The floor is yellow. A kind of mustard with small brown imperfections, like cinnamon has been sprinkled through the paste. On the left there is a pantry, light brown stained wood with no handle. You pull it open from the side, and it squeaks because of a loose hinge. On your right is a fridge, white, with a Saint Kilda AFL club sticker and magnets on it. The magnets are various letters of the alphabet, a few souvenirs from the main land and a Maisy mouse set, where you can dress her with magnetic clothes. Directly in front of you is a window spanning across the whole wall, looking into the next door neighbour’s back yard. Bellow the window is a sink, with a one handled tap that you turn left to right to decide how warm or cold the water is. The bench is blue, a rich colour that reminds you of the beautiful ocean that you can still see through the dust caked window. Underneath the blue bench top are cupboards, the same stained light brown of the pantry. The room is a square shape, one side of the cube open, with no wall, so the dining room is one with the kitchen. You can still hear her voice.
“Your case is a hard one, Miss Taylor, you understand that?”
“Then I don’t need to tell you that it will be near impossible for you to get them?” She slid her glasses down her nose to look me in the eyes.
“Don’t underestimate me,” I said, staring straight back at her.
She looked at me for a long moment before sighing.
“Well, if you’re so determined you better get to work then.” She slid all the papers into a folder. “You’ll need to fill all the blue ones out, and meet all the demands of the red ones, if you don’t get everything perfect your request will be denied.”
“Thank you.” I go to grab the folder but she pulls her hand back. She raises her eyebrows and I sigh, pulling a yellow note out of my bra and handing it to her. She looks at it with disgust and a flash of shock.
“I was expecting a pink or blue one.”
“If that’s what you’d prefer…” I went to pull it back and grab another but she snatched it up.
“It will do,” she said, folding it into her posh purse which she promptly hid in the confines of her handbag.
“Good,” I said, before taking the folder from her and leaving the room.
“The circumstances of your disappearance are a great mystery, and are the main cause of your troubles. We all know that your claims of memory loss are false, if you just follow protocol and tell us what you’ve been doing for the last five years I’m sure they’d be much more flexible with the custody arrangements.” I stopped for a moment to turn and face her.
“You’re mistaken,” I said before leaving the room.
Everything is the same as it was back then. The magnets haven’t moved, the knives are uniformly in their chopping block, nothing has changed. Only the dust and the lack of the humming of the fridge sets it apart from your memories of five years ago. The photo frame on the top shelf of the wall unit is caked in the grey stuff, and picking up an also grey tissue to try wipe it away, you see the outlines of the children’s faces. The dust sits on everything, it dulls the blue and the mustard yellow. Looking behind you, you see a trail of your own footprints. Wiping your nose, you slide open the window and grab a blue and white dish cloth out from the cupboard under the sink. You then pull the tap handle up and turn it to the right, asking for cold water, and with a squeak and a rattle of pipes it complies, it dribbles at first and then slowly begins to let out a flow of it. You put the cloth under the flow and allow it to get wet before rinsing it and proceeding to the benches.
You spend hours with all the windows and doors wide open, a bucket of water and a tired cloth, trying to return the place to what it once was. You wipe all of the benches, the dining table, the wall units. You go into the laundry and pull the old vacuum cleaner out of the corner. You have to kick the green box on the side of the house to get the power running, but soon you have the machine going and you run it around the lounge room floor, then up the hallway into all the bedrooms.
In the second room to the right, you pick up the strewn belongings of a teenage girl you once knew and wrap them all in a blanket embroidered with her name. You then take it all outside. On the concrete you sit down, open the hand-made blanket and pull everything out of it. Picking up the clothes and blankets, you flick them on the wall, throwing all the dust off of them into the air. You then get the cloth and wipe everything else. You carefully work away the dust on the wings of the fairy figurines, then move onto the books, the precious books. You don’t have to wipe away the dust to know which is which, just holding them in your hand you can tell them apart. Their weight, their size, those are all you need to know. Once you’ve finished cleaning it all, you go back in and wipe everything down. You then bring everything back inside and put it back where it was, save the stuff strewn on the floor, which you put away in its rightful place. You then go through the pantry and fridge, throwing almost everything out except a few cans that should still be okay. Cleaning out the fridge is a gruesome job, you have to plug your nose and put on the dishwashing gloves before opening it. You’ve never smelt a dead cow before, but it can’t have been as bad as what its milk, butter and cream smelt like.
“Glad to see you back here, baby, was beginning to think you’d conformed.”
“Shut up, I’m just here for a deal, a once off.”
“Awww, come on, you know that’s a lie. You’re a part of the family, Elle, one of our best.” He slings his arm over my shoulder and squeezes me tight.
“You mean I bring the most money in, I’m valuable.” I shrug him off.
“Well, that too, but come on honey, you know this is where you belong,” he pleads.
“No, I don’t belong here, I belong with them.”
“You’re not talking about those brats are you? Please tell me you’re not! Come on, you don’t have a chance, not after what you’ve been doing.”
“They can’t prove what I’ve done, they won’t.”
“Still, they’ll make life hell for you trying to get those two back.”
“Nah, can’t be, can’t be hell, then what’s the last five years been?”
“You’re funny, babe, but they’ll chew you up and spit you out, they will.”
“Let them try.” I said as I pulled an A4 piece of paper off the bulletin board.
You put on her clothes, it’s been five years but they fit you, she was overweight, you’re not. Grabbing your old bike, you slowly squeak your way down to Kingston. Big W isn’t locked, powers down so surveillance cameras aren’t an issue and you just take one of the bikes on display. You ride it into the shoe department and find some new, sturdy ones in your size that you put on before riding out of the store and into the city where you find food, it’s much more expensive than before, but with your bra full of greens and yellows you’re not concerned about the price, only the terms of getting them back.
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