The intruder at the table

Aramis wanted to leave.

Tobey was nearly home, shivering slightly in the cold rain beneath the lozenge glow of the orange streetlamps. His hand was fiddling with the key in his pocket, running the jagged edges over the roughened skin of his fingertips absent-mindedly, as if he were trying to draw blood, to prove it wasn't a dream. It didn't make sense. Why would Aramis want to leave the idyllic life she shared with Cosmodius, free from school and its pressures, free from the sadness that tinged his world, free to run wild over the hills, swift-footed as a deer... why would she swap the life that had made him so happy, for this civilisation? For suburban architecture and GCSEs and Aden? Why would she swap life, for this existence?

It didn't make sense.

As he stuck the key in the lock he heard loud voices. Puzzled, he peered in through the frosted glass of the window, wondering if everything in his world was strange today, whether perhaps he was missing something. Is it let's confuse Tobey day? Normally, Tobey, shy, monosyllabic Tobey, was the loudest person there.

The hallway was deserted, tidy as it usually was, and the other doors in the house were shut,

affording no clues. Tobey twisted the key vigorously, wanting to find out what on earth was going on.

"You did what?!"

His mother's voice, heard through at least two doors, was shrill and accusing, although Tobey found it difficult to imagine what his father could have done to provoke this rage. Bespectacled, he was as quiet, if not more so, than his son, modest and unassuming. Tobey didn’t think he’d ever heard his father raise his voice, even when he and his mother had been arguing. He tried the handle, but the door didn't open.

"Calm down, Jane, and listen. It's not as bad as you think it is."

Ah yes, that's dad all right. Trying to make everything better. Doesn’t he know some things can’t be fixed?

After fiddling with the lock a little more, the door gave way. Tobey crept quietly into the house, wiping his boots on the mat - welcome he read, with an ironic smile that wasn't really a smile at all- before placing them, neatly, in the alcove where shoes were kept and hanging his coat up, neatly, on the silvery hooks. The sound, he realised, was coming from the dining room, where the door was ever so slightly ajar. He tiptoed to the thin gold bar of light. With his eye pressed to the chink, all he could see was his mother's furious back, obscuring all else, just as the conflict had blocked out everything else that he had been thinking about before. She sounded more animated than she had done in a very long time.


There was a crash. Had she thrown something, or just banged her fist down hard on the table? It was hard to tell. The whole experience was so bizarre. His mother did not do angry, she was just 'disappointed', and underneath it all, the same sad apathy that filled him. Or rather, that had filled him, before.

Funny, how life divided into 'before' and after'. Only now, he wasn't sure where the before was. The before Anna? Or the before Cosmodius?

"It's not the end of the world,” Tobey’s father’s voice was almost pleading with his wife to be reasonable. Tobey held his breath, waiting for something. He didn't quite know what. But he wasn't disappointed


Footsteps which seemed to echo, in spite of the carpeting. He jumped backwards just in time, as the door was almost wrenched open and his mother stalked out, anger radiating from her like a halo of fury, white-hot in every strand of untidy hair. It was a miracle her glasses escaped; he could imagine their gold frames trickling and oozing down her face, metal blobs like tears of extreme frustration... She stormed past, apparently unaware of his presence. Either that, or uncaring. One of the two.

He didn’t turn to watch her go or follow up the stairs to try to act as peacemaker, or even to hide in his room. The air was thick with the argument that had gone on, the silence vibrated with it, and the violin against that aching silence would hurt his ears more than his heart already did. His eyes, which were fixed straight ahead of him, stared into the dining room, now unhindered by the open door. Into the room where his father was pretending to clean his bifocals on the front of his shirt, rather predictably shaken by his wife's outburst- but he was not alone.

Deeply puzzled, he gawped at the person sitting at the head of the table. She was a young woman, short, blonde, in her early twenties, wearing a rather alarming amount of make-up, particularly around her eyes, the lids of which were painted all the colours of a sunset.  She was staring back at him, raising one eyebrow in a challenge, but when her eyes registered that he was watching her, his fists clenched and grey eyes narrowed, she broke into a sunny smile.

"Hey, Tobes,"

"What are you doing here? Why aren't you in Stirling?"

She groaned. "Not you too. I've already had this from Mum. I dropped out of uni. Aren't you glad to see me, little brother?"


The End

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