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Authors: Suki Fleet

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BOOK: The Glass House
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“Thank you,” I said.

 

 

A
T
HALF
ten that night, I was lying in bed in the dip in my mattress when my phone rang. Thomas’s number flashed up on the screen. I stared at it for far too long, my heart caught in my throat, before answering.

“Hi, this is Thomas’s gran. He’s a little weak to fiddle around with the dialing, and he can’t speak for too long, but he was desperate to talk to you….” I heard Thomas grumble breathlessly in the background, something on the lines of
Please give me the damn phone now!

There was a bit of shuffling, and then his voice was at my ear.

“Hey,” he wheezed. “I’m on oxygen… so can’t speak long.”

Stupid tears had blocked up my throat just when I needed it.
Speak, you fuckwit!

“I’m glad you’re okay,” I croaked. I pinched the bridge of my nose really hard, hoping the pain would stop the pressure building up.

“I’ll be fine…. Stuck here for… a while, though…. Gran says you’ll come… tomorrow?”

I gasped out a sob. I couldn’t help it.

“Hey… don’t,” he said. He was getting upset too—I could hear it in the way his voice broke over
don’t
.

“I was so fucking
scared
,” I breathed, my voice gone.


Me too, Sash.

“I’m sorry, don’t cry, please.” I forced myself to pull it together. It couldn’t be good for Thomas to be crying, and he was supposed to be on oxygen, not talking to me anyway.

“Sasha, he’s going to have to go now,” Thomas’s gran said. She had obviously taken the phone out of his hand.

“Wait.” I heard Thomas plead in the background, and then he was at my ear again. “I love you,” he said. “I love you… so fucking much.”

And then he was gone.

It was stupid, but for a second all I could think about was that he’d said “fucking” in front of his gran.

I fell back on my bed, gripping my pillow. Pressing my face into it, I sobbed until I felt emptied out. I wasn’t crying just out of sadness—there was painful relief and, if I let myself replay his words, blinding happiness too.

I was a fucked-up mess when I exited my room, still hugging my pillow, and sat down on the sofa next to Corinne.

I curled up beside her, and we watched some detective drama set in Victorian England with about a hundred different characters. But I wasn’t paying enough attention and couldn’t work out what the hell was going on.

I’d never done that before, come out and sit with her. Corinne didn’t make a big fuss. I think she realized I just needed some company.

“Spoke to Thomas on the phone,” I said when the adverts came on.

“He must be doing okay, then.” Corinne smiled. “I’m really glad he’s okay.”

“You don’t mind about me being—about Thomas?”

“You’re my brother, Sasha. Why would I mind? Love is love, right?”

“Yeah.” I nodded.
Love is love, right.

Chapter Eleven
In which we are glass bright,
glittering in the light….

 

 

A
T
HALF
past ten the following morning, I sat on Thomas’s hospital bed, my head rested on his shoulder, so happy to have his arms around me. I guessed there might be rules about sitting on patients’ beds, but I knew I wasn’t hurting Thomas, and I wasn’t about to move. I felt too content. The warm sun filled the room with white light, and I stared out the large rectangular window to the distant treetops. Thomas’s gran had tactfully left us alone while she got some breakfast. I think she’d been up all night at his bedside.

“You’re missing school,” Thomas said, pulling off his oxygen mask. He could be without it for a few minutes at a time, but that was all.

“Are you complaining?”

“No.”

I turned my head to look up at him. In the bright morning light, his eyes had taken on this warm amber glow instead of being all dark swallow-me-whole brown. I could look at them all day.
Him.

“I don’t want you to fail your exams because I was an idiot, Sash.”

“Were you?”

I wasn’t going to straight-out ask him why he’d been running around the playing field. I suspected he felt bad enough right now with his lungs not working properly.

“I got myself blue lighted to hospital—what do you think?”

I put my head back down on his chest and linked our fingers together in his lap. His hands were so large against mine, my fingers so skinny.

“It was stupid. I thought if I took it slow, I’d be okay. I just wanted to… be fit enough,” he said after a while.

“Fit enough for what?”

“You know you’re stunning, right?” he said, giving me a sad smile. “And… I’m not….”

With a frown I let go of his hand and stroked his cheek. I thought one day he might look kind of interesting with facial hair but kind of not himself too.

“Thomas, I think you’re
beautiful
. I hate….” No, that wasn’t right, I didn’t hate it. “I feel stupid saying stuff like this, so I don’t, but it’s the whole thing, you know? It’s all the feelings I have about you, about how kind you are to me, how you care and never give up even when I’m obnoxious. How you look at me and
see
me like no one else sees me. I’ve never felt this way about anyone. And I don’t want you to just want me because you like how I look either. I think that might kill me.” There was no
might
about it. It would cut me down right where I stood.

He closed his eyes and kissed my hand. “I don’t. It’s the whole deal,” he said. “It always was.”

He had to put his mask back on after that. I sat with him and he held me until Corinne came at eleven to walk with me to school. I promised to come back in the evening.

“Even if my parents are here?”

I guess he was giving me fair warning. But he didn’t have to.

“Yeah.”

Even if I had to face a thousand things I’d rather run away from, even if I had to swim through a river of glass, I’d be here.

I meant it. My desire to see Thomas was so much greater than my terror at being introduced to his parents, even though I suspected Thomas would tell them the exact nature of our relationship.

Fuck everyone else’s opinions. It was completely fucking pathetic that it had taken my fear of losing Thomas for me to realize this.

And fuck all the little ways in which I manage to bring myself down and hate myself too
, I thought with a grimace. But that was the sort of change that didn’t come about so easily. The glass house around my heart may have shattered, but all the other glass houses I had inside me were all still mostly intact. I had a long way to go. But at least I could see that now.

I thought about what Corinne had said about not giving up on myself and staying at school, and I knew I had to at least try to stick it out, even if I did still end up failing most of my exams.

I kissed his cheek.

“I’ll see you later.”

 

 

T
HOMAS
WAS
in hospital for four more days. I met his parents, Jenny and Jack Knox. I managed not to self-destruct in their presence, and that was enough for me. When they thought I was out of earshot, they said they thought I was a little quiet and sullen. Thomas’s gran told them I was just worried about Thomas, and it was damn good that he had someone who cared for him so much.

I knew where she was coming from with that—I saw how much Thomas loved his parents, and I felt bad that they didn’t see how much it hurt him that they weren’t around. But it was just life, wasn’t it? We had to take our comfort where we could, and I would make fucking certain I was there when he needed any comfort.

 

 

B
EFORE
I
could return to lessons at school, I’d had to see the school counselor, Ms. James. I think she could tell I had no interest in talking about my feelings with regard to what had happened to Thomas. Instead she asked about why I found school difficult. When I admitted in a very oblique sort of way I sometimes felt overwhelmed, especially with the final exams coming up, she sorted out a detailed revision plan for me with the head of year.

It was laid out like an intricately described torture device.

Exam leave? Not a fucking chance.

I spread the paper out in front of me on the uneven surface of my bed. The revision plan was so large they’d had to fold it up like a leaflet. I knew where I was supposed to be every minute of every day on this thing. I had no idea how I was going to stick to it. I had no idea why the school wanted to go to so much trouble to help me either—I’d never been anything but a problem—but they had. I’d been assigned a tutor for every lunchtime and forty-five minutes after school too.

My first day of it was tomorrow, Monday. I’d made no secret of how much I was dreading it.

“Sasha, do you want to come and help me tidy the kitchen if you’re going to be using it?” Corinne called.

“Yeah, just a sec.”

Corinne was a terrible cook, and I wasn’t sure I was going to be any better, but Thomas had convinced me it might be fun if he came over and we cooked something. Corinne’s enthusiasm for this was a little over the top.

It galled me a little, but I thought Thomas may have unwittingly mentioned something to her about the different food I’d eaten at his house. It made me feel bad for Corinne as it suggested it was the lack of appetizing food that was part of the problem with my eating, which was perhaps true, but I didn’t want her to feel bad about it. I felt guilty about so much shit as it was.

I folded my leaflet away, got up off my bed, and went through to the kitchen.

“Here.” Corinne handed me a pair of pink washing-up gloves.

I stared unhappily at the overflowing sink and made a start.

I could probably manage not to burn spaghetti
, I thought as I scrubbed the black crust off the inside of a pan.

Corinne looked sheepish as she dried up.

“What time is Thomas coming over?”

“I’ll do this, and then I’ll go and meet him.” Because, yeah, even though I told myself I wasn’t, I was walking over to meet him because I was still worrying about him having an asthma attack walking over here on his own.

And I’d get my masochistic kicks by saying hi to his parents while I was at it. They weren’t so bad, but they didn’t seem to have warmed to me like Thomas’s gran, who now hugged me every time she saw me.

 

 

T
HE
SKY
was like a kid’s drawing entitled
Summer
—the expanse of it all blue, with one tiny fluffy cloud right overhead and a few airplane tracks that faded before your eyes. There was no grateful breeze. I was almost sweating.

As I walked I tried not to look for glass. Breaking an obsession leaves you feeling as though there is a yawning hole inside yourself. It leaves you thinking that you need something else to fill the void. Rationally I knew I had to try and stop thinking like that. But it was hard. Perhaps the things that broke inside me would never be entirely fixable.

Thomas was waiting on the grass outside his house. He walked up the street to meet me.

I pulled a face and frowned. He didn’t have to do that just so I didn’t have to see his parents or they didn’t have to see me.

“If they don’t like me, it’s okay. They’re not going to scare me away,” I said.

It’d take a hell of a lot more than that to scare me away now.

“We had a difference of opinion,” he said tightly as he kept walking. “I didn’t want to be inside with them anymore.”

We walked through the estate, fingers brushing every other step. We did this instead of holding hands. It made my heart beat hard and heavy against my ribs. I longed to hold his hand properly out here, to be fearless and strong, but it wasn’t worth the trouble it would cause. Dickheads on the estate didn’t need an excuse to kick the shit out of you, so I certainly wasn’t going to give them one.

“I miss them so much when they’re away, and when they come back it’s as if we don’t know one another
at all
. And Gran’s stuck in the middle trying to make everyone happy. I’m sorry. I don’t want to be pissed off when I’m with you.”

“Ah, you’ve got a ton of catching up to do yet if you want to get to my dizzying heights of pissed-off-ness,” I said wryly. “Are they going back, then?” They’d been somewhere in Africa when Thomas had had his asthma attack.

Thomas nodded, his shoulders slumped.

He’d told me how important their jobs were. They were doctors. They saved people’s lives.

And their son missed them with all his heart.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“Maybe,” he said.

I waited for him to say more, but I didn’t push. I figured if he needed to talk about it, he would when he was ready. But I also knew he probably wanted to forget about that stuff for a while.

Feeling suddenly bold, I let my hand touch the bare skin of his arm. My fingers briefly encircled his bicep.

He smiled at the contact. He liked to be touched, however momentary that touch might be. His positive reaction always had me wanting to touch him more, had me wanting to make him
react
more. His responsiveness, I guess you’d call it, turned me on faster than anything.

“I’m okay. I guess I should be used to it by now. I mean, they’ve been doing this for most of my life. I just wish we could be a normal family sometimes, and then when we are, it’s nothing like I imagined. Or hoped. I’m sorry. At least my parents are here, right? At least they come back.”

He chewed his lip as he looked at me.

I shook my head and gave him a sad smile. He had no need to apologize. I could never be resentful of what he had. I wanted him to be happy. My heart wouldn’t settle for anything less.

Missing the people you loved never got any easier. If I let myself admit it, I still missed Mum, and she had been mother of the fucking year leaving me in Brighton, hadn’t she? Dad too, though I could hardly remember what he looked like anymore.

BOOK: The Glass House
6.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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