This is the third and final part of Candy Floss that I am linking to the fabulous Summer of Words and Prose for Thought. You can read the first part here then click on this link to read the second part of my story.
I woke up to the cry of a wounded elephant in our living room. I knew what it sounded like because I once watched an animal programme about Africa on TV and this rescue team found an elephant with a thorn stuck in its foot. I cried with the elephant but there was a doctor with the team. She pulled the thorn out, the grey giant wriggled its trunk and I could stop worrying.
I left Alice snoring in mum’s and dad’s bed and went to see how an elephant got into our house.
I could hear it break things so I decided to tell it off. I tiptoed downstairs. Silly animal, of course there isn’t enough space in our house. I will help you find a way out, just stay still. I wondered where mum and dad were. I wondered whether mum came back and got dad his surprise.
A shadow of a beast was raging. I could hear it wail, kick something and howl some more. My heart was racing. Wild animals can smell your fear. I had to be brave so I held my breath and opened the door.
‘Dad, what’s wrong?’ I sprung to the body curled up on the floor. He was rocking from side to side, next to him a broken bottle and a glass and a phone smashed to pieces. A strong smell in the air. My dad’s hand was dripping blood. He turned his red, snotty face towards me and at first I smiled. Silly dad, had a tantrum like Alice, maybe he and mum had another fight.
‘Mum?’ I said out loud. Dad squeezed my hand so hard he left marks on it. I looked at the blood dotted on my nightie and at my dad’s shiny face and I knew. My mum was not coming back.
Once upon a time baby girl hid in her mother’s tummy underneath nine duvets, each a different colour, that protected her from all the Evil and everything else for nine months. Any music that reached her was muffled by the layers upon layers while the girl floated catching the stars.
Then one day her mum got bored with carrying the baby in her tummy and decided that the girl was ready to face the big world. As if by magic, one duvet disappeared after another. The sounds got louder, the light sharper, and the girl shut her eyes, covered her ears, kicked and scratched the hands that pulled her out. The stars dispersed and there was blood everywhere. When the last protective layer, pink and fluffy, was gone, the girl opened her eyes, uncovered her ears and stopped yelling. She breathed in the smells of the hospital disinfectant and her mum’s perfume and whimpered for some milk. Her life on the other side began.
This was one of my favourite bedtime stories.
From the night I found out until mu mum’s funeral I stayed with the pink duvet over my head, with my knees tucked up. No tears could be uncried. No pain could be undone. I sobbed and sobbed and I wished I had never watched that stupid elephant programme.
My sweet Alice brought a bowl filled with corn flakes and a glass of milk three times a day. Sometimes a pair of shiny black shoes came near my bed, stopped for a few minutes and strode away.
On the day of my mum’s funeral the sky opened, the angels cried with me and I told them to stop. ‘You have my mum now. You should be glad.’ After the brief ceremony I took Alice by the hand and we went for a walk.
‘Look! Look! Kite.’ I followed Alice’s hand and there it was – a red kite swirling in the air like the one we saw at the beach that day. We waved at mum.
‘There you are girls. Hurry up.’ Miss Jones appeared behind us.
‘I will be back.’ I whispered and followed her to the car.
Days passed; they turned into weeks and school was over for the summer. Nice policemen came to our house a few times, then stopped. Phrases like accident and tragic circumstances followed us for a while, then new memories erased them.
Once or twice Dad took me and Alice to the zoo; we ate chocolate ice cream and we had fun. Then he went back to living in his office and Miss Jones took care of us.
‘Poor souls,’ was what she said every time she saw us. ‘I’m not a bloody glorified nanny.’
I liked her. She smelled of cigarettes and chocolate biscuits.
Miss Jones let us eat cake for breakfast. We did not have to wash our hands all the time. I never had to face broccoli again.
Alice stopped wetting her bed and I stopped dreaming about chasing the red kite with my arms stretched out, almost touching it but never close enough. The clouds stifled my screams.
Trees turned from lively greens to warm yellows and cheeky reds. That September afternoon Alice and I were rolling in the leaves in the garden when dad called us in. I checked the time. It was not lunch yet.
‘Sit down girls.’ Dad was clutching a magazine with a picture of a big building that made me think of a palace, with its perfect rows of trees stretching on both sides. Alice squealed.
‘Daddy, surprise, daddy.‘ She was spinning as she always did when she was very excited.
‘The thing is… I’ve a new job is in Singapore,’ his jaw clenched. I’d heard of Singapore in the geography class. It was far far away and dragons lived there. I wondered if the palace was in Singapore, our new home.
‘I’ve to leave very soon. Miss Jones will..,’ his voice trembled.
‘Alice, for god’s sake. Stop it,’ he banged the table. Alice stopped with a sigh, then he continued and with every word a bit of me disappeared. The palace in the photo was our new home, a boarding school in Switzerland where Alice and I would spend the next few years.
My lip quivered.
‘Don’t look at me like that Isabelle. You are a big girl and I expect you to take care of your sister. It’s an excellent school, very expensive so please be grateful. Enough with the drama, please. You will be back for Christmas and school holidays and if I can’t get away from work, you’ll stay with Uncle George and his family in Surrey.’
He let his hands fall open.
‘I hate you just like mum did, bloody Bloodsucker!’
I did not expect him to hit me. His palm and my shame burned on my cheek all night. I swore I would never say a word to him again.
Before we left for the airport I hid from everyone’s view in my parent’s bedroom. The sunshine poured in like honey and the dust swirled in the air. Something shiny was sticking out from underneath the bed. Mum’s favourite bottle of perfume. I put it in my pocket.
‘Alice. Isabelle. Time to go,’ the staccato of Miss Jones’ heels echoed in the hallway.
I sat in the car with my back straight, my fingers clutching the bottle and my teeth sunk into my lip. I found the physical pain soothing. Alice played with the big white buttons on her coat. Miss Jones was checking over and over our travel and school papers that she had stuffed in a big yellow envelope. She was tapping her foot while dad was shouting on the phone and firing people until we rolled into the parking lot.
‘Come on girls. Say goodbye to your dad.’
Dad’s face transformed into a grimacing mask and we crawled outside. It was refreshing to feel light rain on my face. Within seconds the sky opened and the mild drizzle turned into downpour.
The driver re-started the engine and I looked my dad in the eyes, the weeping glass between us. His lips moved but I could not hear him. I stuck my tongue out and he turned his back.
A plane roared above and the clouds turned into a funny shade of pink, just like candy floss.
The three of us ran inside.
‘Ready?’ Miss Jones straightened my skirt.
She threw the envelope into a bin.