Something weird from the bus one day.
His breath came out in a stream of tiny particles, bubbles in the soft water. He watched them travel up to the surface, where the sun shone bright and fresh, a dazzling reflection of the world above. He could stay here forever, he thought, if only his lungs would permit. He watched the mirage of light play above his head for a few more seconds before he broke the surface.
His hair clung to his eyes, his nose. It blinded him as he choked on air. Perhaps he was never meant to breathe this air, perhaps water was his oxygen. His mother always said he was water baby, whatever that could mean. He pushed his sticky hair off his face and rubbed water out of his eyes. His first glimpse of the earthly world was a disappointment. It was exactly how he remembered. The marble steps, the glass roof (so close to freedom, yet so far away. It made him feel like a caged bird), the dark wallpaper of the corridor. He hoisted himself up on the edge of the pool, his clammy feet finding the cool marble. Running a towel through his hair and then wrapping it around his waist, he walked slowly into the corridor, almost making no sound.
His mother was already awake. His fragile, senile mother. Strands of Vera Lynn drifted from her bedroom, warped by the scratchy phonograph. His sister had offered several times to buy her a new one, but she held this one close to her chest, as if it were an old treasure. He shouldn’t disturb her. From the music he could gather she was in one of her states again.
He found Jacqui in the garden. She was cutting roses again, watching the petals drift slowly onto her lap, scarlet like blood. He wandered out into the open air to join her, not even conscious of his semi-nakedness. Jacqui glanced once at the towel, and then at his face, then went back to her cutting.
She didn’t answer him.
“If you want, I could ask Charles to show you how to do it properly.”
“No.” Her voice was monotonous.
He left her, working his way back to the house.
After a short shower and some new clothes, he stepped into the bright kitchen. He wore a light, breathy shirt and a pair of dark pants that were almost too short for him. He was growing quickly now, and eating as much for two people. He fixed himself a sandwich quickly and wandered the empty, traditional corridors as he ate. The house was too quiet now. If his father had been here, the place would be bursting with noise, as it had been when he was a boy. Hell, he was still a boy, but half as happy. Quietly, he turned towards the window and looked out at the long expanse of the sea. His father had been lost to him there. Although his mother and sister had been home the entire time, they were lost to him as well. No one was ever quite the same.
Suddenly, he felt a burst of anger well up deep inside of him. It filled his chest, his lungs, making him breathless. He longed to run to his mother, tear the Vera Lynn off the phonograph and snap it in half. No matter how much you play that bloody record, it won’t bring my father back! Then he would run straight to the gardens and snatch the roses out of Jacqui’s hands. Why couldn’t she get on with life, like he did? Why couldn’t anyone?
With swift footsteps, he sped towards the indoor swimming pool. He reached the marble edge of the water and tore of his shirt. The material ripped easily in his hands. When he jumped, he felt weightless until the water grasped him, pulled him under. Opening his eyes, he found his old mirage. He would stay there as long as the water would keep him. Who needs oxygen, anyway?