Whisper my name
Contains some swearing
Talk, even when you think they’re not listening.
The silence of the ward pressed in on his ears, and Alex wondered if Sam’s dreams were as deathly quiet as this place. The sterile white walls, the pale green curtains ringing the bed, the faint smell of bleach and soap and alcohol hand sanitizer that clung to his clothes for days and lingered even longer in his mind - he hoped Sam’s dreams were full of better things. Colours, sounds. Maybe music and laughter. Dancing – she’d loved to dance.
Fuck, she’d owned the dancefloor. Every time they went out, there was Sam out rocking to all the hottest beats while he lurked in a corner with some friends and the vodka. It barely seemed possible that they could be twins, they were so different in temperament, but people said they had the same smile.
Alex still saw her smile most nights, in his dreams. And there was colour in them, too, and sounds, but he prayed to whatever might be listening that Sam’s dreams were different than his. That she was dreaming about Spice Girls and Ice Nine Kills and Demi Lovato, and singing along with her chestnut hair waving as she headbanged in the passenger seat. He would happily dream of the red and blue lights, the crunch of steel and the drunken panic and fingers too sticky with blood to unlock his phone if it meant Sam dreamed of music and dancing and all that might have been.
Nothing about the pair of them had ever been fair. Sam got the social skills, but he got special music classes. Harpsichord and violin – the classics. She got her phone paid for, but he was the one who convinced their parents to get a puppy. Sam called it ‘Goober’.
He got a life, and Sam got purgatory.
He got one day a year where he could spend time with his sister. Just the two of them, just like it had always been. And even that wasn’t fair. A conversation wasn’t a conversation if the other person couldn’t talk.
But Alex spoke anyway. He took all day. Played songs on the radio, all the newest hits and her favourite old ones, talked about school and then, eventually, university, work, how their family was doing. Maybe Sam dreamed of him and his life – maybe all he was, was Sam’s dream.
The nurse poked his head round the door, looked pointedly at the clock.
Alex rose with a sigh, brushed a kiss against his sister’s forehead.
“I’ll come again. Soon.” He said the words every year, and every year he put off coming until he couldn’t not. It hurt, being in this silent room, and the blinking lights of the machines merged seamlessly with his nightmares. “See you.”
He squeezed her hand,
Sam squeezed back.
Alex’s knees betrayed him as his sister’s eyelids fluttered. Through the roaring in his ears, he heard voices from a great distance. Blurred shapes flitted in and out of his vision, but he couldn’t seem to focus on anything except Sam’s eyes. Sea green, to match his ocean blue, and after a decade of distance they met once more.
Alex? He didn’t know if she said anything, but he saw her lips frame the words before he fell onto her chest. He held onto his sister as if she might suddenly evaporate – a dream, vanishing upon waking. Weak arms rested on his back, a feather-light touch that seemed to lift a weight from his aching heart even as his chest started to burn, sobs wracking his body.
“What happened?” Sam pushed him back gently, a frown creasing her face. Different again, the pair of them – a creased brow in stark contrast to his red eyes, his watery smile. Alex beamed up at her with trembling lips, tears fracturing his sister into rainbows and happy lights. “I… I had a dream? About cars and children and university and music.”
It was a struggle to muster up enough breath to answer, and his voice cracked like he was going through puberty again – a recent memory for her, so long ago for him. “Sam… Everything. E-everything’s happened. Oh, Sam…”
“Daddy? Why are you crying?”
Alex turned, just in time to catch his gap-toothed son as he launched himself into his arms. There was a tangle of arms and legs, laughter and raven hair, as he rearranged his child on his hip, and when he looked up he saw his sister watching him with a strange look on her face. Alex licked his lips nervously.
“Sam,” he nodded to his sister. “Meet Sam. Sammy, this is your auntie Sam. She’s…” The words lodged in his throat. What could he possibly say? How could he explain any of this to his five-year-old son?
His sister just smiled a lop-sided smile and held out a trembling hand, which his son took with both small, sticky hands.
“Hello, Sammy,” Sam said. “Your daddy’s told me so much about you.”