He'd got drunk the night before and remembered little but his knuckles were stinging and there was blood on his singlet. He leaped out of bed and gave his rippling body a full inspection. Apart from a small split and bruise on his high cheekbone, he was unhurt. For the life of him he couldn't remember what he'd done. Honestly? He didn't want to remember what he had done.
There was a deception about Carl Stensil. His athletic body, fully-buffed body and rippling abs attracting more attention than his baby face. He's one of those 20 somethings whose Father stopped buying the individual school photo in the ubiquitous photo combo, due to it's lack of change over the past few years. Now his intellect didn't matter, it was all about the body. His Facebook page charged with selfie's, iPhone held at arms length as he carefully exposes his chiselled abs and pecs. The expression on his face, always the same; a slightly sideways closed-lipped grin. Well pleased he is with his appearance these days, and it's done his self-confidence no harm at all. These days, the sight of him earned respect even if the shit that came out of his mouth sometimes beggared belief. Whilst his intellect was little improved, his physique had definitely raised the bar.
It's easy to lose yourself in a playground of hundreds. Few noticed the shy boy retreating on the seat surrounding a massive Lilli Pilli tree, in the centre of the shimmering asphalt playground. He was able to keep to himself, remain anonymous and unnoticed. Even his lunch box held little that the other kids would be interested in. Wonderwhite vegemite sandwiches, a small apple and a plain muesli bar. Nothing worth fighting for, nothing worth stealing. He'd sit quietly, observing the others raucously charging around the playground, playing handball in the corner or pulling the girl's skirts, practising their drop-kicks on the oval or shooting a few hoops until the bell went off. He never skinned his knees, never lost the floppy hat (designed to keep the harsh sun's rays at bay). He was one of life's observers, not a participant. Some would call him a weakling, a milk-sop, a sissy or a mummy's boy. Indeed there was much truth in terms of his affection for his overbearing and over-doting mother.
His sad plight was made worse by the attractiveness and popularity of his sister. Leisl, was gorgeous. Six years older and already attending Ivanhoe High School. He'd wait for her at the end of the school day before they caught the bus home. He'd watch her prance towards him along the footpath, the perfect show pony, swathed with admirers and giggling girls who hung off her every word. Not that any of her words held substance. She too was a sandwich-short-of a picnic, a stick-short-of a bundle, when it came to common sense. But the makeup, glossy dark brown locks and the way she shook her head, chin held high, laughing and giggling, appeared to give her a 'presence' among her clique. Someone else always carried her bag until she reached her nerdy little brother, while girls gossiped about who was 'so hot right now' and bitched about 'that slag in Maths.' He didn't have a clue what they were talking about but knew by their intonation who they liked, and who they hated. Knew by the attention they payed her that she enjoyed a popularity he probably never would. He felt lucky that he wasn't on any of their hate lists.
" See ya in the morning hun," a pretty blonde smacks an air kiss on her best friend's cheek, "Oh my God! Don't forget to watch Countdown tonight, that hunk is on!"
Leisl, taller than the giver of the kiss, bends flirtatiously to receive what is clearly a well-rehearsed farewell and responds with an equally vacuous air kiss, "Backatcha Babe!" Then turns to her wimp of a kid brother, sat awkwardly on his school case, bored face in hands.
"C'mon champ, the bus will be here any mo.'"
She jokingly slaps his wrist and his little hand falls from his cheek with a jolt, knocking him off the upturned case. She does it every afternoon, you'd think he'd have learned by now. But in her case, any attention was good attention. He bends and picks up the small case and follows her meekly towards the Bus Stop.
His little face beams. She's the light of his life. His defender, security guard and probably the only thing on the planet that prevents the shit from being beaten out of him. He wants to have a girlfriend like her when he grows up. Just like her. Glossy black hair, plump pink lips, the broadest of white smiles, pert breasts and perfect complexion. Doesn't help that her shapely, tanned legs are on display thanks to a short, short uniform skirt that unbeknown to him has been artificially altered by hitching it up into a blouson above her belt. Of course, the skirt would be lowered the minute they walked to the garden gate at home and the gloss removed.
Life in Melbourne was, well, as good as it could be for Carl. He was happy in his anonymity and bathing in the sunshine of his older sister until everything went pear-shaped.
No sooner had both barged excitedly through the front door on that steamy, after-school Friday and the solemnity of the situation hit them. Their chatter and giggles stemmed immediately by the look on their father's face.
"Dad? What's up, why are you home so early," Leisl catches on, while Carl immediately thinks he's in trouble for something he hasn't even done.
"Need to talk to you two.."
The stern man turns slowly, deliberately before heading towards the dining room. They never went into the dining room, that was the province of adults, dinner parties and serious conversation.
The two children comply, struck dumb by the seriousness of their father's demeanour and sit obediently next to each other at the dining table. Wolf Stensl pulls up a chair, turns it the wrong way round and sits straddling it, his elbows resting on its back.
"I have some bad news..."
Their father steels himself, his eyes glassing up and small beads of sweat oozing like diamonds from his brow.
Immediately Carl begins to feel sick. There was no familiar smell of tea cake emanating from the kitchen. No warm hug from the mother he loved as he entered the house. No remnant of her Calvin Klein "Escape" wafting through the hallway. It's as if someone knows his secret fear and has taken advantage of what he holds close. As if someone understands the thing that terrifies him the most. But how could they? He never spoke of it.
"It's about your mother...."
Posted for River of Mnemosyne Challenge No. 5.
Continued in: The Fallen Beginning