Fiction · Flash Fiction · How to be British · Language · Literature · love · mystery

Maths

Sunday, July 16, 2017. Daily Brit Wit.

Maths:

Plural noun

Mathematics.

*Welcome to the fourth installment of the Pasha series. Check out Do a runner if you haven't already!

"He loathes waiting. Any patience he had built up over some three-plus decades evaporates like a greenhouse effect; only, the spare energy heats up his blood pressure. Pasha's tired.

His parents are encouraging him to return to India with them. Since Zoya completed secondary, their parents have travelled between India and England half the year. Now, his mother proclaims England holds too many memories to return. She wants Pasha nearby, her only child now.

Pasha doesn't know what he wants.

He's cancelled his flight to Brussels for a maths conference, which had initially been the beginning of his sabbatical and to savour the hands-on time for research. For one, the trip came a day post to Sergeant Jameson's distressing phone conversation. And the Met still hasn't made an arrest.

He is so tired now. So Pasha nods off on the couch.

ᏪᏪᏪ

He should have noticed the signs. What if he hadn't left that morning? Would Katie have opened the door? What if Zoya decided to confine in him about having a baby; would he have stayed home and celebrated? Would they have been home when death came searching for his sisters? What if Pasha died then, too?

What if…what if…what if….

Pasha blinks up at the ceiling. He barely notices he's awake. It never occurs to him that he's turning into an insomniac. His chest swells without his prompting. His thoughts swirl without his okay; and Pasha's just along for the ride.

He ought to have been home to protect his baby sister. What kind of brother was he?

ᏪᏪᏪ

Pasha never wanted to be an only child.

It wasn't until after he was in uni that he discovered his mother had difficult pregnancies. She had five miscarriages, all within the first trimester; except the first one, which had been ten months after Pasha's birth. She had been fifteen weeks along then. That's why there was an eleven year gap between Pasha and Zoya.

He remembers the day Zoya came home. She had been so tiny, cocooned in pinks and whites. He hadn't known she was premature; hadn't known the trying delivery his mother underwent to bring him his favourite gift. All Pasha knew had been his joy. He had a sister and he vowed always to protect her.

His first failure came three years later when she hid in a garden half a mile from home because she couldn't find Pasha when he was away at school. There had been a storm that morning, Pasha recalls. Zoya had only inherited her fear of loud noises a week or so previously. She would sneak in to his room and huddle under the blankets at the foot of the bed until Pasha woke and tugged her up. She'd weasel between his chest and the wall, clutching a tattered teddy bear named Lolly, until she fell asleep. That day Zoya awoke during her nap, heard the storm, and snuck out unbeknownst to her mother.

Sure, he failed her several times more as she grew up. The time he promised to celebrate her moving up to secondary and forgot for a bad blind date. The time her heart was broken for the first time and Pasha could do nothing about it. For not protecting her from taunts at school. He's never failed her as awfully as when he went to work that Tuesday morning and came home to find her dead.

And now he's an only child again.

ᏪᏪᏪ

He specialised in maths at uni as a sort of joke. Of course, Pasha excelled in the subject. There wasn't really a subject he was bad at; that was Pasha's problem. The joke had been for Zoya, in the beginning stages of schooling, who had been convinced nobody could help her with homework because nobody understood it.

So Pasha joked, 'You're in luck, Zoya. Big brother is a maths genius. That's what I'm studying at Uni.'

Her lips smacked like popping bubblegum. 'Are you really?'

'Sure am,' he grinned and tugged gently on her slicked back hair. 'What's so difficult a maths genius can't solve it for his baby sister?'

Thus how he decided his undergraduate path. Zoya had been skeptical; so Pasha reasoned studying the subject would simply have to convince his kid sister he was capable. He wasn't a genius, per se, but Zoya hadn't needed to know that fact.

His master's and Ph.D. are in physics because Pasha loves how he can explain nature through his learned-genius speciality. He also secretly adored how Zoya had a slight lisp whenever she said physics.

His life's academic career isn't as inviting now that Zoya is gone, Pasha concludes.

Maybe he'll go back to school.

ᏪᏪᏪ

Three months later, in an abnormal streak of continuously heat-stroke-inducing weather, Pasha hears from Sergeant Jameson down at the Met again. He almost doesn't answer, so hot and used to not returning people's calls. He can't explain why he answers it. He doesn't even see the caller id.

'Hello?'

'Am I speaking with Pasha?'

He nods. 'Yes.'

'Pasha, it's Sergeant Jameson.'

And his breath stutters between his throat and lungs. 'What can I do for you, sir?' He pushes out, heaving his dead weight off the hotel sitting room floor. The wheezing he's doing is embarrassing and Pasha realises how poorly he's out of shape.

'I want to apologise for being unable to communicate with you more frequently,' the officer begins. Pasha is confused and fighting fatigue to stay lucid, but he doesn't speak. 'But I finally have news for you.'

'You do?' Pasha constructs the words with care.

'Yes. We made an arrest last night in the case of your sister and sister-in-law. We arrested Ekaterina's mother and brother for murder, and that neighbourhood kid Alexei for accessory and some other minor charges. You were right, Pasha, and so was your sister not to trust that family. They've been in England for some time. It's just a shame the father passed away a couple weeks ago or I'd have arrested him.'

His heart flutters in various paces as he listens. His eyes water and sting, blurring his vision like going under water and opening eyes without goggles in chlorine. But Pasha can't feel anything. He's numb and he's shaking.

'How did they find them?' He thinks he asks at one point.

Jameson huffs a breath into the receiver, 'From what we got from the brother, they looked up names in all local London universities until they found yours. Apparently, Zoya and Ekaterina never mentioned you by name, but the family knew Zoya had a professor brother. I suppose once they had your name that obtaining your information wouldn't be that difficult.'

No, he imagines, it wouldn't be. It should be, but it's not. And Zoya is dead because she shared his surname.

'When will the trial begin?' He questions instead.

Jameson runs down the timeline for Pasha. He tries to remember; he's uncertain he'll be able. He requests to remain updated. And they hang up.

He lies down once more, hands on his stomach and eyes trained on the ceiling. He isn't excited to learn this new information. He thinks it's a waste, in a way. Ekaterina's family couldn't have stayed away: had they left their daughter alone, they'd still be here. Zoya would be finding out the sex of the baby and Ekaterina would pester Pasha until he relented to setting up the nursery. He'd be an uncle. He'd be a brother.

He'd be a lot of things if Zoya were alive."

Lollipop

SavorᏪᏪᏪ

Hello everyone! Since I didn't get much feedback the other day, I figured I would ask again. As we approach the 100th blog post and Brit Wit, I'm curious to see if there's any interest in a combined story? Basically, it entails a long story that'll include all one hundred words. I should also mention it's NOT the same thing as the hundredth word; that'll have its own mini. Kindly let me know your thoughts. 💜

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