Held in Trust (flash)
“Trust me,” you said, as you guided me through the school gates. “You’ll love it. They’re the best years of your life.”
You hugged me and I could smell your aftershave on my skin for hours afterwards. Whenever I felt afraid, it reminded me of home.
“Trust me,” you said, one hand under my chest and the other under my belly. “I won’t let you drown.”
You didn’t believe in water wings. That isn’t real swimming, you said, as I watched the other children splashing about in the deep end.
“Trust me,” you said, when Mum went into hospital. “We’ll get through this together, like we always do.”
You were right. My life didn’t change that much. You took me to school and out for Friday treats, the same as ever. My uniform looked a bit scruffy and the fridge was empty, but Mum came home and seemed okay, except that she got tired and couldn’t eat much.
“Trust me,” you said, when the other kids laughed at me for getting fat. “They’re only jealous. Men like something to get hold of. You’re beautiful just as you are.”
You handed me a bag of crisps and had one yourself. We sat and watched telly and got a takeaway. We often had them because Mum needed special meals and you said it wasn’t worth cooking for two.
“Trust me,” you said, after my only proper friend said you were creepy and she didn’t want to come round any more. “You don’t need her. We can have plenty of fun on our own.”
You took me to the cinema, bought me popcorn, and sat with your arm around my shoulders. I wished Mum could have been there too, so we looked like a proper family.
“Trust me,” you said, when Mum died. “She’s in a better place. We’ll be fine, you and me.”
I tried to be brave, and daytimes weren’t too bad, but at night I heard you crying and that made me cry too.
“Trust me,” you said, as you got into bed beside me. “Mum would have wanted us to comfort each other.”
You said my bed was too small and made me sleep in yours, but it never felt right. I began to hate the feel of your hands and the smell of your aftershave. I lost weight and you started looking at me as if I frightened you. My teacher noticed how skinny I’d got and took me to the school nurse. That night you said we were better now and I could go back to my own room. The Friday treats stopped, too.
“Trust me,” I say, as you lie in hospital, shocked and bruised from an attack outside your front door. “You’re not going to die just yet.”
Your eyes snap open, still betraying your fear after all this time. Now you’re the one who’s small and vulnerable, and you don’t know if I’ve forgiven you.
I keep wondering about that myself.
Held in Trust won Flash500 third quarter 2012.