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Short Story: Luke Finds His Voice

jaxx sullivan

2 Jul 2023

Short Story

Luke and Nicole were standing at the top of their mum and dad’s perfectly polished wooden staircase, the soft, thick cream carpet cascading neatly down the centre. Luke was standing against the smooth cream wall on one side and Nicole was holding onto the oak handrail.


"You ask this time.” Nicole desperately wanted her brother to take the lead for once.


"No please, you. They always listen to you, you’re the baby.” He always pulled this trick, and Nicole always responded by folding her arms, sighing and shaking her head. She didn’t really mind being the one to do the talking because she knew her brother was the quiet one but this idea was all him.


“Why don’t we both ask at the same time?” she suggested, “I’ll squeeze your hand and then we speak. Yes?”


Luke slowly nodded his head pretending to agree, “okay. I can do that.”


"Shake on it?”


"Shake. Let’s go.”


They hopped down the stairs, and peeked their heads around the door from the hallway into the kitchen. Their mum and dad were in the garden enjoying the sunshine.


"What are you two doing? And what have we told you about jumping down those stairs?” Their dad shouted across the kitchen at them, his voice crashing into Luke’s tummy.


Nicole squeezed his hand. They never liked it when he shouted, even though it was his default and they ought to be used to it.


"Sorry dad.” They said in unison, inadvertently rehearsing their united front.


As usual their mum didn’t flinch as she sat with a glass of wine in one hand and her mobile phone in the other.


"What do you want now? Haven’t you got movies to watch or games to play or friends to message?”


Their hearts were pounding as Luke felt his hand being squeezed.


"Well…we were wondering if we could get pet rabbits? One each? They can't live on their own. A bit like us!” Luke tried to add some humour to the request. He couldn’t believe his sister hadn’t said a word. She squeezed his hand again.


"Rabbits?” Their dad looked at mum, “where would you keep them? Aren’t they disgusting little things that just sit around, poo and chew things?”


"No dad. Well they do poop a lot, but they do it in a litter tray.” Luke was on roll.


"They’re very clever.” Nicole backed him.


"A lady from a local rescue visited our school last week and showed us photos of some of the rabbits she’s looking after. They’re so cute dad, mum. She told us all about them and how to look after them. Her rescue is full with lots of unwanted bunnies that people have given up on, neglected or dumped. It’s really sad.”


Luke was picking up the baton like never before. He wanted the rabbits more than Nicole did. He’d got so upset when he was listening to the story of two rabbits that were dumped in a park near where they lived that he had to run to the toilet to hide his tears. Nicole thought it was a wonderful idea but she also knew it wouldn’t be easy convincing their mum and dad.


"Sad? They’re just rabbits son. No need to cry about it.”


Luke lowered his head looking at his feet, wiggling his toes. He was thirteen, yet he often felt like he was three again.


"He’s not a baby dad. Don’t speak to him like that.” Nicole morphed into a protective human shield, defending her brother as she always did.


"Oh you did cry didn’t you?!” Their dad started laughing, putting his wine glass down on the garden table, "still a big cry baby eh son!” He playfully punched Luke’s arm and ruffled his hair.


Luke was beginning to feel angry. His stomach was churning and his cheeks were turning red. But he couldn’t speak.


"Colin stop making fun of him”, their mum finally spoke, "you can have rabbits as long as you look after them. Don’t expect us to help you. If you get rabbits they’re your responsibility. Is that clear?”


"Yes. Thanks mum. But we will need to buy things for them. Hideaways, litter boxes, toys they can chew, and hay and other stuff.”


"Fine. You two make a list of what you need and we’ll go and get it. But I’m not cleaning or feeding them. So don’t ask. Your responsibility. Remember.”


Dad looked over at mum, "you always give in don’t you? They’re so spoiled, always getting what they want.” His voice was raised again.


Luke and Nicole turned around and ran back up the stairs to seek refuge from the argument they knew was about to erupt. 


Six months later….


"Luke we can’t give them back to the rescue. We can’t. I won’t let you. They’re just settling in. Please don’t say anything, I promise you will get used to it. You can’t let mum and dad know you’re feeling like this. It will get easier I promise. Mila didn’t mean to chew your wire. He’s just being a rabbit. Look at them. They need you. They need us. Remember what the lady from the rescue said about giving it time and making them part of our family...forever?”


Luke had been struggling with the new arrivals since they collected them six months ago.


"When you think about it, it was really your fault for leaving the wire where you did.” Nicole and Luke were sat on the edge of Luke’s bed. She nudged her brother playfully hoping he would say something.


He looked at his sister, and sighed, "I’m so angry about the wire – I can’t play my games. I know I shouldn’t have left it where I did. I know I shouldn’t have shouted at Mila. I feel so guilty. He looked so scared of me,” Luke started to get upset. “Why did I want pet rabbits again?!” He laughed through his pain.


They sat in silence, Luke thought about what Nicole had said to him. She was always so good at staying calm and he knew she was right even though he was still annoyed.


"You’re right. I know you’re right. I do love them. I just didn’t know it would be such a big adjustment to my life - feeding them, cleaning, and spending time with them. I didn’t think about them being dependent on us for, well, everything.” Luke turned to look at his sister, "why do you find this so easy? But I don’t? You’re always so…calm.”


"Ok. First, I’m glad you feel guilty, it shows you have a heart so that’s something. Second, I don’t know why. You’re just more…” Nicole tried to think of the right phrase, “…more…I don’t know.” Nicole shrugged her shoulders unable to make sense of it.


"You have better coping skills Nicole.”


Luke and Nicole looked at each other confusingly, "that wasn’t your voice,” they said in unison.


"It was me. Down here. It’s Mila. Hello. I don’t blame you for shouting at me for chewing your thing. But like Nicole said, don’t leave anything in my way that I might want to chew. Especially when it tastes awful and gives me an upset tummy!” Mila wiggled his nose, and sat up on his hind legs looking around the room, “we love it here though, it’s much nicer than our old home.”


Luke and Nicole couldn’t believe what they were hearing and seeing, “is this a dream? Am I dreaming. Hit me Nicole. Wake me up!”


"It’s not a dream Luke! Mila? Are…you…talking?”


"Yes I am.”


"I’m here too!” A little voice appeared from one of the hideaways as Sisi hopped into the conversation.


Luke and Nicole were almost sliding off of the bed onto the floor in disbelief.


"I was really scared when you shouted. I don’t like loud noises. So maybe you could learn not to shout when we do something you don’t like? We don’t mean to upset you. Bunny things is what we do.” Sisi started licking her ears and feet.


"I’m sorry for shouting. I really am. I was…I was upset and now I need to ask mum and dad to buy a new charger and I’m scared they’ll shout at me.” Luke ‘s eyes widened, as he turned to look at Nicole, "that’s why I got upset! It wasn’t about my charger at all was it? I was scared.”


"Well it was a bit about your charger” Nicole said wryly, "but you might be onto something. I’ll ask them for you if you want?” 


“Thanks sis. But I’m going to fix this by myself. I don’t care if they shout at me. I’ll offer to pay them back. I could sell some of my things or clean some cars on the street.”


"Maybe you should talk to them about why they always shout at you but not your sister?” Mila had jumped onto the bed and was sitting on Luke’s lap, “we’ve heard it with our own ears and it happened in our last home too.”


Sisi was on the bed sitting beside Nicole, "what you were saying about Nicole coping better with us, well, we think because your mum and dad shout at you all the time, you were already more nervous about things going wrong with us. You’re always on edge about what will happen if you mess up. Nicole copes better because she’s always been allowed to make mistakes.”


"That makes a lot of sense. Who knew you cute little balls of fluff were so clever!” Luke kissed Milo and Sisi on their heads, “Ok. I’m going to speak to them now. Don’t go anywhere!”


Luke walked down the carpet on the perfectly polished wooden staircase, and wandered into the living area where his mum and dad were both reading. Why do they never do anything fun anymore? Luke thought before he began to speak.


"Mum, dad, I need to tell you something and I’ve noticed you always shout at me when I do something you think is wrong, even when it’s an honest mistake or an accident, or isn’t what you want or expect. So I’d like it if you could listen to me and speak to me about it instead of shouting at me.” Luke’s heart was pounding, his stomach was doing somersaults, and his hands were sweating. He stood still wondering how he could be feeling so nervous about having a conversation with his own mum and dad.


His mum and dad closed their books, now staring at their son, absorbing his words as they looked at each other and back to him, as if muted by an invisible remote control.


"Mila chewed my games console wire. I accidentally left it on the floor and it’s ruined. Please don’t shout at me or blame Mila. She’s just a rabbit doing rabbit things. And, I guess I’m just me - I do silly things sometimes. I'm not perfect. I can pay you back every penny.”


They sat in silence unable to find the right words to say to their son, their mute button still pressed.

Guilt and shame coursed through his dad’s veins, as he looked over at Luke’s mum, her son’s words squeezed her heart. They stood up and walked over to him, “we’ll get you whatever you need Luke. I’m so sorry you felt like you couldn’t talk to us. I never want you to feel like that,” his mum reassured him.


His dad put his hands on Luke’s shoulders, "I’m sorry for shouting at you son. I never realised I was doing it. I promise I’ll never do it again.” His dad gave him the biggest hug he’d ever given.


"Maybe you were scared too dad.”

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