Teaser Tuesday: Little Death

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

This is not from the novel I am currently editing nor the one I am struggling to write, but a little scene which I wrote quite a while ago. I've had the general idea for this novel and a bunch of scenes in my head for a long time now, and I'd like to go back and write a little more and see where it takes me (I don't really like this scene too much - it's terribly sentimental, and I am far less of a romantic than the things I write seem to indicate - but hey! thought you might like reading it).

If I were ever to write it, this would be a novel about twins, awkward afterlife, and reality not measuring up to expectations (and of course unrequited love, because it's the best kind of love to write about). It's very important that you play this song, and then this one whilst reading. I feel it will improve your experience.


On a Friday night, just after eleven, Gracie and Wren and I lay on the floor of Wren’s room, stretched out like starfish and staring upwards at the constellation of glow-in-the-dark stars Wren had stuck to her ceiling. Gracie was in the middle, counting the stars under her breath. Wren was playing us all of her favourite songs - we were listening to a Sufjan Stevens one - and it was one of those nights when lying on the bedroom floor and listening to music in the dark with your twin sister and her best friend felt like the height of human existence.

Wren’s room was wondrous, partly because of the girl that slept there. The carpet was all dark blue and plush, and the walls were painted light blue, though the colour only peeked out where the wall wasn’t covered in postcards and letters from Wren’s many penpals (including two children she sponsored in a third world country, a Japanese school girl, quite a few Europeans who sent her very nice chocolate, and a bunch of others, all of whom she wrote to often). The door of her cupboard was permanently open, and stuffed with pastel dresses and shoeboxes filled with sandals and mementoes and all her notes-to-self that she never read. Her mattress was pushed against one wall of her room, and she had a low coffee table against the wall opposite, cluttered with her laptop, speakers and books and stationary and abandoned homework and coffee cups. A full-length mirror leant against the wall there, too, with photos of Gracie and Wren and their various friends tucked into the frame. I was in the corner of one.

Gracie said, ‘I’m making popcorn’ because even though it was Wren’s house, Gracie behaved as if she owned the place, and often decided to make an impromptu snack without first asking the host. Wren never minded. She got to her feet and wandered out, leaving Wren and I alone. The song drew to a close, and Wren got up and scrolled through the artists on her iPod and selected a new song. When she came back, she lay down closer to me.

She tilted her head towards me and whispered, ‘I love this song.’ It was A New England by Billy Bragg. Head still tilted towards me, she closed her eyes and smiled, and began to mouth the words.

There are certain things I took for granted when I was alive. That I would not die anytime soon, that death was for the old and sick and stupid, that I’d breathe and eat and sleep and go to school and be a little bored by it all. That I’d spend a disproportionate amount of time hanging out with my sister, and someday go to uni, and get drunk and fall down, and maybe someday be loved by someone outside my family. That I’d always unrequitedly love Wren, and she’d always see me as like a brother, and I’d feel hopeless about the entire situation. But it’d be okay, because I still got to spend time with her.

And of course I never got to uni, and I only got fall-down drunk on a couple of occasions (both times with my sister around), and I didn’t go to school at all again after that Friday (had I known, I probably would’ve enjoyed Maths Methods a little more, and given my kind English teacher a hug). At least not in my own body.

I’d spent ten years in love with Wren - with her funny laugh and exaggerated stories and her patience and compassion with everybody and her faith in the good of the world - and I must’ve had some kind of inkling of what was coming. Or Gracie must’ve spiked the Coke we’d had earlier in the evening. But whatever it was, I was made brave by the darkness and the music and the perfect moment.

Wren’s hair was crazy with curls, not straightened like usual, and I loved that. She opened her eyes again, ‘This is the best bit.’ I could hear popcorn popping. I saw two shooting stars last night, the song went. I knew it by heart because she’d played it for us before; I had the same songs on my iPod from when she’d burnt mix CDs for Gracie years earlier. I wished on them but they were only satellites.

‘I really like you, Wren,’ I whispered. And this was the understatement of the millennium, and she was quiet for what felt like a long time but couldn’t have been more than a couple of seconds, as the same verse of the song was playing (Is it wrong to wish on space hardware?). And my heart kind of leapt around and did an Irish jig and a full-length marathon in those couple seconds and then Wren whispered back, ‘I really like you, too, Teddy’ and not in a like-a-brother way. And my heart did not slow down one bit.

I wish, I wish, I wish you’d care. She tilted her head closer and kissed me, very softly, like I’d imagined so many times before. And I wanted to bring my hand up and touch the side of her face, and her hair, and her waist. I wanted to kiss her again, and kiss her collarbone, and kiss the freckle on her shoulder, and the scar on her arm from when she’d fallen from a tree with Gracie as a ten-year-old. I wanted to whisper to her every beautiful thing about her and everything she’d ever meant to me. I was hoping beyond all hope that she cared about me to the same degree that I cared about her, and that every pointless and funny conversation we’d shared had the same weight to her. That she’d thought about the few words we exchanged when she came by to pick up Gracie for something late into the night, like I did.

I didn’t get to do any of these things. I never even got to kiss her again.

And obviously Gracie is not to blame for this, though on Friday night she was. The chorus of the song played, and Gracie’s footsteps came down the hall, and Wren and I immediately snapped apart. Those two minutes were the greatest two minutes of my entire year, of my entire relationship (or lack thereof) with Wren, and they were cut short due to the fact that popcorn is obscenely quick to cook in a microwave.

Gracie is usually a pretty perceptive person - well, she likes to think she’s a pretty perceptive person - but I think she’s more tapped into supernatural things (not that I ever believed this, not till later) than plain old teenage sexual tension. She brought the popcorn in and put the light on and didn’t notice me blushing and asked, ‘Do you guys want to watch a movie?’

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