I haven't done this in such a long time. I've lost the spirit for it really. I think I should apologise. This isn't what it was meant to be but it was either this or another year and a half of waiting. Enjoy. Oh and if anyone can solve linear first order differential equations you're asked to e-mail me. I shall repay you in nice compliments and possible reviews. Honest.

Chapter Eight

Hot tin melted sticky against my hands. I drew my fist away from the body of Lucy's dark, solid door, I hesitated to knock, Lucy's door was never shut. Instead I pushed it ajar lightly with my palm and it came away completely, with a whirling yawn.

"Hello?" I called into the hollow cavity. Silence answered. I stepped inside the hall, vigilantly. My feet twisting to the dark shades of the floor; careful not to tread on the patterns of colour washed into Lucy's floorboards by her magnanimous stained glass. The empty hall drove into the distance of the house like a complex burrow, the floor glowing with incandescence of sunlight. The burrow splintered into princely rooms, some of which I hadn't dared to enter, even in secret inquisition. I dragged my fingers silently against her burnished white walls, creeping effortlessly into the second door on the left . It was the only floor that beamed sordid light against the thick boards, melting in like hot flowing wax.

I peered softly into the opening. Light streamed boldly, from a large undraped window, covering the carpet in a magnificent golden hue. It bathed the whole room in a fire of yellow, scorching violently up the walls. Only seven figures cast a dark gaping glow; four light but heavily elaborate chairs, a small round table with eagle feet, a towering bookcase mortified with heavy peeling texts and a fierce vermillion wall hanging; archaic arabesque gold curved patterns wound tightly in its flaring knots. A sudden light clash averted my attention to the shadow crouched into the table, sitting deeply in one of the light chairs. It was Jamie's stately frame, huddled over a liquid mirror of coloured tiles. He poured the pieces onto the vivid sheen of wood, the colours flaring in the light. I pressed myself too deeply into the wall and his attention was startled.

"Oh, hello?" I asked, shifting to hide away against her door frame. But Jamie's face rose and smiled and his eyes shone brilliantly in his face. He fixed his attention again on the splay of colour in front of him, counting imaginary squares with his fingertips before leaning precariously to fit another piece in perfectly, without the slightest hesitation. I moved chaotically against the wall and Jaime peered at me again.

"You're not a mirage!" he exclaimed, mockingly. I curdled away in embarrassment. I shouldn't have walked in uninvited.

"The door was open...I did call out..." I stumbled over my words perfectly, red flooding my face. I felt Jaime study my face with perfect intrigue, soaking in every detailed mannerism. He brushed the side of his palm against his mouth suddenly and chuckled to himself. He rose from his chair and his suit uncreased itself with the weight of his movements. He stopped just outside the door and fixated on the light metal package I held in my arms.

"You've missed her." he said in an obvious tone. "She won't be back for an hour or so." he stated again, not paying much interest to anything except the package. And he pointed to it, vaguely before his crossed his arms in distaste.

"I don't really like pies." he said frowning and his arms rose to comfort the anguish on the back of his neck. I cradled the pie close to my chest, letting the warmth of package seep into my lungs. An awkward smile crept into the corner of my cheeks.

"It's not really..." but Jaime cut me off with a very vigourous nod.

"I know" he smiled, "I just wanted to see your reaction." And he laughed silently rolling his tongue against the bottom of his molars. "Can't let it go to waste though." he lifted the pie from my grip and absconded to the kitchen, hurrying back with a slice cut neatly square atop of a pristine white plate, a fork crashing into its side. He nudged the plate carefully into my ribs.

"Here, you can be my assayer." he teased watching my smile drop from my face. And plunging his arm back down to his side he felt for my palm, slipping his dextrously into mine, a move too precarious for reason. He led me into the room bulging with light and fitted himself back into his mediative picture, leaving me completely absent. I rolled my palm against the firm wood of the chair in front me, the cold lacquer feeding into my skin.

"Maybe, I should go?" I asked quietly, careful not to disturb his silence. Jamie didn't respond, he sifted tiny tiles of colour about in his hands, examining each and every shade. "I just thought I might make an appointment for tomorrow?" I hinted at his silence. "I can leave a note..." my voice croaked, a little insolent in nature. Jamie waved a palm dissuasively before his eyes fixed heavily on my face.

"You haven't touched your pie? It is laced with something, isn't it?" A tiny audacious smile protruded from the corner of his mouth. I crossed my arms promptly in resentment.

"No." I remarked deftly, pulling out his mother's light oak chair and fixing myself daintily upon it. "I don't do assassination".

"Good to know" Jamie taunted light-heartidly. They were his last words for what felt like an eternity. Jamie could simply dissolve like that, dissolve into his own world without the slightest hint of return. I watched him slur the painted tiles under his fingers with thundering mess. And ever so gently he would lift one to the bouldering light, examine its surface, fix its corners and feel the rugged texture of its sides. And just as gently he would return them to the exact same spot he had retrieved them from previously. Every time, the movements, like art, flowed and melted into the room.

"I thought you were meant to be in Antarctica?" I asked, disturbing his silence. His eyes flared and lashed at mine.

"Where?" he questioned.

"Antarctica" I gulped, the word like slurry, ran thick down my throat. Jamie darted his eyes about, amused. And then he stopped, only momentarily but with every fleeting second he soaked up my figure with his mind.

"You never mentioned he was dead." he stated, quietly.

"Who's dead?", My eyes widened with a certain terror but Jamie just shifted colour against the table and smiled.

"Now Tess, she hasn't told me anything." he shook his head firmly, his mellow eyes piercing dominantly against the light. A gasp of breath relinquished its hold on my chest.

"How...?" I breathed, pressing one hand sharply into the next.

Jamie coughed slightly and shifted his chair back, plunging himself into a halo of flooding light. It lifted up his hair onto its very ends and burned through them like hot ashes. I swallowed in muted awe. He was mage-like.

"People are very intriguing Tess. They're like puzzles. Every little expression they make are pieces in the greater puzzle of their identity." And with that he remained silent and returned deftly to his puzzle, arranging every piece with utmost precision. I disappeared from his world, he blurred me out entirely. Until a sudden moment where he paused, his finger tapping lightly on a tile.

"You were engaged." he stated again, calmly. Shifting his eyes to see my hands sweep away into my armpits. His face flared with affirmation. He had discovered my secret.

In the distance of the dust swirl, Evan hid deep in a dark garage, talking freely with the mechanic beside him. The two men spun friendly circles around each other in conversation and intermittently Evan would grip his oily, faded shoulder with a gentle ferocity that came with companionship.

I turned and watched the heat weave, mystifying patterns across the steel bonnet of his Ute. The wind breathed heat under the floor and it swept up through the thin doors bathing the entire air with a hot smell. I leaned my head against the hollow cool of the window pane; it warmed to the heat of the fear on my temple. Puddles of cool sweat swept across my cheeks and rolled down my eyelids as the heat of the morning sun choked my skin with its fire.

A rumbling knock crashed the pane against my face. I tore my face to see the culprit who disturbed me, his solid figure dousing my face in shadow. A sinking recognition filled the hole of my empty stomach and I ripped the door open and flung myself into the man's arms.

"Teddy!" I whispered childishly into his ear while I fed the man closer into my gripping hug. He hugged me equally firmly, pressing his worn away cheek against my own. I closed my eyes and breathed in his smell. I loathed the smell of engine oil but for Teddy it was what made him.

I felt reluctant to leave his hold but he eventually pushed me away with a soft determination. Gripping my shoulders he peered into my face and studied it diligently. After careful consideration he relinquished his grip and filed his oily hands away into the recesses of his navy blue overalls.

"Well, you haven't changed." he smiled, content with the conclusion that his sibling still held that firm determination that he was innately proud of. I smiled gently and wished that I could say the same about him. But Konàn had changed.

I ran my hands down his once very able and muscular arms. His figured had hollowed, it was still immense and secure but years of pitiless work had drained away the youth that I had come to admire in my brother. He had become a very rigid and pale man. The sun had eaten away his face and made it golden, vacant and strained. His lips were almost skeletal and an unnatural deep red. And his hair too had darkened to a rough sandy blonde that whipped across his forehead unkempt. Fortunately his eyes were untarnished, they still glistered a fervid ice colour. His gaunt nose was routinely smeared blue and I reached to wipe the oil away he just as automatically swiped my aback turning to face a thoroughly bemused Evan.

"Teddy?" he asked, picking away at the fresh stubble on his chin, raising a smile in amusement.

Konàn combed through his hair in slight embarrassment.

"It's a pet name. She always thought 'Konàn' was a little harsh." Konàn flickered his gaze at me apprehensively. And a cheeky grin tore across Evan's face, his eyes lit up churlishly and he stored away the name for safe-keeping.

Stricken by Evan's nature I turned to him and pointed at my brother lamely.

"Evan this is..." I started but Konàn caught my hand and placed it back down by my side.

"I know Jonesy." he glanced at me gratefully.

"And I know Konàn" Evan concluded. "We used to go to school together." Evan explained quite flagrantly as if the idea was ultimately obvious.

"But I.." I began, the shock of familiarity had sunk itself into my chest. I widened my eyes in protest. I didn't understand how Teddy could have possibly met Jones under any circumstances, particularly without my knowledge.

"When I ran off I came across Helen at a train station in Melbourne. She thought I ought to get back to school and knew of a way in which I could earn my semesters without having to pay." Konàn eyes narrowed shyly into his face. There was so much he had avoided telling me, he was embarrassed by life and avoided it vehemently. The first chance he was able, Konàn escaped. But I had to pay the consequences. It was I that woke up one morning to find that the only other soul I could trust had disappeared without a single word and left me the enormity of my family. It took me years to forgive him, I only managed to as I thought that if I were ever to see him again I would hate myself if I despised him.

Evan's quite figure emerged again in explanation.

"Konàn was Field's, the keeper's apprentice between terms. And boarded with Helen, his wife and his son Geof." A glitter of a smile appeared on Evan's face as a memory surfaced in his mind. "And he used to sit next to me in maths. He used to copy my trig off me. Too bad I knew." Evan teased and pulled a superior face in Teddy's direction. I remained motionless, it was almost as if these two men had conspired and planned this encounter for years, just to watch my face fade into pale vacancy.

"Tess?" Evan questioned, he had noticed that I had failed to take a breath. His heavy hand weigh down against my shoulder, nudging me slightly from my trance. I stared at him puzzled but he smiled at me amused.

"Well?" he asked Konàn. "I'm guessing it's the alternator." professed Evan in a mildly informed way. Konàn threw a damp oiled cloth to Evan's chest.

"It is the alternator." he mumbled mechanically, " Your brushes are too short." And Evan nodded astutely and stole away into the darkness of the garage.

"He didn't know about me did he?" I asked, my eyes seeped with petition. I clutched tightly onto the chest pocket of his overalls and Teddy clutched fiercely onto my wrist until I let go. He licked his lips awkwardly and shuffled his eyes into corners.

"Konán!" I begged. It was imperative to keep my past a lonely secret.

"He didn't." he muttered and swiped an blue part from the depths of his pocket, pressing into his palm with a clenched fist. "I didn't tell him much Tess. I thought if he knew he'd think poorly of me. I was already the keeper's hand while he was a commander's son, your commander's son." He uttered with that light tone of voice that had so often comforted me in the night. I smile graciously and with the only affection I had mustered, I brushed away the scraggly fringe from his eyes, running my fingers across his forehead.

I walked a little deeper into the sheltering cool of his garage and lent my frail figure against his latest project. I picked away savagely at my hand, each nail gliding into my pale and satin skin.

"He's asked me to marry him." I whispered, bowing my head. Konán shuffled his feet heavily across the floor in my direction, picked up a heavy metal part and began prodding it with his sullen fingers.

"And?" he asked miserably. "Will you?" he peered at me, his crystal eyes searing under his heavy brow. He was very aware of my habits. I fell miserably deeper into the skeleton of the old Ford.

"I don't know what to say..." I breathed and Konán sighed, almost throwing the heavy metal block from his palm onto the roof of the Ford.

"Tess, you can't keep this up." he muttered woefully.

"I'm just afraid, that's all." I explained my voice dulling to that redolent tone of self pity. My lips quivered and my jaw shook with repressed hurt. I hunched over deeply, I felt ashamed.

"Have you told him?" Konán asked now too weighing his figure against the dust sprinkled skeleton.

"I can't!" I hissed, my eyes narrowing. "Not that! I swallowed away the apprehension in my throat. Konán shuffled his feet underneath himself, wiping his face free of anxiety.

"You don't trust him Tess?" he murmured from the frame of a vacant window, peeling away the dust with gentle swipes of his hands. A certain bitterness started to spike at the roof of my mouth. It didn't matter whether I could trust him, it mattered whether or not that trust would do; trust was always an ephemeral concept. I gazed away unconvincingly while Konán sighed deeply into his chest.

"Tess, I know what they did to you." Konán touched my arm and followed my face with solid perception. Konán was there when my mother's 'men' tore me from his grasp and dragged my weak body into a quiet room, where you couldn't hear my piercing screams. Once they were finished they'd leave me there, bruised, tarnished and broken. And only Teddy would nurse the pain away.

Konán wiped my tear stained eyes with an abrasive tissue.

"I know they hurt you Tess. But not all men are like that" he fed his arms around my waist.

"Not Jones?" I asked, the pink wearing thin from my cheeks.

"Not Jones" Konán smiled and drew his arm from around my waist and returned them securely to his pockets. He had heard Evan return at the call of his name, Evan's powerful figure emerged from the void.

"Are you okay to go Tess?" he asked, a little more gentle than I had imagined; he had caught the glaze of wet along my eyes. I nodded slowly and watched him sink towards the Ute. I pulled away from Konán's presence with a solemn nod.

"Tess!" Konán grabbed my wrist, leaving his blue stained against my skin. He dragged me close into his chest, fixing his eyes squarely on mine he whispered in

low spitting voice. "You hate insincerity Tess. And Jones doesn't deserve to be lied to." He pulled his face away and with a small smile his kissed my cheek and pulled me into a loose hug.

"Do you promise to keep in touch Tess?" he asked pulling himself out of my arms and clutching onto my palm. I nodded softly and he slipped a small piece of paper against my palm. I had promised him once that he'd never lose me and Teddy regarded a promise with the same importance that he guarded his life with.

Teddy watched us drive away, smearing the oil from his hands against his loose overalls before he waved us off into the scathing heat.

I tossed his warning around in my mind. Peering over at the cool look on Evan's face I wondered whether he'd forgive me my lies.

"What is this?" Lucy's voiced boomed violently into the room, extinguishing the vivid heat. Jamie shifted his chair callously and fled across the room, tearing his mother away with a spin. They hid in the corridor, like hobbits.

"Jamie..." his mother whispered, holding herself only centimetres from his face. "What was that?". Lucy emphasised the word with a poignant scorn.

"I was just being friendly?" Jamie's voice spiked the word with undue mock surprise.

"No wit, you hear!" Lucy scolded but her voice faded into a squeamish whisper. "I see the way you look at her." she whispered and a paused softly. "And this taunting?" she reproached, Jamie must have been silent. Her voice clashed a sudden horrid tone, she was anguished. "I can't approve!"

"Did she tell you that they were engaged?" Jamie sighed. Lucy's silence screwed itself into her chest.

"She's lost someone she loved. I know how that feels. We have common ground, that's all." Jamie in a manner devoid of all impending emotion. I felt a sudden heat crawl up into my face. He could understand my emotion but he certainly couldn't share it. He loved Amae, he must.

"She doesn't deserve pain." Lucy breathed. I felt deeply hollow inside. This invasion into my mind was belittling. I sloped deeply into hold of the chair.

"Mum, pain's a perfectly legitimate emotion. One by which we measure our happiness." He theorised effortlessly, the pages of a very detailed manual flurried through his mind.

"Jamie, what am I?" Lucy's voice speared with reproach. She silenced her son the way an academic does, with argument. "You don't need this pain either. You still have Louise and you need not confuse her any longer." Lucy pleaded.

"I don't." Hurt bled from Jamie's voice. "I don't have Louise." The sound of scattering pages scratched along his body. "The judge said that due to the complexity of the situation he ought to revoke Amae's plea for sole custody without visitation rights. But I'm not her biological father. Legally, I have no rights whatsoever." Jamie sighed without profound emptiness. It takes very little to break a man.

"Legally?" he mother gasped hysterically, spitting the word out like aperitif.

"I get one hour, every other Saturday and I can call her whenever I like" Jamie's voice fell, defeated. Lucy shifted quietly against the walls of the hall, swaying. A certain painful silence appeared and soaked into the hall.

" I have to get back. Please, Jamie, leave her alone." Lucy choked the last few words out harrowingly.

I sat, a frozen mess in Lucy's room and she paced the breadth of it anxiously. She had apologised profusely for Jamie's intrusion but I don't think that the apology was solely for his benefit.

She leaned over in a state of confusion. She had picked up my hand and it froze against the heat of her fingers.

"You never mentioned anything about being engaged Tess?" she stated her voice sharp and pained. She gazed at me patiently while my eyes flew dream-like over her room.

"I...it," my eyes rose fiercely to meet her. "It didn't last very long" I sighed and the impending hurt faded away.

The long veil of dark liquid spilled across the smooth white sand with turbulent gasps. Lights peppered across the foreshore burned opaque circles into the soul of the pure sand beneath. A smooth blanket of sand rolled under my feet as I strode up to Evan's side, precariously I slipped my palm into his. He leaned his body cooly against the heavy stone wall blocking the tired suburban path from the horror of the sand. I pressed myself into his side secretly, sharing his warmth. He breathed in the beating air slowly, the salt stinging in the pits of his face.

'What was it that you wanted to tell me?' I whispered watching the light draw uncanny shadows against his tired face. He pressed himself tangibly against the wall, rubbing the grain against his back. He turned to face me, frightened. He ripped his hand from mine scrunched them both into his shirt before regretting the lapse of gesture and bitterly turned away to watch the sea. It crashed fiercely into the calm mask of white, recklessly tearing away a deep chasm.

'The thing is...' he swept his fierce body around again only to recoil, childlike back to the sea.

'What is?' I asked slipping into the shade of the wall.

'I love you, yeah?' he turned again, spitting out that statement as if it were foreign. He shifted closer to my frame. 'I'm not very good at this.' he whispered against my face. A gentle warmth spread across my chest.

'You do love me' I whispered softly, my eyes mellowing in the dim moonlight. I slid my hand against his back and pulled myself into his arms, moulding my emaciated figure into his sturdy form. I pressed my ear into the warmth of his chest and felt the chaotic beating of his heart. For one small moment in time I wanted his intimacy.

Evan gulped severely and plucked his body away from mine. His eyes scattered across the shore, his mind paced furiously and he shifted his weight across the sand, ineptly sinking into grooves. He turned suddenly.

'If I asked, would you, Tess, ah, would you marry me?' he slurred his words boyishly and floundered him arms about, aimlessly. I took a moment to breathe, the sudden weight of the word 'marry' tasted solid and heavy in my mouth. I felt like I had swallowed a rock.

'I...' I tried to breathe but my stomach felt tight and fiery. I needed to vomit.

'Tess?' Evan breathed, concerned; even the dim light couldn't disguise the colour dripping off my face. He gripped my shoulders with a nervous ferocity. I could see the lines of worry crowd into his forehead and guilt drenched the wet of his eyes. My face twisted in anxiety.

'You don't want to.' he whispered. A sort of vicious embarrassment blazed red against his cheeks like panicked sirens. Evan, fixed with fear slid himself away along the sand moulding his feet into the grey vacuums.

I heaved a tremendous sigh and vomit collected in the back of my mouth. It was the right thing to do, I assured myself. It was the right thing to do.

'Why?' he breathed, his voice choking suddenly on air. 'What's wrong with me?' he asked in a disgusted tone, Evan peered down at his unveiled palms and then quickly curled his arms into his chest to keep away the cold. My heart thrashed itself against my ribcage, severing into pieces. And tears meandered slowly down my face like lost raindrops. My mouth felt cold and heavy. What could I say?

' Don't know...' I started but he had turned away. I thought he may have started to cry but he swept away in anger against the cool of the night. I pressed my palms into my faces and screamed into the inner depths of my soul. How could I hurt him?

I followed his footprints into the dark, my feet sinking into the deep orifices he left. He sat sunken into the water's edge, the foam lapped against his knees. He felt my approach, almost as if he could hear my warmth in the dark. I sat next to him, slipping my legs into the waves, my body raw with pain. We sat in the silence of the water, it sprayed against our waists.

'I know why' he stated cooly, the reason didn't hurt him. 'You're scared of me' he whispered, the words sinking away into his chest. That notion frightened him, the woman he loved was innately petrified, of him.

'Don't be angry' I whispered coarsely swallowing a hard lump of guilt. I touched his wet knee with the soft warmth of my palm. 'Please' I soothed but he shifted his body across the sand and tore my hand away. 'You have to understand, it's not you' I whispered sorely, the waves crashed impatiently across my chest. Evan sighed disbelievingly and he didn't look at me. Every part of me disgusted him, genuinely. I tried again, to find that flicker of concern he used to save for my purpose only, I buried my hand under the frothing cool, searching for his liquid palm.

'You do believe me, don't you?' I asked, perhaps too much in haste.

'No' he sighed, shifting his solid thighs through the rush. 'I don't.'

I had never found solace in Evan's agreement, it was never significant. But his lack of unabated trust bit through the flesh of my heart and smeared it with an impounding rage. It was so very easy to be angry, I had never denied Evan any sliver of anger towards me, in fact I encouraged it as best as I possibly could. I wanted him to hate me just as much as he loved me, maybe more, as long as it would protect me. And I sheltered Evan from my past to protect myself again, I needed no-one's pity, especially not Evan's. He loved me, that was embarrassing enough.

Water drew deep and hungry gulps soaked through my loin and into the pits of my beaten chest. It slowly became hard to breathe, the weight of the foam drawing away every impending gasp. No, I didn't want Evan's anger, perhaps just for a moment, I wanted his fearless love. Deny a man the taste of freedom and he will never plead to try it; but grant a man the feel of liberty and part from it, he will not.

I turned to face his darkened face, turned away with relentless scorn.

'There's something I want to tell you.' I professed, my voice barely a whisper, yearning to be ignored. But Evan shifted marginally, he had sensed the remorse in my tone.

'There was just the two of us before Bridie was before.' I started loosely, 'Konàn and I. And well Mum, but she wasn't around half the time. And when she was she was either drunk or asleep.' Evan shifted again, loosely, in the murky pool.

'And it was okay.' I explained. 'We loved our own company half the time. We'd walk run off to the park at dawn and then Konàn would walk me to school when we felt like it. And it wasn't so bad at home either,' my voice spiked redolent with fear. 'I'd always sweep up Mum's mess when she was out and Konàn would rustle up something for dinner, when we could afford to have any. But you know, we didn't mind being hungry half the time, just so long as it was quiet.' I paused, unfamiliarly. A tide of heinous disgust rushed pasted my wrists. 'Mum had her men over a lot' I swallowed heavily. 'And if we didn't get out fast enough they'd lock us in the bathroom for the night or so. I hated sleeping there. There was this massive nest of rats underneath the sink that would ground their teeth on the corners of the rotting tiles at night.' I stopped and breathed in a bit of the silence. Evan had scarcely moved. 'But then Mum found out she was pregnant with Bridie and she didn't have a clue who the father was. So she didn't have any one to chase for child support. It paid our rent.' I mumbled deep into the pits of my wrinkled hands. 'So we got evicted.' I whispered. 'A couple of times. Sometimes we stayed in this shelter in the city. At least there we had more than just baked beans for tea but that place was full of junkies. The police raided it one time and found that one of the younger guys was growing marijuana in the wall and roof cavities so we were all ordered off without any place to go.' I sunk my feet further and further into the melting wet sand.

'But Mum had this gift for talking up men.' I spoke quietly, my voice tarnished with hurt. 'Apparently she'd met someone useful while we were at the shelter. He'd found us a place in a tenement house just outside Tarneit. Bridie was born there. And for a while we were all okay. This guy wasn't too bad, his name was Mitch and he had a car. He drove Konàn and I to school on a good day and he even said that he'd look after Bridie when Mum got work as a factory hand. And he took us to the fair once and bought us all ice-cream. I'd never had ice-cream before.' I chuckled and wove sand through the gaps in my fingers. 'Konàn and I fought over Bridie's untouched chocolate ice-cream. We were really happy Evan, we really were. Mum even stopped drinking.' My voice dropped a sudden melancholy note and the foam swelled over my chest.

'But Konàn found something in the middle of the night. He found Mitch's stash of cocaine under the fridge but he thought it was Mum's. He was so angry. He woke me up in the middle of the night and made me help him get rid of it. He said that the only way Mum could ever stick to her promise was that if we got rid of all of her drugs. And so we dumped all of it in the creek behind the house. All of it." I whispered gently, the stench of the green liquid creek coursed through my brain.

'The next day I thought we were really in for it. Mum was walking on eggshells the whole morning and we weren't allowed to speak during breakfast. But nothing happened.' I sighed. 'Mitch even told us he'd take us to the magic show that was coming up from Melbourne. And he did,' I smiled, 'He really did. He packed everyone into the car, except me. And he told Mum to drive down to the reserve and wait for us. He told us that he had a surprise in the kitchen and he needed me to help carry it over. Konàn whispered that I shouldn't go. But I wanted to, we deserved it. I really wanted that prize.' My fingers started to twist into severe knots under the water.

'But when I walked into the kitchen, there was nothing there, and Mitch didn't even stop by, he just tore my arm into the bedroom and locked the door behind us.' I paused to see the affection pour from Evan's face but he sat still, engrossed but consciously distant. I swallowed harshly, my saliva searing into the wall of my throat.

'He started laying into me, telling me that he knew exactly what I'd done. He told me that he knew I'd stolen his stash and he'd kill me for it. And he gripped the top of my throat and pressed his fingers into it, really hard, until I couldn't swallow." my throat seized up in anguish. I drew my sleek wet palms across my neck to dull the spiked pain.

"And then when he knew I could still hear him he told me that the only reason he could afford to keep us here was because Mum was supplying him with cocaine, speed, whatever he felt like. And if I were a good girl, if I knew what was good for me and my family, I'd do exactly what he wanted me to. And I did. I didn't even struggle when he tore off my dress." The words froze in the pit of my mouth. I saw Evan's solid figure shallow in the cool bath.

"I don't remember much past that. I just remember feeling dizzy the next morning and I hurt a bit. But it was alright. I was a good girl, every day after that. It stopped hurting after a while. And it was so worth it. Mitch drove Konàn and I to school every morning and we went to the fair every time it came around and we even went to the beach once. Mitch said that it had to be a secret, so I didn't even tell Konàn but I think he spotted the dried blood on my sheets that next morning. But he didn't say anything until he was sure. He was always so careful.' I smiled 'And I remember, he woke me up in the middle of the night and crawled into my bed with me and held onto me and said that he wouldn't let him hurt me anymore. He said that I didn't have to do what he wanted me to and that he'd tell Mum about it and it would be okay. Teddy did tell Mum, she didn't believe him. She said that we were worthless and ungrateful for everything that Mitch had done for us. We didn't know it then but she confronted Mitch that very night and he must have denied everything but he waited until Mum went out with some friends the next night and he broke into my room while Teddy and I were asleep. He told me that I was bad at keeping secrets and that this time I'd pay for it and I did then he ahh,' I paused, riddled with guilt. ' He...he dragged me out of Konàn's arms and into his room. He hurt me. Again and again and again and again. Until I couldn't hear Konàn screaming at him to stop anymore. The next morning Mitch smashed his face into the front window and told Mum that Konàn did it and that if he ever did it again, he'd kill him. Teddy ran away. And Mum moved us to Epping, she was so angry that we moved but I, I just wanted Teddy back.' I waited for the inevitable flood of tears but they never poured down my cheeks. There was only a deep resounding weight that lifted from the middle of my sunken chest. I swallowed hard. It was over. It was over.

Evan shifted noiselessly through the weight of the water to face me, the only time. And, without speaking, he, reached for my hand under the cool swell and cradled it deeply into the hollow of his own.

'It's not you.' I sighed into the dark. 'It's not you.'

Lucy stared with troubled doom painted across her face. She didn't speak, for once in a very long time she hadn't consciously collected the words quickly enough. Although her cheeks started to fall glumly and she had so earnestly promised no pity. She was a failure to her inevitable emotion.

We waited long into the afternoon, Lucy still fixated statue like on her seat opposite me, her eyes glaring, water filled, at a space just above my head. I pressed myself deeply into the couch and watched the light crawl in slow motion over her cheeks. I wasn't crying, I wasn't even empty, this troubled Lucy. I moved my eyes about the walls in a slow rhythm, counting all the rosettes along Lucy's thick ceiling cornices.

The hum of a child like tune broke the draining silence. Jamie surfaced playfully at Lucy's door, knocking haphazardly before bellowing out two reckless verses of 'Greensleeves', a cylindrical paper container of iced-cream waving about in his hands. Lucy didn't jerk. And I only tore my eyes up in careful silence. Jamie rose his eyebrows in inquisition.

"Do you think it's bad if she isn't moving?" he asked, now purposely shifting the cold parcel in his hands.

"I better go" I sighed ignoring Jamie's statement with a whimsical throw of my gaze.

"I'll walk you to the door." Lucy sighed breaking of her cast of silence like a baby chicken emerging from its egg. Jamie raised the iced-cream now in anxiety.

"But I haven't even offered you some iced-cream!" he protested sinking childlike into the wall. But Lucy wrapped her my arm into her chest and led me to her door, in perfect silence.