by Nicole Johnson
We sit in the middle of Ballyclare, a place so small everyone is related. We are in Fiona’s car. She’s in the driver’s seat talking about the day’s gossip. Julia’s in the front seat, her head out the window smoking a fag. If she got any smoke in the car, Fiona would kill her. I still felt it getting into my lungs.
I’m in the back seat twiddling my thumbs, thinking how I should be home reading my brother’s paper. I also need a shower. By the time one of us decide to head back it would be ten o’clock, too late to take a shower, which means I will have to wake up early.
“What is the plan girls?” Fiona asks.
“Why don’t we go to the chipper?” I suggest.
“No, I have no money,” Julia says, puffing away.
There really is no winning, it is always the same. We sit in the middle of town doing what we’ve been doing. When we grow sick of sitting, we will do a quick spin around the loop.
My life had not always been like this. I went to college, I had a German boyfriend, who before leaving to go back home wanted me to join him in Germany for the summer. I had been nearly at the airport when my brother rang me about our mother once again. We talk even after all the years apart, he still tempts me with a ticket. I always say no.
Now, I wait tables every day. I come home to a mother who spends her days in bed, not sleeping but gazing at the window, wishing for him to walk in the door. Plus, my younger brother he needed someone there. I’ve been the supporter for the last two years.
Fiona stops the car by the beach, turning on the brights so we can see the waves; there are none.
“Let’s go skinny dipping.” I jokingly suggest.
“Too cold like,” Fiona answers.
Julia lights up another one.
The girls do not know about my German boyfriend. No one knew. I always thought about telling them but I know what they would say: What about my brother? And my mum? She isn’t getting any better.
Everyone who leaves always returns. I came back because my brother needed me. But he’s seventeen now. He’s not the little fourteen year-old who needs my protection. He’s going to leave. He’s always saying: “Once I turn eighteen, I’ll be gone.”
That’s four months away and then I have no priority left. I pull out my phone and risk a text. We are just chitchatting, I know I’ll miss them, my girls, and our spins around the village.
Fiona drops me off at my house. I see my brother’s finished paper on the table. He does not need me to read it, but I take it anyway for one last look through. Ready to read my brother’s paper, my phone goes off. I lean and pick it up: I got you a ticket.