The rain came down in torrents, soaking the introverted juvenile to the skin. He stood alone, silent, still consumed by the black of the night. Had the sun been shining, this lonely boy would have seen the flat green fields of cane surrounding him and far in the distance a skeletal house stood, as solitary and lonely as the boy. The sound of the rain defeated out any other noises in the night, but this young boy couldn’t hear it. Instead, he heard the crackling of a fire, as it climbed up to rafters of his family home, consuming almost everything he loved. Tears began to well up in his eyes, so he clutched his teddy to his chest. It was also now soaking wet from the rain. The boy closed his eyes, trying to clear the horrifying images in his head.
Fog and mist now danced around his feet, obscuring them from view for a couple of moments, before allowing them to reappear as a gust of wind few past, scattering the fog like frightened little creatures. The crackling fire continued to envelop any other thoughts. He took his head in his hands, allowing the tears to stream down his cheeks, melting in with the already present rain drops.
The teddy he was clutching under his arm was now so soaking wet that its head drooped under the weight of the water. Clutching it with both hands, the boy wrung out the water from its sagging body and laid it to rest at his feet. His hair, usually scruffy and unwashed now stuck to his head and face like glue.
He closed his eyes once more, trying to think of something nice to clear his head.
Stephan began to think back to the days when he use to walk to the corner store, hand in hand with his two sisters; Angel and Samantha to get the milk and bread. It was only a ten minute walk down the road. His mother used to watch them walk down the long dirt road surrounded by fields of cane on each side to the corner store. She watched them depart from the veranda as she hung out the washing. He remembered the way her face lit up when they returned home red face and triumphant, from their long run down the road. Stephan smiled at the memory.
Looking east he could only just make out the dark silhouette of his school. It was the only one in the small town of Avil. Stephan remembered back to the time when he used to have to walk to the end of his long, unwinding gravel driveway to wait for his bus. The bus would always arrive at 7.30 every morning on the dot, a long cloud of red dust trailing at its tail. His mother used to complain about the dust every time she hung the out washing at that time of morning.
Looking down past his solitary house to the south he could see nothing but darkness and rain, but he knew that’s where the farm was where his eldest brother used to work. It was too far to walk on foot from his house, but he remembered that his brother used to drive the tractor home, as the family only had the one car and mum was often using it. His brother mostly arrived home at dusk, just in time to join the family for dinner.
Down also to the south, a little past the farm, was the river. The river held some of his fondest memories. Every weekend his family would crowd in the small family car and they would drive down to the river for a swim. Most of the other residents of the small town were already down there most weekends. It would give all the adults a chance to catch up with each other and it would also give them a break from their kids. A large rope swing was the centre of all excitement at the river. It was also the central course of most of the injuries in the town. Joshua, Stephan’s eldest brother came home twice with either broken bones or large wounds from the swing, but that was his own stupidity that coursed the injuries.
“Get out of the rain Stephan!” a familiar voice boomed from a couple of mitres behind him, scattering the memories from his head. “You’ll catch your death!”
The voice belonged to his present caretaker, the corner store operator and an old family friend. She had volunteered to allow Stephan and his older brother to take refuge in her home after the death of their family, but the stay was only momentary.
As soon as Stephan’s older brother could find somewhere else to raise Stephan, they would be leaving the familiar town of Avil and going to live in the city. It was the only place Stephan’s brother could find a job to sustain the both of them. His Aunty and Uncle also lived in the city. Stephan didn’t know them that well but his older brother used to see them all the time when he was as old as Stephan. It had been nine years since he had caught up with them, but his older brother was convinced that living close to them would be beneficial for when he had to go away and work. It was arranged that Stephan would stay with them until his older brother could find somewhere else more suitable to live.
Stephan was happy at least that he had his older brother to look after him, but he was also dampened by the thought of leaving a town he had lived in for all ten years of his life.
“Yes Rosella. Sorry Rosella,” Stephan mumbled as took his caretakers hand and trudged miserably through the rain back to her house that overlooked the town. He would be returned to his lonely room with the window that gave him a clear view of his skeletal house in the valley below. There he would sit and dwell on the events that changed his life. One question would always blanket his thoughts as he lay awake at night.
‘If only I hadn’t left the fireplace going that night, maybe my family would still be alive.’