Puzzle Pieces - Chapter 1

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I’ll be honest. I’m not exactly sure how I got to this point in my life. It wasn’t a matter of one hero of a person saving me, it wasn’t as though some great tragedy struck sense into me and it certainly wasn’t my family binding together against all odds to overcome the hardships. No, it was nothing like that. I didn’t just wake up one morning to find that everything was going to be ok, that I was going to be ok. It took me years to finally realise everything was going to be ok. Realise… Realise insinuates suddenness and it certainly wasn’t sudden. Perhaps I should say ‘come to the conclusion’. Yes. It took me years to come to the conclusion that everything was going to be ok. Three years, actually.

This story, my story in a way, begins three years ago. I was fourteen. Ignorant and naive. That’s what my parents used to say about me, anyway. They held the assumption that I was too young to really grasp, understand or feel anything with depth. They’d be happy now then, I guess, that I grew up so quickly and that it took no more than one regular Friday night for me to feel and understand things with depth.

One regular Friday night. My mother and father, Elizabeth and James, had gone out to dinner. It had been my mother’s birthday on Thursday and having work early the next day, they decided to post-pone their traditional birthday dinner until Friday evening. So, it was Friday evening and they’d left for their dinner. My brother and I were left home alone. My brother, Sean, was seventeen at the time and as he did on every occasion that our parents weren’t home, he invited some friends around for a few drinks. I stayed in my room as I always did when Sean and his friends had one of their ‘gatherings’. Sean frightened me when he was drunk. It’s not that he was aggressive, it’s just that he was different. Apart from the glass of wine my parents would allow me on Christmas and my birthday (since I had turned eleven), I’d never touched a drop alcohol, so I didn’t understand it’s affect on the body, on the mind. So, while my parents were out and while Sean and his mates drank their cares away down stairs, I hid in my room reading books and scribbling pictures on spare pieces of paper.

My parents, despite being out half the night, would usually come to my bedroom to find me awake. At which point, they’d usually tuck me in and wish me a good night. Then, they’d usually return downstairs to scold my brother from drinking while they were out. However, tonight was different. My parents never came up to my room and I never heard them downstairs scolding Sean. So, I put myself so sleep, assuming they’d simply been too tired to bother. When I woke up, the house was still. Usually my father would be in the kitchen, reading the paper, waiting for his toast to pop. Mother would be in the lounge, watching the morning news, eating her muesli. Sean would be sleeping off his hangover. However, father was not in the kitchen, there was no toast in the toaster. Mother was not in the lounge. Sean wasn’t in his bed with a bucket full of yesterday’s meals. The house was empty. I thought maybe they’d gone to get breakfast from some fancy café in the city or that my parents had finally taken Sean to an adoption centre to adopt him out. So, I sat waiting in the kitchen for their return. By noon, nothing had changed. No one had returned and I was still waiting in the kitchen. Finally, there came a knock at the door. I leapt up to answer it. Cops. They spoke softly, monotonous.

“Jessica Cooper, right?”

I nodded gently, unsure as to what they wanted.

“Listen Jessica, Elizabeth and James Cooper are your parents, yeah? And Sean Cooper – he’s your brother?” The man addressing me had a thick Australian accent.

Again I simply nodded.

The officer knelt down, so he wasn’t towering over my any longer and looked directly into my eyes. “Jessica, you’re going to have to come with us to the hospital. You brother is in there, along with your Mum and Dad. They were in a car accident last night, Jessica. You need to come to the hospital.”

I nodded, and then let the officer lead me to his car. I took my seat in the back, buckled myself in and waited in silence as I was driven to the hospital.

When I arrived at the hospital I was ushered to a room, without a word being said to me. Sean was lying motionless in the hospital bed. He had bandages around his arm and wrist and multiple cuts and bruises on his face. I didn’t know what to say or do, so I simply stared at my brother. I look around for my parents, but found myself and Sean were the only people in the room. I took a seat on the edge of his bed and waited.

Eventually a young male nurse came into the room and took me over to the window. He sat himself down in a chair and gestured for me to sit in a chair he’d set opposite. I did so. He then proceeded to tell me what the hell was going on.

The evening had gone fine for my parents after they had left. They went to the restaurant and enjoyed their dinner. However, when they went to leave my father noticed the car had a flat tyre. They called Sean, to come pick them up. Of course, Sean was drunk by this stage. When he arrived to pick them up, my parents didn’t detect the smell of alcohol (Sean had clearly concealed it quite well) and Sean, for fear of getting into trouble, didn’t confess. So, my parents got in the car, for whatever reason leaving Sean to drive. It wasn’t the first time he’d driven under the influence and usually he can control himself enough not to be stupid. However, he had a lapse in control, in concentration. He ran a red light and an oncoming car hit the passenger side of Sean’s car. My father was sitting in the passenger seat, my mother was in the backseat behind my father. They both died instantly. Sean lived, with only a broken wrist and some minor cuts and bruises.

This is where my story truly begins.

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