CLOSED DOORS

All Alice King wants, is to be alone. That way nobody else can hurt her.
Silently struggling with the death of her brother, Alice’s oh-so-perfect family is slowly falling apart and her ‘friends’ are drifting out of her reach. However, she is still smiling her way through – she’s ‘fine’ – but a smile can hide so much. It’s only when she meets Connor, the school bully, that she starts thinking about how appearances can deceive. She can tell that underneath this layer of cool and his badass reputation, this boy is just as hopeless as she is and Alice is determined to make him speak. Can Alice realise that life isn’t all about giving – but taking too? Because life doesn’t stop when someone disappears – and even though she’s lost so much, can Alice see what she has to gain?

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2. CHAPTER TWO

Like most mornings, I woke up with tears streaming down my face. This was the first sign that made me aware that I had been dreaming about Declan. Again. I wiped the crusty tears away as I scraped my hair back into a ponytail for the day ahead. Like usual, I applied a thin layer of foundation so that I looked as plain as I could, as unnoticeable as humanly possible. This was how I got by in school, day by day – this was my routine. By keeping my head down in the corridors and not drawing any attention to myself in class, I often managed to get through the whole day without even a word said to me or a stare aimed at me; just how I liked it.

My day was always the same, the identical orthodox over and over again, but that was how I wanted it; no unexpected surprises, no cruel twists. I would start the day by putting on my fake smile. I’d had six months to work on it by now so it was actually pretty convincing. I’d collect Joel on my way down our long corridor. He, of course, was a bundle of energy. He was now twelve years old and ‘an attention seeking brat’ in Bradley’s words. I couldn’t say that I disagreed with him and neither could my Mum or Dad. Of course none of us would have said it, but it was the truth, whether he liked it or not.

Then we would take the long walk together down the vast hallway which connected all of the rooms in the top floor of our glass palace. Joel would chat away to me the whole time. I never listened, mainly because it was never important. I want to say that I had bigger things on my mind, but I didn’t. I never had anything on my mind because I never thought about anything; that was my way of staying strong - not comprehending it, and it had worked for half a year now. I think Joel even knew that I wasn’t concentrating on what he was saying. He didn’t want someone to listen to him – he just wanted someone to talk to; someone to talk at; someone who would keep him busy.

Just before I started to trek down the winding staircase, I stopped. Like every day, I stood there with Joel’s hand in mine and my attention was drawn to the room right at the end of the corridor. The large wooden door had been closed for so long; it was like all of our memories were locked inside of it. Everything in there had remained untouched. You could still make out where Declan had carved his name into the wood all those years ago. You could see splashes of paint which still remained from that day when Bradley and his twin decided to play ‘indoor paintballing’. You could identify the picture, hanging from the door handle by a flimsy piece of string, of the four of us. That was taken back when I didn’t need to put on a fake smile – the grin on my face was real.

Just as I was starting to remember the good times, just as I started thinking; Joel would carry on down the stairs pulling me along behind him and I would reluctantly follow, my eyes fixed on the door until it was totally out of sight.  

When we reached the kitchen, as always, my Mother was the first figure that I spotted. She was sat with a cup of coffee in her hand, her favourite chair positioned at the window as she stared outside. This was where she spent all day, every day. When I came home from school, she would still be there. That exact spot, the same cup of coffee in her hand too. I often wondered what she was gazing at, what was so important that it stopped her from drinking and eating all day. I knew she was thinking about Declan, but there was only so much to remember. Was she going through his entire life in her head every day? However, I’d learnt not to disturb her. We all had, even Joel. It was only when I got home from school that I’d acknowledge her and force her to eat something. Every day she got thinner and every day she got paler. She’d gone from ghost like, to ill looking and then to milk colour. The same colour that Declan had turned when I saw him on the field all those months ago. Every day I made my Mother breakfast. I knew that she’d never eat, but despite this it seemed like the right thing to do. It was kind of a gesture, letting her know that I hadn’t forgotten about her existence.

 

 

I was the first one out of the school doors when the final bell of the day blared out and echoed around the building. I walked home swiftly, eager to get back to my Mum, to check that she was still.. alive. As I reached Sunnyhurst Ridge, I could immediately spot our house among the rest. The others were stunning too, but ours was ‘special’. That’s what everyone else said, and I used to as well. It was only the past couple of months when I realised how much I hated it. The see-through structure meant that in that house, I could never feel alone. There was always someone watching me. A stranger, a foreigner in my world. Everyone who passed our house would look in, and of course I didn’t blame them. I probably would too, it’s not something you see every day is it? Whether they were looking at its incredible concept, or at us, the people inside, was a mystery. From the outside, to anyone passing the house, we looked like a happy family – five normal people. That’s the weird thing about strangers. They could have the biggest secret in the world, but you would never know. They don’t know what you’ve been through and you don’t know what they’re thinking. Everyone has a story to tell. Every single person that you pass in the street will have something that they could tell you about life, love or death. But you don’t know their story and they don’t know yours, and that’s how it stays. Strange to think, don’t you reckon? As a child, I was always told not to judge a book by its cover. I know it’s cliché but it’s true. That’s why my house makes me think so deeply. It’s like the cover has been torn off, our privacy no longer remains and people will read us like they read a book, but they’ll still analyze what they see. It’s only delving inside a little bit, but it’s that snippet which will make them judge even more. It’ll make the people who pass our house think they know us, whether we are a happy or a sad family. The fake smiles on our faces will convince them, they’ll think that we’re the perfect family and only we’ll know the truth.

 

As I approached my front door, as usual I saw my mother still sitting upright in her seat. As I passed the window, I’d give her a false grin and an effortless wave and she would merely look up at me and then slowly divert her stare back to the exact spot that she’d been gazing at for six hours already. That day, however, was different. I didn’t wander into the kitchen; I didn’t miserably stand by her side, watching her thoughts devouring her soul. I glanced at her and when she didn’t turn around as I called her name; I started back over to the front door. Where I was going, I didn’t know. When I’d be back, I didn’t want to know. But still, my mother remained where she was, right until the second that she disappeared from my view.

I’d been trekking for just minutes when I reached something that I wasn’t expecting to see: a small stream flowing through a large, open space. Clearly construction was about to start in this area, my father and his workers had left a few tools lying around the perimeter of the plot. I don’t know what it was, but something drew me to the water. It was like a feeling right in the bottom of my gut which forced my legs to start moving without me telling them to. I placed myself on the banking of the creek and listened to the flowing water as it trickled down stream. I couldn’t see where it ended, or where it started for that matter, but what I did notice was a boy. He was perched on the other side of the water, just yards away from me and he was resting in the same position that I was: legs tucked into chest and chin resting between knees. I shuffled away from him a little and he glanced up at me momentarily as I did. The first thing that hit me about his appearance was his mysterious eyes. They were dark and blue, exactly like Declan's had been. I didn't say anything though; I wasn’t really one for making conversation and by the looks of it, neither was he. Besides, I’d come here to be alone, hadn’t I? However, I wondered if he recognised me like I recognised him. I knew I'd seen him before. Unless it was just the resemblance to Declan that struck me as so familiar.

It was an hour before I figured that I should really go back home. When I arrived at the front door, no one even acknowledged me. My dad was running around trying to find some paper work while cooking the tea and speaking to a client on the phone. Joel was chasing after him, trying to get attention and only receiving a glare from my father every now and again and my mother was still sat in her chair, pretending that none of it was happening. Determined to get away from all of the noise and the chaos, I slowly wandered up the stairs, wondering if maybe one of my family members would notice me, but as usual they all over looked me and carried on with their busy lives, but that didn’t bother me.

Upstairs was considerably colder than the ground floor of my home and it had a sense of loneliness up there. Declan’s room had always been the heart of the house; the room where everything happened and the room that I had the best times in. Now it was just a closed door, a room full of dust and memories. I missed Declan. A lot. But by no means did I miss him the most. No, that was the prize which Bradley won. As I wandered past Brad's room, I made out his figure slumped across his bed. We all had our ways of dealing with the tragedy, but Bradley went down a route which not one of us expected. Right up until Declan's death, Brad was the perfect child which every parent dreamed about having. At school he was an A* student, captain of the rugby team, deputy head boy, student council leader two years running and never mind the fact that he played rugby, football and did hurdles for the county. But his talents didn't stop there. It wasn't all about school and sports. He did tonnes of charity work and was one of the most popular boys in his year. Everyone knew his name, everyone wanted to be his friend. He was one of those guys who literally was the life of the party and none were complete without him. That was when he had his friends. That was when he had his whole life ahead of him. That was when he had Declan.

The minute that his twin died, Bradley went into shock. He was a little like me during that part of his life: scared, sad and longing to be alone. He spent a solid fortnight up in his bedroom. No food and no person entered the invisible bubble that he built around himself. He shielded himself in his thoughts. After two weeks of not being seen by a soul, he suddenly went into denial, claiming that his brother was still alive. He managed to convince himself that it was all a joke. I don't think he truly believed it. I think his hopes just took over his senses.

A month after Declan's death he finally fell into the last stage of his grieving process. Depression. He dropped out of school, he stopped doing his sport, he refused to see people and he started drinking. He drowned he sorrows in alcohol; he thought it was the only way. The worst part was the fact that he just didn’t care. He knew he was destroying his body, he knew that he was destroying our family, but he wasn’t bothered. At first I had many sleepless nights thinking about him and his new  lifestyle, but now I try not to get involved with him. The sad truth is that now I don't like being around my brother. I feel like it's my fault. Instead of taking care of my mother after the death, I should have been with the one who was the closest to Declan. By the time I got to my eldest brother, he was too far out of my reach. It was like I'd let him go running off and waited just a moment too long before I chased after him. He couldn't be changed now though. Not by me at least.

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