11.18.2014 Journal Prompt

Photo by August Sander
Photo by August Sander

November 18, 2014: We thought she was lost.

One Reply to “11.18.2014 Journal Prompt”

  1. At first we just thought she was maybe at the library with her nose in a good book, or she’d gone home with a friend and had lost track of the time. Mam said as how she’d give her what for when she came home, what with her tea growing cold on the plate. Da phoned the school and me and Stevie went knocking on doors in the street and asking if anyone had seen her.

    Turned out she’d only been in school in the morning and after that she was missing. Tom Shilling had been missing from school also and so we called on him to ask. He pulled the door almost closed before he talked. Then he said he didn’t want his mam to know he’d kipped the school. No, he said, he didn’t know where Leah was. He hadn’t seen her. He suggested the names of girls we’d already tried, then he shrugged and looked away up the street and then over his shoulder at the almost shut door.

    Da said as how she’d be somewhere and we wasn’t to worry, but he phoned the police all the same and his voice was serious when he was giving them the details. Mam was a little white in the face and she kept rubbing her hands on a dish towel and looking out the window and up at the sky.

    We couldn’t sleep that night. We lay in our beds listening for Leah’s voice coming into the house. The police came round when it was late. We heard the gruff sound of a stranger asking our da questions. Our mam was silent.

    Next morning we wanted to stay home. Da said that wouldn’t help at all and he packed us our lunches and sent us off to school. He said we was to go on as normal and he said Leah was fine and she’d be back home before we was. He smiled and ruffled our hair, but the smile did not feel like a smile.

    Leah was found, later that day. She’d spent the night in granda’s shed. It’s warm in there and it smells of old leaves and dirt that’s been turned over. She’d slept under newspapers and hessian bulb sacks. Da laughed when he told us, but his laugh didn’t really sound like laughter. He said she was away with our mam, and she’d be staying with an aunt up North for a few weeks. None of what da said made any sense. We asked him why and what for, and he said we was not to mind about that.

    It was years after before I knew. It was a secret that no one talked of in our house, not even when mam and da had been drinking and they were a little loose with their words and mam swore as much as da and she didn’t say she was sorry after each swear word. Not even with a drink in ‘em, and so we soon forgot that Leah had been missing at all.

    It was Tom Shilling who told me. We was drinking one night at the back of church and he just started crying and he kept saying to me he was real sorry. I didn’t know what he was talking about, was a little confused with the six cans of beer I had drunk. I said it was ok, whatever it was. Then he just came out with it, what he and Leah had done and how he should’ve been with her when they got rid of it, and he just felt so bad.

    ‘Got rid of what?’ I said.

    I don’t think mam or da knows it all. I don’t think they know it was Tom Shilling who was responsible. Leah was just fifteen at the time and I remember when she came back how she looked thin as sticks or broom handles, and she was white as fright or chalk, and her words were few and small as no words at all. Da said we was not to talk to her about it, which was easy ‘cos we didn’t know what ‘it’ was. Leah kept to the house for weeks or months afterwards, where mam could see her and she was safe.

    I look at her now and I measure the shape of her. She don’t know I know. I look at her and I want to say something, but I don’t know what.

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