Death in the family

I held my mother’s hand. I have always thought that a mother is the epitome of warmth. I thought how strange it was that her fingers lay hard and cold in my palm.

‘Mother?’ I whispered, brushing her hair from her eyes.

She didn’t answer. Her mouth was slack and her eyes stared above her.

‘It’s time, Molly. You must leave.’ My father led me from the room and shut the door. I pressed my ear against the wood.

20 years later, I have still never been so sure of anything, as I was that my father uttered the words: ‘Thank God.’

Tiana’s House

Burning down my family home was never something I intended to do. It just sort of happened. I sat in the field opposite and watched the flames lick at my windowpane, melting the white plastic and colouring the brick a crumbly black. I sighed and leaned back onto my palms. My mum and dad sat beside me, silently watching the fire. All of us were transfixed.

Every crackle and flick of fire seemed to ease our pain and soothe our clenched muscles. My sister had died, but the house still resonated with the echoes of her laugh and the image of her silly dances. Her closed door represented an emptiness that we couldn’t fill, and her presence was a dark shadow that weighed upon each of us.

It hadn’t seemed enough to move. She would still be there; the ghost of her would move around that house forevermore, it seemed. It would be wrong to sell, wrong to allow a stranger to live in the room where she had slept, where she had died. So, instead of lighting the candle in the lounge, as per my mum’s request, I set light to the curtain. I looked to see my parents’ reaction, and all I saw was relief. We had calmly gathered our vital items; purses, phones and photo albums, and we’d left to watch our house burn.

The window to my sister’s room was filled with dark smoke and orange flames. We all watched it intently. Suddenly, the roof above her room crumpled, and it disappeared into a mass of smoke.

I found my mum’s hand, and I squeezed it tightly. ‘Goodbye Tiana,’ I whisper, as tears of pain and relief run down my face.