by Palantean Writer
Tanant Rakat T’heer sighed, rested her elbows on her knees and ran her hands over her face. As they passed over her eyes – which she’d had to close for the gesture – she opened them, and looked at her intimidated-looking brother again.
“Just… Please, try to tell me Moo. Why do you still want to be friends with him?”
He looked away from her, the way he looked away from everybody at the first sign of conflict. She’d done everything she could to make the conversation as comfortable for him as possible. They sat in the privacy (and safety, he surely also felt) of his room, just the two of them. She had shown him that she was glad to be back with him, back in the role of big sister, with subtle shows of authority and care.
There was nothing more she could think of to do to make him open up more.
Eventually he said in a very small voice, “I… don’t know how to explain it any better Tanna. I j-just do.”
“After what I saw him doing to you?” Tanna asked plaintively.
Moo flinched, and she did the best she could to further rein in her already restrained emotions. “He’s abusive,” she continued, moderating her tone as best she could. “He’s known all over the station to be dangerous. How can you want to be around somebody like that? I don’t understand, Moo. Please – you must tell me.”
Had things really gotten so much worse for Moo? When Tanna had left, she’d left behind a younger brother who was terrified of the world around him, but at least he’d had the sense to be afraid of anything genuinely dangerous and to retreat. But now he’d taken up with Sar’ Helm and seemed to be ignoring the very obvious dangers.
Why? How had it happened? What had prompted the change?
Moo’s voice cracked and he started to cry. “I don’t know!” he said angrily, all the more angrily for the fact that – she knew – he felt utterly overwhelmed and only stood his ground because he felt the alternative to arguing with her was even worse. He clenched his fists and jaw, although the effect was only to make him sound strangled. The clenched fists failed to make him look threatening, only impotently tense.
“You don’t understand, we get on really well together.”
“That’s not getting along,” she said, her own voice softening for fear of her brother’s lack of common-sense. “Rape isn’t getting along. It’s abuse.”
But Moo had started to cradle himself in his arms. His ears had dropped and he refused to meet her eye. He’d retreated, and as much as she feared for her little brother, she knew he’d gone into what she thought of as his Fortress, the place in his mind he retreated to when he couldn’t cope with the challenges life threw at him.
It was so rare that he shut himself in against her. But now that he did, she knew she had no chance of retrieving him.
She offered him a hug, which he accepted, but they said nothing more and went to the canteen together without sharing any more words. She saw Moo look several times at Helm, who sat at another table with a group of extroverted friends and laughed and joked with the loudest of them. There was a sadness in Moo’s eyes and it made her feel helpless.