The floor in the back bedroom was scattered with stones and glass.
“Kids,” said Sophie, stepping round the pieces to the window. “To be expected, I suppose, it’s been empty so long. We’ll have to get this boarded up.”
The room was barely furnished, just a single bed, tightly made up with blankets, and a large, old-fashioned wardrobe in dark wood. A damp smell of rotting leaves seeped in through the broken panes.
“Beautiful view of the garden,” said Sophie. “The boys would just love a swing like that. That one’s lethal, though. Look how frayed that rope is.”
Mark came up beside her, rubbing hard at the white scar on his right palm.
“Careful, darling. Watch where you’re putting your feet with that glass.” Sophie ran a fingernail along the frame. “These windows will need replacing anyway.” She turned her attention back inside. “It’s a good size. Whose room was this?”
“My brother’s,” said Mark. Under the old oak, the swing swayed slightly, back and forth, as if someone had just this moment jumped away.
“There’s that box room next door. I wonder if we could knock through.” Sophie’s voice faded as she walked back onto the landing. “Make a lovely big room, then, perhaps an en-suite.”
The heavy curtains didn’t stir but through the broken window a cold breeze touched Mark’s cheek. He started at the sharp rap of knuckles, Sophie tapping hard against the thin partition. Jagged rips in the wallpaper fluttered, where posters had been torn down. The wind was getting up, flattening the treetops to white, agitating the swing. He felt his brother’s hands hard on his back, pushing him higher and higher until he begged to be let off; the same hands forcing him down on his face.
“You know, there’s a lot we could do with this place. Heaps of potential.” Sophie came back in, flopping onto the bed with a bounce. “Can’t think why you’ve never mentioned it.” Mark winced at the high-pitched squeaking of the springs. His palm stung. He had rubbed the weal red.
“Hang on.” Sophie leaned up on one elbow. “What do you mean, not Jamie’s? You’ve only got one brother.”
Mark bent, picked up a piece of broken brick. Fragments of glass dotted his hand with blood but he didn’t feel the spike. Nor did he hear Sophie cry out as he twisted towards the window and hurled chunk after chunk through each remaining pane, the shards flying out into the garden like a flock of birds beaten up for the guns.
Sharon Telfer won the Bath Flash Fiction Award and the Hysteria Flash Fiction competition in 2016. In 2017, she has stories out or forthcoming in Sleep is a Beautiful Colour (National Flash Fiction Day anthology), Stories for Homes, Spelk and Reflex Fiction. She lives in Yorkshire, UK. When she’s not writing fiction, she’s wrangling complex social research into clear, concise prose.