by Veronica Bright
I was with my sister when her baby died. I stood beside her. She barely sensed my presence. She was locked in unreachable grief.
We’d been close since the day she was born. She was cute and funny. We had our moments, of course, but my childhood is entwined with happy memories of her. Running with the grass tickling our legs, paddling in the lake, sploshing and splashing, trying to drench each other with the cool water that smelt of happiness.
We were a travelling family. Moving from place to place was perfectly natural to us. Our mother was strong and fearless. She made us brave. But we weren’t prepared for this, my sister, emptied out, knowing her tiny beautiful baby had gone.
I moved as close to her as I could, showing that I cared, that I mourned too. The family gathered round us. My sister reached out towards her dead baby. She caressed the soft little body. Nothing we could do would bring the precious little one back.
Our mother wanted us to travel on. There was a drought. The land was hot, pitiless. My sister stood, immoveable. I was torn in two, to stay with her or to leave?
I never saw my sister again.
When we returned to that fateful place the following year, we found a small pile of bones, then another, larger. We gathered round, tenderly lifting all that remained of my sister. But her beautiful tusks were gone.
Veronica Bright is a prize-winning author of short fiction and drama. In 2005 she won the Woman and Home Short Story Competition with Out of the Apple Tree, and since then her work has won more than thirty short story prizes, with seventeen firsts including Tenby Arts Festival, Greenacre Writers, the National Association of Writers’ Groups and the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School (twice). Her short stories have been published in over a dozen anthologies. A former primary school teacher, she is also the author of teaching resource books published by Kevin Mayhew Ltd. You can connect with Veronica on Facebook and Twitter @BrightVeronica, or visit her website www.veronicabright.co.uk, where she writes a monthly blog for new writers.