and smiling whenever a memory emerged through the fog. The sun was beginning to dip behind the tallest trees; I wondered how long Ryan could stay with me. His hand came up to my uninjured cheek and he said "Is it like reliving everything over again?"

"Yes. Everything" Ryan’s hand stroked down my arm the yellow bracelet on my wrist, which he removed, and tied around my other wrist. I watched him in exasperation. Even Nanny hadn’t told me it was on the wrong wrist. "Food...food tastes different, I'm not sure I like tea and Nanny says that I like it. Books that I’ve supposed to have read completely bore me" I threw my hands around myself in annoyance "and I can’t even remember which wrist my bracelet goes on"

We sighed together. "Things will get easier Nat." I looked at Ryan’s handsome face in the sunlight, his tanned skin over his strong bones. He licked his lips, playing with this words "Think about how much you’ve uncovered already I'm mean, I don’t want to scare you...but when you-when you were gone the doctors said that your brain was...it was irreparable." Ryan swallowed hard; took my hand and dragged me up.

The End

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