His ghost stole in with the grey fingers of dawn.
His back wheel spinning, glimpsed from inside the grocer’s, while I queued for a Cadbury’s Applause. The bike on its side, handlebars on pavement.
Then he was beside me. Emotions kaleidoscoped.
“Jamie, what are you doing here? You’re supposed to be in the hospital.”
“I’m alright now, Paulie. Everything’s fine.”
Disbelief. The queue shuffled forwards and I broke his gaze, making sure of my place.
“Does Mum know you’re here? She’s been so worried.”
“It’s OK. Everything’s fine.”
The queue shuffled again. One away from paying.
“Let me buy this, then we can go home. Everyone’s gonna be so happy to see you.”
“I have to go now.”
His tone arrested me.
Our eyes locked.
“I have to go now, Paulie. Don’t worry. Everything’s fine.”
His voice, soft but firm, held me close. His smile, too wise for my little brother.
I fumbled through my coins and bought the Applause. When I turned, the bike, and he, were gone.
A hand on my shoulder, shaking.
I burrowed deeper.
Shaking again, from dream to dawn.
“Your Mum’s home, Paulie. You know what that means, don’t you?”
I nodded, smiled. He looked at me strangely.
“You know what that means, don’t you?”
I went to the toilet and spent a penny.
There, in dawn’s half-light, the penny dropped. My world spun upside down.
Mum and Dad were home from the hospital.
That meant Jamie was dead.