Claire Hunt

The Quiet Year

Screams. So loud and terrifying. It took me a long time to realize that they were coming from my own mouth. I woke up, looked over at my twin brother and sighed with relief.
I found myself in my parents’ bed. Thomas and I had slept in there since the night of the crash. It smelled of our parents. I moved over closer to him.
Charlie has cooked, and Tania has cleaned. We have searched for clues about what happened, but neither of them were willing to give any help. It has been about nine months. Sometimes I think I see Daddy, but I know I’m only dreaming.
Tania told us that we had been at a babysitter’s house. She had come and picked us up at around one that night, in pajamas.
Our neighbor Suzanne wants us to move on and go live with her. How can she not know that her house smells like cat litter?
One afternoon Tania took me to buy a new toy. When we got home, I looked everywhere for Thomas, but I could not find him. I even checked the usual hiding places. I ran out to Tania to ask her if Charlie had taken him out and she just looked confused. She said her head hurt and to leave her.
I heard the screams again that day, louder.
I waited for Thomas to get out of Charlie’s car, but he did not. I asked Charlie where he was and all he said was “please.”
At dinner, the table was set for three instead of four. I asked several times during the meal about my brother, but they either ignored me or got angry.
“Gwen, just stop it!” Tania barked, slamming her fist on the table. Her knife and spoon jumped up a few inches, “Why don’t you just go to bed? You may be excused.”
That night I slept alone in my parents’ bed. And again the night after that, for three months. I lived in a constant feeling of being incomplete. He was all I had left. I missed him. We were only nine.
One year after my parents’ deaths I woke up in a weird mood. I felt very lightheaded and sick. I forced myself to go downstairs to get some orange juice. When I got to the bottom of the stairs, there was no furniture. There were voices outside. I followed them.
Charlie and Tania were holding one another, Tania sobbing. I had never seen either of them cry before. I got a violent flashback to that night. It was the first time I had ever seen their pajamas. I felt even sicker. Sure enough, my living room furniture was out on the lawn, a wooden For Sale sign dug far into the ground.
A man jogged along the sidewalk across the street.
“Hey, Tania, what’s going on?”
Charlie motioned for the jogger to come over.
He let go of Tania to walk over to the man, but Tania pushed him back. She told him to go inside and finish getting the last of their things.
“The family went out last night to a business party, but the children were to go with the babysitter.” She stopped to wipe away a tear starting to form in her eye, “We would’ha watched ’em ourselves, the children, but we had a different little get together, no kids allowed. They were so good, though. They always did what they were told, always obeyed what ... but ... they never made it. Main street. Truck driver. Brook street. Collision ...” Tania broke off with a sob.
“It’s all right.”
“Mike. They were babies, practically. And... I was visiting them last night, I only heard at about one o’clock. I was in my pajamas. Didn’t even bother to change. They were in the hospital. They had them in the same room. I was at Gwen’s bed when they lost Thomas. Charlie was with him. But, Mike, they gotta take the little girl off life support this morning. I want to be there for her ’cause I wasn’t there for him.”
My stomach dropped. What was going on? I felt so sick that I actually keeled over. I had to be dreaming. I ran over to Tania’s car and into the back seat. I did not want to be alone. That was the last thing that I wanted.
When we got out of the car, I went to hug Tania, to tell her that I was okay, that we could go home. She acted as if she did not even see me.
“You know, they say that a night in a coma is a year to them, ya know, if they dream and everything.” She smiled weakly.
At that, they walked through the sliding doors. I followed close behind.
A man in a white jacket, a black pen neatly tucked behind his ear came to Tania and told her that he would do it now if she wanted. She began to sob again, but nodded.
I took my time, but followed them. We continued to walk, passed beds with sick kids and stopped at a certain bed, close to the end. There, a familiar body lay. A body which I had seen through mirrors, and windows, but it could not be me, I was right here.
The doctor started to pull the breathing tube. He started counting, foolish man. But for some odd reason it all came back to me. The screams that I had been dreaming about really were me, and Thomas. I wanted to be home. I wanted my brother. But for some odd reason, I knew what to do. I ran for Tania, as he started to pull it. With every tug I got closer to the floor, but I still ran with all my might the final few feet. Then I hit it, and I never felt anything again.


Copyright 2002-2006 Student Publishing Program (SPP). Poetry and prose 2002-2006 by individual authors. Reprinted with permission. SPP developed and designed by Strong Bat Productions.