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Authors: Rachel Mackie

After Nothing

BOOK: After Nothing
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After Nothing by Rachel Mackie

© 2016 Rachel Mackie

All rights reserved

For permissions contact: [email protected]

First Edition

ISBN: 978-0-473-34386-6



This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.


Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.









Dedicated to the memory of D.M. Mackie



I can’t remember exactly when I stopped feeling. I know it was before my sister died because the last few weeks, when it was known that this was finally it, I just wished it would hurry up and happen. I wasn't sad about it; I was just over it all. Then when I saw her dead, I felt nothing. My mother was hysterical and I didn’t go to her. My father stood a long time at the foot of the hospital bed. He had tears running down his face, but I didn’t go to him either. I just stayed standing by the door and then did nothing when my mom turned on my dad and screamed at him about why he even cared that Lisa was dead, when Lisa wasn’t his daughter. That was how I found out Lisa was my half-sister.

I don’t think Lisa ever knew, and after I found out I didn’t ask my mom who Lisa’s real dad was. I’m not sure if I didn’t want to know, or if it was more that I just didn’t care. It seemed pointless either way. What was I going to do with that information? Track him down and say, ‘You’re my sister's dad, and, oh yeah, by the way she’s dead’?

What if he wanted to know about her? Wanted me to tell him about her? What would I have said then? That Lisa was pretty much faceless? That she barely existed when she was alive? That when I thought of her back then I didn’t think of what I’d lost but of what she didn’t take with her? Because you see, it wasn’t really the space in the world that Lisa occupied that did the damage. It was what went on around that space. What it was that happened to me, and my mom, and my dad as we moved around her.

As far as I was concerned I didn’t really see how Lisa’s biological dad figured anyway. I remember this one photo of my dad holding her as a baby. She’s young enough that she’s not even walking yet. He’s got his hands around her, supporting her weight as she stands on his knees. There is drool on her chin, and she’s smiling toward the camera, her big brown baby eyes wide and full of light. I guess it’s my mom taking the photo, and Lisa’s smiling at her. My dad is looking at Lisa, and you can just tell by his expression how much he loves her. I don’t even know how long he’d been her dad for in that photo. Weeks? Months? All I know is that Mom did not look pregnant in her wedding photos, but neither was there a single baby in any of the same photos. I know because I used to pour over them as a child, studying the faces of people I’d never met. My parents were married in London, which is where my Dad was from. They never lived there though, and Dad only went back when his parents died. He moved his whole life here to be with my mom, and she was a total bitch to him.

When he had his first stroke, six months after Lisa died, it was like she opted out on any relationship with him at all. Those first few days in hospital, when Dad couldn’t talk, and would scribble on paper trying to communicate, Mom just sat there saying nothing. Then when the first word I managed to decipher in his scribbles was her name, she left the hospital and didn’t come back for the rest of the day.

Dad came back pretty good from that stroke, but then he had a second more serious one. The recovery was longer, and the left side of him was partially and permanently paralyzed. When he came home I had to search pretty hard to find my old dad in this new shuffling, mumbling one. He was still there; you just had to spend a lot of time with him to see his old self come through. My mom wasn’t interested in spending any time with him. The stairs were too hard for him now, but she could have moved downstairs with him. Instead, what had been Dad’s office became his bedroom, while she still slept upstairs in their old room. She would cook dinner for him but didn’t make him his other meals. The other thing was that she cleaned the entire house, even his bedroom, but she wouldn’t clean the downstairs bathroom. It stunk. The toilet seat always had dribbles of his urine on it, as did the floor. I cleaned it every day – tried every disinfectant I could find – but that smell became ingrained in the linoleum, and there wasn’t anything that could get it out.

The state of the downstairs bathroom wasn’t even close to the worst thing about our house though. Even before Lisa died, there was this darkness in our house. Like in the formal living room that was no longer used. Even if you turned on all the lights in that room, it’d still be dark around the edges. I guess, maybe, it was just where the lights were placed – but it always seemed like more than that. Even in the kitchen the light didn’t reach into all the corners. During the day it was the same. Shadows and darkness with just small patches of sunlight.

You see, almost as far back as I can remember, Lisa was dying and Mom and Dad were either not talking or yelling at each other. Then when Lisa was dead and Dad didn’t even have a yell left in him, and Mom just continued to be someone I couldn’t get near, well then the whole house became darkness. All shut-up-looking during the day, as though the people who lived there had moved away, and unwelcoming at night, even to me. If I came home at nighttime the porch light wasn’t ever turned on for me.

When you don’t feel anything, you’re nothing, and everything around you is nothing. You can look in the mirror and say that you look ugly, or you look good, and you can think it, but you can’t feel what you’re thinking. It’s the same when you see something that you know is beautiful: you do know it, but the beauty doesn’t touch you. It was like that with my sister’s death. When I knew my sister was dead, I knew it was tragic, her dying so young and all, but the grief and the sadness didn’t get inside me.

I moved through each day after Lisa’s death like I was wading through a thick swamp; no sudden waves, no peaks and troughs, just the flat heaviness that is left when there are no emotions to pull you this way and that way through the day.

That was me through my sister’s death, and the years after. But what I really want to tell you about is when I started feeling again, and how it happened.

I’m Natalie Kempe and I was twelve when my sister died but fifteen when all my messed-up-ness started to come out. Maybe I knew the way I was going about things wasn't normal at the time, but I didn't care. If it occurred to me to do something – it didn't matter what it was – I’d just do it.

This thing came into my head, and I know it was because of the not feeling anything for so long. You see I knew other people felt things, had emotions and reactions, and I guess subconsciously I wanted to find a way to get back there, and that’s the place where the idea came from. It was kind of like the vine that grew up one wall of our garage. It started out a tiny creeping plant and then one day I realized almost the whole garage was covered in this bright green, leafy thing. That’s what happened to me. One day it was small, the next I was covered in wanting to do this.

My sister was sixteen when she had sex for the first and only time. A year older than I was. Not that it was about her age versus my age; it was just that I was fifteen when that vine grew all over me.

I never talked to anyone about it. Not that I would have, but I didn’t have any friends anyway, so it didn’t occur to me. I was a girl who didn’t feel anything, but I sure made others feel something: that they needed to stay the hell away from me. I guess if someone speaks to you and you don’t care what they say, or who they are or what’s expected of you in return, and you let it show, you will quickly find yourself without friends, and probably, not unfairly, you’ll earn a reputation for hostility.

Even before Lisa died I never really got the playing-with-friends-and-doing-the-normal-kid thing. Maybe it was because I lived in a house where my sister was fading into nothing, and no friends were visiting, or trying to cheer her up. No one was inviting her to go to the mall or to see a movie or even just calling in with some stupid gossip. In the six years she spent dying no one of Lisa’s age ever came by to see her, so she didn’t exactly set a precedent in the value of friends.

I remember as a kid going to all the birthday parties you get invited to just because you’re a classmate. I never wanted to go to them, but Mom always made me. I hated them. The monotonous party games, the girls either whispering, fake-screaming or fake-laughing while the boys spent most of the time running circuits between the food and the rough boys-only games they were playing in the backyard. The only thing I liked about the parties was the birthday cake. Not eating it, but looking at it; what it was supposed to be, what it was made from. My birthday cake was always a bought pound cake with no decorations. By comparison, I thought other kids’ birthday cakes were works of art.

At one party, while staring at a turreted castle cake covered in sweets, candles and pink frosting, I heard a woman say to one of the other mothers that I was a ‘strange little girl’. She had hair dyed a burnt orange color, which clashed loudly with the plastic red hoop earrings she was wearing. She also had a loud voice, but even if she’d whispered I still would have heard her, as I was only standing on the other side of the table the cake was resting on. Why do adults assume that just because kids are young, they don’t have ears? I mean, I was six. I heard her, I understood what she said, and for the first time I realized how others saw me. I went and hid in the birthday girl’s bedroom and cried. All these years later I can still call up that moment – of being hurt, and alone, and knowing I was something I didn’t want to be.


Kane Anderson.

Out of everything I’m telling you, Kane is the most important.


I started by wearing black eyeliner and a short skirt. It was a lot of black eyeliner, and a really short skirt.


Kane was a year ahead at school, and he’d never noticed me. There were nearly three thousand students at our school, so I guess that explained why, except that I’d noticed him. Even before I was interested in him I’d noticed him. I’d walk by him all the time. Me, alone but surrounded by students in the hall while moving between classes. Him, leaning against his locker, always looking like he and the guys gathered around him were talking about something they shouldn’t be. Not something small, like copying each other’s homework; more like what houses they were going to break into that night.

I’m sure I chose Kane the moment the vine started to grow. It was obvious, really. He was one of those guys whose name everyone at school knew. I didn’t exactly pay attention to gossip, but even I vaguely knew he was someone no one ever wanted to mess with. It was also known that he never had girlfriends but that he’d had plenty of girls. That’s what made him exactly what I needed.

Black eyeliner, a short skirt, and then prolonged eye contact. I read about the eye contact in a
. Not my usual reading, but I needed some help. This was my first time trying to get a guy’s attention. The black eyeliner was my idea though. It just seemed like it would be Kane's sort of thing – and then the skirt was obvious. I have good legs, and I might have been without any form of experience but I’m not ignorant when it comes to what guys like. Chances were, if he saw them, Kane would like my legs.

I was counting on the fact that he’d like my face too. I guess growing up being called a ‘strange little girl’ wasn’t the only thing I heard about myself. Dad always told me I was beautiful, but Mom never did, and that fact seemed to cancel out any other comments from people in shops, or at church. I’m not saying I didn’t know what I looked like, it just didn’t have an impact. Like I said, when you feel nothing you can recognize that you might be as beautiful as everyone says you are, but that doesn’t mean you feel it. When it came to this though, I was grateful for my looks because it wasn’t like my inability to flirt was going to win Kane over.

The very first time that I tried to get Kane’s attention, it worked. I just looked straight at him as I walked toward him down the hall, and he glanced at me. He looked away; I didn’t. Then he looked at me again, and this time didn’t look away. His usual group of boys was all around him, talking to him, talking to each other, but his eyes stayed looking straight into mine. I passed him, but I didn’t look back. It felt like he was still watching me.

Later that same day I passed his locker again. He and another guy I recognized from my year were exchanging money with a handshake. He noticed me. I know he noticed because his eyes narrowed the moment he saw me. When I passed him I glanced back, and even though he was still talking to the guy from my year he was looking at me, and our eyes locked.

I just had a feeling. I didn’t go into my class, further down the hall. I walked straight past it, past the administrative offices and out the main doors of the school. I’d just left the school grounds when he caught me up.

‘Where are you going?’ he said, falling into step beside me. I could feel him looking at me, and I glanced up at him.

I wasn’t expecting his height, or the actual physical presence of his body close beside me. I wasn’t expecting the deep, searching look in his eyes.

I quickly glanced away, as though there was something of great interest over in the school parking lot.

‘So, you don’t talk?’ he said.

‘I can talk.’

‘Good, ’cause back there it looked like you had something to say to me.’

He was right. I stopped walking and faced him.

‘I was wondering what it would feel like to have sex with you.’

I didn’t even know those were the words I was going to say. They just seemed to come out.

Kane raised an eyebrow, nearly laughed, stopped himself and said, ‘What’s your name, girl?’

BOOK: After Nothing
4.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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