Sarah had escaped. Twenty five years ago when there was still a doubt, she lived around the corner from his wife. She had dark hair and darker eyes, a symmetrical and pretty face and was tall and slim. He remembers once giving her a lift back to college on a bitterly cold dark winter’s morning and noticing an ethereal quality to her, something he couldn’t put his finger on. He wasn’t aware of anything strange or untoward; he sorta liked it, her originality and her difference.
Her brothers and sisters hadn’t and some were still living in the same house twenty years later. They may have had Sarah’s looks and features once, but it wasn’t age alone which caused the deterioration. He saw Nessa, one of her older sisters, regularly, passed her on the street or saw her sitting on a random wall, waiting. She was in her forties but held herself like pensioner. Her greying dishevelled hair fell across a crooked face and invariably was in her mouth. She appeared unaware and was big in that Down Syndrome heavy way. She never recognised or acknowledged him, except late that one evening. Usually, she looked through him with still eyes on the verge of tears. Her coat was carelessly open or buttoned wrong and out of sequence. Her pinafore from another time, her runners were huge like those of a recently arrived African refugee. She wandered aimlessly around the area and never had a shopping bag when he saw her in town. Bizarrely, she looked like a child.
Not as heavy as his sister, Andrew walked purposefully with a straight back and stiff neck. He was better turned out, which threw people when he glowered and scowled back at them. One evening in a crowded pub, Andrew came up close to the back of his head and whispered something about where his mother in law was born, something which he shouldn’t have known. He heard afterwards that Andrew liked to take people of guard and shock them, getting pleasure from their startled reactions. He disappeared frequently; people assumed it was for treatment which never improved his mood or demeanour. There was a menace about and around him and even though people understood, they did not like him.
It’s said their mother was exquisite, a statuesque porcelain creature who had everything except her freedom from a shadow. By the time another daughter set fire to the house, the shadow had consumed her. Hearsay suggests that in a pious time, the father was often seen out with a hooker on each arm and eventually became a chronic alcoholic.
There is a grove by a block of flats near the house. It was after mid-night on deserted streets, he was on his way home. Initially, the noise seemed like a baby crying, shrill and needy. Confused he walked on, nearing the trees. This time a wailing cry and something moved within the grove. Nessa stood out on the path, looking directly at him, calling “Andrew”.