Kate’ll be a doctor. Amy’s curiosity will win her awards. I’m too headstrong for my own good. And Todd…well, Todd is just Todd.
Our mother’s verdict. He’s born upside down with his hands outstretched, the story goes. Ten, nine, and six, we’re old enough to understand he’s different. The words Down’s Syndrome I only learn years later.
He slurps applesauce pouches for breakfast. Loves the Michelin Man, hates having his hair brushed. Always waits in the window for us to get home. I forget to wave back if I’ve skipped periods, or bunked off school altogether. His disappointment reels me in more than the lecturing. The vision of his fat fingers parting the blinds always has that effect on me.
Kate’s adamant he’ll never get a job. Amy wonders about girlfriends. Mum never likes to talk about it. I find it easy to love the little things. He’ll only eat ice-cream if it comes with a wafer. Rescues mice trapped on our front porch with takeaway boxes. Thinks the postman is a werewolf.
My first reckless night out is the night I pick a fight with a girl from college. Spend my eighteenth Birthday bleeding outside some raucous club. Amy, half-asleep, tells me I should have hailed a taxi. Kate insists I’m lucky the cuts aren’t deeper. Mum says nothing. Patches me up and follows off to bed.
Then I’m alone in the unlit living room. My body shakes, knees prickling beneath angrily-wrapped bandages. This hopelessness, these self-indulgent tears, this is me. Too headstrong for my own good.
And worst of all, I forget to look.
He emerges from his favourite spot bare foot, hair a mess, wearing the winter pyjamas that shouldn’t still fit, but do. His emotionless expression is unchanging as moonlight flickers still behind him, and I wonder if he finally sees what they see.
After a moment, a smile breaks as he points at my bandages. Asks excitedly if he can dress up as his hero too.
I reach for his splaying fingers, because to my great relief, Todd is just Todd.
Lydia Clark recently graduated from Warwick University with a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, and an MA in Writing. Her work has been shortlisted by Retreat West, longlisted by Reflex Press, and will appear in the 2020 National Flash Fiction Day anthology.