14th November, 2011
I sit in the lunch room with my head on the table, wondering if this pounding will ever go away. My head feels as if it will explode at any moment, and my chest is so restricted that I can barely breathe. My heart is pounding at what feels like a million miles an hour. I don’t know how to make it stop. Will it ever end?!
Slowly, so as to not make myself dizzy, I lift my head off the table, still keeping my eyes closed. I hear a faint noise coming from outside the room. I can’t seem to tell how far away it is. It seems a long way away but I can’t be too sure; my hearing isn’t working too well. I slowly creep out of my chair, slowly and steadily pushing the chair back. The screech it makes along the floor seems to deafen me; it’s way too loud! I can hear something making an impeccably bad noise outside the lunchroom. My senses seem to be going haywire, dropping in and out. I make an extra conscious effort to put one foot in front of the other, slowly, so very slowly, making my way towards the open door. I stand in the door way, my head beginning to pound ever so badly, and my chest constricting so much that I think my heart may well pop out of my chest, that I think I may die right here in the doorway. I realise I won’t be able to make it all the way through my first day. I won’t be able to see and talk to Katie like I planned to this afternoon. My parents’ and my sisters’ – What will happen?
I continue out of the doorway and turn right towards the staircase. My vision, like my hearing, has become unhinged. I have black spots where my peripheral vision should be and all I can see is of what is right in front of me. But I can barely see that. It’s gone incredibly blurry and I can just make out the shape in front of me: it looks as if it’s a ladder, but I can’t be too sure. The sound is coming from above. It sounds as though someone is sawing apart the roof. I can’t make myself look upwards without the feeling of my head snapping off my shoulders at any given moment.
As I walk past the ladder, the senses which I thought had gone completely nonsensical just stopped. I stop too, wondering what is happening. My head feels as if it is back to normal, not weighing down on the rest of me. My chest is going back to its normal self, and my heart isn’t beating against my chest like I’m running a marathon either. My eye sight slowly fades back into its normal vision – I don’t have any black spaces in my vision, and I can see perfectly. In fact, it seems better than it was before. And my hearing, just like my eyes, fades back from screeching to being how it was before.
And yet, as I stand here, wondering why I feel perfectly fine so suddenly, I can still hear the sound of something sawing coming from above me. I frown, wondering why that noise hasn’t stopped yet. The unpleasant feeling in the pit of my stomach suddenly returns, and I wonder why it has come back. Along with that sawing noise is now also a substantially loud cracking noise, as if the roof is about to collapse. I realise that this may be the reason for my substandard stomach. I decide not to bother moving out of the way. It wouldn’t make a difference with my feet glued to the spot, making me unable to move. Instead, I stand utterly still, and slowly turn my head upwards…
Two weeks later...
I stand in the cold and damp cemetery, surrounded by wet faces and loud sobs. I stand up the front of the large gathering of people, wondering why I am not crying. I stand here, alongside his distraught family in the front row, just standing. I don’t cry. I can’t cry. It’s physically impossible. I do not even feel the slightest bit of sadness. I have heard that when someone you are extraordinarily close to you dies, you feel numb. I don’t even feel that! I keep thinking that he is still alive, maybe in some sort of witness protection program like you see in the movies. Even as I saw him lying there in the open casket at the church, I still didn’t believe it.
Through all the thoughts running throughout my head, I hear the priest call out my name along with his parents’ and his three younger sisters’. I haven’t been listening until now, when I hear my name. I blink, and stare straight ahead at the priest. His family have all moved alongside the casket, lining up on both sides. I have the sudden urge to run. Run away from the cemetery, run away from this town and all the people. Run to an unknown town with unknown people and start over. Run to a place where no one would think of looking for me. But my legs won’t shift. I stand here, in the same spot, leaning awkwardly to the side as if I’m going to make a run for it. If only my legs would work. I glance up towards the top of the hill, and to my surprise, I see a figure standing on the top of it. It’s not him though. I can’t make out who it is, but I have a strikingly bad feeling about him. He shouldn’t be here. While I’m just standing here, staring at the individual on the hilltop, I do not realise that everybody is staring at me, waiting for me to join his family beside the coffin until Steve, my brother, nudges me in the ribs. I glance up at him, and he nods his head towards the coffin, where I should be. I glance down towards the bright green, freshly mown grass and I will myself to put one foot in front of the other. The first step, as is the cliché, is the most distressing. After that first step, I have a sort of convulsion, where my feet are trying to move faster than they should; they’re trying to run me elsewhere. But the rest of my body is trying to push my feet towards the coffin, towards his family and his dead body in the ground; where I should be. I can feel the tears beginning to unconsciously stream down my face as Steve places his hands delicately on my shoulders and guides me to stand next to Sophie, Robbie’s thirteen year old sister. I can hear the cries and sobs emanating from the crowd, and I can hear the mumble of the priest speaking. I can’t understand what he’s saying; I don’t want to hear what he is saying. I think back to the church this morning, where he had been speaking about Robbie’s life and all the wonderful things he had done, and the wonderful things he would have done. I was thinking, as he was speaking, that he had no idea. He had never known him, had never known what he was really like. He was, and is, just a stranger.
I remember everything he had left out of his speech: how his eyes would light up and sparkle whenever he was singing or playing his guitar, how protective he would get of his guitar, how his hands were so delicate, so soft and comforting. The way his voice would go from being deep to high-pitched, back and forth, whenever he got excited. As I finish reminiscing, I glance around myself and realise that everybody is leaving – it’s over. I sight Steve standing beside me, watching me with his apprehensive demeanour. I force a tight smile up at Steve and I turn to leave.
Steve follows me to his car, and I can feel him watching me anxiously the whole way, presumably thinking that I am susceptible to buckling under pressure at any given time. Our parents are waiting at Steve’s car for us.
My mother, who is a therapist, walks up to me with her arms out for a hug, probably thinking that that will make all of this go away.
“It will all be alright sweetheart,” Mum states in what is supposed to be a soothing tone, but it really just aggravates the hell out of me. “You’ll get through it.”
I roll my eyes at her inane words which she uses for her patients. I push her away and say, “Mum, please don’t start on me with your therapist bull. I’m not one of your patients and I don’t need to be coddled. I’m going to live with Steve, so if you don’t mind, I’m going to get my things and leave.”
Mum begins to get teary, and says, “Please, do what you have to do, but don’t leave!”
Dad puts his arms around her to comfort her, and to calm her down.
“Mum, I have to do this,” I say, trying to keep the exasperation out of my voice but it doesn’t work too well. I breathe in and out ever so slowly, trying to calm myself down. “Look, I didn’t say it would be forever. I just think that being with Steve and having a change of scenery may help me.”
Mum bursts into tears and nearly bowls me over, hugging me. She places her cold hands on my hot cheeks and kisses me forehead, then says to me, “Alright honey, but when you’re ready to come home, just say, ok?” She smiles down at me, and I nod, hoping she will just leave me alone.
Dad opens his arms up for me when Mum pulls away, and I walk into his warm, familiar hug and I give him a squeeze. I pull away, pat his chest and avoid looking into his eyes. It’s not that I’m afraid that he’s going to be angry at me for leaving, I’m afraid that I might break down in tears. He has that effect on me.
As I turn around and get into Steve’s car, I blink a few times to get rid of the tears that are beginning to well up. I sink down in the seat while putting my belt on, hoping that by doing so, nobody would notice how badly he being gone is beginning to hurt me.
I sit here for a few minutes on my own, waiting for Steve to get into the car and take me away from this dreadful place. It’s making me think too much about how, just two weeks, he was alive and well. How he had visited me the day before and just hearing the sound of pure ecstatic in his voice and the look on his face about starting his new job had sent shivers down my spine in excitement. The way his arms and hands had moved around so fast in the air while he was explaining what he would be doing and what he would learn and the people he would meet. The way, when he had finished his rant about how thrilling it all was, he looked into my eyes and, without saying a word, told me that he loved me. It was perfect, just the way it always was. Those three little words, though they were barely spoken between us, were always shown through the looks in his eyes – the way they sparkled; the way they lit up whenever I was around; the way that, no matter what, whenever he looked into my eyes, I felt myself gradually becoming more and more affixed to him.
I snap out of my trance of remembrance when I feel someone shaking me and saying my name. I gasp through the mountainous lump growing in my throat and twitch a little bit, like when you’re half asleep and have that feeling that you’re falling. I turn to the right, where the shaking had come from and notice Steve sitting in the driver’s seat looking at me with a concerned expression, as if I had been in an actual trance. I shake his hand off my shoulder and turn to stare out the window, hoping it would help quell the tears that are yet again forming. I can feel him still watching me as he turns on the car. As we pull out of the parking lot, I close my eyes.
When I wake up, I search the room for some known object – something to tell me where I have ended up. Through the darkness, I look towards the end of the bed and see the two suitcases that I had packed the night before the -. I don’t even want to think the word!
It’s then that I realise where I am: Steve’s house. He must have carried me in from the car. I don’t even remember being brought in – I must have been in a deep sleep.
All of a sudden, I have the urge to get out of bed and search the house. For what, I don’t yet know. I just know the feeling there is something I need to see or find.
As I crawl out bed, I can see a faint light coming from just outside the door of my room. I automatically assume it’s just a lamp that Steve left on until I realise that there had been no light coming from outside the room when I woke up. There had only been an extremely dull light coming from a gap in the curtains. I feel a bit worried as I hadn’t heard any movement.
As I pull myself up from sitting on the side of the bed, I don’t know if I should leave my room to discover where this now brilliant white radiance is suffusing from. But even as I struggle to decide whether I should or not, my feet are already taking me out through my new bedroom door and standing me right in front of this now luminous glow. Now I can see, as it is right in front of me, that it is not a light at all. My mouth drops open as I move my eyes up from his feet, to his legs, to his stomach and chest, all the way up to his face which is glowing the most out of all of him. He is standing there, looking completely solid, surrounded by this bright, now shimmering light. I don’t know what to do or how to react, so I just stand in front of him, staring and trying to comprehend how he is here, in the living room. I reach my hand out to hold his and I grab at nothing; at air. I have no time to control it, and I begin crying with so much force that I fall to my hands and knees, then onto my side, with a loud bang. I lay here, shaking and crying, not knowing what’s wrong with me. Am I seeing things? Is it because of the stress that he’s not here? That I don’t know what I’m doing anymore?
I don’t know how long I lay here for, but after what feels like an eternity I’m aware of warm and familiar hands and arms wrapping themselves around my middle, not trying to pull or take me anywhere – just trying to comfort me. But Steve’s attempt at comfort does little to help. It only makes me cry harder, making me remember how Robbie would wrap his arms around my middle at the most annoying times and would refuse to let go no matter much I protested and squirmed away from him. It reminds me of when, after our last exam for school just three weeks ago, we went to the beach afterwards and he had been chasing me along the sand and I fell and rolled my ankle. I fell that day the same way I did tonight – onto my hands and knees. He had nearly fallen on top of me, and almost didn’t react fast enough to my fall. But he had still managed to perfectly wrap his arms around me.
I struggle to draw myself back to the present. I’m getting too wrapped up in past memories. I draw myself away from Steve and, shakily standing up, avoid looking into his eyes, knowing from experience how he is going to be looking at me. He will be watching, just like yesterday, with an unsettling look in his eyes. I see his hand reaching towards my face to wipe away the new tears forming in my eyes. I flinch away from him and, before he can notice the new tears flooding down my cheeks, I run past him with a sob, out the front door and into the dimly lit street.
I continue to run further away from Steve’s house, up and down small streets I don’t recognise until I find myself in O’Connell Park, just across from where Robbie had lived not so long ago with his parents. I don’t know how I managed to get here – it definitely wasn’t planned. As much as I get along with his family, and I know we’re supposed to be helping each other, I can’t help but think that I shouldn’t be here, just opposite his grieving family’s house; that they will not want to see me.
I hadn’t realised until now, through all my thoughts that the sun is rising. I also realise that I have left my phone at Steve’s when I freaked out last night, so I can’t even check the time. But I do know, from a lot of experience, that his parents and his three year old sister, Abbey, will be awake, having their breakfast. From all the times that I stayed at their house since his youngest sister was old enough to move on her own, Abbey would crawl and then, when she quickly learnt, walk or run to her parents’ room at sunrise to get them up for breakfast. Then, she would run as fast as her chubby little legs would take her to Robbie’s room to get him up. Robbie had always been her favourite sibling. She never actually said it out loud, but everyone could tell she favoured him over Sophie and their other sister, Cecilia, who is seven.
I hope this ritual is still happening. Things may have changed since he died, though. I decide on impulse to tread across the road and ring the door bell – something I have never done before. For as long as I can remember, I have never knocked on the door or rung the doorbell. I have always just walked right in or, if the front door was locked, walk around to the back of the house and knock on his bedroom window. It was like a ritual of ours. He’d ask for the password, and I’d tell him to shut up and let me in. He’d ask for it again, and I would bang my fists five times on the window. He would tell me I wasn’t allowed in until I guessed the password, so I would guess a random word. He’d then tell me that I hadn’t guessed correctly and I would not be allowed in. I would scream at the top of my lungs and bang both of my fists on the window, and he would then let me in. We started doing this when we were eight and I ran away from home because Mum and Dad told me, as a joke, that I couldn’t see Robbie anymore. I didn’t realise it was joke at the time, and I thought that if I ran away to his house, they wouldn’t find me. I realise now how naive I had been back then. My parents knew, as they always did when I wasn’t home, that I was at Robbie’s.
I stand on the edge of the park, looking straight towards the house. All the blinds are drawn but I can see a light through a gap of a blind in the kitchen. I was right – they are up. I begin, yet again, to tear up at the mere thought of their morning ritual which I was involved in more times than I care to remember. Shaking all over, I lift one foot off the ground and place it down about half a metre in front of myself. I continue with this until I’m standing with my right hand on the front gate, trying to decide whether I should open it or not.
I’m about to take my hand off and walk away after a couple of minutes of just standing, staring at the front door when I notice a venetian blind in a window next to the door is moving. I stare at it, trying to figure out what it was when I see two big eyes peeking out from behind the blind at me. I can see the excitement in her eyes before I hear the squeal of exhilaration emanating from the house that I have heard so many times before, though rarely for me. Normally she saves that squeal for Robbie, so I don’t understand why she’s doing it now. I turn around and have a good look behind me, thinking that his ghost may be somewhere there. I can’t see him anywhere so I turn back around and see Esmẻ, Robbie’s ridiculously philanthropic mother, walking off the veranda towards me with her usual welcoming smile. As she stops on her side of the gate, she smiles warmly at me, and reaches up to the clasp of the gate and puts her warm, familiar and comfortable hand on mine. She lightly squeezes it and, without thinking, I throw her hand off mine and begin to back away slowly. I can feel the tears beginning to well up. I let out a loud sob as I back away even faster, and as I put my hand over my mouth, trying to not let out another one, I feel myself falling off the edge of the curb. Both my hands instinctively fly downwards, trying to break my fall. As I land, my hands scrape along the hard surface of the asphalt road and I land on my back…
I open my eyes after whatever time had passed and, through hazy vision, I see him standing over me with no bright white aura. I don’t believe it. How could it be?! We buried him yesterday. I saw him in the coffin!
Though I know, by logic, that he can’t be alive, I still feel fabulously ecstatic about him being here in the flesh! I can feel a tremendous grin spreading itself across my face. There is an intense happiness rushing through my body like electricity, sparking my senses and making me feel alive.
I close my eyes and rub them, hoping to get rid of the haziness and to get my normal vision back so I can see him properly. I open them again, blinking a few times to get rid of the stars and, when they’re gone, I look up with a pure urge to see his face properly and I gasp so sharply it could be mistaken for a scream. I put my hand over my mouth and, with wide eyes, stare up at the face in front of me. With clear vision I can now see why I thought it was him. It’s his father, Antoine. I never realised until now how alike they actually are. I drop my gaze down to his legs and all the way back up to his face, thinking as I’m looking about what is the same between them. Their legs are both a bit skinny, but also muscular. Their hands are exactly the same; neither of them are wrinkled, they are the same size, shape and colour. They have the same build – skinny, but muscular. Their arms sit at their side, slightly bent at the elbows and hands sitting comfortably at the pockets of their pants.
As I move my eyes up to his face, I can’t help but stare into his eyes. I burst straight into tears, shaking all over. Their eyes – they are exactly the same; bright green with little specks of blue around the pupil. The intensity in his stare – he’s looking at me in the same way Robbie always did. He’s looking at me, trying to figure out what’s wrong -- though Robbie always knew without me telling him -- and with a look of worry and care. I feel his arms closing around me, but this just makes it so much worse! His arms have the same feel as Robbie’s and it just reminds me again of how he’s not coming back; he is gone.
I don’t have the strength to push him away, and if I am being completely honest, I don’t want to! As much as it’s bringing back now painful memories, I feel like I need to stay and hold on to them before they all fade away for good.
I don’t know how long we sit here in the same position, but eventually he pulls back to get a good look at me. I can’t even think to look into his eyes in fear of breaking down into tears again but I do anyway. My body is reacting to some sort of natural instinct, and not to what I tell it. I can feel myself, as I stare into his bright green eyes, beginning to shake but I counteract it.
I can feel a smile beginning to creep along my face, something I didn’t think I would feel ever again. I don’t know what it is about this place, but it just feels like home; more of a home than my parents’ place and my brothers’ place. I can feel a warmness running through me, telling me that this is the place to be right now: with Robbie’s family. I finally understand – we do have a common interest. We should be supporting each other; I shouldn’t be trying to push them away or ignore them in fear. I finally realise that we both lost someone incredibly special to us all. Why have I been trying to lock them out these past couple of weeks?
All of a sudden, I feel a warm and extremely familiar hand on my shoulder. I turn my head upwards to the right with a voluminous beam widening across my face because I realise that it’s Steve and he has found me. He grins down at me with a smug look on his face.
“What are you looking so smug about?” I enquire, frowning.
“Oh,” Steve says, sounding even more smug and sarcastic than he looks. “I don’t know. I had no idea that this is always where you come when you run away!”
I raise my eyebrows and grin at him. He always did know everything. I glance out the window and notice that it’s incredibly bright outside.
“What time is it?” I implore at no one in particular.
Antoine glances down at his watch and says, “It’s midday. You were out for a few hours.”
I gape at him, wondering how hard I hit my head. I struggle to remember back to just a few hours ago, but the last thing I remember is falling and my vision going blurry.
“How could I have been out for so long?!” I demand, worrying that something is wrong with me.
Antoine looks as if a grin is about to spread itself across his face, but he controls it and says, “You weren’t knocked out for that long. You were asleep for most of the time – you were snoring considerably loudly.”
He can’t help but keep the grin out of his voice and off his face when he talks about my snoring. I roll my eyes and stand up too quickly, and nearly face-plant onto the carpet. Luckily, Steve catches me around my middle and drags me back over the lounge where I had just been sitting.
“Katie, you really need to learn to slow down!” Steve chastises me.
I glare up at him and sit back against the lounge, pouting. I have a severe hatred of being told what to do, especially by Steve. The next thing I know, there’s someone sitting on top of me, bouncing up and down with much more excitement than I can handle right now. I blink and see that it’s Abbey. She’s staring up at me with her big blue-green eyes, with different levels of excitement shifting through them each second. I can’t help but grin broadly down at her, and she giggles loudly and cuddles up to me. For someone who is so little, she is impeccably warm and comforting.
Through Abbey’s incessant excitement, I hadn’t noticed Steve writhing around in pain on the floor. He looks like he may be having some kind of fit. Esmẻ, kneeling over him, is talking extremely fast on the phone, but I can just make out that she is speaking to someone about an ambulance. Antoine is still sitting beside me, but he is sitting up straighter and more stiff than usual. Sophie is standing in the kitchen, holding onto the table as if she may collapse from the sight of Steve. Abbey is still snuggled up against my chest, but she’s looking at Steve with some sort of curiosity, as if she is trying to figure out what he is doing. I can’t see Cecilia, his 7 year-old sister, anywhere. I don’t worry too much about where she is though.
I look back down at Steve, who is still on the floor, but he is now still; a little too still if you ask me. Esmẻ is still crouching over him, checking various parts of his body, obviously looking for something important.
“Esmẻ,” I say, looking at her questioningly. “What are you doing?”
She glances up at me with a serious expression, looks back down at Steve and says, “I’m trying to find the source of his fit. It is extremely difficult.”
“So you don’t know what’s wrong with him?” I ask, getting more worried.
“I’m afraid not,” Esmẻ says, sounding and looking quite upset. “An ambulance is on its way so don’t stress. He’ll be just fine!”
Though I would trust Esmẻ with my life, I can’t help but wonder if he really will be fine. He is still unmoving – he doesn’t even look to be breathing! I can feel myself beginning to panic again. What if he isn’t breathing? Has his heart stopped? Why does Esmẻ look so dejected? So… sad? She looks as if she is in shock. I open my mouth to ask her if he’s still breathing, but nothing comes out. We’re all staring at him, wondering what is going to happen. I wonder when the ambulance is going to get here. It shouldn’t take this long!
A few minutes later, my head pops up in recognition of a noise. I hear someone pull up out the front of the house, a door slamming and the sound of running feet. Esmẻ must have heard it too because she stumbles up onto her feet from her kneeling position and runs down the hallway to the front door. I hear rushed voices and the door opening. I look over and I see her and two ambulance men rushing into the lounge room where the rest of us are watching them with apprehensive expressions, hoping that they can help him. None of us want someone else in the family to be hurt, or to die. It was painful enough the first time, let alone a second one, especially so close together.
Five minutes later, they have him taken out on a stretcher to the ambulance and have left for the hospital. I just sit in the same spot, staring unblinkingly down at where Steve had been. The ambulance men had been speaking to each other in low voices, sometimes glancing up at me. The look on their faces – I couldn’t tell if it was good or bad. They just had neutral expressions, neither good nor bad, and it worried me so much more than words can explain. Why couldn’t they be more decisive? Why couldn’t they have told me if he will be alright? Why did they not know the cause of the problem?
I realise I am being shaken by Antoine. I blink to clear my hazy, teary vision, to see that his face is right in front of mine, and I’m not prepared for it. I gasp and jump up in shock, not expecting him to be so close. I jump up so fast that I accidently push my knee into the side of his face. I put my hand over my mouth in complete shock and sit back down, wondering what damage I have caused him. His hand is on his cheek, and his fingers are rubbing the skin just the left of his mouth.
“Oh my god!” I exclaim, totally in shock. “I’m so sorry! How bad is it?”
I watch him as his forehead creases and softens. He looks up at me with his kind smile and says, in his usual mocking voice, “It’s horrible, Katie! I think you knocked a few teeth out. I may have to get a face reconstruction because of all the damage!”
He stares at me with a grin spread across his face, assessing how I am reacting to his sarcasm. I roll my eyes and smirk down at him, knowing that he will always be the same.
I stand up again, carefully this time so as not to hurt Antoine again, and I reach down, offering a hand to help him up. He takes it and pulls hard as he stands up, nearly making me topple over onto him. I put my hands onto his chest, trying to stop myself from falling over. He laughs at me and helps me regain my balance, and he then puts his arm around my shoulder, giving it a squeeze. I put my head on his shoulder for a moment, taking in the comforts that I had been missing these past few weeks.
As I take my head off his comfortable and warm shoulder, I look around the room, seeing that Sophie is helping Esmẻ get Abbey ready to leave. I look up at Antoine, his arm still firmly around my shoulders and wonder how he is coping with Robbie’s death – I’m really upset that I haven’t had the chance to talk to him about it. He glances down at me and must be able to read my mind.
“It’s hard,” he says with a heavy sigh, sitting down on the lounge opposite where we just were. “You know, he was our first child – the only boy. He was always the least troublesome. He knew how to keep the girls in line – it was like he had some hold over them, like what he said was gospel. They would listen to him over Esmẻ and me, even if we told them the exact same thing. He always knew exactly what to say in any situation. Everybody loved him, whether they knew him or not. He was just one of those people that are too likeable.”
He stops for a moment, coughing to disguise a sob and blinks a few times to stop the tears from falling. He continues, “I think it’s been the hardest on Abbey. She was always with him, always running after him, trying to get under his feet. They never fought either, even though they were so close. I think the only reason she learnt to walk so quickly was so that she could chase after Robbie. He absolutely adored her too and he would never get mad at her, even when she’d interrupt him when he was busy or nearly make him fall on top of her because she’d be so quiet and sneak up on him. He would make time for her, even if it meant he got behind in his school work.”
This time when he stops, he doesn’t try to mask his sob or his tears. They fall freely down his cheeks now, and, when he begins to speak again, his voice is croaky and cracked.
“We all thought when he was little kid that he would grow up to be one of those serious and studious people,” he chuckles, the corners of his mouth turning up into a small smile. “That was before he met you. I remember going to pick him up from playgroup when you were both two. He came running up to me with you, hand in hand, and he told me that you were his girlfriend. You both giggled and showed me the string tied around your fingers. You were pretending to be married. I remember going to ask the lady who organised the group what had happened. She told me that all the kids had stood in a circle, giggling, and held a special ceremony for the two of you. You had only met that day, because you were new, and you exchanged special pieces of string and tied them around each other’s wedding fingers. From that day onwards, we could never keep you two apart. He changed instantaneously. He went from being a studious and boring little boy to being the fun-loving person you knew. If we told him he couldn’t see you that day, he’d either run to your house or, if he couldn’t find a way out of here, he’d lock himself in his bedroom and scream until he was blue in the face.”
He stops again, tears still streaming down his face, but this time he is smiling with the memory of him. I had not noticed until he stopped now, but I had begun to cry too, not with my own memories but with his father’s. I smile up at him from my crouching position and get a hold of his hand, squeezing it. He responds right away; he looks down at me and his smile becomes even bigger. He stands up, and so do I. He pulls me into a hug, holding me tight against his chest.
Once we let go, he looks down at me, holding my upper arms softly in his hands and says, without a break in his voice, “We had better go and see how Steve is, hey?”
I had completely forgotten about Steve and his fit! I cannot believe that I forgot about him, but it felt good hearing somebody else’s memories. It has made me realise that I’m not the only one with fond memories of Robbie. But, I realise, now is not the time. We have to check on Steve.
With the smile gone from my face, I glance up at Antoine and say, “Yeah, I hope he’s alright.”
Half an hour later, we arrive at the hospital. Esmẻ and I go the front counter. While Esmẻ talks to the lady, presumably asking her about where Steve is, I’m trying not to get annoyed with Abbey, who is pulling at my face and hair. I must look annoyed, because she giggles and stops. I look at her, and I realise why Robbie could never get annoyed at her – she is just too adorable for words.
Esmẻ’s voice beside me snaps me out of my reverie. She says, “Katie, Steve is in the ICU. He’s completely fine, but they just want to keep him there, at least overnight, just to make sure.”
I breathe a sigh of relief. I am so glad that there is nothing wrong with him. I’m still a bit confused though – why did he have a fit if there’s nothing wrong?
“Esmẻ,” I say, catching her attention just as she goes to walk away. “Why did he have a fit if there’s nothing wrong with him?”
She says, with a slightly, but not overly worried look, “It seems that I got it very wrong, Katie. He was not, in fact, having a fit.”
I frown at her, and ask, “But he was! I was there!”
“I know it looked like he was, and I can assure you, I truly believed he was having a fit too,” Esmẻ tells me. “But that’s not what happened. You see, Robbie’s ghost has visited us a few times. We’re not entirely sure if it’s real or just our imaginations. Anyway, as it turns out, as a ghost passes through somebody – that is, ‘walks’ through them – they go into a sort of shock, and it looks exactly like a fit.”
I think about this and, frowning, I ask, “Is that what the doctors said? How do they know about his ghost appearing? Did you tell them?”
A slight smile crosses her face as she replies, “They couldn’t find any medical reason for him to have a fit. He is perfectly healthy. They were incredibly confused as to what could have brought it on. That’s when I told them about Robbie’s ghost. As I suppose you would expect, they didn’t believe me. But I have a friend – she lives on the other side of the country – that has had this happen to her. Her father passed away and she didn’t know what to do with her life – he was her best friend. He had unfinished business – he had to make sure that she would be alright without him. Anyway, one day his ghost was not visible. He walked right through her and she had a ‘fit’, just like Steve. That’s how I realised what had happened.”
I nod, telling her that I completely understand what she is saying. I put down Abbey, who runs to Antoine and wraps her arms around his leg, giggling. I ask Esmẻ where Steve is, and I follow her directions to his room.
Two hours later, after a long chat, Steve falls asleep. I just sit on the chair situated beside his bed, watching him drift into a peaceful sleep. I hear, while watching him, a slight knock at the door. I turn around to see who it is, and Esmẻ walks in with a book under her arm. She smiles at me as she pulls up a chair, but she looks to be contemplating something; something big.
“What is it?” I ask, becoming increasingly fearful. “What’s that?”
I point to book she is still holding under her arm. She looks at it and takes it into her hands, frowning down at it. She glances up at me before saying, “I didn’t know before, but Robbie kept a diary, a journal, whatever you want to call it. Did you know?”
I frown, wondering why it seems so important to her, and I answer, “No, I didn’t. Why?”
“Well, this is his diary,” she says, frowning as she says the word. “While you were in here talking to Steve, we went home to put Abbey to bed. While I was doing so, I caught a glimpse of a white light just outside her bedroom door. As I moved closer to it, it would move farther away. As I came out of her doorway, it went through Robbie’s closed bedroom door. I decided to go in, as I haven’t been in there since the morning of his accident. I decided that, while I was there, I may as well go through his things and try to clean it all up. I was dragging everything out from under his bed – he had a lot under there – and I found this in an old shoe box. I just assumed it was an old school book until I opened it. He’s put photos of two together, and just you on your own. He’s written about the days he spent with you – how you looked, what you did, how perfect you are.”
She cocks her head to side at this last bit with a slight smile and chuckles to herself. She clears her throat, and, with her smile gone again, she continues, “But at the end, on the last page, there’s something different. It’s a letter, not just something he wrote for himself. But what worries me is, it’s dated the 15th of November – the day after he died.”
She blinks a few times, still frowning. She opens it to the back and hands it to me to read. I read it aloud:
“Whoever finds this, please know that I have the correct date. I did die yesterday. Sometimes, when a person dies, its spirit stays on the Earth. This may be for any reason, depending on the person. For me, I am still here because I have unfinished business to attend to. I need to explain to you all – my family, Katie, and her family – what actually happened to me. It was not an accident. The roof did not collapse because it was weak - this is what you got told. It collapsed because Jarrod, a guy who has always hated me, was attacking the fan on the roof. He was up a ladder with saw, and he had a plan. I heard him later, when my spirit left my body, saying to a guy I don’t know that his plan that day was to get rid of me permanently so he could get to Katie. He has always liked her, since Kindergarten, and has seen me as a threat.
I need you, whoever finds this, to tell everyone that my death was no accident and to get out of town. Go somewhere he will never find you. He will be coming after both families for the pain I have apparently inflicted on him.
Please understand that he will be coming after you as well. He isn’t planning on killing you, but killing everyone you care about so that you have no one to turn to except for him. Please, for me, leave as soon as you can. I will always love you.
Mum and Dad, Katie’s parents,
Please leave with Katie. Leave together, go far away. Do not come back here, at least for a while.
Please listen to me and you will be safe.
I stare down at the page, completely in shock, but fully understanding what he is saying. I look up at Esmẻ with wide-eyes, and we both know what we have to do.
Three weeks later…
It’s very nice up here in Cairns, a town in North Queensland. It’s a lot different to Newcastle, but it’s nice. After reading Robbie’s letter and letting everyone know what happened and what is going to happen if we stick around, we all decided to take his advice and move up here together. Luckily, we found three houses for sale in the same street. Both sets of parents’ are next door to each other, and Steve and I are fifteen houses down from them.
I know that we have done the right thing. I felt, as we were coming into Cairns, a good feeling spread through my body. This feeling of doing the right thing was ratified when we were unpacking – Robbie’s ghost appeared. He faded out just as quickly as he faded in, but Steve and I both saw him grinning at us and nodding. We have done the right thing.
I can't figure out how to do an attachment so I just copy and pasted it.