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If you believe you know the world in absolute truths, life will prove you wrong till you're down on your knees. Forget the mud, forget the stones cutting into your flesh, forget the feeling that the rug has been yanked under your feet.

You know nothing until you're standing over the person you love, unable to do anything to quench their excruciating pain and delirium. Until your fragile mortality stares back at you, and you degenerate into that wretched, helpless state from before you left your mother's womb. The universe will make you realise that you are nothing, over and over again, in fragmented seconds strung together into an endless loop.

Yuri Karamov had broken two ribs, punctured a lung, and dislocated his shoulder all before the weekend of his thirteenth birthday.

I wasn't myself. I was in a perpetual state of shock. At first, I had been a blubbering mess, asking—no, demanding—to be taken in the same ambulance as him. Tugging on my father's trousers like a child, begging from a place of deep despair. I couldn't get the sight of him out of my mind. His agonised screams rung in my ears long after he had passed out. Nature had been our only witness, and when the quietness fell after he'd been carried off on a stretcher, I felt nature's omnipresence suffocating me. The trees' gnarly branches looked ready to seize me and hold me accountable for the lies I had told my father and Mr Benofs in the aftermath.

When I was denied even a hospital visit, when (by some miracle or other) I had made it home without losing my mind, I shattered. I drew into myself. My tears stopped dripping like a leaking faucet and it felt like my whole body withdrew from within me. My snivelling stopped. I was both in myself, but simultaneously looking at myself through an opaque, hazy, mirage.

Only I knew what had truly happened at the Tree. I, therefore, thought that the reason my household was shielding me was that they didn't know. The reason they still loved me and still cared for me was that they didn't know what I had done. I saw it as my duty to the pain that had been etched with naturalistic perfection on Yuri's face to punish myself. Since nobody else knew better to do it themselves.

I was disgusted with myself. I was torn.

Had I really pushed him? Yuri? My best friend. The person I loved equal, if not more than, my own mother? And for what? A kiss. He had only been jesting. He had been angry. Why had I done that?

Time felt elusive. Mjinska had gotten me out of my clothes and into my pyjamas, courtesy of my father's orders. There was no warmth in her motions, just a mechanical force that was driven by sufficiency. She cleaned out the scratch wounds on my arms and legs with a damp cloth. She then darkened the room and told me to try to find some sleep. I might have fallen asleep, I don't recall. I came into myself with a startle. I was back in my room, aware. A second after-wave of shock hit me when I remembered Yuri's face as he was falling. The whole thing played out behind my eyelids like a montage.

My pillow was damp with tears. When had I cried? I couldn't recall. Had I ever stopped?

When I got up and found my way to the kitchen, it was lit and I couldn't tell if it was morning or evening. Petra and Mjinska were engaged in a hushed conversation in Brommin; their backs extended to me. Neither was surprised to find me standing, small and drawn into myself, at the doorframe.

Petra beckoned me inside and wrapped me into her warm embrace. She smelt of baking yeast and spices. I told her that I needed to see Yuri. I couldn't stop my voice from breaking up. The act of stringing words together into cohesive sentences was a laborious task, one that made my head throb. Petra regarded me with compassion. She told me to give it some time, to let Yuri's parents take care of him before we visited. She pulled me tighter into her large bosom and ran a loving hand through my hair. I started crying into her apron. Wracking sobs, that once they were out felt like they would never retreat into the place they had gushed forth from. A dam had broken inside me.

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