A Bad Decade for Good People: First page

If the policeman’s baton had found Laurie half an inch lower she would be blind in one eye. Instead it left her with a long, crescent-shaped scar which she wore like a medal, never hiding it and never knowing how it made my stomach flip. Every time I saw it I had to shake off the memory of her blood running down over her eyelids and onto her jacket, and afterwards the stitching and the gooey rivets it left behind and the halo of yellow bruising that hung around the socket for weeks.

Her scar was all I could see while she pleaded with me by the side of the road, until we were lit in the headlights of Dad’s car and then running, slipping, gripping each other’s clothes in the ditch. I remember the sound of Dad’s voice carrying over the hum of the engine, the faint warmth coming through Laurie’s jacket as she held me, the smell of mud and silage. The hills opposite looked like the silhouette of a man sleeping on his side, cut against the stars – the kind of thing you notice at midnight in the countryside, with someone who makes you feel as though things could be better. That and the raw feeling that your failure isn’t yet total but just another blip in time, waiting to pass.

We tried not to laugh aloud as Dad stumbled back into his car, slammed the door, sped away. After that Laurie was earnest again and pleading for me to pack it in at the pub and come away with her to Brighton, where she’d found the perfect place for us to carve something out, her words. Where Helena was waiting whose name she couldn’t mention without smiling, even if I was still unsure.

‘I just want to make it right,’ I said, but she didn’t recognise my guilt, never could.

She just pointed the torch up to her chin and pulled a face which forced me to laugh. The stars above her head disappeared and I saw the long, moon-shaped line of damage illuminated above her eye. Half an inch lower, that eye would be blind, I thought. Then she’d be someone else and I’d be someone else. Though she’d always be my sister.