Future Imperfect by Lilachigh
There were two of them – a boy of about eight or nine and his twin sister. Blond, bored, staring out of the car windows as the miles sped past. They’d fought and fidgeted, wriggled and argued for hours. The little girl had drawn ugly faces on her arms with her marker pens. Faces with horns and wicked eyes. Faces that should have scared her – and didn’t.
The driver, shut away behind his glass partition paid the children no attention. It was his job to deliver them to their destination. The state they were in when they arrived was nothing to do with him.
“You’ll be in trouble when Granny sees that!” the boy said at last. His sister poked out her tongue, then swished her hand over the red and purple marks, wiping them away as if they’d never been.
“You used magic! I’ll tell.” The boy’s words were automatic and his sister paid little attention. She’d already discovered that her brother‘s words were just that – words. She knew she was tougher than he was. He was a sissy. He liked music and silly poetry and couldn’t throw a ball as hard as she could.
She magicked her dress pink, then green, then back to red again. Oh she was so bored! This stupid car ride was taking so long. All she would have to do was say a few words and she could get them to Granny and Grandad’s before lunchtime. It was so easy. It was all in the old books she’d found hidden away in the basement. She didn’t understand why it was forbidden to read them.
“I’ll ask Granny,’ she thought, her face tight with determination. And then what, a voice said in her head. And for the first time, a little ripple of apprehension ran down her spine.
She could cope with Grandad. She’d known for ever that one flash of her green eyes was enough to get her everything she wanted from him.
Granny was different. Tougher. What she said was law. If she made a rule, you obeyed it. It was Granny whom Mom had phoned when all the bad trouble had happened. When they’d returned from that weird world she’d found where everyone was a shrimp.
Mom had been furious; she’d cried.
“This is getting out of hand. I can’t cope any longer. You’re going to stay with Granny and Grandad for a while,” she’d said. “They can deal with you. No!” she’d held up her hand – “Don’t argue. You’re going. Save your questions for them. They know far more about things than I do. I can’t protect you any more. You’ve got to learn before you do some real damage.” Mom’s voice had sounded harsh.
So here they were. She glanced at her twin. He was gazing dreamily out of the window, singing quietly under his breath. He wanted a normal life, wanted to be a normal boy who went to school, played with their dog, took piano lessons, made model aeroplanes out of kits and hung them from his bedroom ceiling. He had eyes as blue as a summer sky and everyone loved him.
No one loved her – except twin, perhaps. Mom and Dad? She locked her arms around her knees and held them tightly against her chest. She doubted it. The look of exasperation on her mother’s face was her first lasting memory. She accepted the fact that she was naughty and twin was good. She’d been told that so many times. She was always in trouble, breaking rules she hadn’t known existed until she shattered them. She knew she would never be a normal girl. And she didn’t want to be. What she wanted were answers to all the questions that swam through her head every night.
Why could she do these strange things so easily? Why was she stronger than the other girls and boys at school? Who were the odd, elderly people who sometimes came to their house at Christmas and Thanksgiving? The thickset, balding man who showed twin how to carve wood into strange shapes? The funny little guy with the guitar who sat and talked to her Mom’s godmother all night. The incredibly old Englishman who played chess with her brother and stared at her with piercing eyes that asked a silent question she couldn’t answer.
So many ‘aunties’ and ‘uncles’ all round the world, talking in riddles via the internet about times and places and things that didn’t make sense.
Who was the ugly coloured woman with a painted face who came to her in the night, beckoning?
Why did she and her twin always have to wear a cross around their necks and carry a sharp piece of wood in their pockets? Why did Mom insist their bedroom windows were tightly shut every night as soon as the sun went down?
And, most important of all, why did Mom refuse to allow Granny and Grandad to visit them any more? It was nearly three years now since they’d last stayed and Granny had cried when she’d climbed into the car to leave.
“They’re everything we ever dreamed of. Ever wanted,” Granny had said, her voice hoarse. “‘And you want to cut us out of their lives.”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t want you near them. I want the twins to grow up to be normal children in a normal world.” Her mom’s words hadn’t made any sense and Grandad’s hands had been shaking as he hugged twin and turned away.
They were nearly there. The girl gazed out of the car as they slowed, turned up a rough track and headed towards a long, low house, the yard surrounded by a white picket fence.
Two figures were waiting at the gate, the midday sun blazing down on the uncovered heads that glinted like silver gilt. Grandad’s arm was round Granny’s waist and they were smiling in glorious welcome. For the first time in months, she felt the tight band of worry round her head ease a little. Granny would make everything all right again
As her brother Billy jumped out of the car, Joyce slowly unbuckled her seat belt. So many questions raced through her mind, but instinctively she knew that the first thing she had to ask was the most important - why her grandparents had named her Mom, their daughter, Shansu?
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