The Question

Jessie sat in the lounge-room, a glow from the streetlight sneaking through the curtains. She watched the door, anxiously chewing her nails, waiting for James to come home. She wanted to ask him something, something she knew he wouldn’t like. She’d rehearsed the words in her mind, and though they sounded perfectly logical to her, she knew he’d still say no. There was no way James would let her date a cop.

James was Jessie’s older brother, by a whole four minutes, and he never let her forget it. He was always there, watching over her, and though she never doubted his love, she wished, just once, he’d let her make her own decisions. She knew dating a cop could be dangerous for them, but their parent’s death was ancient history. Why would they be discovered now?

 

Jessie heard the key in the lock and watched silently as James stepped into the hall, kicking off his greasy boots. She sat up a little straighter in her chair, swallowing hard as he flicked on the light. He jumped out of his skin when he saw her.

“What the hell Jessie! Why are you in the dark?”

He was obviously tired. Jessie wished she’d picked her moment more carefully.

“I’m waiting for you. I, um, want to ask you something,” she said, wringing her hands in her lap.

“Yeah, well, it can wait. I wanna take a shower.”

“Can you shower in a minute?” she asked. “I won’t take long.”

“I said it can wait!”

Jessie winced. “Okay, sure,” she said, forcing a smile. “You go shower.”

She closed her eyes and listened as James stomped up the stairs.

 

“There’s no way I’m allowing you to go out with that guy, Jess, he’s a cop, are you stupid?”

James was standing in Jessie’s bedroom, towering over her, making her feel even smaller than she was.

“I’m not stupid, James, please don’t say that,” she tried to sound assertive. “How will he find out about mum and dad, no-one else has, besides the case was closed years ago!”

She looked at her twin brother, her fists balled tightly by her sides. She wanted to scream at him, tell him she was 24, that he couldn’t control her anymore. She wanted to hit him, punch him until she forced him to say yes, but she knew it wasn’t worth it, his anger was too much for her to bear.

 

Jessie followed James onto the landing, trying to reason with him.

“He’s known me for nearly a year, James, don’t you think if he was secretly investigating us, we’d know by now? He just wants to take me to dinner. I’m 24, I should be able to go on a date!” She realised her voice was raised, but she didn’t care, she was done with this bullshit.

“You’re not seeing him and that’s it!” James literally stamped his foot.

They stood on the landing, a long, unspoken resentment rolling between them.

“So, is it just him? Or is it anyone?”Jessie asked calmly.

“What?” James said.

“Is it that you don’t want me to date a cop or is it that you don’t want me to date anyone?” She glared at him, challenging. “You can’t risk it can you, because I might leave, and who would you be then? Who are you if you’re not controlling me? You’re terrified that if I meet someone, I’ll finally see how pathetic you are! You need me!”

James flew forward, his face so close to hers she could feel the heat of his breath.

“I don’t need you,” he growled. “You’ve done nothing but hold me back my entire life. Protecting you, watching you, trapped in this shitty existence, all because of you! My psychopath sister! Maybe I should leave you, see how far you get.”

“But who other than me, would love a loser like you?” Jessie practically hissed.

James punched the wall by her head, he was fuming, but she no longer cared, it was time to own her life.

“Maybe I should tell your Officer Becket the truth about you,” James continued, through gritted teeth. “Or better still, take a leaf out of your book and just get rid of him completely.” He sneered down at her.

That was it. Jessie felt something explode inside. “You can’t control me anymore,” she screamed as her hands shot forward, hitting James with all her strength.

He stumbled backwards, realisation frozen on his face.

 

Jessie sat on the footpath, a sense of calm filling the space where rage just lived. She could hear the sirens. She knew what she was going to say, and she knew they’d believe her. She found James at the bottom of the stairs when she got home. A tragedy. She was pretty sure she could fake some tears, she’d faked them before. As she sat waiting for the ambulance, for the first time in her life she felt truly alone. But it wasn’t a sad feeling, it was exhilarating. After 24 years of sharing every emotion, every experience, now she could finally have something for herself. She thought about James’ body, broken on the floor and a rush of pleasure coursed through her. She’d forgotten what it felt like to kill, how liberating it was. James had tried to control her, but now she was free, now she could do whatever she wanted.

(c) Amy Hutton

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