Ok so a new short story. Longer than the others this time though. This was a six week project for English. I'm very proud of it!!! Moving on....

Surprisingly there is no category for 'War' in Fictionpress and if anyone knows how to request a category i would be really grateful if you could tell me!!! But this isn't exactly about war more like things that happen because or growing up or family or something or other. I'll stop rambling and let you read it.... please enjoy!!

Sanja

There are so many stories around that are about war, Sanja, that now I will write you one about peace – about a time before war when things were happier. It begins one May with the sounds of a baby crying. You cried almost all the time then, something which annoyed my almost-four-year-old self hugely. The house was either filled with sound; your incessant screaming, the neighbours' congratulations and cooing delight, or it was deathly silent and I was forced to creep around in fear of our parents rebuke that would come should I wake you.

Not surprisingly, I can't say I liked you that much, or that I have many profound memories of that time. Still, it was on one such afternoon, when I crept up through the stifling silence to your room in the attic, that I finally forgave you for interrupting my life. Ivo, our older brother, was out with his friends and both Mama and Papa were sleeping. Grandfather was presumably dozing by the fire and I had the attic to myself. You were fast asleep, fingers curled around my baby covers, small face slightly scrunched up. I stared at you and you stared back. I remember a feeling of dismay – now was when you should scream and wake Mama and Papa and I would be for it – but you didn't. It seemed wrong so I poked you. Still, no crying. Gurgling. This really wasn't right. The bane of my existence definitely shouldn't smile at me and imitate some kind of choking. I left. Later, no-one questioned my new-found curiosity towards my baby sister, simply taking it as a six-months-late relief.

We became playmates. There weren't many girls my age living near us and we often used to go out into the garden and play on the swing that hung from one of the trees. Living on the outskirts of that Bosnian town, our garden was quite big – but somehow, all games seemed to revolve around that tree. The garden was our safe haven away from chores inside the house and the swing like a symbol of sanctuary. As very small children we used to get Ivo to play with us but as the age difference between you and him was eight years, he eventually deemed it too childish to play with his little sisters and we continued our games alone. Some time after this rejection we came upon the idea of carving a sign into the wood like a solid statement of ownership. Using the handle of an old spoon loaned to us, I carefully scraped in the only letters I knew – EM and SM. Emira Mikulic and Sanja Mikulic. That remains the only image I can remember about the swing now and I often wonder if our marks are still there.

One chilly afternoon when I had nearly reached one hundred, you started yelling at me and, when I denied the rules of the game and opened my eyes, you weren't at all hidden but beckoned me instead over to a pile of yellow leaves. "Look. Do you think he's still alive?" I frowned. "He's still warm… Maybe we should take him inside." Grandfather didn't seem surprised when we burst in and placed the bundle in his lap – but then he was hardly surprised by anything. When Papa came home from work he found his own father not in his usual place by the fire but in the kitchen watching us in amusement.

"Is it boiled yet?"

"It doesn't want to be boiled he'll burn himself."

"But the honey won't melt if it's not boiled."

"How do we know he likes warm milk with honey anyway?"

"Grandfather says."

The object of our interest was a young swallow which had missed the migration south. The next morning we were up very early and crept down to check on our charge. This was where Mama found us, distraught. We held the funeral in the garden and left flowers on the tiny grave for weeks afterwards.

Grandfather always used to laugh when our tears were recalled – and that particular story was told frequently on those reminiscent evenings by the fire when the sun had gone down. We never understood the humour and would set twin glares on his smiling face while he just laughed harder. I think I understand better now. After all, once you've seen a person dead, a small swallow seems inconsequential.

I have missed out a change that occurred a few months before our swallow. I left you for the mornings and started school. The school was on the other side of the town and every day Ivo would walk with me there. I made a best friend named Aida, but as we were on different sides of town, the afternoons were usually spent with you – and besides, this isn't their story. That first week you refused to speak to me – I had betrayed you by growing that old without you. The school was a huge place, overwhelming, and Aida and I sat by the window of our classroom overlooking it all. Through the time we were at school we always spent our time whispering in those seats by the window. Even at that young age there were punishments for such activities – but I can only remember one punishment clearly and it wasn't for talking with Aida. We were actually working for once, laboriously spelling out the alphabet, when André, one of the boys who sat behind us, casually knocked my arm on his way up to the front. A scribble of ink scratched across my work and I looked up to glare at him. "What was that for?" I asked angrily. He didn't say a word – just continued to collect in our work and gave it to the teacher before returning to his seat, to laugh with his friends. At the end of lesson I had to stay and write the last of my letters out again all alone. I told you about it when I got home and we decided that we would hate him forever.

When we were little, we never used to think much about the future. Until one day, we were watching the television at Aida's house and the Olympics were on. You were captivated. Forever afterwards you would drag me up the hill and make me count seconds to see how fast you could run the stretch behind our house. When you grew up, you insisted, you would run for Bosnia in the Olympics. You certainly had the determination. Me, my dreams aimed slightly lower. I had started the flute when I was seven and, entranced by the notes that seemed to come from nowhere, decided to go to the music university in Sarajevo. We used to practise together out on the hill – you would try to run the stretch before I had finished my piece. Sometimes I won and sometimes you did – that was perhaps the fun of it.

As we grew older, Ivo was absent more and more often – usually with his girlfriend. When he was 16, he finally brought her home. We weren't so sure we wanted to meet her after she had 'stolen' our brother from us and so when she arrived, despite Mama's frequent reminders, we were still in our room, disconsolately watching the rain. "She's probably ugly," you grumbled and I agreed, still struggling with Maths homework. "Maybe she has Ivo under a spell!" At eleven and eight we were old enough to realise that this was impossible, but we laughed anyway. When she did come she was nothing like we had assumed. She greeted our parents cheerfully and asked us how we were doing and after dinner, when we had retreated up to the attic again, she came and helped me with my homework. I think that from watching Dijana, Ivo and our parent stalking we realised something we hadn't noticed about our brother before – how much he smiled now. Just before she left the rain stopped and we showed her the swing.

I remember the argument that followed her departure very clearly. As she left I realised that Dijana was Muslim. Normally it wouldn't have been anything to note and it wasn't a problem to me – almost everyone in the town were Muslim. What I didn't like was that we weren't – we were Bosnian-Croats and therefore Christian. Almost all the girls in my class were beginning to wear a headscarf and most in the years above us already did. When I asked Mama she replied that I didn't need to wear one. "What if I want to?" I asked. "It's not part of our belief, Emira," she replied tiredly. I couldn't remember us ever having a belief to do with that. As I was about to say this, she cut in. "For goodness sake Emira, you don't have to follow the crowd. What you wear doesn't matter." But it did matter. I said some hurtful things that evening and so did she – but I think in the end I came to agree with her. I never asked about it again and, having heard our argument, neither did you.

School was a huge nuisance for you – you had decided what you wanted to be and there was nothing useful that the school could teach you. It wouldn't be useful when you were running on the television. You never gave up that dream and I have always known that one day you will achieve it. The only school day you vaguely enjoyed was sports day. We wandered down to the school field in our class groups and each race began, accompanied by laughing parents on the sidelines, each boasting about their child. You could hardly the see any of the differences or conflicts between them which later became so obvious. Or perhaps it was simply that we were children and didn't really notice these things. My race was before yours – an egg and spoon race. There were no separate races for boys and girls and unluckily, André was beside me. Balance really isn't one of my strong points. I was very disappointed to learn that the eggs were hard boiled and wouldn't smash if you dropped them on a classmate's foot. What happened to 'every cloud has a silver lining'? André even won the race, easily. Still, it gives great satisfaction when your younger sister beats your arch-enemy in front of everyone. Annoyingly, André never stopped smiling. That boy smiled far too much.

We saw Dijana quite often now – she and Ivo were constantly together. However, when I was thirteen, we noticed that for a few weeks he had seemed incredibly nervous. Being the annoying little sister you were you used to tease him about it. He got more nervous if you mentioned Dijana and our parents kept stopping their conversations and smiling when we were in the room. Grandfather would make odd comments which neither of us understood. The secrecy drove us mad. One weekend, when our parents were out and Ivo was sleeping, you found something. "Em, come look at this!" I followed her to Ivo's room. "We shouldn't be doing this, Sanja," I whispered, glancing at Ivo's sleeping form. "No, look!" It was a small, blue dyed box, like the ones you got from the jewellers in the centre of town. We didn't really need to look to know what was inside but we did anyway. Our secret smiles always were more aggravating than our parents – but unfortunately everyone in the house already knew. We all waited.

We didn't have to wait long – Ivo eventually announced that he was seeing Dijana's parents in the evening. We waited at the top of the stairs for his return until it was pitch black but when Ivo came home it was nothing like we had expected. The door to the living rooms closed but there are cracks in the floorboards. We had never heard him so upset. His offer of marriage had been refused because he was a Bosnian-Croat; a Christian.

I found that however comforting it might be, I couldn't hate Dijana. I could quite easily hate her parents, but not her. Whenever I saw her she looked miserable. And Ivo stopped smiling.

It was like a trigger for everything else, the thing that made us realise how different it had become. I suppose we ignored it for a while but no-one could ignore the rumours of fights breaking out in Sarajevo or of Bosnian independence. I was practising my flute one evening, struggling with the notes, when you dragged me to the top of the stairs to listen. That seems to be one of your roles in life; to point things out to me. It was Miloska one of our mother's friends. "I'm not sure it's wise to stay Fadila. You have to understand, I want you to stay but it might not be safe." My mother laughed it off. "We've always lived here. What trouble is going to make things unsafe for us?" Miloska sighed upon leaving, pulling her scarf over her head. "I hope you're right Fadila. I'd miss you."

And it seemed that Mama was right, until a month later when our windows were smashed in the middle of the night and we were awoken by shouting. I lied when I said that our initials were the only thing I could remember about the swing. Because I can still see it burning.

By some luck, we found another group of Bosnian-Croats leaving the city who had a wagon. By some other luck, it was André's family. You clutched my hand as we crouched at the back of the wagon staring back at the town we had grown up in. "Where are we going?" you asked. I looked at André. He shrugged. "We just left – I don't think my parents even know." He had a girl who looked a year younger than you asleep on his shoulder. "We have an Aunt in Sarajevo. I've only seen her once." I didn't like her. He nodded and there was silence again. I looked down at you. You had also fallen asleep. "I never realised you…" He gave the faintest glimmering of a smile. "I knew you were." I touched my uncovered hair and grimaced. I supposed it would be slightly obvious.

It is about 40km from Srebrenica to Sarajevo, over the mountains. It should have taken about a day but there were ten of us so some had to walk to spare the horse. Our parents offered to give André's family a place to stay for at least a night if our Aunt agreed. You and Dada, André's little sister, were quickly becoming friends and spent much of the journey listening to Grandfather's stories in the wagon. As older children, André and I walked with the adults, my flute carefully clutched in one hand.

We reached Sarajevo in three days. It was different from how I remembered it – there were collapsed buildings here and there and a few roadblocks marked two opposing streets. It was because of one of these that we stopped before reaching my Aunt's and spent the rest of the day by the wagon. You and Dada played some kind of tag around the crumbling wall which half hid our group. Revelling in the false safety that our arrival at Sarajevo had brought, André and I wandered through the houses carefully avoiding any people. Near the limits of the block there was a huge house. I gazed at the garden almost envisioning our swing but didn't go through the gate – perhaps if you had been there we would have. Music drifted from the crumbling doorway beside me. I hadn't realised that André played the piano. It was a familiar song, a folk song from Srebrenica and I put together my flute and joined in. Later, as dark was falling and we crept back, there was shouting and shots. I wondered what had happened to the peace we had known and I still wonder. My attention on this I nearly tripped and André caught my arm, laughing. He was still smiling when we reached the wagon but wouldn't tell you why. He isn't really that bad. Maybe, when all this fighting has stopped, we will both go the University.

My Aunt was none too pleased with the extra guests but the flat beside hers was vacant so André and his family moved in there. Grandfather has become quite short tempered now we are living with Aunt – he never liked his daughter in law's family much. If Aunt is anything to go by neither do we.

We started school soon after arrival, even though the building was about a mile away and getting there involved ducking through rival streets. You somehow managed to get yourself into Dada's class by half failing their assessment test and the two of you always seemed to be together. I was often with André. I wondered if it was the war – for it was officially a war now – that made us less close or if we were just growing up.

About half a year after we had arrived in Sarajevo it was midsummer and so on Midsummer's eve we left school early. We went quickly, almost running through the now familiar battle ground. It was eerily silent which was odd – we supposed that the feuding had stopped for the Midsummer celebrations. As we walked boldly down the middle of the street it almost seemed as if we were in Srebrenica in peace – before all at once the shooting began. We broke into a run – I grabbed your hand. Everywhere was filled with noise, shouting, gunfire. The edge of the street, the underside of the roadblock, there it was safe. The bullets tore across but I could see no-one. And finally, it stopped, and all was deathly silent again.

We crouched under the roadblock, Dada crying, André hitting the dirt with his fist. I couldn't speak, couldn't move. All thoughts of the celebrations had fled with your hand as it left mine. We knew we should run home, to our parents and safety. But I couldn't move because it was slowly sinking in that you would not be running back with me.

rite well there it is! i would really luv some reviews - none of my other stories have them.... Any feedback would be cool and since im new to this site i wana get author names nd read their stories.

Thanx, Randomised