The grass is dying. The pages of the book are worn but she doesn’t care. She will lie down on the ground covered it the firework-like explosions of green, orange and brown and continue to flick the pages of a book she has already read one hundred times. Anything to stop the flashbacks.
If she was to stop reading about the girl with too much pride and the man with too much prejudice, she might remember the swings that are over the fence, and the times her big brother pushed her on them. Maybe she would remember crying out with joy as she stood up and let the wind parachute her skirt and mess up her hair, and how she heard her brother laughing at her as the chains jerked when she got to high. Maybe she would remember nearly falling off. Noticing how the chains of the once new swing were old and rusty and easily breakable, but she still held onto it as tight as she could. She ignored the protest of her feeble six-year-old girl muscles and the buckets of sweat her hands had suddenly produced and instead held on and screamed out “Stop!” Maybe then she will remember her brother, at the age of seven and three quarters, breaking his two front teeth as he tried to control the monstrous wave threatening to take his sister away. The broken teeth, the blood on his shirt, the dried tears; all a badge of honor he would wear on his way to his parents, explaining his heroic attributes. Maybe then she’ll remember her parents shouting at them and taking her big brother, her hero, to the hospital.
If she were to stop reading about the girl who found two types of monsters, both of whom were far from monstrous, maybe then she would remember the path a couple of meters away which lead to the pond. She would remember spring; ducklings and flowers and new life. How the pond water would ripple as she dropped in old pieces of bread, despite the no feeding sign. Maybe then she would remember her brother explaining how the ducks have special feathers that don’t allow water to slip in or how the sky is blue because it’s reflecting the sea – or was that the other way around? Maybe then she would remember his name being called and him leaving her by the pond with one piece of bread left. “Go home when you’ve finished feeding the ducks okay?” he shouted as he ran to play football with his friends. He’s older now, at fourteen and a half, and it’s uncool to have your little sister of only just twelve beat your friends at football. Maybe then she would remember walking home and her parents asking her where her brother was. She would remember smiling and saying, “Out with friends, he’s just dropped me off, the ducks were fun.” Then climbing the stairs into her room, choosing a good book from the shelves. Maybe then she would remember faintly hearing the sounds of the Simpsons through the floorboards, blended into her mother and father and little sister all talking down the stairs; the hum of life, a perfect soundtrack for reading books.
If she were to stop reading about the girl who defied all odds, she would remember her brother leaving. She would remember him packing his bags and putting others in storage while her mother tried to smile proudly. She would remember her dad, always the rock, staying steady as the status quo shifted. She would remember her brother smiling at her and telling her “Don’t forget to take the little’n to the swings and the pond. She’d like the ducks.” She would remember nodding and smiling and laughing and saving – saving the moment. If she was to stop reading, she would remember the silence that followed that night. Everyone went to bed early and she stayed awake. She would remember hearing her mum worry over the loss of her little boy and her dad reminding her “He’s a man now. He’ll be fine.” A man at the age of 19, finally deciding it is time for university. Leaving behind the mess he made of broken promises and forgotten trips. She would remember the distance. Thousands of miles away he would be in his shared house, probably celebrating with his new roommate. She would remember hearing her little sister cry. The tears and hushed argument, enough to trigger a response. She would remember picking up her phone, texting him, reminding him to say goodnight. She would remember locating the perfect book and walking into her brothers – no her sister’s room and reading to her, teaching her the art of forgetting.