I'm not special. They say I am but I'm not. I'm just the same as everyone else. Average height, average weight, average I.Q. Except that when I was ten my brother got killed by a hit man because my dad got involved with drugs. But I'm normal.
My brother was only four. We were pretty similar. Same pale skin framed by a mop of the same black hair, glinting eyes peering out from beneath, and for a finishing touch, a pair of ruby red lips. We were both quiet too, didn't make the effort to talk; with the commotion of two older sisters, no matter how loud I screamed, no one heard me anyway. My sisters were killed too, they had it coming. But my brother was only four years old. I guess the only difference between us now, besides the fact that I'm a girl, is that he's dead and I'm alive. Because, while the hit man rampaged through our house, killing my last remaining blood relatives, I was reluctantly buying groceries in a store down the road.
I don't have any parents anymore, I belong to the state. With nothing to my name but the clothes that hung loosely from my skinny limbs, I didn't feel I was in a position to complain. And so it was that I sat in the small room, surrounded by four walls sharing what seemed like the same lick of paint. They hadn't thought to feed me and I hadn't thought to ask. I think they might have been more worried about the bloodbath in my house. I waited in the room for an hour, left with nothing but my imagination and the guilt that I was alive while my brother's body was being zipped away in a plastic bag for safekeeping.
My first real acquaintance came in the form of a burly woman. She strode into the room, stood before me and began to make clucking noises. I stared blankly back at her. My brother had been killed and she wanted to play games. I suppose she thought I was sweet, I wasn't. My sisters had told me I was ugly, I thought no better than to believe them. They bought magazines and wore makeup, I just watched cartoons. The woman continued to make clucking noises, I closed my eyes, opening them when her gurgling ceased. She frowned, her lips puckering and her eyebrows meeting. I turned away, swivelling myself around on the hard wooden table, and began to study the walls. They were bare apart from a poster of a car, it bore the slogan beware, car thieves are attracted to unlocked doors'. Well of course they were; it was like saying that a jeweller was attracted to jewellery. The corners of the poster were curled inwards, revealing patches of bright paint underneath. I wondered how old the poster was. Maybe I should tell a police officer that people knew that thieves liked unlocked cars, and they might be better telling people something else, such as not to open the door when a hit man appears at your house.
The woman walked out of the room, leaving me sitting on the table, my feet swinging beneath me. I felt numb, there was a void inside me, growing, he was gone and it was beginning to hit me. The grief came all at once, punched me in the gut like an icy fist.
She appeared again, her rounded figure sinister, blocking the light from the open doorway.
You want us to help you?'
My four year old brother is dead' I replied, before hopping down from the table and trotting along behind her.
I spent my first night in what would be my new home. The next day I went through my first counselling session. It's a haunting experience when, for the first time in your life, someone asks you how you are feeling. I didn't like it. My dad had never asked me and I was thankful for it. I don't think I would have been able to answer anyway. And so I sat in silence, I had nothing to say so why should I speak. The man who I would get to know as Dr. Fox leant towards me. He smiled slightly, folds of soft skin creasing around his dark eyes.
I understand you might not know what you are feeling right now, but that's why I'm here. To help you figure it out'
My brother was killed' I stated blankly. This got him, his smile faded. He leant back. I watched him, I could imagine his brain working, trying to think of what to say. I could hear the cogs turning. I wouldn't know what to say.
Did you like your brother?'
He was four years old' I bit my lip to hold back the tears, why should this stranger see me crying? He never used to cry, he would just cuddle up to me.' He leant forward again. I was more of a parent to him than my father ever was.'
I had shocked him again. He jerked back. The process repeated itself; he would ask a question, leaning forward invitingly. And I, in turn, would reply. I was truthful with him. And each time he would retreat back to the safety of his chair, the dark leather surrounding him, putting him in shadow, protecting him from me. Was I really that awful? I told him about my mother. She died giving birth to my brother. I told him about my father, and my sisters. And he listened. No one had ever listened to me before.
It seemed that no one wanted me, people came, and people went. Looking me up and down, assessing me, shopping for their perfect child. I grew to accept that I was not the model they wanted. I stayed at the home for almost a year. Yet everyday there seemed the same. The same routine repeated as if I was merely a note in a broken record, being played over and over. The same flavourless cereal for breakfast, the same walks in the yard, the same meeting with Dr Fox. That same numbness. The silence in the night, only broken by the carer, making her hourly rounds. She was a tall thin woman, a fragile figure, skin pulled taught over her bony neck, eyes dark and haunting, thin red lips. One would expect such a petit woman to walk quietly, but she was not dainty. Her footsteps echoed in the bare hallways as her high heels clicked along the tiled floor. The only thing that changed was the distance between my brother and me. It became hard to remember him. Just to picture his face became a task.
Dr Fox was very understanding, quite a feat considering even I did not yet understand what I was feeling. He told me I was his favourite, he brought me presents. Small things at first, a chocolate bar, a teddy bear, a bunch of flowers. But as our meetings went on the gifts grew larger, soon he was giving me clothes. Beautiful dresses with ornate lacing, so beautiful that I felt it was a sin to wear them, something so perfect should not be ruined by my face. But he persisted that I wear them and grew frustrated as I came to him in my shorts. He wrote me letters, long letters, letters about princesses and castles and magical lands. His gifts were filling the void left by my brother's absence.
One day, on my brother's birthday I received his letter about a young boy. A boy of four who travelled the world and did wonderful things. And he described the boy so concisely that, by the time I finished the story, my brother stood: a perfect image in the snow covered world he had created. The ground a brilliant white in it's blanket of snow, sparkling under the midday sun. And my brother, basking in the light. He had given me my brother back. But not back into this world, back into a world where he could not be touched by hit men, or my father.
I returned to him and sat as he poured himself a glass of milk, he always drank milk. I closed my eyes and let my brother skip among fields of daisies. He set the glass on the table; his tongue darted out to lick up the milk moustache.
I think I'm falling in love with you' I spurted
He retreated in his chair; he had not done that since he had started to bring me gifts. Cacooned in the dark brown leather wings. Secure from me. But as I watched him in the awkward silence I saw a smile creep over his shadowed face. I could feel my heart pounding, I was sure he could hear it. Was his heart pounding too?
Are you sure?' he asked, still smiling
Yes' I replied roughly. What made him doubt me?
How do you know?' he had begun to lean forward again
I can feel it'
Where?' his shoulders hunched as he tilted his head up to look at mine.
In my stomach' I slid my hand beneath my T-shirt and felt my soft skin. It's warm. I used to have a knot it my stomach, but now it's gone. He leant further forward. Emerging from his chair as he moved to the edge of the seat. Our noses touched.
He jerked back.
You are just a child. How do you know that is what love feels like? Have you ever been in love before?' his tone became harsh and rushed. I frowned, bit my lip and looked down at my hands. They were dirty from my walk in the yard. I had been practising my handstands to show him and now there was grit beneath my nails. I began the laborious process of getting it out.
I have not been in love.' I answered as a single tear rolled down my cheek. He did not see the tear, because he carried on.
Then you may not be right, this is probably just some childish.'
I cut him off I have not been in love' I repeated until now.' I looked up at him, staring at his blurred silhouette through the blinding tears. His face was close to mine; I could smell the milk on his breath. He cautiously raised a hand and wiped the tear away. His skin was soft as he brushed my hair behind my ears.
I have been in love before' he began. And I am in love now'.
My brother began to run through the field, picking the flowers as he went, laughing and singing. I let out a slight smile.
But I am not in love with you' he finished.
My brother fell, lying motionless in the daisies as they grew around him, swallowing him. He was escaping; they were taking my brother away again. I had been given him back but now he was gone again. I grew to realise that he hadn't brought me gifts because he liked me, he had given me things because he felt sorry for me. And now I was alone in the world once more.