“Heart” challenge response, by Tom Davies

Melissa looked from the gaping wound in her chest to the still-beating heart in her hand, and said, “Fuck.”

“Ouch!” I said, my eyes peeping at her over the top of my comic. “That must’ve hurt more than the thing you did with the jam jar!”

“I’ve done it, Daisy Belle, I said I would and I meant it.” Then she said fuck again.

I sat up in bed and looked at her. She stood in the bedroom doorway with that lump of flesh in her palm. It wobbled in the moonlight, crying spurts of blood out the sides like a cartoon sad face.

Melissa chuckled a bit and slid down the bedroom wall, tearing the bottom edge off a poster.

“That’ll teach him.” She said, the words blurring into one long sigh.

I knelt by her and poked at the dribbling heart. It was warm to the touch and felt like a fat, wet purse.

“Does it hurt?”

“What’s that?”

“Does it hurt?” I repeated, a little louder this time, still quiet enough not to wake mum.

“No. I mean what’s hurt’?” She said all far away.

I wondered for a second if that was a joke or not. I decided it wasn’t. She wasn’t a very funny big sister. More the shrieking and crying sort who slams doors and sneaks in through bedroom windows at two in the morning smelling of cigarettes and boys.

I wrapped her up in her bed and turned out the light.

Next day I waited til mum had gone to work and, once I’d heard the door slam and the car start up, I ran a soapy bath for Melissa. She walked slowly into the bathroom with the duvet wrapped around her. Her face was way paler than normal and when she let the cover drop to the floorboards I saw the wound for the first time in the daylight. There were waves of flesh around the edges of the hole and I could see bars of bone underneath. There was black blood all around it.

‘Does it look bad, Daisy Belle?’ she slurred.

‘That’s one way of putting it.’ I said, lowering her into the steaming water. There was a bubbling at the surface and then it turned a bit pink. Melissa coughed and spat out soapy water so I sat her up.

The snow was falling heavily in the back yard, big fat flakes like white ash. Melissa swayed in her boots, coat and scarf.  She held my lunchbox in her hands, close to her chest.

I packed snow together between my mittens and took a careful aim.

‘I can still feel it in there, Daisy. It still aches a bit.’

Her head shot back an inch or two as a snowball smacked into her forehead and slowly dropped down over her mouth in bits and pieces.

She spat and flexed her jaw, but her eyes didn’t blink.

‘I think I need to bury it’, she said holding the lunchbox out at arms length.

There was another muffled thud and she spat out more snow.

‘Whatever you say, freak.’ I said not unkindly, as I kissed her on the cheek, wrapped her scarf a bit tighter around her chin and took her by the hand.

I picked up dad’s old shovel and swung it over my shoulder.

‘To the woods!’

I led Melissa down to the heart of the woods, through the bushes and the shadows and the clumps of lazy, dark old trees.

In a clearing I sat her down on a log and told her not to get into any trouble, and then I started hacking at the frozen ground. By the time I’d got a good big hole going she was wrapping her hands tight around thorny stalks with a blank face on. I managed to dig a hole deep enough, but it took ages cos I’m only small. She was throwing stones at rabbits and squirrels. She got one squirrel on the snout and it did a back flip off the branch and whizzed down into a thick bush like that poor little tightrope walker we saw at the Beeswax Circus.

‘Shall I stick a stick in it so you know where it is?’ I shouted at her as I flattened earth and rocks over the buried box.

‘Whatever you like’ she drooled as she burst a little spider between her fingers.

I found a thick bit of wood with a Y at the top and screwed it into place.

I kept Melissa out of mum’s way for the evening. I told mum that Linus Warrell had dumped Melissa for a professional swimmer who was eighteen, and so mum just shook her head and uncorked one of her special bottles. ‘I anticipate three weeks of hell.’ was all she said before lying down on the sofa.

The wind was throwing the snow about like mad during the night, so I sat up in bed and watched it splat against the window. Melissa was asleep in her own bed, snoring softly. Outside the window there was the black sky and the white snow and the black wood off In the distance. But the wood had a kind of glow inside it, something blue and purple and hazy, just little, like a bonfire but the wrong colour.

Next day I woke up and saw Melissa wasn’t in her bed. It was 10 o clock and it was the holidays so I would’ve expected her to still be snoring and dribbling onto her pillows, but I could hear someone scrunching around in the snow outside. I got dressed and waded out into the garden. Melissa was pegging out the dead bodies of little squirrels and cats on the washing line. Each one had a smashed in snout or forehead and I saw Melissa’s pockets were full of sharp stones. She waved at me with one mitten.

‘Hey little Daisy Belle, little sleepyhead. I woke up ages ago. Do you like what I’ve done?’

I forced a massively lying grin onto my face and stomped over to her side.

‘Yes that’s lovely, it really pulls the yard together.’ I said looking at the spitty spotty patches of red underneath the washing line.

‘How are you feeling?’ I said. And I really meant it.

Melissa just stared at me for a while and then shrugged.

After lunch, I heard a car driving up to the front, and I thought mum might have come back early. I got in a panic and wondered if I could blame the animals on the washing line on the neighbour’s dog. But it was only Linus Warrell, which was bad enough actually.

I opened the door and kept the chain on.

He was wearing aviator shades and had been trying to grow a goatee beard.

‘Where is she, Daze?’ He said, flipping the shades off but not looking at me.

‘Given up on the mermaid, have you?’

‘Mel!’ he suddenly said, running out of sight.

I fumbled the chain and ran out to see Melissa trudging round the side of the house with a hammer in her hand. Her face was a bit empty and her mittens were hanging on their strings and bouncing around as she walked.

‘Hello!’ she said, ‘Do I know you?’

‘Came back for you, babe..’ he said uncertainly, looking at the hammer and the bulging pockets full of stones.

Melissa smiled politely but she didn’t know what was going on.

‘I’ve got a hammer and some broken milk bottles round the back if you want to come and play.’

I jumped in front of her and made my growling face.

‘You leave her alone. I know you tried it on with Jessica Timm’s mum!’

‘Fuck off, brat.’ He said, not looking at me again. But he saw something he didn’t recognise in Melissa and he started backing away.

‘I’d let you play with my animals,’ she said to him,’ But I’ve gotta be honest, I’m running out..’

He got into his car and drove off, looking more even confused than he normally did.

I’d made up my mind.

We walked into the woods, me and her. I was holding her hand in mine and she was trailing after me like a retard, kicking at little scurrying things among the bushes as we walked.

‘I liked you better when you were rubbish, Melly.’ I whispered to no one.

‘Yeah Daisy Belle, isn’t it..’ She muttered as she nailed a shrew with her right boot. The frost puffed off her boot as the little body flew through the air with an eek.

I could see it was dark now outside the wood, but there was still that glow ahead of us, it was sparking and purple but I couldn’t see exactly what was making it. We were there though, I was sure.

‘Can you see that light, Mel?’ I said

Melissa walked ahead of me a few paces. ‘Is something blowing up?’ she said.

‘No’ I said, stroking her arm and patting her hair, all whitish from the snow and the frost. ‘No’, I said, suddenly crying a bit for some reason, looking at my sister. ‘Can you go and see what it is?’

She just shrugged and marched away through the glowing bushes and glittering tree trunks.

‘Sure, Baby Belle’, she said picking up a big stick, ‘I like meeting new things.’

I knelt with my back to a big tree while Melissa walked off towards the sparkly light with the stick raised above her head shouting ‘HERE, DOGGY DOGGY DOGGY!’. What I could see wasn’t a lot. There were trees and bushes and the snow and the curious squirrels with a death wish again, but I saw her stop suddenly and stagger a bit, and I saw all the animals running and the bonfire stood up and raised it’s arms and it was shouting something at her and breathing heat and something bitter that shivered in waves like when you shake out a carpet and it blew over her and suddenly my eyes were wetter than they ever were before and my mouth was dry as anything Melissa crossed her arms in front of her those mittens dancing against the light and she said she didn’t want it didn’t want it didn’t want it back and those arms of light wrapped around her and I’m sorry Melissa but I screamed and turned and ran..

I was in the yard shivering and not crying that much. The sun was coming up and spilling pink into the sky. I had a mug of hot chocolate in my hands and had saved the last sachet just in case when I saw someone coming through the trees, hopping and skipping like an idiot. I could tell by the green scarf it was Melissa, but she took ages to get back to our yard. I watched her as she twirled and laughed and made little snowmen along the way. I wanted to shout at her and tell her it was freezing so come inside the house, but she was so lost in her snowmen and her dancing, and her cheeks and nose were so glowing and pink, that I just jumped up and down giggling for a while instead.

Eventually she got to the yard. Her grin was the size of her face and she had dirt and smudges and soot all over her clothes and her hair. She’d been crying.

‘Boys’, she said to me as she placed one hand over her chest and stretched the other out like an opera singer, ‘Boys,’, she said as she shook her head and danced on the spot, ‘Boys..are just weird, baby Belle. Stay away from them all. Become a nun! Listen to your big sis, for I am wise.’

With that, she wiped the smudges of make up from her eyes and skipped off through the snow towards the back door.

I watched a robin land on the washing line and peck at the glazed eye of a bobbing cat corpse with half a head.

‘Yeah, boys are weird.’ I sighed as I ran after her, weighing a perfectly rolled ball of snow and taking a careful aim.

 

 

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Submitted for the 11/09 challenge, “Heart.”

This story was written in response to the prompt, Melissa looked from the gaping wound in her chest to the still-beating heart in her hand, and said, “Fuck.”