‘Does it hurt?’ I joked back, and we both laughed a little. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. I thought of Paul, I sighed and closed my eyes.
Could there ever be a worse story? I had given my beloved sister a mortal injury. I had committed murder. Would Stella go about parroting my crime? A thousand and one thoughts bugged my head.
‘You’ll take care of mother, won’t you?’ She asked with pain in her eyes. I nodded, and she snorted.
‘I always wanted to be a movie star, and here I am, making one of the best movies. How I wish to see the ends of it.’
‘No, Kamss. Don’t. Not another word, please.’ I hugged her tightly.
‘Here, I made you a cup of coffee.’ Paul’s voice brought me back. I realised I was crying again, and I was clutching his pillow tight.
I took the cup from him without a word and tasted it. It was too strong, and I must have smacked my lips in apparent appreciation of the bitterness for he said,
‘I’ll get you something different, with milk in it.’
As he left, I heard him talking on the phone. I wondered who it was at this time of the night. Paul was being different tonight. Or was it my head playing games? Naturally, he should be molly cuddling me. I just watched my sister die. Or so I told him, but he was being strained in a way. Like someone hadn’t just died. And in my arms too. I threw the thoughts in my memory archive. It should be the least of my problems now.
Paul returned with a bowl of cereal in milk. I took it and placed on the bed without even bothering to taste it.
‘Eat up, you’ll need some energy, and you need the milk too. It’s unfortunate there are no chocolates in the house.’
I turned to look at the bowl and back at him. He was on me again with his glassy stare. This time searching my face like he was going to find the solution to a lifelong problem on it. His eyes seemed to x-ray the object of their scrutiny – my face. I looked away from him and onto the bowl of food. I now dared to think about Kamss and the way she died. I kept thinking it as though repetition would dull the shock of it.
When I finally took a spoon of the food, I realised how long I had been staring at it for it had lost its molecular integrity.
‘Paul, I think I should be going now. I need to be with my family. They must have heard, and I should not be missing. I need to show myself to them that I’m safe.’
He stood up with such speed that he could have toppled over.
‘I’m sorry. I can’t let you.’
‘What? Why?’ I asked getting up too.
‘The police would be here any moment. You should be on your way downtown soon.’
‘I don’t need the police to take me home. I can…’ I stopped as I realised what he had meant by downtown. Does that mean he knew? No effing way! It can’t be.
‘You killed Kamsi.’ He blurted out. I didn’t know which was worse. What he said or the matter-of-fact tone with which he said it. I was now facing him squarely.
‘You don’t know what you’re talking about’ I replied trying in vain to sound breezy and casual. ‘What has come over you, Paul?’ I feigned a calm I did not feel.
‘Really? How dare you?’ He asked furiously.
‘O! I dare alright.’ I mocked.
‘Quit playing games with me Kasie.’
‘Well then, come off it already. I didn’t know you loved Kamss this much. You have evidently taken leave of your senses.’
‘I love her with everything I’ve got.’
‘Which of us exactly are you dating?’ I shouted.
Tempers were now running high. I didn’t understand Paul. Not one bit. Had Stella told him? Why him and not the police? No! There was next to no chance that they knew each other. And no one else was there except Stella and… O No! Something shifted in my memory. The hooded figure. It can’t have been him. Who was he stalking? Me? Kamss? Stella? None of this made any sense.
‘Please. Get help. Get a car. She is dying.’ He mimicked my shriek for help. My mouth fell open in a comical “O”. I felt defeated. I was quiet for a while, and I lost the fifteen seconds window for an explanation. I tried anyway.
‘I was trying to help her. I was trying to protect her.’
‘Good idea.’ He said in mock admiration.
‘You have no idea…’ I paused. The suffocating feelings inside me had extinguished the ends of the sentence.
‘You came crying. You lied to me.’ he shouted.
‘I had to’ I screamed back. ‘How could I tell you? How could I?’
‘You surely must have another sentimental version for the police.’
I could feel the controlled sense of fury building up in me. Paul was supposed to be my friend. My ally.
‘You disgust me, Paul.’
‘What an awful old hypocrisy.’
I grimaced my surprise and helplessness.
‘I need to go home.’
‘I know you only too well. Once you step out of here, no one would see you again.’
I was mighty close to breaking his jaw. I darted towards the door and with an air of hardly noticing what he was doing; he smashed his bedside mirror and took a piece all in one swift move.
‘I feel for you. But I have to stop you.’ He blocked the door with the weapon in his hand
‘Why are you doing this?’ I was close to tears.
‘I’m being a good boy.’
‘You often said good boys always finish last.’
‘Oh, what a memory you’ve got!’ he said in a lofty voice adopted when wishing to hit one psychologically.
‘What can I say?’
‘I don’t know. Rack your brains that should take only a few seconds.’
‘I’m sorry, Paul.’ I didn’t know why I said that, and he too was so surprised that he forgot to look cold and fierce.
He finally found his voice and acted, ‘if sorry solves anything, why would we need laws and police?’ He said with undisguised ferocity and turned so dramatically that my insides turned over. He opened his mouth like he wanted to say something and then closed it again. His lips moved like he was chewing the words he had wanted to say.
A little parcel of fury broke over me. I could see him struggling for something hurtful to say.
‘How does it feel to be a murderer?’ He asked. His tone dripped disdain.
‘You live in fear!’
‘Fear of the world. Police. Ghost. Death. Everything.’
‘Paul, stop it!’
‘I was trying to protect my sister!’ I screamed.
‘She was never your sister.’ He hurled the words at me as though they would cause me unendurable pain. Real anger flared in his thin face now.