Let it be a trick of the morning sun, or even of the gods I don’t believe in, but please let it not be real, I think, turning away from my reflection. But when I look back, it’s still there: within my otherwise dark hair is a thick streak of white.
I walk into the kitchen, find Mum elbow-deep in suds.
Cupboard doors gape open and on the counter, teetering like a Jenga stack nearing its fatal end, is a pile of pots and pans and crockery.
‘Pass me the cups will you, Lizzie?’ Mum scrubs at a plate in round furious circles. ‘And then can you start drying?’
‘I’ve got to go to school,’ I say.
‘Not today you don’t.’
‘Of course she’s going to school,’ Dad says, plonking cereal boxes on the table and grabbing two bowls.
Mum spins round, her teeth bared like a rabid dog. ‘Don’t touch them.’
She snatches the bowls from his hand and they slip, smashing on the tiled floor.
‘Now look what you’ve done,’ she says.
Dad closes his eyes, takes a deep breath. ‘Please, Ruth. Let’s not do this now.’
‘Not now, not now.’ She wipes her face with the back of the rubber glove. ‘That’s what you always say. Pete never said “not now”.’
‘Your brother Pete didn’t have any boundaries.’
‘Boundaries are for the outside world,’ Mum says. ‘Not your family. Not your blood.’
‘Christ, Lizzie,’ Dad says, as if he’s only just realised I’m here. ‘What have you done to your hair?’
‘Nothing,’ I say. ‘Just woke up like this.’
‘It’s the grief.’ Mum snaps the gloves off and puts her arm around me. ‘Poor baby.’
Poor baby. They were the words Uncle Pete used if I cried after. Who’s not a big girl yet? That stopped my tears.
Today those tears gather in my throat, threatening to choke me.
‘It’s okay to cry, Lizzie,’ Mum says. ‘We know you and Uncle Pete were close.’
Dry-eyed I shrug her arm off. ‘I’m fine,’ I say, ‘I’m a big girl now.’
Laura Besley has been listed by TSS Publishing as one of the top 50 British and Irish Flash Fiction writers. She is the author of the flash fiction collection, The Almost Mothers, and a collection of micro fiction, 100neHundred. She tweets @laurabesley