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Be Careful What You Wish For
I still remember that damp and dreary Christmas morning, even though it was years ago, when I woke up alone.
I knew I was alone, because every morning my mum would attempt to make breakfast, but would make such a clattering noise by dropping a pan or something, that my little brother, Henry, and I would wake up immediately. But there was nothing. Henry wasn’t screeching like a banshee as he rushed down the stairs in attempt to get the presents first, as he’d done for the past six years of his life.
I sat up at once, tasting danger looming in the air. Glancing at the clock, I saw it read 9:30am. Where was everyone? It crossed my mind for a moment that everyone could still be sleeping, but I shrugged that idea aside; I knew Henry too well. As an 8-year-old, he was up at the crack of dawn every morning, especially at Christmas.
Slipping on my dressing gown, I shivered, despite the fresh sun that was glaring down at me through my window. I peeked outside my bedroom door for signs of my parents or little brother, but receiving none. My heart was racing now, blood pumping through my head as the worst possibilities that could have happened ricocheted around.
It seems over the top to react like this to something as mild as silence, but somehow, the atmosphere wasn’t right.
Something was wrong.
“Mum? Dad?” My voice was shaking for no particular reason. Excitement that something out of the ordinary was happening, perhaps? Or just fear of the worst?
I rushed around the house as I searched every room for any sign of them. I was half expecting them to jump out, nearly laughing, exclaiming “Ha! We got you scared! Merry Christmas!” But as the minutes dragged by, the realisation that Henry couldn’t be hidden for that long kicked in.
Eventually, I retired to the kitchen after searching the house twice over, my brain contemplating realistic ideas to my family’s location. A small note tugged the corner of my eye as I gazed out of the window. Hurrying over to it, a rush of relief spread over me as I saw it was my mum’s handwriting. It read:
“Hey Steph! Sorry for leaving you alone on Christmas morning, but dad forgot to buy a turkey (what a shock)! Went to the supermarket to get one with dad and Henry. Should be back around 8:30. Love, Mum.”
As an independent teenager, it didn’t surprise me that my parents had left me alone on Christmas morning with no warning, and there was nothing strange about dad forgetting the turkey. But as I read the last sentence, chills ran down my spine and my throat went dry. Even the sun noted my change as it retreated behind the dark clouds, causing a shadow to spill over the room.
She said 8:30.
I checked the clock in the kitchen.
It was 9:37.
My lungs screamed for air as I gasped sharply, mind spinning. Trying to pull myself together, convincing myself that they were just stuck in traffic – after all, it was Christmas day – I took a deep breath.
Stumbling up the stairs again, I fumbled for my phone and dialled my mum’s number.
Ring. Ring. Ring. Answer phone.
I dialled my dad’s number.
A faint buzzing from downstairs echoed through the house. I hung up, defeated. He must have left it at home. I tried my mum’s phone again, once, twice, three, four, five times.
Why was I crying?
Six, seven, eight, nine, ten more times.
There was a perfectly reasonable explanation for this, of course there was.
This wasn’t happening. Not to me. I attempted to calm my irrational thoughts as I curled on the cold bedroom floor, phone cradled in my hand.
I must have fallen asleep, because when my phone began to vibrate in my palm, the time read 2:34pm. Immediately, I answered, slightly dazed.
3 hours later, I was there. Someone had picked me up from my house, I wasn’t sure who, but I didn’t care. My thoughts were ringing over and over again, like the sound when my mum wouldn’t pick up.
The white walls, the smell of death and illness. Everything so fast. A blur. Is this a hospital? Yes. They were here. They would be safe. They…
I swivelled around, eyes barely open.
Why? Why would you be sorry if they were safe? I thought.
“There was nothing we could do.”
“Your parents and little brother suffered from internal bleeding before we arrived. They had already gone.”
4 years later, and these words still haunt me, over and over again, in all my nightmares. Mum. Dad. Henry. Dead. Because of one car crash.
But what taunts me more is that the night before, on Christmas Eve, I wished that something exciting would happen. Something different.
Be careful what you wish for.