Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Chapter Sixteen

They had cornflakes for breakfast again. Jobe tried the hotline number but it was still engaged. He couldn’t leave the vivid images of the dream; tall story-trees like psychological gatekeepers, and the thing that had been watching him. Like a real place, a genuine realm cloaked from human senses. He was almost certain that a measure of its essence had seeped into him. He felt himself shiver slightly and he glanced at his not-so-little sister. Her hair was a wild mop of black. She dutifully spooned the flakes and milk into her mouth.
“Are you going into college today?” he asked her.
“Yeah. What else is there to do?”
“Good luck with the Wizard Of Oz.”
She glanced sideways at him. “You’re twisted, man.”
He smiled faintly and continued eating his cornflakes. “I guess I’ll go open up MasterKey.”
“Okay. You gonna give me a lift?”
“Yeah, why not.”
Jobe left his cornflakes and went for a bath, leaving Serima alone in the kitchen. Eventually she got up and found the notepad by the phone in the living-room, and dialled the hotline number. It was still engaged. She stood by the window, holding the handset, listening to the beep-beep-beep. Suddenly the buzzer for the front door went. Serima put the phone back and padded out into the hallway.
“It’s me,” she heard on the intercom. It was Anna’s voice. She opened the door and waited, watching as her friend came up the stairs. Serima smiled.
“Hey, babe, this is a surprise.”
Anna was dressed in jeans, her blonde dreadlocks spilling from the hood of an ancient ‘Smashing Pumpkins’ sweatshirt, chunky headphones around her neck. She looked uncomfortable.
“I saw the news last night, Seri. I’ve been calling but you had your mobile switched off.”
Serima nodded, “Sorry, I didn’t think. I just…didn’t want to talk.” She ushered Anna into the flat, who glanced around and then looked back at her.
“I figured I needed to come and see you guys. How’s Jobe?”
Serima went into the kitchen and Anna followed. “He’s okay, I guess.” She poured a glass of orange juice and handed it to her friend. “We don’t know anything yet. Not much we can do right now.”
Anna put the glass down on the table, staring at Serima with curious eyes.
“Have you told Michael about your mum?”
“No. There’s no point. He’d just turn it into something it’s not.”
Anna frowned. “Meaning…?”
“Meaning he’d turn it into something romantic. He’s like Jobe that way.” She smiled and for a moment she thought she might start to cry. “He thinks everything’s a dark mystery, you know? This is the last thing I need.”
Anna nodded and glanced out of the window. “Seri, I’m sorry that this is happening to you, of all people.”
“Yeah, well…don’t blow it out of proportion…I’m not gonna entertain some flight of fancy. Fuck that. I’ll find out soon enough.”
“It won’t be her, Seri.”
“I know that.”
Anna sat down at the kitchen table and took a sip of the orange juice. “Where’s Jobe then? I wanted to thank him for the Lou Reed CDs.”
“He’s in the bath, I think.”
Anna lit a cigarette, took a few pulls and then handed it to Serima, who smiled.
“You’re so cool, Miss Duncan, showing up here for me.”
“Seri, come on. I got all my sisters with me.”
Serima took a pull of the cigarette and smiled again. “Yeah…you do.”
“You coming in today?”
“I think so.”
Anna nodded, not looking at her. “Go together? We can get some breakfast before class. Hark, what say you?”
Serima felt a rush of warmth for her friend and almost felt like crying again.
“I’ve had breakfast,” she said quietly, “But methinks we should still proceed.”
Anna gave a faint smile, “Verily.”
Serima stubbed out the cigarette, scribbled a note for her brother, and the two of them left the flat.

They took a bus and went to Bacchus, a small bar not far from the college. The interiors were all panelled in dark wood and it was usually a quiet, soothing place for them both. It was almost midday and Bacchus was just opening as the two of them arrived. Anna ordered them two sweet black coffees. They waited as Su-yen, a pretty Oriental girl, added new filters and beans, as all three of them listened to the ritualistic sounds of the coffee-machine.
They took a table by the window, the only patrons, and Anna held the cup like a prop, moving it gently in her palms. She glanced then at Serima, “I watched Deliverance again last night. And Look Who’s Talking. I also watched Die Hard.”
Serima smiled, “Cool films.”
“You’re supposed to be disgusted by the last two.”
“I like the last two.”
“I was just testing you; unrepentant lust junkie that I am. Nothing sexier than watching people try to kill each other, and kids are always amusing if they’re placed in peril. I love all the Home Alone movies. There, I said it. God no, I’m joking. That’s just sick.”
Serima put a hand on Anna’s wrist, familiar with her absurd rhythms. Anna stared expectantly at the touch. “I dreamt about it, babe. I dreamt about those people being killed.”
Serima expected her friend to shift nervously in her seat but she didn’t. She continued to stare. Serima sighed and licked at her lips. “Our mum had it. Me and Jobe reckon she passed it on to us. Or at least that’s what we tell ourselves so we can deal with our lives.”
“You’ve told me this stuff before. I believed you then, I’m not gonna believe you any less now. People have written for thousands of years about psychic abilities. In every single culture on the planet.”
“Anna, I’m not psychic.”
She shrugged and lit a cigarette. “What would you call it then? Sensitive?”
Serima felt a half-smile shimmer on her lips. “Plain and simple? I’d call it madness.”
“You would, would you?”
“Yeah, I fucking would.”
Anna took a sip of the coffee. She looked almost angry. “Well, genius and madness. Thin line, right Seri?”
“Exactly,” parroted Anna. It made Serima laugh. They both fell into silence. Anna traced her finger across the back of Serima’s hand.
“How’s Jamie?” Serima asked eventually, gently pulling her hand away.
“Jamie’s good. We’re planning to go to Mexico in June if we can organise it.”
“Sweet. You’re gonna take some cool footage, right?”
Anna grinned, “Yeah, I will. Weird things happen in the heat, don’t you know. I’ll get it all on camera.”
They lapsed into silence again. Eventually, “What about you and Michael?”
Serima lit a cigarette. “Me and Michael…he’s a nice guy.”
Anna nodded and arched an eyebrow. “Nice guys are woefully underrated.”
“I suppose.”
“Seri, don’t tell me there’s no clicks. I’ve seen you guys together. There’s gratuitous clickage. He’s gorgeous too. I don’t get it. It doesn’t have to be forever.”
“The truth; he reminds me too much of Jobe. It feels weird.”
Anna glanced out the window and said. “You love him a lot, don’t you?”
Serima didn’t say anything for a while. Eventually, in a soft voice, “Mum gave it to both of us, Anna. Whatever it is. It’s unhealthy. And Jobe is such a coward but I get the suspicion that he understands all this a lot better than I do. But he can’t handle it. He could be a great man, but he’s not. He’s distant and self-indulgent, and occasionally cruel. There’s a darkness in him that sometimes frightens me.”
Anna looked unconvinced. “He’s a sweetie. This doesn’t sound like the Jobe I’ve met. I’ve hung out with him a lot; to me he’s the kind of guy you could trust with your life. Your brother is cool. He’s a little sharper than you think, Seri.”
Serima stared at her friend until they held each other’s gazes again. “Anna, look…he’s the sharpest person I know, and because of that he’s full of fear, and in a weird way that makes him easy to control.”
“Yeah…by who? By you?”
“No, no, by the sight. You can never know it like I do. With the sight, well…the world isn’t real anymore. It becomes an epic dance. A romance. Responsibility fades when everything is a metaphor for God. Or gods. You don’t know how dangerous it is.”
Anna was silent. Serima continued, “My mum tried to kill Jobe, you know. She wanted to stab him to death. He fought with her. Self-defence. Stabbed her instead. But it was like she didn’t even feel it. You should’ve seen her eyes when the ambulances and police came. They were cold, man – completely gone. I have my mum’s eyes…so I know that this is very potent stuff. You can’t flirt with madness, babes. You end up fucking it. Ooh-la-la, and such.”
Anna looked almost frightened now, and she took a long sip of her coffee, took a deep drag on the cigarette perched between her fingers. “Okay, Seri, I get it. I’m just concerned. You’re a mate. You’re my people.”
Serima smiled and wiped away stealthy tears with the back of her hand.

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