• Vol. 05
  • Chapter 09
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It was hard to find a machine that would play the cassette. Hard, but not impossible. I return triumphant from the retro shop. Jess says she doesn't get it, and is impatient to get on.

Part of the reel was spat out long ago. Chewed, saved, but never wound up again. I poke a pencil through the cog and spin, until the tape draws taut. Faded letters possess loops of your silk-spun cursive, half shaped across the yellowed insert card.

Jess disagrees. We are twins in all but this.

'Could be anyone's writing,' she says. 'It's likely a blank tape. When did he treasure anything?'

I don't know why she imagines treasure: crammed in a cracked, plastic case, tucked in a mouldy trunk.

She refuses to call him "Dad", hasn't for years. At least, not since Mum died. Now he's assigned to the care home, and we'll escape from part of the burden of how he made us respond.

I feed it into the player and pause. Jess doesn't want to hear it, looks off. I press play. The cogs grind. No sound. No recording of anything. Nothing.

'Fast forward,' Jess insists. 'Stop!'

Play. Nothing. Fast forward. Stop. Play. Hissing, hissing, hissed.

'Press stop,' Jess says.



I want to listen until the end, but she won't hear it. She shrugs and stands. 'I said it was nothing, Kat. Now you're stuck with that ancient piece of crap.'

She leaves.

Fast forward. Stop. Play. Fast forward. Stop. Play. Something. Rewind. Play.

Dad's voice, sounded light, happy even. He said, Are you ready? Mum, in the background: giggled, laughed even. He hushed her, but it's different from how I remember. My DJ Prince of Mix, she said in a voice I barely recognise; one filled with the breath of a long, hot summer. "Gold" materialised with a click and a whine.

Hard to imagine how Jess'll react. Stop. Eject.

There are plenty more cassettes in the box and elsewhere; plenty to pack away.

Reel upon reel of music they created: the summer before we were born.