It was after two in the morning when Cole crept into the cramped shipping container where his sister lay sleeping. He was getting used to these night raids; it was the only time it felt safe to steal food for Lauren. It had been easy to learn the guard’s routine off by heart, so that he could slip into the kitchen undetected. There were only five minutes to gather enough food for the next day before the guard returned. Cole never took very much—it was better to be hungry than to be caught.
Lauren stirred in her sleep and settled back down. She looked so peaceful tonight. Not like him. His thoughts were going round in circles. If only he could work out what to do next. His eyelids sure were heavy, but he so did not want to go to sleep. He’d have the dream again. The same dream he’d had every night since they’d moved into the container…
“Cole, where are you?” It was his Dad. He was almost under the branch that Cole was hiding on. One more step and he’d be in the perfect spot…
Cole let go of the branch and fell onto his dad They both fell over and went rolling down the bank. They laughed and groaned as they lay on their backs at the bottom of the incline.
“Want to race to the house? First one there can sneak Mum’s not-so-secret, secret ice cream stash.”
And with that, his dad took off, but Cole always passed him at the last moment, no matter how far behind he started. Pretty good for a five-year-old.
Or maybe that was only true because it was a dream. His eyes flickered open. Container walls. His eyelids were so heavy. He was sinking again… Mum was out the back, hanging up more washing. His baby sister was coming soon. Mum sure looked big. Hopefully his sister wasn’t an elephant!
He slunk into the kitchen, grabbed the ice-cream and two spoons, and ran out to meet Dad behind the garage. They were only up to their third mouthful when Mum caught them.
“I thought as much,” she said. “You guys are hopeless thieves. You left the freezer door open and the frozen peas on the floor.” She took out a spoon from behind her back and tried to perch on the saw bench. She was way too big! Dad jumped up and handed her the ice-cream. The sun was shining, they were laughing and joking. Happy. They were happy.
A dark cloud appeared and smothered them all. He wanted to wake up, but the cloud was too thick. He couldn’t move. Now there were bright lights, bright hospital lights shining on men in green overalls with masks on their faces and frozen peas falling out of their ears. They loomed over his dad who got smaller and smaller as he rocked himself backwards and forwards chanting: “She can’t be dead. She can’t be dead. She can’t be dead. She can’t be dead.”
Someone was shaking him—his eyes flew open: it was Lauren. “It’s a dream, Cole. It’s a dream. It’s not real,” she said.
If only it was a dream and not real.
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