Step By Step
Jodie Sok, Grade 11
Her smile, her smell, her presence, everything about her can still be felt inside the cold, empty, lifeless house. A gold framed picture–consisting of the two children, the woman, and a man they no longer remember–stands lonesome on a dark brown console table.
The creak of the wooden floor boards wakes the house. Step by step. The scratching of the dried autumn wood branches against the window pane heightens the fear of the children. Followed by a small gasp alerting the tranquillity of the night.
"You must be quiet", Sebastian angrily urges his sister. They creep towards the end of the hallway just above the old marble stone staircase. He halts and anxiously holds onto his sister's arm behind him. All clear. The slap of their feet against the cold steps lightly echo throughout their mammoth of a house as they cautiously descend the stairs. Step by step. A bit too loud.
"Shoosh Agatha". He peers around the corner into their father's study. His fists closed. Knuckles turning white. A scowl painted across his face like a bull. Frustrated murmurs escape from whoever is on the other line of the phone.
"But the deadline is tomorrow!" shouts a raspy voice of a man. It startles the siblings and continues to ring through their ears as if they weren't already shaking enough.
He urges his sister to make the move while they can by ushering her in front of him towards the massive wooden front door. Without taking another glance, the pair leave the prison as the door clicks close behind them.
Giggles fill the suburban lamp lit street, brother and sister, side by side, chasing the unknown. As they stop to catch their breath at their destination, a chill sweeps over the open area of grey mossy tombstones lined up one after another.
Goosebumps grow on the bare arms of the children. A loud gulp breaks the silence. Sebastian fights the darkness by pulling a torch out of the pocket to illuminate their surroundings.
Step by step, Agatha reads aloud, "Scott, no… Smith, no… Stewart!" Sheer joy breaks out amongst them as they oogle the tombstone, Diane Stewart, 1983 - 2018, which has not been seen since her funeral in May.
After eight agonising months without her, the children embrace each other on the damp cold grass; grateful that they have been given a chance to escape their distressed home to seek her company. The night ticks by, filled with the stories of primary school, sport and their adventures. Months of torment have finally led to a relieving moment.
"Come on, Agatha. We must go", Sebastian breaks the moment and helps his sister to her wobbly feet. A tear escapes her left eye and streams down her face as her small hand waves at the tombstone. She takes off first but he stops and whispers one final goodbye to their mother which disappears into the wind. Grabbing Agatha's hand they comfort each other all the way home. Step by step.