BUW: Ten Years Old

Monday, 10 December 2007

When the train pulls into Ashfield station, there is an almighty thud and the wheels bump over something solid. Someone screams, loud and short. Then there’s metal screeching like we’re about to de-rail. The train lurches and shudders along the track. The brakes go sssshhhh and we’re hauled to a standstill, brakes wheezing. Everyone’s left to just stare at each other. I try to look intelligent and not just like an eleven year old girl who might be afraid. Then the murmuring begins; people murmuring what could that have been?
I lean my face against the window and look up the tracks. Nothing. It’s a new Tangara so the windows won’t open for those who want to stickybeak. Lara would’ve smashed herself a hole to look out. I leave my face pressed against the glass, just in case someone sees I’m a teeny weeny bit terrified. After some time, there are sirens. I just know it was human someone says. I shiver. Then we shunt and they all hurry to the windows and gawk and gawk. Back back we go. Shunt shunt shunt past police cars and an ambulance and bystanders, but no-one dead. What was it? Deadness makes my stomach rumble and everything inside it comes fizzing up my throat and out all over the floor.

“Kitten, my poor, poor kitten,” Rosa fusses like a great mother hen and gives me hot water with honey and lemon to sip. Pina hovers by the lounge room door and smiles at me weakly. Lara brings a blanket; Rosa shakes the life out of it in the air above me and it glides down to cover me but offers little comfort. My hair is wet after the bath, but I still smell of sick. Lara perches on the edge of the couch, pinching the end of her nose.
“Could you see guts? Was there guts?” she twangs.
Rosa delivers a slap to the back of her head and I wonder that she’ll get brain damage soon. I wonder if slaps like that hurt. I’m yet to find out. “We were told about it at school, Ma!” Lara sticks her bottom lip out.
“School shmool, everything told at school,” and she looks pleased with her little rhyme. Pina looks impressed also. “It not gonna be the thing to talk about. Your cousin has a bad experience happen, an you make the joke. An wattabout the poor boy’s parents, ah? Now that he kill himself? See what happens when you kill yourself? You upset the ones left behind! Eh? An it hurts!”
I wonder if she means it hurts when you kill yourself, or it hurts to be left behind. I suppose both are right. I look up at my lovely aunt and her big philosophy that makes so much sense. It’s the ones left behind that suffer.
I cry when I’m alone. I cry because I got left behind.

When I wake in the morning, my eyes are too frightened to open in case I’m back in this house with my aunt and uncle. In case Mum won’t be there. I feel a shadow on my face and when I open my eyes there are tears in them. It’s Rosa in the doorway and she’s all blurred. My heart fails. It is on the verge of collapse. I grab the nightshirt at my chest because something is creaking inside there; aching and creaking. Rosa walks towards me as I blink, bringing some smiles and hugs. She’s quiet and wise this morning; like I could ask her the answer to the universe and she’d know for sure. I wonder if she knows where Mum is, but I am too frightened to ask her. I am too frightened to hear what she might say.
“You a special girl, Ellen,” she says to me, as she perches her bulk gently on the bed. “You feel the things more than most of the people. You know... you have the emotional. You deep. When someone they go through a lotta things - when it all happens early in the life - it sorta of teaches em, ya know? Sort of make em older than they really are.”
“Older than Lara?” I ask.
“Lara she special too, Ellen,” Rosa grins. “You both the special girls, an Marco an I - we love you very much. Pina too. But Pina an Lara - well, they’ve had the good life - they, you know - they haven’t been through that much. But you... After your Papa left, well - I know you was too much young to remember, but it was all the struggling for your Mum, ah?”
I lower my head and frown, rolling the edge of the sheet between my finger tips.
“I mean - you an your Mama - you did so well together. We all so proud of you both. And now - we so proud of you, Ellen...”
I feel a heaviness. In my stomach. In the tightness of my jaw. I can’t raise my head. It’s thick and heavy with sorrow.
“My little Ellen. You happy here with us? Why your heart breaking so much, ah? Are we not make it easy for you?” Her big hands fold over my head and pull me into her breast, but I can’t look up. I can’t say anything because I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how I feel or where I am. I feel like I’m floating up in the clouds, big and dark and stormy black.
“It only been a few months, anyway,” Rosa says, barely a whisper. “Things, they get better as time go by. But you know that we love to have you here. Pina an Lara - sometimes they be... well, the pain in the butt. An Marco - he so busy with working...”
“It’s okay,” I croak.
“I know it hard for you, Ellen. You ask me what I can do for you, okay?”
I nod, but still can’t lift my head.
“An try not to think about the train, ah? Things like this - they happen. God has his reason. An it over now, okay?” She tips up the point of my chin with her fat index finger and looks into my frowning eyes. “Ellen - that boy - he not feel a thing,” she says, and I feel better. My stomach grumbles loudly and we both look down at it in surprise. “Ah, my Ellen! She hungry!”
And we giggle together in her rocking-horse arms.

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