I walked into the bright room. It was filled with eccentric posters full of yellows and oranges saying ‘be happy’ and ‘live life to the full!’ This certain room was designed for children to make them feel bright. But I was 13 and this room just reminded me of bad times past and it was all I could do to not cry.
The councillor smiled sweetly at me. Her name was Emily and had a sweet heart and a good nature, but anyone associated with this room I loathed.
“Hello Matt,” she said, “Chair or couch?”
I just glared at her for using the nickname my father had given me and slumped down in the beanbag. I never took the couch. Her smile faded a bit because she realised she’d slipped up by calling me Matt and she knew I’d be reluctant to answer any questions now.
“So Matilda,” she corrected herself, “How do you feel today?”
I shrugged. Emily frowned. Serves her right, I thought. It was her own fault I was in a bad mood.
She recovered and smiled again, “Straight into business, I suppose.” She flicked her long brown hair back as her jade-green eyes dug into my coffee-coloured ones.
“Just get on with it,” I croaked quietly.
She raised her eyebrows, “Now, as you know, we have been seeing each other for almost a year now.”
“So I want to ask you a very deep question.”
I looked up from my shoes.
“Do you remember anything from the accident?” Emily said.
I shook my head but in fact it was a vivid memory in my head. I remembered the crunching metal, the screeching of tyres, Dad’s face turning from smiling and amused to utter horror and pain. But most of all, I remembered Dad’s mangled body laying bloodied and hopeless in front of me as I sat unscathed. Then the ambulance came and took me away from him as I struggled in the paramedic’s arms and screamed for him. It was just like a nightmare. Sometimes I just sat, staring into space, waiting for me to wake up to my father, his smiling face glowing unlike when I had last seen him, but to no avail.
But, unfortunately, Emily saw the poignant look in my eyes and then saw right through my act. Her smile dropped altogether and she narrowed her eyes.
“Now, look. I can see that you don’t like me and frankly I’m just doing it for the money, so do you really want your mum to waste 300-frieking-dollars an hour so you can just listen to me babble?”
I looked down and shrugged.
She sucked in a sharp, angry breath through her teeth and looked at me icily, “That’s all we have time for today,” she said tightly.
I opened my mouth but then seeing Emily’s look, I quickly closed it. Well, another 300 bucks smashed on bugger all.
* * *
It was spring in Australia; a time which symbolizes in most countries new birth. In Australia, however, it basically means “the coming of the flies’. Summer is they are at their peak, but they start emerging from winter at spring and they’re bloody painful. But this spring, it was different. That’s the beauty of South Australia, you never know what your gonna get. I was listening to SAFM on the way home from Emily’s office. It was ‘pants off Friday’ and Hamish and Andy were talking about Pink when the weather report came on.
It seems the weather has taken a turn for the worst today. It’s been a cloudy day with a top of 15 and thunderstorms coming in later tonight and continuing on until morning.
Bloody South Australia.
“So how’d you get on today?” Eric asked. Eric was my caretaker as Mum had been reduced to a wheelchair after the accident, constantly babbling nonsense to anyone who would listen.
I mumbled a vague ‘okay’.
Eric sighed exasperatedly, “Why do you have to be so difficult, Matilda?”
I shot him an icy look. “You’re not my father, Eric; I don’t have to tell you anything!”
The silence dragged on until we pulled up outside our house.
“Here we are.” he said edgily. I’d made him angry by blowing up at him in the car. Good.
“Where are you going?” I asked nonchalantly, shrugging off his previous words.
“That’s none of your business-”
“But is it my mothers?” I shot back quickly.
He thought about this for a few seconds and sighed – I’d hit a weak spot.
“This job doesn’t pay very well. I…can’t handle it, my wife…she’s had enough; she only wants the best for our son…I…”
I felt a stab of passion for the poor guy, just a moment ago – I’d been picking on him, just making his life harder.
“I’m going for a job interview,” he finally managed to say, “If I don’t come back tomorrow, I got the job.”
I just stared. Mum was in no state to get a new caretaker and he knew that.
“But-” I started.
“Get out of my car,” he said, breaking out of his trance-like state.
I obeyed silently and just stared as he drove off in his Lime-green Mercedes. A few seconds later I finally gathered my wits. “Yeah? Well good riddance!” I yelled into space.
A pigeon stared at me oddly. “Piss off or I’ll go get the gun!” I threatened.
It continued staring. Pigeons had no minds.
I went unlocked the front door and opened it, reaching behind the front door and getting the shotgun. I pointed it at the tree menacingly, but the rotten bird had already flown away.
“You put that bloody gun away or I’ll ring the council!” Peter Gritt, our next-door neighbour shouted.
I flicked him off and went back inside, leaving him to growl after me. I sighed. When dad was alive, we lived on a big 50 acre property in Gawler, but now we were stuck in Virginia Grove. A place of which I’d always resented.
“Death and destruction!” my mother wailed from her wheelchair. She was going into one of her fits.
“Mother,” I said softly, “It is alright.”
“There’s too much danger!!” she cried, “You must not come after me!”
I sighed. I knew she could not go anywhere in her wheelchair and distorted arms. “Mother, be reasonable.” She started crying uncontrollably. I stroked her blonde hair until she calmed down, but her blue eyes were still feverous.
“You must not go!” she begged desperately.
“I’m not going anywhere, mother, but I have homework, and so I must but go up to my room.” I explained gently.
As I moved away my mother hung he head and started sobbing again. When she was in this state she was beyond reason so I left her.
“Greetings, Matilda.” Calanthe said. The ginger-coloured cat stretched and settled on my bed. “How was dear Emily?”