Fourteen year old Oliver was on TV. The robbery was all over the news. When Patricia saw it, she made the sign of the cross and turned to her sister.
“I knew it. I knew he was up to no good.”
“Shut the hell up! My son wouldn’t steal. Not my Oliver, no. Even if he did, he had good reason for it. I wonder how he must feel right now. Did they say where he was? Answer me Patty. Answer me before I come over there and hit you again!”
“He’s with the police,” Patty replied. She didn’t hate her sister, but she wished someone would talk some sense into her. She had hoped she’d be up and about by now but Katrina was content being miserable.
“The police better release my boy. They better let him go,” She screamed. Then she turned sober. “He must be sad and scared and afraid. We must go to him at once. Patty, do you hear me? I know you’re still standing there doing nothing, watching my boy being carried off. Call a taxi. We must go and find him. Stop staring at me for God’s sake. He’s your nephew. Are you going to leave him to rot in jail? I know that’s what you want. You never liked him. You always wanted something bad to happen to him.”
“That’s not true. I love Oliver like he is my own son and–”
“He’s not your son. He will never be your son. I know you’re jealous that a fine, pretty boy like Oliver isn’t yours. Is that it, Patty? Is that it?”
Patty shook her head. “No, Kat, that’s not what I meant. I’ll go and call a cab.”
“Hurry up. I don’t want my son to stay any longer with the police. Oh Lord, protect my little boy. Keep him safe.Why are you still standing there patty?”
Soon the weatherman came on the screen.
“From the weather report, it’s going to rain heavily, Kat,” Patricia said. “Don’t you think we should wait a little. The police station is downtown and that is no place to be when it’s flooded. Ill call the police s–”
“Did I hear you well, Patty? Are you saying I should leave my boy in prison, all because it’s going to rain. Is that what you’re saying, Patty? If I could get up from this chair I’ll give you a good beating. My son is in jail! Did you hear me? He’s in jail!” Kat started sobbing. “You’re my sister, Patty. He’s your nephew. Help me please.”
“Okay, fine,” Patricia sighed and went to the door as the doorbell rang. She opened it and wanted to slap herself.
“Are you ready?” Jamie asked.
She had forgotten that they were supposed to have dinner together at Montgomery’s.
“Oh,” she said and looked away. She wondered how many times this had to happen. “I forgot. I’m about to go to the station with Kat.”
“Oh,” he said, peeking over her shoulder at the sobbing Kat.
“I’m sorry,” she said.
“No problems,’ he said. “I should have known though. This isn’t the first time you’ve cancelled on me”
“Why are you taking so much time Patty? Is the cab here yet? Or you haven’t called it? Patty, why are you so slow? Who is it at the door?”
“You do know that downtown gets really messy when it’s flooded. There’s going to be a storm today.” Jamie said.
“Yeah,” Patty said. “But Oliver’s at the police station. We don’t want him to spend the night there.”
“You know what, let me take you. That way I still get to spend time with you. It’ll be like a date, only with your sister tagging along.”
“No, that’s too much I–”
“I’ll be in the car.” He gave her a kiss on the cheek and walked to the driveway. She stood at the door for a while watching as his long legs carried his lean, muscular body, gracefully across the road before shutting the door.
They had barely exited the main road when it started to rain. The drops came without hesitation, beating against rooftops, cars, and children. Before long, the roads were empty except for the few people who were stupid enough to go further.
“Are we there yet? Are we almost there? My son is waiting. Why is there a lot of noise? ”
“It’s raining, Katty. Remember I mentioned it to you before we left. We’re stuck in traffic and this road will be flooded very soon,” Patricia replied from the front seat.
Katrina moaned and complained and prayed and when she fell silent, Patricia knew she had fallen asleep.
“How are you?” Jamie asked.
“I’m alright,” she replied.
“Don’t lie to me. How are you?”
“I figured. Taking care of her must frustrate you.”
She should have been offended but he was right. “She’s my sister. I’m the only family she has. Oliver and I. I have to take care of her.”
Jamie shook his head. “I understand but, what has she cost you?”
Patricia looked away. She had been on her way to her first job interview when she’d gotten the call. She hadn’t seen Katrina in six years, not since she ran away from home when they were sixteen. She had rushed to the hospital where she had seen her sister lying on a bed looking all sorts of crazy.
“Patty! I knew you’d come, Patty. Aren’t you happy to see me? Give me a hug Patty. Aren’t you happy to see me?”
“What happened?” Patricia had whispered.
“She’s been here for two years,” a nurse replied. “We’ve been trying to locate her family for a long time. Someone came in last week, recognised her and gave us your number.”
“No, what happened to her?”
“Accident. With her little boy.”
Since then, Patty had taken responsibility as mother, father, sister and aunt. She worked shifts to try to make ends meet. She couldn’t get a proper job because Katty wouldn’t let her.
“Are you leaving me alone? Are you leaving me? Like Mama and Papa and Peter?” Kat would say and burst into tears. Sometimes, she would go into a fit of rage and start throwing things. Patty would send Oliver out of the house, so he wouldn’t have to see his mother that way. Yet, Kat would still complain. She’ll accuse Patricia of taking her son away from her. Of trying to turn him against her. That she was jealous that she didn’t have a child of her own. Then she’ll sob and throw things around. She’d hug her son to her and wouldn’t let him go. Soon, Oliver started school. Patricia had begged Katty and convinced her that it’ll be beneficial for him and she’d finally agreed. Katty had gone into another fit when she found out he was going to a public school. She would threaten Patty to give the boy whatever he wanted and if she disagreed she’d go into an even bigger fit. Patty still had the mark on her thigh where a shard of ceramic from a dinner bowl had pierced her.
Patty worked night shifts and mostly struggled to pay the bills. Soon she had no friends. Just Patty, Oliver and her 9 to 5 night to morning shifts.
Patty looked back at her sister sleeping in the back seat.
“She’s the only family I have.”
“But she has cost you a lot, even a life. How long are you going to wait on her, Patricia? I understand that she’s family. But you’re taking care of her and putting up with her antics at the expense of having a life. How long before she hurts you again?”
“You don’t understand.”
He turned to the windshield. “I love you Patricia and it hurts to see you hurt yourself.”
They sat in silence as the traffic cleared and they got close to the police station.
“I tried to send her away, you know. I took a her to a home. They called me to come take her back the next day. She looked so terrible. She said even worse things.”
“I can’t believe you Patty. I can’t believe you! You’re ungrateful Patty. Wasn’t it me that begged dad to let you study what you wanted to study. Wasn’t it me? Wasn’t it me that cheered you up when he wanted to beat you, huh? Wasn’t it me that begged him not to hurt you after what you did with that boy, huh? And now you just go and dump me somewhere. I’m your only family, Patty. Me and little Oliver and this is the way you treat us. Aren’t we family Patty? Aren’t we? I wish you were dead instead of daddy. I wish you had had that accident. I wish you had broken your spine and your skull and all your bones were shattered!”
“Shut up!” She had retorted. “Shut the hell up. Don’t you dare bring the past into this. But if that’s what you want; I didn’t ask you to runaway and get pregnant and overdose on drugs or whatever it is that made you like this. I wish you were dead. Then I wouldn’t have to put up with you and your shit. I would have a job, a husband, children, my own family. I would be something in life. Now I’m stuck with you and your brat and–”
The bottle Katty had thrown hit her in the head. She fell and heard her sister’s screams in the distance.
Jamie glanced back at Kat.
“You don’t deserve all this.”
When they got to the station, Katty was still asleep, so they left her in the car.
“It was jungle justice,” the officer at the front desk said. “Even after we took them, they came after us. The gang has been raiding that area for a long time. Everyday for the thief. One day for the owner.”
Jamie and Patricia had their dinner together after all. They sat beside each other in a lonely booth at an empty restaurant beside the police station. She sobbed into his shirt and he held her tightly, running his hands down back.
Oliver had been more frequently away from home. He wouldn’t let Patricia know what he had been doing. He came home late after school and sometimes he didn’t even go to school anymore. She had known that he was up to no good. And she would try to keep him at home sometimes. But her sister would accuse her of not wanting him to have friends like her. She had loved him like he was her own son.
Jamie helped take Katty inside.
“Are you going to be alright?” He asked. She nodded, her hands tucked under her armpits. Her eyes were still red and swollen.
“I could stay,” he offered.
“No,” she said. “Thank you for everything.” She opened her arms for a hug. He pulled her closer and kissed her instead.
“I’ll come by tomorrow morning. Sleep well.”
“Where’s my boy?”
Patricia shut the door behind her.
“What are we doing here, Patty? We’re supposed to be at the police station or have you forgotten. You abandoned your nephew to go around with that man isn’t it, Patty? Patty, answer me! Where’s my son?”
“Stop playing with me Patty. This is not a time for jokes. Do you want me to hit you? Where’s my son?!”
“I said he’s dead. He was caught stealing again. He shot an old man. The mob took the law into their own hands. Oliver is dead. And it’s all your fault.”
The tears came again now. A lot more than earlier. She saw her sister clearly now. Katty got to her feet and attacked. She was expecting it.
“You witch! I always knew you hated my son. I always knew you had it in for my poor Oliver. You killed my son!” Katrina clawed at Patricia’s face. Patricia did the same. “You’ve always been jealous. You’ve always hated my son. You can’t have a son, can you? He was family. Your family! I’m sure you killed mummy and daddy too. Now, my boy. I know I’m next. I know I’m–”
Katrina fell to the floor, blood soaking her head. Patricia dropped the stool and fell to her knees.
“You. . .” Katty coughed.
“I’m sorry,” Patricia said. “I’m so sorry.”
As Katty’s hand fell limp, Patricia let herself sob louder, but she was relieved.
It didn’t take her long and she didn’t take too much. Before dawn she was long gone.