This was a homework exercise in our creative writing course when I’d missed class as I was ill. I just had the picture, and had to take it from there.
“It’s all I wanted it to say.”
Jane thought about that. Why would Andrew want to say so little? He revered Cliff. He’d spent years in his company, going everywhere together. They’d been like twins. Andrew’s letters to her had been full of him, his latest plans, his adventures, the girlfriends.
When Andrew had invited her over, to spend some weeks with him on the island, she’d been so pleased that he’d wanted to be with her again. Their childhood had not been idyllic, but it had thrown them together. They’d always stood up for each other. Until college; Jane had met Peter and had stayed on in Bristol with him. Three years later they’d married, the fourth year had seen their daughter arrive, the fifth, their son. Andrew had come to the wedding, but not stayed for the reception, muttering about an urgent meeting. He’d become distant with her in person, but kept the correspondence flowing. Unusual, really, she thought. These days everybody emailed, but Andrew wrote letters. Long ones.
He had a way with words. He’d include long anecdotes which she’d read out to the children at bedtime, secure in the knowledge that they wouldn’t understand them. Then he started to tell of his adventures with his friend Cliff. Their trips to the south of France. The time they went to the casino and lost a huge amount of money. That had really worried Jane until she remembered he’d had a windfall – the Scoop Six or something. Andrew had sent her a gold bracelet, and put money in the children’s savings. They’d blown the rest at Monte Carlo.
The children had been maybe nine and ten when Cliff had taken on more sinister activities. Andrew alluded to his special training. He was vague on the details, but she learned Cliff had become a crack shot. She had been worried the pair of them would get into trouble. She recalled the phone conversation they’d had at that time.
“How can I read that out to the kids? You know they love hearing your adventures.”
“They’re old enough to know of violence in the world.”
“But it’s so …” she’d searched for the words, but all she could come up was, “bloodthirsty.”
Andrew had laughed. “Kids don’t mind bloodthirsty.”
“It’s more than that though, it’s sinister.”
“We know what we’re doing.”
Jane hoped so.
When Andrew had asked her over, she knew something had gone wrong. She’d come, of course. You don’t spend years corresponding with your brother and then ignore him when he finally invites you to his cottage by the sea. He’d even paid for the flight since she didn’t want to take the ferry to St Peter Port.
Now they stood at the headstone, contemplating it.
“There’s a lot of space there,” she said.
“I hope there’ll be lots more characters to kill off in due course. Let’s go and toast the film rights.”