‘You must be kidding me! Why would you do such a thing?’
Rosy began to cry. ‘Michael, you don’t understand.’
‘No, I don’t understand. Why would my own sister tell the police a lie like that?’
‘You know I can’t tell a lie.’
‘But you DID!’
The argument continued all the way home from the police station.
Taking in a deep breath, Michael pull into the driveway of their home. ‘Why would you even think I would do something like that?’
‘I saw you.’
‘You saw me pick up a phone from a seat in the quadrangle. Right?’
‘But I didn’t steal it. Someone left it there and I picked it up to take it to the office. For Pete’s sake, Rosy, what would you have done?’
‘I wouldn’t have stolen it?’
‘I did not steal it! You know you got me into a lot of trouble today. How do I explain this to Mum?’
‘Well, it’s all your fault.’ She opened the car door and got out.
‘I did not steal it.’
The door slammed shut.
Michael rested his head on the steering wheel and groaned. ‘This is the third time this month. Why does she go out of her way to get me into trouble? Why does everyone believe her over me?’
The passenger door opened and shut again. ‘Why indeed Michael? Why do you put your sister in such situations?’
‘No buts about it. This time you have gone too far.’ His stepfather tossed a bag onto the back seat.
‘Don’t come back until you sort yourself out. Your mother and sister don’t need you anymore.’
Michael looked up, then at the bag on the back seat. ‘You can’t be serious.’
This man who was supposed to be a dad to him left the car and slammed the door.
This had gone too far. ‘This is madness. Why do they believe everything she says?’
He reversed out of the driveway and headed away from the only home he knew.
‘Rosy!’ He spoke into the empty car. ‘You have gone too far this time.’
He pulled into the McDonald’s car-park and took out his phone. ‘Jeremy, I need a place to sleep.’
‘Uh oh. Don’t tell me. Rosy’s flipped again.’
‘I can’t believe this. Today, I was charged with theft.’ He continued his defence and finished with an expletive.
‘OK. OK. Settle down. I’ll come meet you for a burger before we come home.’
It was nine o’clock before Michael drove to Jeremy’s home to sleep the night. Michael hoped it was only just one night. The police interview seemed to go on and on and his argument with Rosy and their stepfather made him weary.
‘Let’s talk some more in the morning’, Jeremy said pointing to the spare room.
He just nodded and went to bed.
The following day at school was like a nightmare. Rosy had spread the word. ‘Little fink.’ Michael stayed out of everyone’s way, including the teachers.
‘Michael, come see me after school.’ This came from his English teacher, Mr Jacobs. ‘I think we should talk.’
Michael had only nodded but he showed up as requested.
‘Michael,’ I would never have thought…’
‘I know you didn’t steal that phone. In fact, I have left a statement at the police station this morning as soon as the rumours started.’
Michael looked up.
‘You see, I had been sitting there to tie my shoe laces earlier. It was my phone and I know it wasn’t stolen. I got distracted and forgot to pick it up. I was heading back as the bell rang and saw that you had picked it up, looked around and headed for the office. You were too far away to hear me over the bell.’
‘The office was closed.’
‘Then why does everyone else believe Rosy?’
‘Ahh… Rosy. She’s been in one of my classes since she started high school. She has her problems but I have no idea what they are. She seemed like a nice kid a year ago. Are there problems at home?’
‘Only that she keeps telling our mother and our stepfather lies about me.’
Michael sighed. ‘Our mother remarried a few years ago. Rosy has never accepted it.’ He paused. ‘Maybe I haven’t either. I’ve tried…’
‘Michael, are you sure Rosy is OK?’
‘Ha. I think she’s lost the plot.’
‘And your mother?’
‘She’s changed too in some ways. Quieter I think.’
‘Would you like me to talk to her? Rosy I mean.’
‘Why? She’ll only tell everyone.’
‘Leave it with me and forget about those charges. They’ll be dropped and your name cleared but do me a favour.’
‘Keep an eye on Rosy. I think there’s more to this resentment toward you than you realise.’
Michael was a little confused but shook the teacher’s hand and headed for home in his old but reliable car that had once belonged to their birth father. He missed his dad. Why did you have to die? As he left the car-park, he saw Rosy walking with her friends. You can walk. He continued to mumble to himself.
As he neared home, he remembered what Mr Jacobs had told him. He groaned audibly before making a U turn and drove back the way he came.
Rosy was walking alone now since her friends lived closer to school. He made another U turn and pulled up just ahead of his sister and reached over to open the door. ‘Get in.’
Rosy obeyed but sat sulkily long after they left the curb.
Michael kept glancing over at his sister who seemed smaller than usual.
‘Are you OK?’, he finally asked.
She didn’t answer so he didn’t ask again.
Later that evening, Michael sat at the dining table doing his homework. Opposite, Rosy was reading from a textbook. The room was silent except for the muffle din of the television in the next room. Their mother was in the kitchen clearing up after their evening meal.
Michael wanted to say something. He wanted to ask a question but didn’t know why or what. He wasn’t even sure if it was Rosy or his mother he wanted to speak to. So, he just remained silent.
‘Rosy’, the voice called from the other room. ‘I want you home early tomorrow.’
Their mother drew in a sharp breath and a fork clattered onto the tiled floor.
Michael leaned across the table and whispered. ‘Why?’
Their mother wiped over the benches; head down and unmistakably whimpering quietly.
Michael rose and approached his mother. ‘What’s going on?’
‘Stay out of it’, is all she said so quietly he thought of asking her again.
The voice raised above the television. ‘Did you hear me, Rosy?’
Michael cleared his throat and looked from Rosy to his mother before speaking. ‘I don’t have classes in the afternoon so I’ll drive her home.’
Fear reflected in his mother’s eyes. Rosy was biting the corner of her textbook.
‘Don’t bother.’ His stepfather spoke as he entered the room. ‘She’s needed. Not you. You shouldn’t even be here.’ The man sharply poked Michael in the ribs before going to the refrigerator for a beer.
Silence remained long into the night. Michael knocked quietly on Rosy’s door. ‘Rosie, it’s me.’
‘Come in’, she said meekly.
He shut the door behind him and sat on the end of her bed. ‘What’s going on?’
‘Nothing. I can’t tell you.’
‘Because I don’t want Mum to get hurt.’
‘What the…’ He ran his hand through his hair. ‘You’re not coming home alone.’
‘I have too.’
Michael stood. ‘No, you’re not and Mum will be OK.’
‘How can you be sure?’
‘Leave it to me.’ He left the room.
The following morning at breakfast, no one spoke. Their mother was in the laundry when their stepfather headed out the door to go to work.
Michael stood behind his sister’s chair and gently squeezed her shoulders. ‘Stay here. I’ll drive you to school but I need to talk to Mum first.’
A few minutes later, the three left together in Michael’s car. ‘I’ll drop you off Mum, and take Rosy to school and return to pick you up.’
Rosy looked confused but returned her mother’s nod as the car stopped in front of the Police station.
At school, they sought out Mr Jacobs who was in the staff room. Michael left Rosy outside in the corridor. Mr Jacobs had come out and had rushed into the Principal’s office leaving Michael with his sister. Minutes later Michael was driving both his teacher and Rosy to the Police station where they were ushered into a small office. There they re-joined their mother who was speaking to a uniformed Police woman. Introductions were made and seats offered.
‘We’ve sent two police officers to collect your stepfather. They’ll be taking him directly to the interview room so he won’t know any of you are here.’
Rosy spoke for the first time that morning. ‘But he’ll come after us later.’
‘No, you will be in a safe house until we know what charges are made and if he’ll be kept in custody. Most likely he will, even if he gets a good lawyer.’
Their mother thanked Mr Jacobs. ‘I’m very grateful. I was so stupid not to believe Michael.’ She turned to Rosy.’ And I’m sorry for not standing up for either of you.’
Rosy leaned into her mother and looked up at her brother. ‘I’m sorry I made up all those lies. I just wanted to get your attention.’
Michael gave a small smile and reached out for his sister’s hand. ‘I’m sorry too for being so caught up in myself that I missed all the signs.’ He looked over to their teacher. ‘We have Mr Jacobs to thank for taking the time to talk to me.’
‘No need to thank me. I’ve been wondering for too long why Rosy changed so quickly. I should have said something before this.’ He cleared his throat. ‘I’m so sorry, I should have realised…the signs were all there…I just didn’t want to believe it.’
Rosie sat up and look into her mother’s tear stained face. ‘Everything will be okay, Mum.’
‘Yes’, Mum and Michael said in unison.
Michael continued. ‘We have each other, and you Rosie, will never need to try and get my attention again. Big brother will be watching out for you.’
The siblings gave a stifled chuckle.
© Chrissy Siggee – 2019