They sit with me.  Dad looks at his workman's palms, tracing the lines with his eyes, drawing out the memories.  Mum flicks through a glossy magazine.  I can see flashes of flesh and bikinis.  Hollow eyes stare.  I look away, because I don't want to see them any more.  I can't cope with the waste of it all.  I don't want to be force-fed promises and products, scandals and sex tips.  Why do they have magazines here, anyway?  It's not a clinic or an office.

Edath is the only one my eyes can stay on.  He's staring out the window, holding a rose in his right hand.  He picked it up of the table as he came in, leaving the vase empty.  I feel slightly annoyed.  How dare he steal state property?

Petals fall to the floor.  I can't see anything but his back.  He must be tearing the rose apart, scattering red instead of tears.

Well, however he copes with it.

I know they don't want to speak to me, won't at all if they can help it.  Can't bear to.  If I was ever their daughter, I'm not now.  Parental love is a lie, for me.  Mum and Dad's faces are empty.  Magazines at a time like this!  Ten minutes and she'll use it on Vogue.

Maybe Edath still loves me.  Maybe brothers don't care what their little sisters have done.  If I could chose who was here, now, Edath would stay.  Mum and Dad would go  Then there'd be strangers, people who don't know anything about any of it.  Maybe I'd get to see a smile. I'd like that.

I still love Edath.  I am capable of love, no matter what they write.  I love Edath a lot, and I hate the fact that I hurt him with something so stupid.  If I had known how it would tear him apart I wouldn't have done it.

But I adore the fact that it's hurting him so much.  It means he does care for me, he does still think of me as his little sister, despite it all.

If I wasn't tied here, I'd give him a hug, but as it is I can't.  I wish - I wish too much - I wish that he'd come over here and hug me, kiss my cheek, drop rose-petals on me and laugh so hard that his eyes light up like they used to when we were younger.

It's odd.  No one's smiled at me for so long now.  I hope they do again.  Maybe the nurse will?  Maybe she'll smile and pat my hand and tell me to 'look on the bright side'?

Bright side.

How can there be one here?

I guess the problem is that I stopped caring, really.  I just let it all go.  I'd reverse that decision, if I could, honestly, I wish I hadn't done it. But I did and so what's the point in worrying over it?  In fact, the one thing that's bothering me at the moment is Edath, and that's just because I care for him so much it's a pain in my chest.  Which proves I'm human, despite what people have been whispering. If I care for my brother, I must be alive.

The bell goes.  I guess that means it's over, then.  My family don't love me, because I'm not their little girl any more: I'm a changeling in their baby's body.  I think they want to forget me and they hate to be here.  I look around the room - sterile white walls, just-too-small coffee table, magazines, parents, brother, window, vase, petals.  It's odd, because at this moment I feel like I own them all somehow.  They're all mine in a way I can't explain.  The whole world is mine, just for these last few minutes.

And I want to tell Edath about it.

"Edath!" I whisper to him, ignoring the two adults who are leaving, barely looking at me, faces stony after the end of the illusion.  I don't regret that I couldn't be how they want me to be.

Edath doesn't turn around.  Another petal hits the floor before the stem falls faster, rolling away.  Destruction complete. The nurses will be in here in a few minutes to move him, the nurses and the attendants, the same thing maybe… but he doesn't seem to care.

"Edath, I'm okay."  I don't know why I say it.  It's true, and I want him to care.  Maybe that's reason enough.

He still doesn't say anything, but slowly he turns, and my heart leaps-jumps-skips-thuds to see that there're tears tracking down his cheeks, balancing on the ridge of his lips.  He tries to blink them away.  He's torn off the Visitor's Pass and stuffed it in his jacket pocket.


I don't think I'm asking for forgiveness, because I don't think he blames me.  I think he's worked out what I did, and though he'll never accept it, he knows that it's done and what's the point in worrying about it?

I hope he'll be able to cope with it all.  At least this is an end for me.

He doesn't go away till an attendant half-drags him out.  He's looking straight at me all the time, tears still falling, an odd smile on his lips.  He never once whispers 'I love you' like he'd do in the movies, or bursts into noisy sobs, or fights the man who's taking him away from me.

Just before he goes, though, his smile trembles, and that's worth more than a thousand 'I love you's to me.

He cares. He'll miss me.  Tonight he'll cry, and miss his little sister.

I don't cry for him, because he's made me so happy, and I figure that where I'm going I'll see him soon enough anyway.