I stared at Julian from across the dinner table. He was mad at me and made no attempt to hide it. The sound of his fork scraping against the white ceramic plate sent chills through my rib cage and down my spine. His dark brown eyes glared up at me every now and then. I found it extremely irritating really.
Julian was seventeen, only four years older than I. He was my cousin on my mothers side. Two years ago his family burned to death in a bush fire. The hazards of living in Australia I guess. I’ve heard stories about the heat and the dry grass; the mix of both making a deadly combination during the summer months. I often thought about how awful it would be to burn to death, like the witches in Salem we learn about in school. Or the martyrs in ancient times who felt melting under a pyre was worth their cause. I would much rather freeze to death like the old woman in the snow. At least your face would remain mostly intact.
He was mad at me because I told mum about the poorly hidden cigarettes. Smoking is a nasty habit and I’m not about to apologize for helping to extend his life. I probably could have spoken to him first but we’re not that close these days. It was different once. We use to be closer than real siblings. He would scruff my head and call me his little Pickle.
We’re practically strangers now and I blame the breasts. I don’t feel quite like a woman but I guess I’m starting to look like one. He doesn’t call me Pickle anymore and so I don’t call him Jules. I wish I could go back to the precise moment, the day it all changed. When I think back it becomes more and more clear that such a moment doesn’t exist. People change in subtle intervals; little moments of difference that can’t be identified. Like dust riding on waves of light, I just can’t catch the right speck. All these moments intertwine and there I am, simply grasping at the breeze with nothing to latch on to.
I suddenly felt a wave of guilt as I continued to watch him stare solemnly at his plate. Something stirred inside me, a feeling that was difficult to explain. The screeching of his fork intensified and soared through my ears at an unnatural volume. The world around me blurred into faint lines. Jules was the only object in focus. It was as though the world was moving in slow motion, everything shapeless and in this moment: insignificant. All that mattered was Jules and his face.
His face was not the face I knew.