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Hannah stood by the sink looking out into the yard. Her eyes locked onto the two figs trees, planted when each child was born. They had grown into each other’s space, intrinsically bound and supported by each other’s existence. Hannah often felt that this was how she and Flynn were too, but today, as he glared at her – his face red hot and his eyes wild and glistening – today she didn’t quite recognise her strong and supportive older brother.
Today he was full of fear and survival instincts. Today he was the Flynn that Hannah had come to know as Flynn at 14; the brother with the insatiable appetite for adventure, and the one who found it impossible to slow down. And then he became moody and erratic, starting multiple paintings in the morning, complete them all by 2pm and then rip the canvases to shreds by 3pm because they didn’t speak clearly enough.
Steve and Grace had tried to get Flynn some help, prayer, medication, anything – but try as they might, it became evident that he would go to get the help but never open up enough to get the help he actually needed. And being a fairly conservative Christian family, the thought of hospitalising Flynn on the bad days and not being able to see him healed through prayer, tore at their hearts. The hardest part was that he just wouldn’t accept help and didn’t believe he needed it either.
It became a moot point and after six months of this roller coaster season, Hannah’s parents had all but given up trying. Grace took a few weeks off work and went to visit her sister in Sydney. Steve had explained to Hannah, then just 8 years old, that mum spending time with Aunty Mak would be just what she needed but when she called just a few days later, Steve took the phone into the bedroom and closed the door. It was an hour before he came out, shoulders slumped, matching the droop of his eyes and mouth. Hannah began to ask what had happened, but as she looked up at her dad, who looked older today, she began to feel anxious and so, as she usually did, she let sleeping dogs lie. He didn’t speak to Hannah or Flynn as he got them ready for bed that night and Hannah drifted off to a fitful sleep dreaming of her Aunty and mum.
‘Hannah?’ Steve’s voice drew her back into the room and she realised she’d been standing at the sink with the kettle under the tap. The water was overflowing. ‘Oops!’ she said, and emptying the kettle just enough, she popped it on to make some tea for her parents. The three of them just hung in the room like a collection of clouds with no breeze to move them.
‘Mum?,’ Hannah ventured. Grace looked up at her daughter and just sighed. ‘Are you okay?’. Grace just stared out the window and Steve, trying to massage the tension and worry free from his wife’s shoulders said, ‘We’ll be okay Love. Flynn will be okay, we just need to stand strong and keep praying’. Hannah could see the worry in her fathers eyes and felt her stomach tighten as she wondered how they were going to manage things this time.
With cups of tea on the table and the mood a little quieter, Hannah tried to make sense of what had she’d walked in on. ‘Dad, what on earth happened here? It was like a bomb had exploded!’ Steve lowered himself down into the chair next to his wife and rested his hands on the table, studying them. Hannah waited – she could see him working through the situation and realised it would be best not to interrupt.
‘Flynn – well, Flynn feels like we are trying to control him. We got a phone call from his office this morning asking us if we knew where he was. Of course, we thought he was at work, but it turns out he was out at Brooklyn, learning how to make a boat. Apparently now he’s decided to sail the world and he’s going to make his own vessel.’
Hannah couldn’t help but be a little bemused. This was pretty typical of her super creative brother but it still didn’t seem to be enough to incite the level of anger or explain why her parents seemed more upset than usual. Grace looked up at Hannah and then Steve. He took in a deep breath and folded his arms across his chest. Grace leaned forward to explain.
‘Hannah, we told Flynn that if he wasn’t willing to get some medical help, or at least counselling, we couldn’t have him staying at home anymore. It’s just been too hard, with him coming and going at all hours, and then sleeping for days at a time without any explanation. Dad thought maybe he was doing drugs and that it might explain why he seems to have gone off the rails again and well, Flynn….’
‘Flynn spat the dummy. That’s what he did Grace. It’s exhausting and it’s really upsetting your mother. I love my son and would give my life for him if I had to, but this nonsense has got to stop. He needs help and so I told him that he couldn’t just assume he could go off on these half baked ideas with no plan and no money and then come back here when things went south again.’
Hannah searched her mother’s face. Grace looked like she’d just been caught stealing, so contrite was her demeanour. She moved around the table and walked over to her mother, taking her hand. ‘Mum, you’re not responsible for this, you know that, right? Mum? Look at me’. Finally Grace lifted her head and Hannah put her hands on her mothers face, like she did when she was a little girl. Grace’s eyes glistened at the tenderness of her daughter’s manner and she slumped into Hannah’s embrace.
Steve shifted around in his chair. ‘Hannah, there’s something else you need to know – you might want to sit down.’ As she looked over to him, and saw the concern on his face. She sat in the chair and waited, her stomach beginning to knot.
‘Dad, what’s going on? Mum? Mum, why are you crying? Is something wrong with you? With Flynn? Dad, are you okay? Hannah was beginning to spiral, the knot growing inside and twisting her up.
‘Darling, we’re all okay, well, as much as can be expected. Honey, you remember Aunty Mak, right?’, asked Grace.
‘Sure I do. I mean, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen her, but I’ll never forget our time together’ she replied, knowing that she’d still not told her parents about her afternoon with Mak just days ago. Steve and Grace looked at each other and Hannah knew. She slid her hands into her lap and wrung them to control her racing heartbeat.
‘Hannah, we didn’t know, but, well, she’s been really unwell, and well, -‘ Grace began to choke up and started sobbing and Steve took over the explanation.
‘We received a phone just before Flynn walked in to announce his big plans. It was Pop.’ Steve paused, his face so strained Hannah thought she could see new lines on his creased forehead. ‘Hannah, Aunty Mak passed away last night.’
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(c)2016 Miriam E. Miles. All rights reserved. Please respect my copyright as I have worked so hard to bring this story to life and would be devastated to see it plagiarised.