They pulled into her drive. James thought about the front steps. Not many first dates start with looking into your date’s dark eyes while her mother and father struggle to lift you and your wheelchair into the house. There would also be narrow doors and tight corners asking her, ‘Are you sure about this? There are other boys, undamaged, who could fall in love with you.’

He sat, embarrassed, as she pulled his wheelchair out of the boot. Clunk. She was slotting a wheel into place. Clunk. He wanted to go home.

‘We’ll go through the back garden,’ she said.

Behind the house, there was a long wooden ramp. James was relieved as he was confused. Inside, the air held the promise of Sunday roast.

‘This is my brother Elia’s room.’ She knocked.

‘Sara!’

The man in the hospital bed had eyes made of the same dark polished stone. They sparked to life seeing his sister. A cabinet-sized dialysis machine of tubes and buttons, a 1970s vision of the future, sat beside the bed.

‘Sara!’

‘Elias! This is James.’

Elias’s tremoring arms pulled him closer. James hugged the shirtless man, felt the thin flesh stretched across sharp scapula, the knotted rope of vertebrae and ribs. The feverous heat. A heavy skull rested on James’s shoulder. James fought a flood of emotion, unsure of the meaning.

‘Can I get you anything?’ Sara asked.

Elias pointed to a small radio.

In the dining room, her mother and father were setting up a table. From Elias’s room came a screech. James looked at Sara, afraid something was wrong. 

They were all smiling: Mother, Father and Sara.

‘He’s singing with the radio.’ Their ears pointed toward the off-key warbling in the other room. All smiling, Nothing was wrong. Nothing was wrong at all.

 

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