Three weeks after Robert goes missing, Victoria finds him asleep in the back of his car, parked up on a verge just outside of Hotten. She just happens to be passing on her way back from a wedding reception. The van smells like cold hot dogs and she has the windows down to expel the smell. The stench will cling to her clothes and hair even after washing, so the smell of manure smeared fields is a welcome reprieve. She’s singing along to an Ed Sheeran song when she sees the car. She quietens immediately. The music seems to shoot up in volume as she tries to work out what this could mean.
The van pulls up onto the verge with a shudder. Something in the back falls to the floor and shatters, but Victoria doesn’t go back to assess the damage. She shuts off the engine and opens the door, hopping down onto the soft grass. It’s a humid day. The grey clouds lie across the sky like a duvet and the air is a jumper that can’t be removed. Despite the heat, the windows in Robert’s car are opaque with condensation. Victoria’s mind begins to spin. A disaster movie plays on the backs of her eyelids and she wonders what she could find in that car. Unable to stand the apprehension any longer, she surges forward, quickly closing the distance between the van and the car. She pulls down the sleeve of her long-sleeved t-shirt over her hand and scrubs at the back window. Much to her frustration, this does nothing; the condensation is on the inside. Steeling herself for the worst, she takes a deep breath and raps a fist against the glass.
When no response comes, she knocks again. Harder this time. So hard that her knuckles glow red and sing with pain.
She keeps knocking, fighting against the urge to dislodge a brick from a crumbling wall nearby and put it through the window. She can hear herself shouting, her voice taking on panicked edge that she hardly recognises. She’s being ridiculous. Robert isn’t an old dog, he wouldn’t just slip away quietly to-
The lock clicks.
Victoria grabs the handle and wrenches the door open with such force that she almost knocks herself backwards. The smell of whisky and body odour rolls over her in a wave. Robert lies on his side, curled up on the rear seats with his face pressed into the backrest. Victoria stands over her brother, staring, trying make sense of what she’s seeing. It is Robert, she’s sure of it, but at the same time it’s barely him. His usually immaculate hair is matted against his skull and his cheeks are shadowed with blonde stubble. Robert is the kind of person that takes up space, who walks into a room and occupies every corner. This Robert isn’t him. This Robert is small.
Swallowing through the tightness in her throat, Victoria crouches down next to the car, placing a hand on her brother’s shoulder. He doesn’t so much as flinch.
‘Robert? It’s me. Are you okay?’
He clearly isn’t, but what else can she ask?
‘Can you sit up, Robert?’
It takes a moment, but he does. The more he uncurls himself, the more apparent it is that something is very wrong. His face his drawn; his cheekbones hollowed out and his eyes sunken back into his skull. There’s blood on the collar of his shirt, purple against the blue material, and more unidentifiable stains down his front. Victoria clamps her hands over her mouth, breathing through her fingers and doing her best to fight back tears.
‘Oh God, Robert, what happened?
Robert doesn’t speak. While Victoria gets him something to eat, he watches the rain slide down the window pane, turning the village outside into a smeared canvas. He nibbles on the skin at the tip of his thumb, his nails bitten back to almost non-existent bloody slithers. Victoria watches him from the kitchen while she waits for the kettle to boil. She’s tried talking to him. All the way back she’d bombarded him with questions. Where had he been? Why hadn’t he called? Why was he living in his car? But he didn’t answer, just watched the world speed past the window of the van.
As Victoria pours the tea she looks at the family photo that sits on the windowsill. Five smiling faces trapped behind a layer of glass. Her dad and her mum and her two brothers and her. Seeing them all together like that feels like the most impossible miracle. Victoria sees families all the time. Sees them sat together in the pub or walking to the shops. She wishes that she didn’t hate them, but it’s hard to look up into the lush branches of a great oak when her own family tree is withering. She tries to keep it alive, but no matter how often she waters the gnarled roots it keeps dying.
<b>Vylad:</b> wHY THE FUCK DO I KEEP LANDING IN JAIL--<p/><b>Garroth:</b> Pay up, bitch<p/><b>Zane:</b> IS THERE A PONY TOKEN-<p/><b>Aaron:</b> aphmau you can't have all the fifties just because they're purple<p/><b>Aphmau:</b> bUUUT--<p/><b>Katelyn:</b> GIVE ME ALL THE MONEY LOSERS<p/><b>Kawaii~Chan:</b> BUT IF I'M BANKRUPT HOW WILL I BAKE CAKES<p/><b>Lucinda:</b> I'm never playing with you lot ever again *plays next time*<p/><b>Travis:</b> I win every time<p/></p>
Happy Birthday to my beautiful angel! Officially a grown mare (even if she may not act like it) and I couldn’t be more proud of her! ❤ ❤ ❤
Mod: I was hoping to do a mini-story for Rosie’s 18th, but as always, exams are in the way and I don’t have the time for it. So uh, just use your imagination about what happened during her birthday. I’m sure the above pic gives a hint or two. ^^