My Sister the Dandelion
“I didn’t feel it, I didn’t hear it. I knew it was there. Like a dandelion seed floating by my ear. I sensed it.” Jim said to his sister. He expected no answer.
A tear dropped, splashing closed eyelids.
“I know you are here, I feel that too.”
“Come on, Jim. Time to close the lid,” said the coroner, putting his arm around the boy.
Jim’s mum eased him away from the polished wooden box holding his beloved sister. Jim’s father sat, head bowed behind them.
The three family members walked on the gravel path to their car. A gentle crunch with each footstep. Jim felt a smile spread. His mother nudged her husband, who studied Jim.
“What’s so funny?” he asked.
“She is walking with us. Can’t you hear her?”
“Don’t be so silly,” said his mum, eying her husband, hoping he would do or say something. He just screwed his face and opened the car door.
They had parked a police car outside their house.
“Can I help you?”
“Mr and Mrs Palmer?” asked the female in blue.
“Yes, Peter and Anthea, what do you want?”
“Can we come in?” the male officer asked.
“Up you go, while I make tea for the officers,” said Anthea.
Jim trudged up to his room, still smiling.
“What is this all about?” asked Peter.
“First, we were very sorry to hear the sad news, but we have to do our job and ask some questions,” said the male.
The lady officer put her hand in front of her colleague, signalling she was in charge and wanted to be tactful.
“Do you take milk and sugar?” asked Anthea sensing awkward questions coming their way.
“They reported that young Jilly had bruises on her legs. What can you tell me about them?”
“No, she didn’t,” said Anthea.
Upstairs, Jim was searching through his sister’s doll collection.
“Found you Barbie, can you feel anything?”
Downstairs the officers raised their eyebrows, “Really?”
“Look, I bathe her every night, I should know if she has bruises. Oh, wait a minute,” she looked at her husband. “That night you took her for a bath, didn’t you?”
“Yes, yes, I remember now, but she had no bruises. I’m one hundred percent certain. She only ever had some after chasing about with her brother”
“Barbie, at the undertakers, I felt her. My sister was with me. It was just that fluffy seed blowing past my ear. Now I can sense something bigger, stronger. Like dried leaves in the wind. What does it mean? I think Jilly is near.”
“As you know, there was no obvious cause of death. Also, the forensic pathologist reported no marks on the body. But we have a credible report saying she had bruises. Sorry, but we have to follow it up.”
The male officer was fidgeting, “Was she naughty, causing you to smack her?”
His colleague stared at the ceiling but kept her mouth shut.
“No, no never, I have never struck either of the children. Nor has my wife, at least not to my knowledge?”
“Of course not!” she shouted.
“Have you two been having problems? I see you have a temper, Mrs Palmer,” asked the female.
“Barbie, can you hear that? Jilly is whispering. I don’t know what she is saying.”
“If you have nothing better to do than accuse us of beating our children, you had better go,” said Anthea.
“That will be all for now. We may have to talk to your son next time. Thanks for the tea.”
Mrs Palmer glared at her husband.
“What?” he asked.
“Not to my knowledge…” she mimicked.
“She had no marks on her in the bath,” he fumed.
“No way, he loved her.”
“Barbie, come closer, can you hear her?”
“I’m going to see the headmaster, and find out what is going on,” said Anthea, “Are you coming with me?”
“Er, no, I have to go back to work.”
“That’s no surprise, okay, I’ll go on my own.”
Mrs Palmer snatched her coat from the hook.
She shouted up the stairs, “Jim, come down here, we are going to school.”
They walked up to the top of the hill, then a determined march led them to the school office.
“Jim, sit there and wait for me.”
“I need to see the head,” she said to his secretary.
“Yes, yes, let me see if he is free.”
“Mrs Palmer, please come through, I heard you speaking from my office. I am always available to speak to the parents of our children.”
He turned and ordered two teas.
“On behalf of the entire school, let me offer condolences. We are all so sorry.”
“Yes, I’m sure. Thank you. Somebody here told the police that Jilly had bruises on her legs. These did not happen at home. So, somebody from here must have slapped her.”
“I can assure you that none of my staff would hit a child at this school. Have you asked Jim?”
“No, maybe I should have first?”
“Ask him now.”
Jim pulled Barbie from his coat pocket and whispered in her ear. He jumped when his mum appeared and stuffed the doll away.
“Jim, have any of your mates ever been hit by a teacher?”
“No, mum, Tim had his favourite sweets taken, that wasn’t fair.”
“Okay, wait there, I’m going back to the headmaster.”
As she tapped on the head’s door, Jim was skipping down the corridor. He skidded to a halt outside his sister’s classroom.
“See Barbie, that is Jilly’s room. Wow, can you feel that? It is suddenly chilly. Somebody must have left the door open.”
He looked around, all the doors were closed, he looked up; they had shut the corridor skylights.
“That is odd, Barbie. Jilly is talking to me, but I can’t make out what she is saying.”
A bell rang, excited children poured into the corridors rushing for home. Jim sat on his own outside the room.
“I told you to wait back there! They think I can’t control my children. Why do you look so miserable?”
Realising what she said, hugged him, “I’m so sorry,” she said. “Let’s go home. What do you want for tea?”
Her son looked at her, wishing daggers were aimed straight into her eyes. He shook off the thought; it wasn’t like him. Throwing Barbie down the length of the corridor, he felt better. Turning, he stalked ahead of her all the way home.
“Jim, please give mummy a cuddle,” she said as he stomped upstairs.
She was crying into her mobile, “When will you be home? Jim has locked himself into Jilly’s room.”
“About six. Can’t you handle it?”
She crept upstairs and listened at the door.
“Jilly, why are you being so rude? You never swear. You are lucky mum can’t hear you.”
Anthea was on her knees weeping.
A scratching sound was coming from the door, like a teacher’s nails on a blackboard. Anthea stifled a gasp as paint was peeling away from the door. The noise got louder; the scratch got deeper.
Words appeared, but not English.
In the bedroom, Jim had not noticed the scratching noise, he was arguing with his sister. They never argued.
“Do it. Do it,” louder and louder she yelled.
“No. Never,” wailed Jim.
“Do it. Or you’ll never talk to me again. But if you do it, I’ll let you see me.”
“But Jilly, why are you being like this?”
Outside, the scratching had stopped. Some words had formed. Children’s writing. It puzzled Anthea. She was not one for word games, but REDRUM flashed a memory in her mind.
“That’s it, it’s backwards.”
She ran to fetch her make-up mirror.
“I will not!” screamed Jim.
He felt a tug from behind on his shoulder.
Spinning, he saw the words on the door. The words were not a mirror image on his side.
Anthea arrived as Jim pulled the door open.
“IT IS NOT ME!”
Scrawled in Jilly’s handwriting on the wood.
Mother and son hugged, hard, not wishing to let go, with all the love they could muster.
Jilly appeared, blew kisses and waved. Then she disappeared.