There were many guests at the barbecue, enjoying their time; sipping bottles of beer, talking about work or sports or news or any of the other distractions from living their own lives.
I was by the house on the patio, playing with Honey in her hutch, putting my fingers through the grate and trying to stroke her on her long ears; she thought that I was poking food through to her and wouldn't stop nibbling and smelling my finger to let me stroke her.
The call came that the food was ready to eat, and the people surged from all around the garden to the barbecue. I ignored this all and continued to play with the rabbit; I didn't feel hungry.
I turned away from the hutch after a moment and I saw my brother stood beside me, looking into the hutch at the rabbit. His gaze was vacant, no emotion registered on his face as usual. It was a shock to see him outside in the garden, especially with all these people around.
"Not hungry either?" I asked. He shook his head. I looked up the garden toward the far end and at the sun scraping the back of the garden as the evening began to set in. Soon the garden would be entirely shade. Then I turned back to the cage and the rabbit. The bars were bent wide open and I turned to see Honey on the ground, darting up the garden. I panicked, cursed and then took off after her as she ran for the hedge. I dived at the last moment and I landed on my stomach, my arms around her. My heart beat fast against my chest and the ground, and I walked back to the hutch with the small rabbit in my arms; but she never stopped struggling and tried her hardest to escape my grip. She managed a few times and tried to dart over my shoulder and down my back. The barbecue guests all stared as I made my way back down the garden, struggling to keep the energetic pet contained. The closer I got to the cage, the more she strived to get free. I called to my brother to get the hutch open, but he just stood, staring at me, emotionless.
"Get the fucking hutch open." I yelled again, but again it was ignored. Honey scrambled over my shoulder. Her claws tore at my bare neck and she kicked me in the head as she finally managed to get free. She bolted up the garden and I took off after her again, but it was ultimately pointless. Tears brimmed my eyes as I watched her escape under the hedge at the far end of the garden and onto the fields beyond. I knew this was goodbye.
I turned back to my brother, who still stood, doing nothing, watching the scene unfold with his indifference. In an effort to fight the tears I became angry at him. I grabbed his shirt and shook him hard, shouting at him as I did so.
"This is all your fault! You saw her escaping, but you just let her go! You didn't even try to stop her!"
He shrugged, ignoring my aggressive treatment, and he spoke calmly, "she wanted to be free. That's all she ever wanted."
I didn't care, I was angry. I shook him hard again, shoved him backward. As he moved away from me, I suddenly felt isolated and alone. My legs buckled and I fell to the ground in a torrent of tears, having lost something I truly loved. Something I would never see again and never be able to explain my feelings to even if I did. I must have only just hit the floor when I felt myself being hoisted up and shoved into the house. It was my mother, and she was far less than happy. She told me to get a hold of myself, that I was embarrassing us all when we had guests. What was wrong with me anyway.
I wailed like a banshee, "Honey's gone, mum. William did it! He watched her leave, and he did nothing!"
She made a noise of impatience and stared at me like I was mentally ill. Then she proceeded to admonish me, "don't be so fucking stupid. William is gone. You know that, and you know better than to bring it up. And Honey is fine! Are you on drugs?"
She didn't even wait for an answer, she pushed past me and back out into the garden, hostess mask engaged. My tears had stopped almost as suddenly as they had started, I had no more urge to cry. I followed her back out into the garden and looked over to see that my mum was right, Honey was sat in her hutch, contentedly chewing on a piece of lettuce.
My brother was indeed nowhere in sight. And he hadn't been for at least three years when he left us. They never had been able to help him with his problems, and eventually he reached statutory age where decisions were up to him. We lost contact and never heard from him again. I don't know what was wrong with me on that day, that I saw my brother in front of me as clear as any of the other guests at the barbecue; but I know that I miss him every day.
I also know that he probably wouldn't understand that even if I could somehow tell him.