I haven’t got enough memories of my sister. When somebody leaves your life in such a permanent way, you wish so hard for more time, more time and you swear you will spend every minute appreciating everyone you have around you from that moment on, living your life like it could end at any minute. But there can never really be enough time, that’s a lesson that you never learn. The trouble is that you never believe that the people in your life could ever really disappear, until they do.
Kylie was born 7 years after me. We shared a Dad but had different Mums, we were very different but as we grew older, very similar too. She had that look that we all have, all of us siblings. We didn’t grow up together but floated in and out of each other’s lives. Kylie, Tommy and Mandy, being of a similar age, were like a little team. My memories of Kylie are like outlines that I can’t quite colour in but I will try and piece them together to form a picture of who she was to me.
As a young girl she was feisty, tough and brave in a way that I just wasn’t, I like to think that she inspired a bit of strength in me. She was small as a teenager, a tiny, skinny little thing, but you wouldn’t fuck with Kylie. We were both bullied at school and received very different advice from our respective mothers. My mum told me to ignore them and hold my head up high. Kylie was told to go back into school, walk up to the biggest girl in the group and smack her in the face. Kylie didn’t get bullied again.
She was loud and funny and spoke her mind. She was sparkly and bright and came across like she just didn’t give a shit. You wouldn’t want to get in her way when she was mad and she didn’t let people push her around. One day, I got back from somewhere, I don’t know where, I was always somewhere else. I hadn’t seen her for ages and took one look at her and knew something had changed, the spark had left her eyes a little bit and I remember wondering what had happened to Kylie. She looked haunted.
After she got ill, she lost a bit of who she was, through the fear I suppose, through the medication. This pissed her off, occasionally she wouldn’t take her pills and that spark would come back, she’d laugh and say she was “having a day off”. She was creative, she made clothes. She could paint and draw, like our Dad did, like my little sister Mandy still does. She loved music, all kinds of music. I remember us lying in my caravan in Cornwall listening to Joni Mitchell. A night out in Cornwall when we went to some awful holiday park with a comedian, at the end of the night they put some hip hop on and we all ended up dancing on the tables. I remember us screaming on the speedboats and seeing dolphins in Padstow bay. I had a photo of us on that boat, laughing and sunburnt, our long hair tangled together in the wind, but I lost it.
I remember Kylie straightening my hair for me before our Dad’s funeral. Preparing the veg with me that first Christmas, when suddenly we had become the grown-ups. She came to meet me at The Charlotte once, both of us halfway through our nights out, she turned up pissed with no shoes on, I remember carrying her in my arms across dance floor of the club and into the bathroom to check her feet for glass. A friend called me once saying he had run into my sisters in town “causing trouble” and put them in a taxi home. She was wild. I remember her asking me not to leave one night, and me going anyway, wanting to be away. A friend of mine called her Angelina, because she was so beautiful. I’ve lost count of how many male friends and acquaintances said “Wow, your sisters are gorgeous” I would reply “stay away from them, they’re not for you”. In Cornwall, a lifeguard I knew kept asking my permission to pursue her, but she was far too good for him.
I try not to remember too much of the darkness of the day she died, though it’s still so clear in my mind. The older I get, the more I realise how young she was. We’ve all grown up past her now and she will always be 23. I remember her at her funeral, I felt her arm around me while I was crying, telling me that it was alright, that she was ok now and then she was gone and I could see that she was with Mandy. Then she was dancing at the front of the pews while “dream, dream, dream” by The Everly Brothers played, in the centre of the stage, spinning around with her hair flying, her haunted look gone. This memory is as real to me as any of the others.
Her Uncle Graeme told a story about Kylie as he stood up the front of the Crematorium with his hand on her coffin and I will tell it again now, what I remember of it. Tommy, Kylie and Mandy were at his home and one of their many Welsh summers, hanging out in the barn on their land, drinking and playing music with friends. As it got later, his wife, Pat, went out to tell them to turn the noise down or come to bed, Kylie stepped forward, fearless as ever and said “look, you’re old and past it and we’re young and we want to have fun, so fuck off”. Everyone at the service laughed and felt lighter because that was just Kylie. That’s how I’ll remember her, young, defiant and free.