(vii) april

54 9 6

          ISAAC ROBBIE BENNETT left six weeks earlier than hoped, and a lifetime earlier than anyone wanted.

Lena had been the one to tell her daughter early one morning that he'd died in the night. Slipped away like the quiet boy he often was. Ivy had to look up at her mother as she laid bleary-eyed in bed, and the woman looked down past thick tears and heartache that she could never deserve. "He's gone, love." And ever since those three words, Ivy felt nothing but nothing. Not a tinge of sorrow; not a shred of anger that the numbers had lied. Numbness at most.

She was taking a week off school, but she wasn't sure why. She wasn't the type to crumble into an emotional mess in the middle of an average day, especially not in public. She didn't feel as though her work would be affected; if anything, her absence from classes was what would jeopardise her grades. She wasn't even sure who made the decision for her to skip a week, but it was done, and here she was.

As expected, family members came to offer their condolences. From her father's side, they came from the south; from her mother's side, everywhere, mostly Japan. As Ivy saw them arrive in groups at their door, she found herself picturing vultures flocking to a carcass.

She figured her mind wasn't making any sense. Right now, nothing did.

Like her acute disinterest in anything inconsequential. Her phone lay on her bedside table with a black screen and a dead battery, gathering dust. The cello she played now and again stayed in its case. And amidst the nothingness, she had forgotten to feed Arthur. She'd spotted him belly-up in his tank, in the far corner of her room. It saddened her a little to know that he'd starved to death.

Ivy assumed Clara and Ben and the others knew why she wasn't in school. She would have messaged them, but by that point her phone was dead and she didn't have any pressing urge to charge it. She could've phoned some other way but wasn't particularly in the mood to hear their voices. She'd see them the following week anyway.

"You should at least let Aaron know, hon. Or give us his number if you'd rather we told him. Whatever you decide to do, don't leave it too late."

Her mother had said this yesterday, having clocked on to Ivy's abrupt cutting-off of communication with anyone outside the four walls of their house. The words merely echoed dimly in her skull, and Ivy wondered what constituted the definition of too late. When was it "too late"? The fact of the matter was that her brother was dead, and she didn't see that changing any time soon to be deemed "too late" to tell anyone.

Clara Clifton and Benjamin Yang appeared a little ways apart from the funeral attendees at the cemetery's edge, unannounced to Ivy. They approached her under a black umbrella, sheltering themselves from the continuous drizzle, and pulled her into refuge; into a harbouring embrace. For just a moment, their friend could breathe; she could draw in an unsteady gulp of air and close her eyes and let her insides convulse with the paradoxical sentiments that repulsed her to the point that she wanted to vomit them out.

But she pushed it down, opened her eyes, and the breath she inhaled she would not let out. She refused to allow this emotional nausea to consume her. Instead, she welcomed the feeling of self-stupefaction back with open, yearning arms, because who would choose to feel pain over the bliss of feeling nothing at all?

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a/n: a shorter chapter for this lil update! also got the start of a new short story collection up - Mixtape - w/ each one inspired by a different song. head on over if you'd like x

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