Josephine is stuffing her suitcase with a random selection of clothing, without thought or planning, just hoping that there’ll be something that’s right for each occasion. The only item she is careful to select and fold, placing underneath the rest of the jumble, is her plain, black dress. She dreads the unexpected flight back across the Atlantic, and as she thinks about what she’ll be doing there, she feels as if she’s being sucked into quicksand. Nowhere to go but down.
She got the call from her older brother the day before. And his news shook her, making her tremble like an aspen tree for the rest of the day. She couldn’t focus on anything, nothing in her life seemed important any more. Pangs of guilt surged through her. She should have stayed in England with her two brothers, rather than come to Canada to study.
Despite the turmoil in her head, she managed to get a flight, for sooner than expected. But her living brother said he couldn’t put her up, so she had to find somewhere to stay, and rent a car so she could get there from the airport. There’d be no-one to meet her.
Scrunching up her favourite sweater and thrusting it into the corner of her suitcase, she contemplates her younger brother and the musical legacy Blair leaves behind. If you listen to her older brother Geoff, Blair chose to live below his potential. Giving yourself up to music is not something Geoff is capable of understanding, and Josephine knows that Blair’s lifestyle filled him with disdain. There isn’t a lyrical bone in her older brother’s body.
But the irony is that, Blair, after several years of dedication and creativity, made it into the big leagues. And, much to Geoff’s chagrin, he made a lot of money. Geoff, meanwhile, was struggling as a pharmacist, ending up working in a supermarket. He resented Blair’s success and openly displayed his anger at life, for its unfairness, for rewarding art instead of hard work. At least that’s how Josephine believes he saw it.
Josephine chucks a toothbrush into her washbag, remembering the earlier phone call from Geoff. He’d told her that Blair was on drugs and was in bad shape, and that he’d found out that Blair had an appointment to see a psychiatrist. Josephine wondered why the phrase ‘blood is thicker than water’ had no relevance to Geoff’s feelings towards Blair. In fact, his feelings were more vitriolic towards his brother than to anyone else that Josephine is aware of.
What Geoff told her didn’t make sense, so Josephine texted Blair. And he phoned her right away, denying any involvement with drugs. He dismissed Geoff’s accusations by making a couple of jokes about his brother, suggesting that Geoff must be the one smoking something. Blair sounded upbeat and enthusiastic about the record he was about to release, and told her about the video he was making. He was also going to make a debut appearance at a theatre in London the following week.
She followed up with Geoff, who told her that Blair’s condition was obviously serious and that he could be suicidal. Those who are determined to commit suicide talk about the future, he said, and share their concocted plans, to make sure that no-one is alerted. But Josephine thought this was ridiculous mumbo-jumbo, and attributed it to Geoff’s wishful thinking and the ongoing poisonous jealously which was eating away at him.
But two days later Geoff phoned her to say that Blair had, indeed, committed suicide just as he’d predicted. An overdose of something. This was to be expected, of course, blah, blah, blah. Josephine was shaking too much to take it all in. Something was terribly wrong with this picture. So Josephine is packing frantically, not just because she has a funeral to attend, but because she wants to find out how Geoff managed to poison her little brother.
And, yes, I'm working on the sequel to "What Happened to Frank?"!