Short Story | ‘Remember the Good Times’ by Andrew Newall, Illustration by Jordan Wester
Angel was short-tempered, selfish, volatile, with probably one or two other ingredients in that charming mixture, so it’s no surprise that opinions on whether or not my sister lived up to her name varied. Over the years, I’d been spat on, scratched and bruised, a little more than your typical sibling rivalry. Now, some years on since her disappearance, I still find myself reflecting on all the abuse and wondering; do I really miss her?
Angel and I were adopted when we were only a few months old. Our new home was a large house in a cul-de-sac in one of the more affluent areas in town. In our early years, we were inseparable, soul mates. My earliest memories are of the two of us playing hide and seek together in the garden, and there were plenty of hiding places with its high bushes and plants, and a garden fence, drenched in clematis. The greenery looked like a forest when we were that small.
We never learned anything about our biological parents and we were far too young to remember them. Periodically, Angel tossed some random, uninformed comment about them abandoning us, although neither of us took it upon ourselves to discover who they were, or what happened, and I personally couldn’t see any reason to do so. Our new family were the most loving we could have, and they were so lenient with us. Mother frequently allowed us out on our own to go wherever and whenever we wanted, even at a very young age. Instinct is already present in infants, a junior common sense if you like, and mine would often wonder why Mother never said anything when we stayed out late. The surrounding area was very safe, yet looking back, it may have been just a little too trusting of us at our age but we didn’t complain.
We shared a room and at night, we’d gibber to each other before we fell asleep. Angel constantly talked about adventure, exploration and what to do tomorrow, while I was perfectly content, living in the moment. Differences in our personalities were already present and I didn’t realise at the time, but she may well have been subconsciously shaping her future.
Our neighbourhood had plenty of youngsters our own age and a lot of mixed races, which was interesting to see and hear, but generally we all got along fine. It didn’t take us long to make friends. Our regular friends were a motley crew of characters. Sheena was the newest resident after us. She was a real fox, strikingly beautiful with immaculate hair. We initially found her intimidating when she moved into the neighbourhood but she was very down to earth and was Angel’s best friend. Another one of the gang was big Ed. Ed was a stud, heavenly to look at, but lacking in social manners. He told me once he’d seen Angel playing with a “fat bird”. Political correctness was not his strong point and he often reduced us into fits of giggles. Robbie was a quiet kid with a penchant for nuts. We had a sleepover at Robbie’s once, when we were roughly four years old, and I swear the whole family are nut-crazy. Rounding off our clique was Cody, who was tiny and had a little squeaky voice to match. I am still friends with all of them today.
As Angel and I grew, so did our individuality. Into our adolescent year, she became more defiant, more rebellious. She challenged Mother more and more with her behaviour. It was as though she harboured an increasing dislike of domesticity. She started to stay out overnight, sometimes more than one night at a time. Mother must have been at her wit’s end, but concealed it well. I never heard her once lose her temper.
Soon, Angel started on me. If I was playing with something she wanted, she’d grab it off me. If she finished her food before me, she’d try and grab mine, then she wanted our bedroom to herself, which she didn’t get incidentally, although we did end up sleeping at opposite sides of the room, just to alleviate the tension. Our night-time gibbers quickly deteriorated into meaningless tiffs. Soon, it seemed as though she couldn’t bear to be in the same company as me. I didn’t know what was going on with her. She started to lash out and scratch me if I got in her way. I took it for as long as I could, until my emotional hurt became frustration and anger, and I would simply retaliate. We had a few stand-offs, occasionally coming to blows, but Mother broke us up before it got serious, which it never really did. Memories like these are the ones I try to put to the back of my mind, because they are what threaten to unearth the bad feelings, and stop me from missing her. Our friends also noticed the changes in her behaviour. Even Sheena couldn’t seem to get through to her. They all put it down to her age but I knew that it was her longing for independence.
As I look back, I feel nothing. Well, that’s not entirely true. Through the fighting years, we still had connection. I remember having problems with a neighbourhood bully. He was forever chasing me, intent on inflicting some kind of damage. Angel knew something was bothering me and asked me about it, so I told her. She scoffed at my ignorance of self-protection and lack of situational awareness, but told me not to worry anyway. A few days later, I was doing my routine half marathon with said bully running a close second. I reached the safety of my house. Angel was waiting right there on the driveway. She simply glared at him and he took off like a scaredy cat. Angel could fight, but on this occasion, she didn’t have to. This was one hundred per cent pure attitude. She always had more of a presence than I did. These are the times I like to look back on.
Then she was gone. She went out one night and didn’t come back. At first, I was fine. If she wasn’t there, then we wouldn’t be fighting, but after the second night, I started to panic.
With the help of all my friends, I hunted high and low for my sister every day and night, stopping only to go home and eat. Sheena could barely accept the thought of something terrible happening to her best friend. We searched for weeks until I decided it was best to stop.
The support given by friends like mine are invaluable in these times, but the emptiness of personal loss cannot be consoled and, despite our fighting, I feel emptiness now. Mother knew something was wrong and went out to look for her. She searched for what must have been an hour, and then just dismissed it. Could she have been that bitter about Angel’s behaviour? I don’t know if she even reported her missing to the Police. None appeared at the house.
Deep down, my instinct told me nothing had happened to her. She had gone off to find freedom, wherever that was. The last civilised conversation we had was just before her disappearance. She told me there was too much to see to remain confined at home and she talked of running away, but I reminded her how lucky we were. I now believe that last talk was more than just a talk. She was trying to tell me she was going, possibly wishing I would go with her, and all I did was scold her like I was chastising a disobedient child.
A few years have passed and things have moved on as they always must. The household has returned to normal. I’ve grown up and put the past behind me. I’m eighteen years old now, and that is old. I still ask myself if I miss her. The answer is yes. She is still my sister, I love her and I don’t think I’d be too presumptuous in thinking she felt the same. I’ve chosen to only remember the good times; playing in the garden, catching mice. Mother is sitting on the sofa. She looks like she could use some company. I’ll have a stretch, finish my food then hop up on to her lap.
Illustration by: Jordan Wester