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i've got a feeling this year's for me and you

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their father's a dangerous man, their mother even more so. maybe he has his cronies and his guns but he's mostly intimidation -- knocks people around a little sometimes, they've both seen enough to know that -- but mother inspires fear by her very presence, could make the hardest ganglands thug wish he'd never been born. persuasive, too. could talk her way out of a prison cell -- hell, she really did, once, if the stories are true.

but this is beside the point. when you've just broken with everything you ever knew, lost all the protection you never even realised you had (made a run for it with nothing but a backpack full of laundered 20-euro notes and your sister's hand in yours) -- your mind does tend to race and race. going over and over things once and again like odysseus pretending to be away with the fairies, ploughing the sand on the beach, trying to look mad so that they wouldn't hold him to his promises. (see, little elly knows her stuff, she's a clever girl, she reads her books and thinks too much about them and not enough about what's going on around her. she surely wouldn't tell anybody what she heard, she probably doesn't even realise what it means --)

so their father is dangerous and their mother is dangerous and their brother is. well. neither a help nor a hindrance. neither up nor down. neither genie's boy nor elly's, more father's than mother's but you wouldn't bet on him either way. i told him what i knew and that was stupid. that was my mistake. i asked if i should tell our sister and he said i shouldn't, so of course i did.

it took a while to track her down, but eventually i got a message: take some money and nothing else. get on this train. say nothing to anyone. ever since our father's business nearly killed her and she left us i had known that one day i'd have to choose between my sister and my family. in the end it was as easy as breathing and as hard as slipping past my brother's bedroom door without waking him to say goodbye. 

if things had been different, maybe i would've had to slip past my sister's door to meet up with my brother, instead. vice versa. 

if things had been different, she might have been dead.

genie takes her purse out of her pocket and fills it with a few of the notes from my backpack. a photograph falls out of one of the slots where her credit-cards would be, if she had any: it's the whole family together, halloween, maybe five years ago. i'm done up in grey zombie facepaint and fake blood but i mostly look cute, chubby-cheeked, still young. genie's beside me in a little black dress and even at seventeen she looks every inch the bond girl, plastic gun tucked into a lacy garter, eyes that could draw you close enough for her to stab you inconspicuously in the stomach.

when i go to hand the picture back to her, she just makes a face, so i tear us out of it, two little girls playing at secrets and death, and throw the rest out of the window as the train streaks onwards through the night.