People have asked me if I’d do it again: if I was in the same place at the same time, if I’d do it again. Every time, my answer changes. I have no clue whether what I did was something that could have been prevented if I’d had a hold on myself, on my emotions. But the truth is we’ll never know. And I’m not sure I care if I know or not.
I’d watched my fiancée get killed in front of me, the swords and daggers slicing into him as I did all I could: hid. He called out, he screamed, he whimpered, he wept, and I just stood, hiding behind the thickest tree trunk I could find. Yes, tears fell, and yes, I loved him, but I didn’t do anything. I couldn’t do anything as he called out my name. To this day, I don’t know if he was called for aid or if he was telling me to run.
I did neither. Instead, I waited, feet shuffling only a little in the undergrowth with my hand gripped on my own weapons at my hips. The screams and whimpers eventually died out and were drowned out by the yells of the native tribe in Portuguese. “Levem-no para a casa. Agora. Procurem a mulher. Temos de nos livrar dela também.” (Take him to the house. Now. Find the woman. We need to get rid of her, too.) I knew the language, it was easy to translate it, and my fingers tightened around the gun in its holster, wondering if I’d be better of with the sword. Gun attracted attention, but gave me the advantage of distance, and I started calculating the best way to both get away and take as many people out with me.
I heard voices over my shoulder, muttering something in Portuguese I couldn’t make out, but they sounded grumpy. I didn’t care, and leaning around the tree I swiftly aimed and squeezed the trigger, my anguish and rage pouring from the trigger finger to the gun and finally through bullet and into the mens chests.
The gunshots were loud, attracted attention. But that was part of the plan, and I feel myself charge, but it’s more like looking on from above: I’m someone else, watching the curves and brunette hair that I call my own dance to the rhythm of the gunshots and the cries. I didn’t let out a single noise, though, efficiently making my way through the crowd that undulated in number, more, then less, all falling to the ground, and then more coming to their aid, only to get shot down themselves.
I stepped over the bodies and suddenly I was in myself again, hair over my face, blocking my vision, and I yank it out of the way, eyes darting around the small area, bodies around me. There must have been at least ten, all groaning in agony, their pain tinged with their accents, the language not English. I disregarded them, continuing to the house that the tribe leader had mentioned, looking for Jude.
It was a few moments after I saw him that it registered that the body belonged to my fiance. His face was bruised and bloodied, his limbs separated from his torso and all I could do was stare. There was movement behind me, I’d missed someone in the gun spree. Bringing my arm up, I elbowed them in the throat without turning around and hearing them sink to the ground, I stepped towards Jude, my hand, so vicious and violent before, now soothing and caring.
His eyes were still open. Reaching over, I gently closed his eyes. Part of me wanted to speak his name, to get some reaction from him. But the calm, logical part of my brain knew it was pointless, so instead, I shrugged my coat off, gathered the torn limbs and arranged them around his body before covering him. Looking back, I realised the whole process was done with dry eyes. I still don’t know what that means.
And without a tear, a word or acknowledgment of anyone’s existence, I strode from the house and away. There was no-one left. I had killed them all.
Some people ask me if I’d do it again. Today my answer would be “no”. Tomorrow my answer will be no. But three years ago, my answer might have been yes.
The photo fell from the box as she lifted it and it went unnoticed until her return. Box unpacked, contents sprawled over the room now called her bedroom, she knelt down, finding the shot of the tall regal building draped in ivy.
But that was not where she was looking. Eyes focusing on the open door, she saw a foot. Attached to a body, although the body was out of shot. It was Pyotr’s foot, the foot of her favourite younger brother, and she knew this from the memory now playing out in her head as if not a day had gone by.
“Dimka, get down from there!” A woman’s soft voice called out, stern yet caring as she encouraged her son down from the tress as Laetitia stood by, watching, laughing with Olenka. A sudden jab in Olenka’s side made her howl before turning to find the perpetrator.
“Pyotr.” Laetitia’s twin sister’s voice was a growl, and the only warning the younger brother had before Olenka was onto him.
Out of the front garden, into the house, Laetitia watched her siblings scrabble good-naturedly before returning her attention to her mother and to Dimka.
“I’m stuck, Mama!”
“Of course you’re stuck, Dimka, you climbed a tree with no easy way to get back down!” Monika laughed at her son.
“Don’t laugh at him, Mama, you know how he gets.” Laetitia stepped under the tree, looking up at her brother. “Come on little Dimka, I’ll catch you.” She watched him hesitate, only for a moment, before leaping into his oldest sister’s arms. “See, Mama, he’s down now!” She cradled her brother in her arms, turning to grin at her mother.
“I can see that, Rina.” Monika’s attention flicked from the laundry she was hanging up to her oldest and youngest child, smiling. “Now take him in to get him cleaned up, supper soon.”
Laetitia bobbed her head in a nod as a response, her feather-light dark hair waving around her as she did so, catching Dimka’s face, causing him to chuckle. “That tickles, Lae!”
She laughed, shaking her head with a lot more movement than before, letting her hair fall into his face. “Come on, little Dimka, supper time.” And she rocked him up before placing him on his feet and taking his hand. “Come on, I’ll race ya’.”
It was a challenge he readily accepted, and within a half-second, Laetitia felt like her arm had been pulled from her socket as he zoomed ahead. “Come on, come on, come ooooon!” He sang as he noticed that his sister was lagging behind, and Laetitia giggled and hurried up to catch up to him.
Screaming laughter could be heard from the living room and Laetitia, leaning down and kissing Dimka’s hair murmured that she’d be back in a moment, and that he should go wash up for supper before half-walking, half-jogging into the living room, pulling Pyotr off Olenka before seeing her father in the armchair in the corner of the room, arm perching over the edge and clutching a camera.
“Tati, no!” Laetitia put her hands over her face as she heard the clicks and saw the repeated flash, and Dimitri let out a deep chuckle.
“But you’re so pretty, Rina! I can’t help it!”
That dragged Olenka away from Pyotr. “Tati, I’m pretty, too!”
“Of course you are, Olenka! That’s why I was taking the pictures in the first place.” Olenka blushed and ran up to her father, pulling him to her and hugging him. Flattery gets you everywhere, apparently, and Laetitia was surprised when Pyotr fell onto her legs.
“Rina, I’m hungry.” He was whining. He wanted attention, he wanted food, he wanted sleep. Laetitia knew the signs in her little brother well enough.
“Come on then, Pyotr, it’s time to wash up for supper anyway.” And so, in a heartbeat, he was out of the room and at the sink, scrubbing at his face and hands.
“Am I clean yet, Rina, am I, am I, am I?”
“Yes, Little One,” she chuckled. “Sparkling.”
The look of happiness on his face brought a grin to her own, and she turned to make her way into the kitchen-slash-dining room. It smelt magnificent: her mother’s cooking always did. She breathed in heavily, the room around her filled with the smells of sauerkraut, knedle and of beef and dumpling stew, the different aromas all mingling around each other. In theory, the sweet plum of the knedle should have conflicted with the savoury smells coming from the beef and dumplings, but they complimented each other perfectly, and the apple sauerkraut filled her and made her feel like home.
An impatient cry from the table alerted her to Dimka’s impatience and she stopped daydreaming and pulled the oven gloves from the side, carefully sliding the stew off the hob and laying it on the table. Pulling the lid of with a flourish, she heard Olenka call out. “Mama i Tati! Supper time!”
“Yes, yes, darling, I’m on my way.” Monika walked into the house from the garden, laundry basket cradled in her hip and she set it down. “Dimitri!”
“Monischu, I’m on my way, these old bones aren’t up to what they used to be!” Monika rolled her eyes at her husband’s words, but dug the serving spoon into the stew and started to ladle it out onto her the plates set at her children’s places, four sets of hungry eyes, all similar shades of blue-grey, staring up at her.
Laetitia heard a car backfire in the London streets, pulling her out of her reminiscing. She placed the photo on the bed, pulling herself up and looking around the room, the room that lacked personality, lacked comfort, lacked her family. Swiftly wiping a tear away, she pulled those negative thoughts from her mind, grabbing the photo and finding a blob of blu-tac, sticking it up straight away on the side of her bedside table.
She was in London now, not Novosibirsk. She was in London now, and the house she now lived in would, one day, become home. Until then, the memories would have to be enough. They’d have to teach her how to make London her home now.
Sherlock Holmes had never thought;
‘Nd of chocolate eggs he’d never sought.
So when John came home that day,
Sherlock Holmes knew not what to say.
A kinder in John’s palm,
Sherlock tried to keep calm.
He was successful until he saw the toy,
“It’s a plane!” He cried out in joy.