Blaring music interrupted my train of thought, the bass beat thumping through the wall. The next door residents had always played their music loud in the early hours of the morning. Ever since they moved in last year, my sleep patterns had been severely messed up. I'd always wondered why they'd moved to our neighbourhood; it mainly consisted of old widows and fussy grandparents who'd called the police more times than a parrot would repeat itself.
I clenched my hand and banged the wall with the side of my fist, reminding them of the other people next door.
After the pictures stopped threatening to bang off their hooks, I sighed and swung my legs over my crumpled sheet to land on the bare floorboards. I cracked open my door, a sliver of light creeping in, illuminating the dusty belongings in my room. My mum had left the light on. Again. That meant only one thing.
The hallway was empty, as suspected, apart from empty bottles and a pile of puke near the final door in the hallway, adding colour to the same plain floorboards. I scrunched up my nose to avoid smelling the violation.
I swiftly jogged down the stairs, resisting the urge to glance behind me to see if anyone was there. I felt like a criminal, as if I was a robber hurriedly escaping after breaking in.
I reached the ground floor and used the banister to swing myself around to face the kitchen door. I stopped myself and spun back on my heel. In the dim light, squinting to try and make my eyes adjust, I saw a rectangular form underneath the letterbox, with a wax-seal on the back.
I felt my feet moving forward, out of my control; I was too shocked, even though I'd known it would arrive eventually.
The envelope felt thick and heavy in my fingers, my eyes passing over the crisp, cream material. A small, urgent voice whispered in my head: Open it.
I'd been waiting for the damn thing to arrive for weeks. This morning, I was ready to give up. Open it.
Unable to control myself or my actions, I started jumping up and down, my rubber-clad feet making soft thuds on the carpet. Open it.
I jumped nearly a foot when a thud knocked me out of my reverie. My plan had disappeared as soon as I'd seen the envelope. I quickly unzipped my hoodie and stuffed the envelope inside; opening it would have to wait. My mum had probably fallen flat on her face; she was so unpredictable, but yet, drunks always are.
I crept to the kitchen, fearing that she would know I was down here. I racked my brain, trying to remember whether I'd closed my bedroom door or not. As I heard echoing, muted thumping noises heading in the general direction of the bathroom, I breathed a sigh and turned back to the kitchen, and evidently, my plan. However, the plan wasn't in the kitchen; it was outside this house.
I stood there, in my kitchen, looking at my home, my shelter, and I wondered how I'd ever come to call it something that was mine. It had never felt like something I'd wanted to keep; I'd never liked this place. The place where bad memories made their mark; where I'd never felt safe, or loved, or noticed.
I shook my head, trying to make the thoughts fly away. If I got too caught up in my own thoughts, I'd never bring myself to leave again. I grabbed my bag from its lonely position on the kitchen chair. I hadn't needed to worry about my mum rifling through it, so I'd kept everything I needed for this moment in my bag. I walked backwards out of the kitchen and turned to face the stairs. I so wish I hadn't.
I could hear the slurred words coming from my mum's mouth, but I was far from paying attention. Staring at the clock and tapping my foot to the rhythm of the second-hand, I wondered how long this would take.
'Whaaaat werya doin'?', she tried again.
I avoided looking at her face, afraid of what I'd see. To say my mum was violent when she was drunk was an understatement. 'Anshwer the damn queshtion!'
I flinched, inching back and wiping spit off my face. I hated this. I eyed the back door, just 10 steps away. But mum was closer. Watching my eyes, she moved to block the door completely.
My brain scattered for a moment, trying to figure a way out. Then, it came to me. The front door. Now that she'd moved, I had a perfect path to get to the door and shut it before mum could move out of the kitchen.
I swung my head back around quickly, not wanting to alert her to what I was planning.
Weak sunlight peered in through the blinds and caught on an object on the counter. Air moved in sharply through my open mouth, and I cursed under my breath. The key to the door was lying on the counter behind my mum, glinting in the sunlight.
I started panicking, my breathing getting faster. In the corner of my eye, I saw a sly grin creep onto my mother's face.I glanced all around me, my breathing becoming shallow. I could feel my heart beating in my chest. I darted for the hallway, my bag smacking into the wall. I knew it would take a while for my mum to get to me, but I scrambled up the stairs anyway and locked myself in the bathroom.I ran to the window and glanced down at the concrete pavement. My head started feeling dizzy; I held on to the towel rack to steady myself. I backed away from the window, knowing there was no way I was escaping that way. I cursed myself for not running into the lounge instead, but I thought better of it: the lounge didn't have a lock.
I crept to the door and pressed my ear against it. The sound of raspy, heavy breathing entered my ears, and I immediately backed away from the door.
After a minute of silence, I realised it was my own breathing I could hear.
I sank down onto the dusty floor and put my head between my knees. I sucked in the most amount of air my lungs could take and puffed it out, feeling relieved as my chest loosened slightly.
A loud thud and the unmistakable sound of glass breaking echoed through the house. I jumped back and hit my head against the wall.
Wincing and rubbing the back of my head as I did, I stood up and moved towards the door. Resting my ear against it again, I strained my ears, trying to detect any hint of noise from downstairs.
After waiting for 5 minutes, I undid the lock and opened the door wide enough for my left eye to see through. The upstairs landing was empty, but I had a sickening feeling that something had happened. Something bad.
As my friend always told me, it's not what you can see that's important; it's what you can't. But that was before the accident.
Inching my way down one step at a time, I peered around the banister. My mum was lying face down on the floor, her hair sprawled out like a bush, the glass vase shattered near her arm.
Keeping my fingers crossed, hoping she was still unconscious, I walked to the hallway, stopping just short of her hair.
Kneeling down, I moved her thin, greasy hair out of her face and lifted her eyelids. No reaction. I lifted her hand. Still no reaction. On a whim, I pressed my fingers to the inside of her wrist, and sighed when I felt a steady pulse.
Putting my hands under her arms, I dragged my mum up the stairs
and into her room. As soon as I opened the door, I became
overpowered by the extensive fumes of alcohol that had tried to
have been covered up with numerous sprays and a rather hefty
amount of Febreze. Thinking it wouldn't appear odd to her if she
woke up on the floor, I left her there and placed an empty drink
bottle by her hand. The only thought on my mind was getting out
of the room as soon as possible without choking.
I didn't need to look to see what was around me: it was embedded into my mind. The old, scratched wooden floor; the table by the front door, holding the phone; the round, dusty mirror on the wall; the staircase on the right. The new addition of the broken glass made it look more real. I grabbed the keys off the counter in the kitchen and half-ran half-walked to the front door. Reaching for the white handle, not even bothering to flinch when it sent a shot of cold through me, I stared at the pane of glass in the door. I pushed it open and stepped outside, closing the door behind me. The sun was shining brighter now, even a little too strong for this time of morning, but that didn't show mercy for the chill. I shivered involuntarily, but not because of the cold.
This time, I was leaving. For good. I needed to put the past behind me. I needed to make a new start. But I couldn't shake the feeling that it wasn't a good one.