Leaning on the car bonnet I stared out across the fields sliced into sage squares and grouped together buildings lit up under the fading sun. The time of pre evening where bubblegum pinks and honey oranges bleed across the sky and the moon looks like a pale wisp the clouds forgot to take with them.
”Home.” I whispered over the cliff edge, watching it all below. All the lives that never stopped when I left. I pulled a hastily rolled up cigarette out my pocket and amused myself in silence for a few minutes whilst the tip burned and ash fell in a wind swept dance to the floor.
Almost a decade had passed since I’d left this place I’d once thought of as a haven, now the building walls towered a little too high like they wanted to trap you in. Isn’t a home town perfect until you’ve outgrown it? The place where you took your first steps, met your first friends, danced in that play, sat and stared at homework that refused to make sense, first relationships, fights, laughter, sibling rivalry, sports days where you won without even trying, first sip of your mums wine when she wasn’t looking, first cigarette from your friend who seemed to age quicker than you. And despite the heartbreak and betrayals it is still your safe haven…until it isn’t anymore.
It is the place that built you. That place that fed you a tragedy to tear you right back down.
Getting back in the car I turned the key in the ignition and felt the engine vibrate. I lifted a flask to my mouth and swallowed cold coffee, wishing for something stronger before hitting the accelerator. The roads were familiar but felt different, the hills somehow steeper and the little one way roads were thinner.
This is where it happened. I seemed to choke on my own saliva when the first row of houses came into view. That one. It was that one. The modern looking house that was all white painted walls and large glass windows. New people lived there now, it wasn’t the Huxley household anymore. How could it be after I destroyed every good memory there that my parents had spent a lifetime creating?
I’d known she was struggling, I’d known for quite a while and yet it was still like an icy spear to my stomach when I heard the horrible noises she was making, a mixture of a cry of desperation and a scream of pain. Not physical pain, that she handled with ease, but the sort of agonising pain that comes from within us. My pale first started beating the bathroom door. “Olivia!” My hands were slick with panic induced sweat as they lay flat against the door and I let my forehead fall against the cool wood. The cold realisation settled on me that she had closed that door, locked that door to keep us out. The only way in was if she let me in. “Liv please.” My voice broke, tears collecting in my eyes. “Olivia I need you to open the door. I know you can do it, just ple…” Another one of her high pitched cries rang out and I slid down to my knees with my back to the door. Aggression and screams weren’t the way to get through to her. “Olivia.” I spoke gently, trying to keep my voice from shaking. “I’m right here and I’m ready whenever you want to let me in. Please just let me in. Let me hold you and we can fight this together.” Silence swelled between us. “You can do it, just open the door and I’m right here.”
There was a muttered sound from the other side of the wall.
“sorry I didn’t catch that.” My heart thudded rhythmically, a fast paced drum song.
“It’s too late, I can’t…” The sound of broken hearted sobbing made my chest ache.
”You can’t what?” Nothing. “You can’t what?” I repeated, desperation creeping into my voice. She didn’t speak again. “Olivia I know you…” I stopped myself, I wanted to try and convince my sister that life was worth living. That there were sunsets to watch at 5am and more of her new fancy coffees to try and there were still people she hadn’t met yet that she’d come to love. But she didn’t want to hear any of that. She wanted acceptance that what she was doing was okay. And it wouldn’t break us… of course it would and it did but she didn’t need that weight added to the one she was already carrying. If I could just get in the bathroom I could maybe do things differently and her story could have a sequel rather than an ending, but I couldn’t do that so the least I could do was give her acceptance.
“I do understand Liv and I’m not trying to change your mind, really I’m not. I just want you to know that I love you and I would take a bullet for you. I wish it was me on that bathroom floor instead.” My face was wet with hundreds of little tear drops trekking paths down my face like a spilled glass of wine. I swallowed against the burn in my throat and kept speaking, I kept speaking after I knew it was done. “I love you and it’s okay, this is okay, I wish I could get to you but I can’t do this is okay. I love you and I understand.”
I stayed sat against the door for hours, my legs stiffening and my neck cramping as my head hung low between my bent knees. When my fingers were cold enough to go numb from not moving I reached up to the door handle and used it to pull myself up. It turned in my hand. The door swung open. I couldn’t even scream seeing her lying there with candy apple red blooming around her face that had always been prettier than she realised, because the door hadn’t even been locked. I never once tried the handle.
They say time is the greatest healer but ten years later I still don’t have the strength to take the bandage off and access the damage. I put the car in reverse and swing it round to face the open roads up and out of this place. I hadn’t opened the bathroom door then and I couldn’t open the front door now either so for all my talk of changing, really how much had I changed?
One day I would be able to open the door.