Our family had expectations. People like us married people like us. Love—there’d be time for that. My sisters and I would honour our name with acceptance of the decisions made for us. The lives we glimpsed on TV and in books would not be ours. We would tolerate each sacrifice. As bodies already, so our souls would be given up. Through this our parents would retain their standing.

Robert knew nothing of these customs. His eyes were soft, always looking to the distance. When he talked he took his time. For him the world was constantly interesting and there was always more to learn. Nothing mattered unless he’d decided for himself there was a reason why it should.

On my birthday he gave me a watercolour of an arching clump of wild roses in a field.

I propped it against the books on my dressing table. It was the last thing I looked at before I turned out my light, and the first I saw next morning.

My father’s car was in the driveway when I came in from school. I ran to my room, heavy with dread. Robert’s picture lay in torn pieces on the floor.

As I gathered the paper I heard my mother’s voice, commanding and emotionless, from the kitchen. ‘Daughter, come.’

2011—Richard Holt / small stories about love (smallstoriesaboutlove.wordpress.com)