A laugh like birdsong among the trees.
‘April, is that you?’
He thinks he sees her, a bright flutter of flowery fabric out of the corner of his eye, vanishing into the undergrowth. Further along the path, the scuff of a shoe in the leaf litter.
Not a human path, but a narrow fox’s path in the woods. The breeze twisting up a few dry leaves. Is that her again — a fleeting impression of golden hair — or only sunlight on wet foliage?
April lost in the woods, or is it himself lost in the woods without her, following a mirage.
Giving up, he sits down on the rotting trunk of a fallen tree. A laugh like birdsong mocks him.
Midnight under a full moon, the dust in the gutters, the crisp packets and discarded receipts flying up into the air on a hidden breeze, swirling together to give the impression of a person — a hand — two feet skimming along the pavement — the swish of long hair. April again. He does not run after her, knowing he will never catch up.
Midday under a bright sun in the High Street. He looks into a shop window and sees her reflected in the glass, standing behind him, peeping out from behind his back. When he turns to look, she is no longer there. A thin column of grit spirals into the hot air.
April, always there, never there.
He’s sleeping and she ruffles his hair, waking him. He’s cooking and she knocks all the wooden spoons into the sink, turns the cold tap on full and drenches him. He knows it’s her, making trouble as she always did.
He waits for her to pinch him, like she used to, hard and with a twist, a little torture for her other self. But she does not do that.
She has lain at St. Jude’s Hospice for almost a decade, inert but still breathing. In and out, day after day, uselessly breathing, too alive to die, not alive enough to live.
‘I didn’t let go,’ he says again. ‘You were too heavy, I was too weak. My fingers gave way.’
No-one had ever blamed him for what happened. She danced on that wall of her own accord. He tried to hold on to her when she slipped, and the fall was not so far, but she landed badly and her skull cracked.
He looks at the shrivelled woman lying on the bed and knows she is not the same person as the girl who is behind him now, making the air shiver with her presence. Not his twin sister who had been with him his whole life. He knows what she wants.
This time he uncurls his fingers deliberately and lets her go.
She exhales, a long breeze. He feels a pinch on his arm, and a twist. He waits for the automatic in-breath, but it does not come. Everything is quiet.
Alone now for the first time. He cries.