The shock of seeing Eustace in the charity shop window almost rattled Miranda out of her skin. She’d never believed her parents’ insistence that they hadn’t got rid of him. But twenty years later there he was. Eustace as he’d looked at the edge of the sea, watching her father tip grandpa’s ashes into the waves. Watching her father’s tears as the arc of grey grit hit the water. Listening to tales of grandpa’s fishing days; how he’d taught generations of boys to swim and fish and sail; how he was the best of men. While her cousins watched bits of crushed bone drift away on the tide, Miranda watched the boy. His white curls haloed around his head like the seeds of a dandelion clock before they’re blown away by the wind. She asked him who he was. “Eustace,” he said.
The psychiatrist suggested art therapy as a way to unlock whatever had caused Miranda’s mutism. However, he added, as several of her cousins exhibited the same symptoms there was probably a genetic component.
While Miranda painted Eustace he told her he knew why all the girls in her family were mute. She didn’t go back to art therapy. Instead she talked to Eustace.
The psychiatrist reassured Miranda’s parents that imaginary companions were common in solitary children, and it was simply coincidence that the boy in Miranda’s painting resembled her grandpa’s brother who’d drowned as a child, and when Miranda started socialising with real children the imaginary one would disappear. He did. And so did the painting.
“Nice painting, eh?’ said the charity shop owner.
She nodded. “I’ll take it.”
She’d show her cousins. She’d tell them about Eustace. She’d tell them everything.
Sandra Arnold lives in New Zealand. She is a novelist, essayist, short story and flash-fiction writer with a PhD in Creative Writing from CQ University, Australia. Her work has been widely published and anthologised in New Zealand and internationally and has won several awards. Her flash fiction appears in numerous journals including The Airgonaut, Spelk, Jellyfish Review, Flash Frontier, Blue Fifth Review and was selected for the UK 2017 National Flash Fiction Day international anthology, Sleep is a beautiful colour. Learn more at http://authors.org.nz/author/sandraarnold.