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9. Crossing

by  joydaly

Posted: Monday, November 28, 2016
Word Count: 888
Summary: YA Psychological mystery/thriller

It’s breakfast and Mum is still going on about my mates.
‘Why didn’t they turn up yesterday?’
‘Don’t know.’
‘When are they going to turn up?’
‘Don’t know.’
‘How did you arrange it?’
Finally, she stops with the questions and walks around the bench to sit on the stool next to me. She picks up my hand and cups it between hers. I can remember, not so long ago, when her hand could swallow mine. Now it takes both to do the job, and still my fingers are sticking out at the end. I look at them and smile. I’m getting bigger and mum is getting smaller, and maybe that’s all growing old really means.
‘Jack. I’m sorry.’
There’s silence. She’s waiting for me to say something.
‘I worry. I’m sorry, but I worry.’
I can’t see the Weetbix in my bowl and still I don’t say anything.
Mum squeezes my hand and sighs. She moves back to her side of the counter and pretends to be busy at the kitchen sink.
 ‘I’ll be in the shed.’ My voice is unsteady.
And I’m gone, almost as gone as Sammy.
Jackson and Samuel, that’s what we were christened. Apparently, it lasted about two days before I was Jacky and Samuel became Sammy. And that’s how it went for years. I remember my first day at school. Both of us scared, but not as scared as the other kids, who only had themselves.
The teacher sat us beside each other and wrote our names on cards that she propped on the table in front of us. Bright yellow cards with strong black letters and purple smiley faces.
   ‘Sammy’, on one and ‘Jacky’, on the other. Funny, all I can remember is her long, bony fingers around the  marker as she formed each letter, sounding it out.
‘S. A. M. M. Y.’ she spelled. Then mine. Sammy’s name sounded smooth and mine sounded jagged. But I didn’t mind. That’s what we were like, the same, but different.
   Then Sammy disappeared and in a way, we did too.  I’m Jack now – an only child. Dad’s a ghost – a beaten ghost; and mum isn’t mum anymore. She’s like some sort of demented protector.
          I lean against the shed door and even though it’s bullshit, I try deep breathing. But my eyes keep burning and so does my throat. Nothing helps except distraction. When I’m not thinking about Sammy, it’s a relief. But when I’m not thinking about him, it’s, it’s… no good.
How am I going to nail the bastards who set me up? There must be a hidden path from one of the windows out to the park. If I can find it, I’m going to leave them a surprise – and it won’t be fake meccano boxes.
I scout around the shed. Nothing. I push through the tangle of creepers and vines to check out the cyclone fence. They must have cut a hole in it somewhere, otherwise I would have spotted them climbing over the top.
   Our backyard meets the park, and it almost seems like the fence has been laced with jungle from the two. Off in the distance I can hear running water - a lot of it. Breedon mentioned something about a river and swimming hole when he popped into the basement to smile at my white gloves and glower at my water bottle. That must be the sound I can hear, and that explains why the kids who punked me are way out here. They probably spend heaps of time swimming during holidays. And although I’m still furious, a bit of me is excited. Maybe I won’t have to spend the rest of the holidays on my own.
After ten-minutes of sweating and cursing I find where they got out at the fence line.
But, it’s not what I expected. I thought I’d see a well-worn path leading to a hole, made wide through years of use. Instead, the jungle on either side is thick and the hole looks small and mean.
I drop to the jungle floor, crushing plants underneath and wriggle through, the wire scratching my back. The kids aren’t ghosts. They had to have snapped twigs, bent ferns, crushed plants underfoot. I do a slow 180 when I get to the other side. Nothing. It’s untouched.
The water sounds close, but I reckon I must have smashed down at least two hundred metres of jungle before I find it.
My skin’s burning with sweat-soaked cuts. I think a spider dropped down the back of my T and bit my left shoulder, my ankle is swollen from a log that turned underfoot and I don’t care. This is the coolest thing I can remember seeing, feeling, for a long time.
The water sprays my skin as it smashes into moss-green rocks, the size of cars. It plummets three-metres, swallowed by a deep, green pool.
There are no kids – no signs of kids. No chip packets, no soda cans. This is mine, all mine. I slide down the side of the bank, grabbing onto ferns to slow my speed, then I’m at the edge of my own, private swimming pool. I whoop, can’t help myself. And I’m ripping off my clothes until I’m down to jocks.
I jump.