Week 22

The man had walked past the house three times now. Always from right to left, so the young occupants assumed he must be walking around the block, but it could hardly be for exercise, being that he was wearing a suit.

It wasn’t exactly a casual walk either, with awkward jolts almost like a skip every third or fourth step. Or a hiccup. It was all very strange.

“He’s purposely walking on the cracks,” Jessica pointed out. “All of them.” She nodded towards the man as he passed their neighbours gate and immediately the other two girls could see the pattern.

“He’s going to marry a lot of rats,” Jolene joked without smile.

“Or one big one!” Janie said, her face pressed against the glass.

The three children, their heads filling up one half of the window, had started looking out for the man after his second passing.

They thought they knew most of their neighbours – mostly from knocking on doors for school fundraisers and Halloween – but this man was unfamiliar and getting more and more curious with every moment.

They’d already guessed a range of possibilities for his being on their street and had ruled out a number them. Not a salesman, not a realtor, not a politician and certainly not a delivery man.

The man turned left at the end of their street and disappeared from view.

The girls returned to their previous positions – the eldest, Jessica, by the computer, Jolene on the couch with her book and Janie, the youngest, to the floor with her dolls – but not to their previous activities.

“If he passes again,” Jolene wondered. “Should we ask what he’s doing?”

There was a moment of silence and quizzical looks before Jessica  frowned and shook her head. “He could be dangerous. What if he’s a crook?”

“I think he’s an alien!” Janie said, not for the first time. The others ignored her and continued to frown at the thought of this strange man.

“If he’s a crook, do we call the police?”

Again Jessica shook her head. “What for? We don’t have anything to report… yet.”

“Who do you call in case of aliens?” Again, Janie was ignored.

Jolene looked at the clock on top of the bookshelf. It was almost four o’clock. “Mum should be home soon. She might know something.”

All three girls looked out the window again. It would be another few minutes before the man should walk past. Just as they began to look away their mother’s car pulled into the driveway.

Janie was quick to her feet and immediately began dancing on tiptoes waiting for her mother to walk through the front door and to tell her wild tales of the man in the suit.

As the clock’s hands ticked by, Jolene and Jessica once again felt lines form between their eyebrows. Janie stood still.

After what felt like the longest three minutes, Jolene jumped up from the couch, reached the front door in two long strides and swung it open, Janie peering out at her side.

The car was parked, but their mother wasn’t in it. Nor was she in the front garden or chatting over the fence to the neighbours.

Jessica soon joined the others at the door to see what was keeping them so quiet when they would usually be chatting to mum.

“Where is she?” Janie was the first to speak.

Suddenly they became aware of how still the day was. Their street was often quiet, but never this much. The more the girls listened for sound, the more they realised there was nothing but the breeze. No building sounds from the house across the street. No distant sound of cars. No birds above them. Nothing.

“Close the door.” It wasn’t so much a request as a demand from Jessica and the girls quickly pulled inside. “Call mum’s cell,” she nodded at Jolene. “I’ll text dad.”

As the girls went to pick up their phones, the man in the suit walked past their window for the fourth time. All three girls stood still as they watched him. His strange skips and hiccups more obvious now.

They gravitated towards the window as they continued to watch him pass their neighbours gate and round the corner, again to the left.

The older girls started to push numbers on their phones when Janie gasped.

As they turned to look where the man in the suit had come from, they saw a familiar figure at the end of the street repeating his steps, coming closer to their house, but seemingly unaware of it.

Their mother, in her heels and best blue dress, was stepping on every crack in the concrete while her head kept straight ahead.

As the girls watched with wide eyes, their mother walked awkwardly past their house, past their neighbours’ gate, around the corner and out of sight.

Week 21

The depression was like a black liquid seeping through his veins. It made his bones feel heavier, his heart emptier.

She, on the other hand, was feeling weightless, a new light surrounding her. Her bags packed, her things in boxes, it was time to say goodbye to a world holding her back.

The more she looked forward to her new life, the more the darkness took hold of him.

He understood why she was leaving, had even supported her at first, but as this day had grown closer, his smile had struggled to remain.

She tried to hug him but received little in return.

“I’ll call you. And text you. Heaps.” She held onto his shoulders and grinned. Her lips pushed together, her cheeks puffing out.

The darkness receded slightly where her hands rested but persisted to pull at his face.

“I’ll be back for a visit in a few months too,” she said, swinging her arms down to her side before picking up one of the boxes with swiggles of vivid across the side.

“I don’t want you to go.” He hadn’t meant to say it. Had meant to just nod and say OK but the words were out now and her light had dimmed. As his head dropped, the first of the tears leaked.

The box was quickly put down and her arms wrapped tightly around her younger brother.

“I know.” She squeezed her arms slightly, enough for him to feel it in his ribs. “I’ll miss you.”

Another squeeze and then he was let go.

She picked up the box again while her mum grabbed the others. Dad was already loading her the bags in the car.

“I’ll be back from Uni in no time,” she said. “Come on. Grab my laptop for me. It’s time to go.”

Week 18

The rain came quickly.
Water blanketed the already dark city and overwhelmed drivers; the sheets of water making the roads fade and almost disappear. Bright flashes of red pushed through the haze as cars braked and slowed to half the 100k limit.
He was barely visible in his hoodie and black trackpants, walking north with the traffic.
Only on the corners did headlights catch a glimpse of his outline, hunched over and alone.
The light steam rising from his shoulders wasn’t just because of the heat he’d worked up from the ever rising path, it was a sign of his frustration, his hatred for a world that had shut him out.
He was 17 with no destination but forward.
The blue Holden had no time to stop, even after the thud of flesh against metal when instinct hit in and foot went to brake, the car skidded taking its victim with it.
The driver already had his door open before he’d completely pulled back on the hand brake, rushing to see what he’d hit.
The body was slumped against the curb, alive but dazed. The car, now twisted to its left, was completely blocking the northbound lane, traffic heading south slowly stopping as they realised something was wrong.
Calls came for an ambulance and help arrived to the figure in black. The driver was more confused than anything else, asking where this boy had come from.
Had he walked out in traffic on purpose? Or was he simply blinded by the rain?
A spiderweb of light flashed above as thunder rolled around the hills.
17, with about that many broken bones. 17, but at least he’ll have a place to sleep tonight.