'86 Fahrenheit' - Arie Faber (year 11)
The air is lead-heavy, cloying and sticky. My eyes are shut and I’m laying on the couch on sweat-soaked worn leather. The fan is on but it makes no difference. Mags is due in any minute now. She’s my aunt on my father’s side, but we don’t see much of him anymore, and she won’t talk about it, no matter how much I nag her. It’s much too hot for arguing today.
I hear the rusty, harsh sound of her old jalopy pull up in the drive, different to the sound of Dad’s old Ford Mustang. Ma doesn’t let me drive in Mag’s car though - says it’s too rusty, could fall apart any second. I like the risk of it, s’part of the fun. Mags has rusty copper hair nearly the same colour as her car. She’s one o’ the only ladies in town to dye it, drives down to Robert’s general store and buys a box of dye every fortnight. When I reach 18, Mags says she’ll dye mine “Vivacious Auburn” too. I hear the door swing open and my name hollered into the kitchen.
Mags is always late (Ma says it’s because her no-good ex-husband Jimmy drove her mad, but I think she’s just scatterbrained.) Mags bustles into the living room, keys rattling, and kisses me loudly on the cheek. She’s got a strange kinda energy ‘round her in the afternoon, Ma says she “really lights a room up.” I settle back down on the sticky leather and wipe the smudge from my cheek. I gaze up at her as she glances ‘round the room, grimacing at the mess of it all.
“We really ought t’clean this up, huh?”
I nod politely (I know that’s what Ma would say to do,) mostly watching the coloured light of the TV flicker on the wall. Some game show flickers on the screen in technicolour; the kind Dad would see an’ change channels real quick.
Mags sits herself down on her brother’s arm chair. I hear the noise of her weight shift on the chair as she reclines further. The nerve of that woman! Nobody’d sat on that chair for 4 months since Dad walked out on us. It was left empty, the same way Ma always set an extra place at the table, like she expected him to waltz through the door at 5:30. Privately, I think about how I used to sit in the chair, tentatively listening out for the gentle snore of Dads car pulling up outside. And now Mags was reclining there, takin’ space that was not hers to take, jangling change in her jeans pocket and looking at me like she expected me t’say something.
She locks her gaze on me an’ raises her eyebrows. I look at her speechless. Really look at her: red over-painted lips and black pointed eyebrows. I watch the sunlight ebb and sway on the mousy brown roots of her hair, the discrepancy of skin tone between her face and neck. She drums her fingers on the arm rest, worn cuticles at the base of shiny pink nails. Ma always said was ne’er her brother’s sister, an’ now I agree. Without sayin’ a word I stand up and walk out of the house. It’s much too hot for arguing.