My Half-Brother Stole A Car.

drove it drunk to pitsmoor, missed a bend and bent a lamp-post, ran to my half-sister's bleeding and never got pinched.

my father calls him little bugger, puts a triangle of pints down on the table, goes back to the bar.

my half-sister shakes her head. smiles. says tell him the rest of it, ste, tell him why you stole it.

my half-brother drinks. grins. says it belonged to that twat. moved in a week after she'd chucked me out. so i wrote his mondeo off ... ha.

my half-sister tuts: that's not all of it she says: tell him, tell him what you did before that.

my father puts two bottles of grolsch in front of me says got you two cos we're on pints yeah?

go on, my half-sister says: tell him the rest of it. tell him what you did to the house.

my half-brother grins. lights a fag. says she deserved it ... the slag ... then tells me this:

i went round to see her. to see her and my kid and sort things out. but they weren't in so i went for a beer. waited. and later when i tried again still no-one answered. so i went round the back. got in by the dicky kitchen window to leave a note. and when i got in some twat's workboots were by the backdoor. car keys by the stereo. trousers on the fuckarse clotheshorse. so i took a shit on her bed. used it to write bitch on the wall. pissed in her knicker drawer. took a bread-knife to her clothes. went to the kid's room turned the cot upside down. pulled the arms off a teddy. stamped on a doll's house. all of which i'd paid for in the first fuckin place.

and my father laughs. says little bugger. drinks. my half-sister shaking her head saying:

oh steee. you and your temper.

DEAN LILLEYMAN.

Hit and Run.

The Spanish sun, harsh and fierce like a blowtorch, is gone from the sky now. Rhea looks up and sees too many stars to count. Black warmth. She's alone again.

The slow hover of lights from a passing aeroplane flick in the darkness. She watches it move between the stars. The only sound is the scrape of chairs and clatter of cutlery in the restaurants behind her, and the sea in front.

Her hand is still warm where Stephen held it when they left the restaurant just now, only five minutes ago, whispering a joke about doing a runner without paying as they nudged past the checked tablecloths. He was feeling better tonight. The diareze had kicked in big time, and he'd gone completely the other way. Rhea had done her best to ignore him. She didn't have a clue how to react to being faced with his intimate bodily functions. And she was fine. An iron constitution, Stephen said.

*

The roads here in Malaga are different. Everywhere is black now. Across the street a row of bars have lights. There's a strobe from the hillside above where a nightclub wakes and breathes fire into the air, but down here there's just the sound of the sea. They had to get to it. It makes your eyes work harder. You need to see the waves. In some ways, you need to know the water isn't too close, that there's still sand, that the surf won't hit you if you stand beside the noise.

Stephen left the money on the checked tablecloth at the restaurant as they were leaving, a tip too. Funny, Rhea wouldn't have had him down as the kind of guy who left tips unless he had to, but he'd freed a sprawl of change onto the plastic table covering like he was letting a bird go.

She'd smiled at him. Maybe he wasn't so bad after all. And he took her hand in return for the smile.

*

The other noises start now. Rhea is standing halfway across the road. To her left traffic lights blink, a vertebrae of cars flexing like the pull of reins on a horse's head. She hears a scream. Knows it's her own voice. The thump of a car hitting a body and the skid of tires, the shriek of breaks and roar of revs all mixed together. Which came first, the scream or the hit?

She can still hear the waves loud out in the ocean and knows she's walked forward to the other side of the road where the wall and rocks shelter the sea, but someone is talking close now, trying to block out the sound of water that's like wind

'You'll be ok.' someone's saying. 'I'm a nurse.'

She's English, and the sound of her voice is ludicrously comforting. But Rhea still feels like she's lying. Stephen isn't going to be ok, is he?

The nurse turns around from where she's crouching and gives Rhea a look. Stephen's asking if he's going to lose his legs because one is bending the wrong way. There's blood, and Rhea can see clean bone sticking out of the leg that's sickeningly bent, like a chicken wing pulled from a carcass. Crack. Like a party popper.

'What happened?' someone says.

Rhea is just staring at Stephen.

The ambulance is here.

*

Stephen left bits of money like food scraps on the checked tablecloth at the restaurant twenty minutes ago. He paid up front at the bar when he got their drinks. No, he wasn't drunk. She doesn't think so.

The policeman is staring at Rhea while she speaks, his tiny office, no bigger than a cloakroom, smells of an old un-aired school. And fear.

He spells the words out in the air. Pigeon English although he can speak it perfectly well. 'HIT. AND. RUN. So many on that road.' He holds his palms up in the air in a gesture of helplessness. 'Everyday.' he says. 'More and more accidents. More and more people like you in my office who don't even know the boy's birthday.'

So she's been caught out, but the policeman doesn't seem to care. He sighs, looking down at the form again. 'My advice?' he says. 'Go home. Forget all about it. We won't catch the man who did this. We never do. Stolen car. Stolen passport. My guess, stolen life. Go to your friend in the hospital and tell him the truth.'

*

She stands in the room where Stephen lays in traction, his leg having been manipulated back into position, his bones growing to meet each other at the break. His body healing itself. She will leave him here. Hardly knows him. Can't administer medicine, fetch water, wipe his chin free of dribbles and wean him from the painkillers. She can't even touch him now.

'I'm sorry.' she says. 'Wish I could tell you how long it will take before you feel any better.'

Then Rhea turns away. The sound of Spanish radio in the next room. The smell of tomato sauce curling down the corridor. She forms more words in her head.

It was fun while it lasted. I'm not ready for anything heavy. You're a really nice guy.

But what she wants to tell him is that loneliness breeds loneliness and the pain never goes away. It just dulls to an untouchable ache.

SAM PRIESTLEY.