• Vol. 05
  • Chapter 10
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Sweets on Neptune

“That person’s face,” Lily says, her little voice like sugar. Quiet. Not shy, but unassuming. That is how she is.

“What about it?” I ask, though I’ve seen this bit of graffiti many a time. I walk this road at least twice a day; I’m sure I know it as well as my flat. I’m curious, however, to see what my baby sister will think of this particular painting, one that never fails to disturb me.

“It’s like a lollipop. ”

Oh. That’s a way of looking at it that I never thought of. I guess it is indeed like a lollipop, all red and white swirls.

“When I was little,” I say, “I had a book with a picture of a girl holding a lollipop like that. I wanted one.”

“When you were little was a looong time ago,” Lily giggles.

I shrug. It’s true. I forget how old I’m getting. The years between eighteen and twenty-one – now – feel so fluid. Sometimes I still think of myself as nineteen, before I remember. I suppose that’s uni. Or adulthood. Freedom. At school, each year felt defined and separate. Now, time is a mysterious, moving world I can do whatever I like in.

But at times like these I remember that while I’m doing what I like, I’m getting ever older. Sometimes I envy my sister her routine, the classes she moans about. At least she has a place to be and a task to do.

Is it possible to be too free? Surely not.

But maybe I should take up some more responsibilities.

She tugs at my cuff. “Rose, can we go to the sweet factory sometime?”


Sweets on Neptune

“Sure,” I say, though I’m far from sure. The sweet factory, with its intense, sticky smell of sugar, its pear drops and cinder toffee, the wildflowers growing outside – that was my childhood. The thought of it still being there, of my sister being there, is weird. Like time repeating itself in an alternative universe.

“I liked it last time.”

“You’ve been?”

“Yeah, two years ago.”

Wow. I have no idea what’s going on in her life anymore. Universes are officially colliding now. I tell her this.

“Well, I like us being in the same universe. Even if you’re on Neptune and I’m on Mars.”

I’m choked-up but indignant. “Why do I get Neptune? It’s forever away, and cold.”

“Because you like blue.”

“Oh.” That is true.

“And I like Mars because it’s red and because it’s rocky so maybe people can live on it with me one day.”

“And you’re not already a person living on it?”

“I, Rose,” she says, looking deadpan at me, “am a star-phoenix. I can live anywhere.”

I rub her hair. “So you are. I never noticed the feathers before.”

She laughs, and we wander on, away from the person with the face I used to see as some terrible void. I now realise I was silly and it is, in fact, a lollipop.