I wrote this when I was 18 for a course I was doing. It was a bit of an experiment for me but I still have a soft spot for it. Feedback is always welcome, please enjoy!
India Quigg, compressed to less than half of what she could be, stood on the edge of a world unexplored. A darkened version of the pinpoints on a map. Bars of sunlight shone through the branches of the never ending sea of trees, flickering when the wind made them shiver. Drawing patterns in the dirt with her boot, India took a deep breath. It wouldn’t have had to come to this if only Atticus had lived. The unevolved humanoid that India would never see the face of hung deep in her chest. What bothered her most was that her mother didn’t even care.
‘It just wasn’t ready to be human,’ is what she had said.
‘It’, had she really no feeling towards her son to call him ‘it’? She had read ‘It’ once; she couldn’t sleep for weeks afterwards. She imagined Pennywise being carried by her mother in a blanket. She realised she barely even remembered what her mother looked like; Eileen was always away on ‘business’. Her aunt was the only one who was around for her, even though India didn’t like her much. She had the oddest taste in clothes, usually opting for stark white or the ugliest green India had ever seen. It was unnatural. ‘Time for your vitamins India!’ is all she had heard every day for the past year or more and ‘they’ll keep you healthy’ if ever she refused. She had even had the cheek to ask if India wanted to ‘talk about it’. What did she think there was left to talk about? Atticus was gone, it was done, nothing could change that. Even if she did want to say anything it wouldn’t have been to her. The only person she could talk to was Elliot.
‘Yes thank you.’
‘Where have you got to lately? I thought you’d disappeared off the face of the earth!’
‘I’ve been around. Just not around you I suppose.’
‘What’s wrong, freckle face?’
‘Nothing. I’m fine.’
‘Now we both know that’s a lie. C’mon you know you can talk to me, is it aunt again? Is she still pestering you about everything? Or the vitamins? Because you know she can’t force you to take them, I don’t even think that’s legal, cause she’s not your parent or anything. I mean it might be legal in some countries but I’m pretty sure not here…’
‘Sorry, sorry, sorry, you know I could talk for England, so what is it?’
‘What’s old Eileen done now?’
‘Nothing, that’s the point, she hasn’t seen me or called in over a week now. She’s just not trying.’
‘Yeah, but, what happened last time she came back?’
‘What? Nothing, we were fine.’
‘Well, you did kick her…’
‘That wasn’t my fault! We started talking about Atticus and she just sat there staring at the wall as if she felt nothing again, I just thought why doesn’t she care about Atticus like I do? It’s all her fault anyway.’
‘That’s not fair on her, a miscarriage is a miscarriage, I’m sure she’s devastated, just showing it differently, y’know, keeping herself busy and all that.’
‘Well she should have been more careful! She fell a few times after going to parties and drinking and I told her she should think of Atti but she just didn’t and now…’ India stuttered as a single angry tear slid down her chin. Elliot tucked her sunflower hair behind her ear and held his hand there.
‘Look, I know your mum could have done things differently and maybe, just maybe, Atticus would be with us now, but then again, he might not. She could have been the most careful pregnant woman in the history of the world and he might still have left. Maybe it was his choice to, y’know, a smart baby who wasn’t right for your family.’ They smiled together, Elliot was daft but sweet, and he always meant what he said. ‘If aunt’s bugging you, we can get away for the day, I’ll buy you frozen yoghurt?’ India wiped her tear and sniffed,
‘Of course, times two, or times three if you’re really hungry but I don’t know if I have the pocket for a full course meal along the beach at twilight, with champagne and roses, so frozen yoghurt will have to do!’ India laughed the graceful notes that lit up her face.
‘Thank you Elliot.’ She held his hand, warm against hers. He kissed her on the forehead and for a fleeting moment India wondered why they weren’t together. He had been there for her since what felt like the dawn of time, his passionate brown eyes rushed over her face in curiosity, but she knew he thought it too and let the moment pass.
Lying on her bed India thought about her mum. She always did at inappropriate times. She just wished she could look into her mind, really see, have real closure that she doesn’t and never did care about Atticus. It wasn’t only that a mother couldn’t love an unborn child that scared her; what really terrified her was the thought that, maybe, her mum could have felt the same towards her. Had India not been born, would she have been unloved too? What does it take for Eileen to love? The moon was the only light coming into the small box room. She had never liked having the curtains drawn, just because something could be out there that you aren’t seeing. Her eyes were drawn to a small bird perched on her windowsill. It looked like it was having trouble flying. It kept shaking its wings and then flapping a bit then shaking again, then flapping. It reminded her of Elliot; he had once found an unharmed egg in the garden and took it inside. He raised that bird until it was old enough to fend for itself. It took a grand total of five weeks but he cared so much about that bird and it wasn’t even his.
‘If it was Eileen she would have walked past it’, she thought. She jumped out of her thoughts at the sound of her phone buzzing, Elliot was calling, the bird would have to wait till tomorrow.
‘India, it’s time to take your vitamins.’
‘It’s 4 in the morning are you mad?’
‘You know you have a big day tomorrow my dear, your mum’s coming to see you.’
‘That makes no difference, it’s still too early!’
‘Come on now India, you have to take them.’
‘Why? You can’t make me, you aren’t my parent, Elliot told me it’s illegal to force someone to take things if they aren’t your real parent.’ Aunt sighed.
‘Yes but in your case it’s very important you take them.’
‘Why? I’m not dying.’
‘Just take them.’
‘That was odd’, India whispered as soon as her aunt had left. Perhaps she was going mad, she had always been sort of eccentric. Obsessed with health and everything. No this was strange, odder than normal.
‘India.’ He laughed.
‘Something very strange happened last night, my aunt came into my room at four in the morning telling me I needed to take my vitamins and when I told her what you told me yesterday she said it was important in my case to take them…do you think she’s going mad?’
‘She may have been sleepwalking scrump, people do odd things when they’re sleepwalking. I read a book on it once it was fascinating, I should really lend it to you sometime. Oh that reminds me I still have The Wasp Factory of yours, I’ll give it back I promise…’
‘Elliot! This is serious! I’m really concerned about her. She’s been acting funny for a while anyway…’
‘Well she has always been a bit odd…’
‘Or she might even know something I don’t, what if I’m dying?’ India continued frantically, disregarding what Elliot had said.
‘India, listen to yourself, I think you’d know if you were dying or not. She’s not going to keep that big of a secret from you.’ India sighed and lay down on the grass. The garden was the best place to think, it wasn’t anything special and the grass was half dead but it was quiet, and quiet was good for India.
‘I know you’re right, it just freaked me out.’
‘I can tell kiddo,’ Elliot smiled. ‘Don’t you worry, I’m not going to let anything harm you. I…y’know, you’re my best mate.’ He awkwardly kissed her on the cheek. They lay together on the grass for what seemed like hours, watching the clouds and the birds swirl into odd patterns. It was moments like these that India savoured, carefree moments that had been missing from her childhood for quite some time. Elliot helped her find these, they were like lost children searching the universe for one little moment of peace and tranquility. She never found it alone, when she was on her own only bad thoughts would find her. Thoughts about her mother, Atticus, her aunt and how she never felt loved by any of them. ‘How selfish of Atticus to leave me with an unloving pair of idiots!’ She would think. Elliot, it seemed, was the only person who loved her for being her. With no brothers and sisters between them, they suited each other perfectly, sometimes so much so that they were like the same person. India loved that. He was the only thing that kept her going in this mad, confusing world.
I’m so sorry, India.
‘How is she today?’ I questioned.
‘She’s doing a bit better this week, Eileen. She’s eating again, which is a step forward…’
‘And what about Elliot?’
‘She still doesn’t know, we tell her every few days but she always forgets. The same for Atticus.’
‘And her father?’
‘She never mentions him, as long as she believes in Atticus, Roy won’t exist in her world.’ I paused, India would never accept that her father left, not now. It was all my fault, I knew I should have been there for her but after Roy left, there was just emptiness. He meant the world to me and I thought that was reciprocated. I fell apart and couldn’t support my then ten year old daughter, a wreck not a mother. Lonely and afraid, now India has that for the rest of her life. Guilt. Everything was guilt. My neglect had sent my beloved angel daughter, with the golden curls and freckles that could have been dusted on her face, mad. I understand why she wanted to blame me, I must have pushed him away, why else would he have left? There wasn’t anyone else as far as I’m aware and I just wish I knew why he was gone, completely erased from our lives. Atticus was just an emulation of the regret, guilt, sadness and blame that India felt for her father, I had been told. It makes me angry, though, that he took no interest in our daughter. She’s grown up and had he been in her life she would be away from this blindingly white building, doing something amazing. But this place, this place! It’s clinical and cold, as soon as you walk in you feel an air of sadness, these people’s lives can’t change. But it was the only place in the area at that time; it was 8 years ago after all.
‘Shall we go in and see her?’
‘Yes, of course.’ The nurse led me along the dirty, carpeted corridor to her room. I could see her through the window, just staring into space, probably with her Elliot. It didn’t surprise me that she fantasized so much, she wasn’t allowed out of the building and rarely out of her room, I had experienced why the last time I visited, I still had the clotted purple bulge to show for it. I watched the nurse as she slowly let herself in and told India she had a visitor. I was beckoned in. India stared at me for a little while then frowned and went back to her world. I cautiously held my hand out to touch hers but she pulled away and scurried to the corner snarling, like a trapped, frightened puppy. The nurse pulled me away; ‘Not today then pet,’ she whispered, ‘we’ll try again tomorrow.’
India Quigg, compressed to less than half of what she could be, trapped in a world unexplored. I’m so sorry, India.