Have you ever seen a place and thought ‘this is where I want to stay for the rest of my life’? Well, this place isn’t it for me.
The front door, or what’s left of it, hangs from its rusted hinges. The doorknob, covered in cobwebs and rust, placed in its centre as a metal seven barely hangs onto the rotten wood.
Shabby brick work, paint peeling off the window frames, glass of what was once a window shattered and cracked and now covered by boards of wood. Holes splatter the roof and weeds, almost as tall as me and towering over Luke, hide the steps that lead to the house: out newest ‘home’.
“Are we here?” Luke asks between a yawn, stretching his short arms as he opens his eyes only to cover them moments later because of the light of the caravan headlights.
“Yes, Luke. This is it.”
As far as I can see, there is nothing industrial around the house. A forest with tall trees is situated behind it but I can’t see any houses around. There’s nothing.
“Come on,” I say, looking away from the forest that looks eerie in the moonlight. “Let’s go and look inside.”
We push past the weeds and grasses to get to the front door, climbing the crumbling steps. I reach for the handle to open it but am forcefully knocked aside, falling off the steps and into a patch of wet.
Luke soon follows me to the ground but I catch him before he lands in the muddy puddle, holding him to my front as Karen and Tom walk by us, arguing about something loudly. I’m glad we don’t have neighbours.
“Sorry,” Luke apologises, ignoring the fact his mother couldn’t care less that she knocked him from a height. “I didn’t mean to fall on you.” He helps pull me up by tugging my arm, dusting his trousers down when I’m up.
“You didn’t do it on purpose.” The back of my clothes are dripping wet. Luke looks in near tears when I find my back bleeding from landing on a sharp stone, so I quickly lower the shirt over it.
“Gentlemen first,” I say, mock bowing for him to enter the house first.
The hall, as run down as the outside of the house, leads off into the kitchen and living room. The carpet’s holey and frayed around the edges, curving up around the skirting boards and lumping together in the middle. There’s a bathroom on the left with a bath-shower in it. I can finally get Luke his wash.
The caravan doesn’t have a shower. The sink supplies the water but I’m not stupid enough to use it for a wash after the last time when Karen found out. She hit me across the face. I wouldn’t have used the water if I’d known she was coming back, but she went out for booze and is usually gone a few hours for that.
The kitchen has a small sink with running water, a small table with four seats around it and a few cupboards and counters to store food. There’s a small TV hanging from the wall and a cooker and microwave in the corner of the room. A small bedroom is in the far right with a double bed.
The living room, equip with two TV’s, an armchair, a small end table and a sofa, is cosy looking, a fireplace at the far wall. I’ll be taking the armchair and Luke, the sofa. Karen and Tom will get the bedroom.
“Joey,” Luke calls out from somewhere in the house. He was in the kitchen with me but now, looking around, I don’t remember him coming into the living room with me.
I follow the sound and find him by a door in the hall. I didn’t see it on the way in but Luke was clever enough to spot it. “What is it?”
“It’s a bedroom!” he tells me, opening the door with an excited smile on his face. I peer inside, flicking the light on with the switch by the door.
It’s a small room with a set of bunk beds, a desk and chair and a rug in the middle of the floor. I walk inside only to be knocked aside by Luke, who rushes to the beds and starts to climb the rickety ladder.
“I want this one!”
I’m going to have to fix that ladder if I want a peaceful night’s sleep.
“This is so cool! My own bed…”
I love seeing him happy. I’d do anything and sitting in a caravan for five days with a moody Karen was completely worth it.
“Colours!” he exclaims, pulling back the covers to find crayons scattered around the bed.
He loves drawing. Karen never buys him any and says it’s a waste of time and money, but Josh bought him some before we left. He’s great at drawing. I have a pile of his drawings in my bag.
I have never been any good at drawing and prefer reading and writing. Reading makes me forget everything and helps me escape into my own little world where Karen doesn’t exist.
I don’t have many books so if I’m not reading one, I write. I write about anything and nothing. I write about superheroes for Luke to read, I write about what my life could’ve been like in New York if I hadn’t left. I write about whatever sparks my imagination at the time. I have a notebook Uncle Aaron gave me before I left that I write in. I finished it ages ago and keep it with Luke’s drawings. I’m currently on notebook number five but that’s nearly finished too.
“They left,” Luke informs me, looking out the window and seeing the caravan gone from its parking spot it earlier occupied.
“Come on. You need to get some sleep. Let’s test out our new beds.”
He grins and nods happily, pulling the covers up around him. “Can you take these?” he asks, holding out a handful of the crayons that he found on his bed.
I don’t have my bag with me, so I can only hope Karen won’t come in when I am asleep, looking for a place to her cigarettes from Tom and find them in the drawer.
“Sure,” I say, taking them from his hand and placing them in the desk drawer before tucking him into his new bed under the covers.
“Night Joey,” he says, yawning and curling into his pillow. “Love you.”
“Love you, too.”
I wait with him until he falls asleep. When I’m sure he is fast asleep, I leave the room, shutting the door behind me as quietly as I can. No one is around so I decide to take a better look around the house.
I look through the cupboards in the kitchen but don’t find anything except a few cups and plates, dust covering them in thick layers. I hope Karen and Tom will be back early enough in the morning so I can make Luke breakfast.
My back is still soaked from landing in the puddle and bleeding from the stone, but I don’t have any other clothes with me. I would never dare take any of Karen’s so I’m going to have to make do with what I have.
Opening the fridge, I find a banana and apple that do not look too bad, so hopefully I can give them to Luke for breakfast.
We rarely get fruit and Luke’s definitely lacking in vitamin C. When I was his age I was living with Uncle Aaron and Aunt Lisa so I got everything I needed. They wanted a child but couldn’t have one so I was like their own to them; I felt the same way.
I take the apple and banana out of the fridge, away from the spoiled milk and set them on the counter. I cut into the apple in hope that it’s not gone off and try a piece. I’m not disappointed. The banana looks fine so I leave it on the counter and place the apple into a bowl, covering it with some plastic. I’m hoping it won’t dry out by the morning. It’s 3:10am and Luke will probably wake up around eight.
I go into the living room and sit on the couch. I’m not tired so there’s no point in rustling around in the bedroom and waking Luke up. He needs sleep as much as he needs food and I’ll make sure he gets that at the very least.
I see the remote control on the end table and reach for it. The TV’s about sixteen inches and it sits on a pile of books in the corner. It’s very dusty and scratched and has cobwebs joining it to the wall. I blow the dust off the remote and look for the button to turn it on.
A noise behind me has me turning around to find a tired Luke standing at the door.
“Couldn’t sleep, bud?” I ask, getting up to go over to him.
He shakes his head and looks at the floor. “Sorry.”
“No need to be sorry. It takes a while to break in a bed.” Especially when you’ve never had one for yourself before; but I don’t say that.
I walk with him back to the bedroom. “You want to lie with me?” I ask.
He looks up at me and nods his head, slowly.
“Come on in.” Pulling the blankets down and hopping in, I lift them up for him to join me.
He bites his lip and looks at the top bunk. “You can try again tomorrow,” I tell him, seeing him unsure of where to go. “You don’t want me to be lonely.”
He looks at me again and smiles, walking over to the bed and getting under. “Thank you,” he whispers to me.
“No, thank you for being my feet warmer,” I tease, snuggling up to him.
He giggles and leans into me. “I love you, Joey.”
“Back at you, you’re my favourite brother.”
“I’m your only brother!” he giggles.
“And you’re my favourite.”
He sighs happily and lies on his back, staring at the top bunk. “Not tired?”
He shakes his head, meaning he isn’t, but says, “I am.”
“You know, one day you’re going to have to start making sense,” I joke, nudging him with my shoulder. “Talk to me.”
He hesitates for minute, like he always does when he has something on his mind but’s afraid to say it. “I don’t want to move again. I want to make friends and live in a nice house where I can bring my friends over. I want you to be happy like you was with Josh”
“Were,” I correct him, “And as long as you’re here, I’m happy.” It’s the truth. Whenever he’s here, I’m happy. Not for his sake though, but because he makes me happy.
“Really happy- I don’t want Karen to hurt you anymore. I hate her.”
“You don’t hate her,” I tell him.
“I do when she hurts you.”
“You don’t. You just don’t like what she does but you don’t hate her. She’s your mother.”
He doesn’t reply, making me think he fell asleep. “It scares me,” he whispers, turning around to face me.
“Don’t be scared. I’m never going anywhere without you so don’t worry about that.”
He settles into the pillow. “You’re hair smells funny,” he giggles.
“Thanks bud. You’ve just reminded me about your wash in the morning.”
“No!” he protests, just like any seven year old boy would. “I don’t need one.”
“I’m not so sure about that. You haven’t had one in six days, little man. It’s time.”
“And you love me anyway.”
“And I love you. Now, go to sleep. We’ve to look around the place to see if there are any shops we can buy you a towel in for your bath.”
“Fine,” he sighs. “Goodnight Joey.”
“Night Luke,” I say before I fall into a light sleep curled up beside my little brother.