What I did say was that Morag and I had been to the village hall to watch the film they always showed on a Saturday. It was an old one called The Pianist.
What I didn’t say was that we missed the beginning but Morag had seen it before in Glasgow so she was able to fill me in, although her whispering had induced shushing from the Robertsons sat behind us.
What I did say was that we had been friends with the McGill family from the first day they had moved into the cottage. While we had been sad when the old lady had died, she had become something of a responsibility to Mother who would cook stews and soups for her and ask my brother and I to check up on her after school.
What I didn’t say was that when Mother baked biscuits and cakes for our elderly neighbour, we would stop by in the copse and gorge on at least half of the warm, soft sweetness of her baking before calling at the cottage. To this day, that wooded area smells to me of pine needles and burnt sugar, damp wood and cinnamon. And blood.
What I did say was that it had been a relief to Mother when the son and his family moved in and a joy to Jack and I that there were two children of similar ages. Hamish at seventeen was two years older than my brother and twice his size. A tall, strong young man with a full beard already and thick muscles set to burst out of his plaid shirts. Morag was my age, pretty with rosy cheeks and dark curly hair that sat on her head like a hat. She was sometimes impatient with me when I could only walk slowly and was unable to climb trees or scramble up the muddy slopes.
What I still say is that we take for granted the beauty of the Scottish island, being nonchalant at the daily sightings of red deer on the hillside and seals basking on the rugged shoreline, of the vast space spread out before us to explore.
What I didn’t say was that Morag hated her brother who used to ridicule her and take more than his share of the food and even push her out of the way, muttering that she was always under his feet.
What I did say was that I didn’t know Hamish very well as when he wasn’t working on the land, he was fishing in the stream with my brother or taking the boat to the mainland to get supplies.
What I didn’t say was that he was always nearby, just watching and that he smelt of damp hay and peat and that when he was too close you could taste his breath of whisky, firewood and sardines. And that he was strong enough to pin a calf down by himself for its inoculation.
What I did say was that we were friendly with the family.
What I didn’t say was that all families have their problems.
What I did say was that I had been born with cerebral palsy but that I could walk slowly and my arms were a little weak but that most people could understand my speech even though it can sometimes become slurred, especially when I am tired.
I didn’t say as slurred as Hamish on a Saturday night or sometimes a Saturday afternoon. I didn’t say that I was better off than others with cerebral palsy. I didn’t need to say that I wasn’t strong enough to take on a mouse let alone a six foot tall crofter’s son.
What I did say was that I was sorry he was found dead in the copse and that my thoughts were with his parents.
What I didn’t say was that I wasn’t sorry.
What I did say was that we had enjoyed the film and didn’t know he had been found until we got home and were told by our parents.
What I had never ever said was yes.
What I did say was no, no, no.
What I did say about what he had done was to Morag who believed me.
What I also said to Morag was that one disabled girl could not get revenge against one strong crofter’s son.
What Morag said was that two girls stood a fighting chance against one drunk brother, whatever his size.
What I didn’t say was that we had missed the first half of The Pianist. What none of the villagers said was that we had missed the first half of The Pianist.
What we both confirmed was that at the very beginning of the film, a woman lands on a beach and never utters one word. Not one. Whereas most of us choose the words we say and don’t say. It’s better that way.
by Clare Shaw
Clare Shaw has had plays performed in venues such as New Wimbledon Theatre, the Cockpit and The Pleasance but she is now into short stories. She has had stories published in anthologies by Patrician Press and Arachne Press. She was the winner of Frinton Literary Festival 2021 short story competition and was the ASL Essex Author’s choice winner 2021. She is currently working on a novel.