The next time he visited the old cinema, John accompanied Paul with the hope of seeing the melancholy spirit. Perhaps she would speak to them, in icy breath warm their hearts with the recollection of her yesteryears. John never doubted her reality, and yet she never came, ignoring their vigil of hope.
They left through a rotten, empty window frame, leaving the gothic wonderland for the grey reality of the street – the miracle unseen.
Paul wept, he had wanted John to share the experience so much, but John simply encircled his shoulders with strong, big brother arms.
It didn’t matter, he still believed and they would see her one day. He led Paul home, protecting, caring.
Yes, John always protected.
John the hero, the sportsman, the leader of the gang.
John, who at night, in the sanctity of their shared bedroom would help Paul search through books of the unexplained, attempting to reach beyond the silken veil, looking for the otherworld. Trying to regain wonderland.
Until the fateful day when John packed his travel bag, heading off to university.
And despite the fact that he abandoned him, Paul still loved him.
When, three years later, John returned, Paul expected their world to return to normal, but John did not return alone. He now lived in a flat with Julia, the lover he had met at university. Yet his door was always open, he was always there for his little brother.
It seemed strange now, however. John always had her sat, like a dark shadow haunting the background. Paul had begged his brother to come to church with him, as they had always done on a Sunday. Yet John explained that he had no need for the dogma of the church any longer. That he found the heavy fog of incense and the dirge of hymns repressive. He worshipped the One in his own way.
But Paul missed the unity they used to feel at mass.
Sometimes he wished…
He wished he understood.
© 1990 & 2006 Andrew M Boylan