Alice looked at the envelope on the floor under the letterbox, addressed to yours truly, and smiled. She’d been waiting for it to arrive for weeks. As she picked it up between her numb fingers, she was surprised at how heavy it was.
Her mum, Sandra McKenna had just woken up. She moved groggily towards the bathroom, not paying any attention to her surroundings. That was probably due to the excessive amount of alcohol she had consumed the night before.
Glancing up the stairs, Alice heard her mum stumble across the upstairs landing. ‘Drunken old…’ she thought. In all her 16 years she’d been alive, or 14 years if you count being able to talk, she had never wanted to talk to her mum. And she had the feeling she would never want to in the future, either. She tucked the package inside her hoodie and crept to the kitchen. She stood there, looking around for about two minutes, wondering if she would ever like this place. The place where bad memories made their mark; where she’d never felt safe, or loved, or noticed. She had never thought of it as her home. She shook her head, trying to make the thoughts fly away, and grabbed her bag. Her destination: out the front door.
Alice, being smart as she was, had left her bedroom door closed, the way it was when she was asleep. Sandra glanced at the door, debated going in, but decided against it as she shifted across to her own bedroom door. ‘Why should I be bothered? If she had a problem, she should come to me’, she muttered, in vain. She could still smell the fumes of alcohol, despite trying her best (in her condition) to cover it up with body spray and a numerous amount of Febreze. Not soon after staggering to her bed, she passed out, too tired to care about anyone but herself and getting as bladdered as possible.
Five minutes later, Alice moved silently down the hallway. She didn’t need to look to see what was around her; it was embedded into her 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. She opened her eyes and twisted round to face the staircase. She told herself that she didn’t really care if she got caught, but that small, niggling, desperately annoying part of her knew that she didn’t want to give her mum another reason to hate her.
Alice didn’t see anyone – not even a shadow – which meant nothing to her. She remembered something her best friend had told her once: it’s not what you can see that’s important; it’s what you can’t. She pushed that thought to the back of her mind. She needed to move. Fast.
‘Here goes nothing,’she mumbled.
Walking on tip toes was a hard feat for someone like Alice – she had no co-ordination whatsoever; everyone who just looked at her knew that; the bruises on her arms were reason enough. But they didn’t look outside the box.
Reaching for the white door handle, flinching when it sent a shot of cold through her fingertips, she stared at the pane of glass in the door. The pattern on the glass, with the blue and green colours mixing together, mesmerised her. She’d always felt calm when she looked at the swirling colours.
She pushed open the door and hesitated outside the doorway. The challenge wasn’t in getting out the door: it was walking down the street. She knew that in a neighbourhood like this, it was everyone’s news where you were going. She shook her head in disgust, her dark brown hair swishing back and forth from her ponytail. She looked down at her feet. Her black converses, the shiny stars stuck on with superglue, were frowned upon by the old folks living down Stowey Street. Not that Alice cared – she guessed she got that from her mum. One of the few, miniature things she got from her.
Alice brought her eyes back up to normal viewing, and sharply lifted her hand to block the sun blinding her. It was beating strong for this time of morning, she noted, but that didn’t show mercy for the chill. She shivered involuntarily, took a deep breath and started walking. Left. Right. Clomp. Clomp.
There was a hedge outside her driveway, so she hopped over the gate, rust coming off in her hands, and ducked past to the green looming plant. She hoped it would provide enough cover for her to sneak past her mum’s bedroom window without being seen. But that didn’t mean to say that the other residents in the neighbouring houses wouldn’t see. Now, however, Alice wasn’t afraid of everyone else calling up the authorities. Apart from staying in a cell for a few hours, they didn’t do anything other than give you a slap on the wrists. Cautious as always, she lifted her hood to shield her face (a bit suspicious, considering) and started walking forward, counting the seconds between her steps, ultimately keeping an even pace.
This was all routine for Alice, sneaking out in the early morning, not saying anything to anyone. Keeping herself isolated. The familiar walk down the gritty road; the grey drain covers; the young couple’s Labrador barking, pining to be fed. But this time, it was different. She was still alone, yes. But now, she was leaving for good. She would never come back to this place, surprisingly comforting as it could be for her. It was a new start. But she couldn’t shake the feeling that it wasn’t a good one…
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