“Don’t look now.” I had begun to turn my head to where he had indicated, down the hall. I snapped it back at my brother's hissed command, his face etched with fear, eyes wide behind jam jar glasses.
“I still see them; I’m being followed. I know I am.”
I’m on tricky territory if I ask if he’s been taking his medication, but he knows me well enough that any subtle sentence, expression or posture will suggest doubt about his reply. I resolve to check his dispenser later.
“She hides behind him. She thinks she’s concealed there, waiting to ambush me when I’m not looking.”
His words are making my spine shiver now, for it’s exactly like the pair of them operated; him a forbidding giant in appearance, like a defensive wall, she like an armed bandit awaiting innocent wayfarers in his shadow.
No medication is going to remove his memories of lying awake under the duvet, waiting for the front door to crash open, their drunken rows in the kitchen, the thrown crockery and punch-ups. The tension filled silence , then the footsteps up the stairs, the deep breathing outside his bedroom door as she refilled her nicotine lungs after their exertions. Then the crash through his door and all the blame and the hate and vilification just for being there. He was given Ritalin in ever increasing doses to stop him telling lies about them, to explain his bruises that he apparently self-inflicted until he almost believed them, until he confided in me and was amazed when I believed him and not them.
“I think they’re back.” He’s the gibbering wreck once more and they’ve both been dead a year.
I glance into the hallway, where our parents’ silhouettes hover. I can’t tell him they never left.