Behind

This is for the WHAT'S HIDDEN ON YOUR STREET COMPETITION and is based on the road I live on. The boy Levi is a boy I know of on my road who I know to have been abused in the past and who I have grown quite close to of late. I wrote this for him to show him there is always hope.

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1. Behind

“Levi! I mean it; if you leave this house then you ain’t ever coming back!”

I pick up my suitcase filled with a weeks’ worth of clothes and whatever money I could find in my room. I turn to face my mother, staring her straight in the eye and gave her a long meaningful look. She tries to stay looking angry but wilts under my gaze. I can see that she really doesn’t want me to go but I have to, it’s the only way for me to get out of this living hell called my life. I move towards her and hold out my arms to hug her goodbye. But she moves away from me, flinching as if I was going to hit her, as if I was him… I hang my head and open the front door. I could have heard the rain from outside, water gushed down the roads in rivers, carrying take away boxes and old cans along with it.

“I love you, Mum,” I turn back and see she’s started to cry.

“Please,” she whispers, moving her arms around herself protectively, “Don’t leave me here.”

I drop my suitcase and run at her, ignoring her feeble moves to push me away and hold her tightly in my grasp. I feel her break down in my arms and feel her tears as they fall messily down her cheeks and onto my jacket. I stroke her head softly, gently trying to soothe her worries away. But it won’t work. Because I am her biggest worry. I walk us both upstairs, her still clinging onto me and into her bedroom. Hers and … His. I lie her down and continue to stroke her head and face carefully. In that moment it felt like she was so fragile, she might break. After some time, her sobs become sniffs and her eyes begin to droop. I know she’s probably tired, looking after my baby brother 24/7 can’t be an easy task. I hope he’s still sleeping and listen but can only hear my Mother’s quiet spluttering’s from beside me. I swear to God, Joey could sleep through anything!

I look down at her, the woman who loves me so very much, who somehow managed to get us safely out of Africa alive after our village was ransacked. We lost everything. Or so I’ve been told. I don’t remember anything. Not even my Dad.  I have no idea where he is, what he doing, whether he knew I was still alive. I wondered if he missed me, if he had a picture of me, the way I had one of him. If he went to sleep thinking of me, wishing he could find me… This poor, delicate woman that did all that, got us to England, the woman who gave birth to me… And now I was going to leave her. I kissed her forehead tenderly and she smiled sadly through her tears, closing her eyes and sighing deeply.

“Promise me when I wake up, you’ll still be here.”

My hand stilled in her hair but I forced myself to carry on with the action, to soothe her.

“Levi, please-“ she began, her eyes opening tiredly.

“I promise,” I said, cutting her off, “now sleep.”

She gave me a loving smile before squeezing my hand gently. I kissed her again, realising I was now crying. I knew I might never see her again. I quietly walked out of the room and shut the door behind me. I walked to Joey’s room, moving to stand next to the cot which held my tiny sleeping brother. My tears came faster when I realised I would never get to see him grow up. I wanted to stay with him but I knew my step-father would never hurt Joey, the same why he would never hurt Mum. There was no need for me here anymore. I stopped myself from disturbing the sleeping baby, stilling my head from over his cheek, wishing I could kiss him one last time.

“Goodbye,” I whispered tenderly, hating the way that word felt inside my mouth.

I looked into my room as I went down the stairs but nothing in there was really worth keeping. I looked at my bed, any teenager’s dream. But mine only held nightmares and horrible memories of nights best left forgotten. Nights where I would awake to lust filled eyes on me, horrible rough grabbing hands…  Like I said, nights best left forgotten.

I walked slowly down the stairs, looking at the faces in photos as they all smiled at me, their faces horrible and beaming as they watched me leave. Horrible lying faces. I picked up my suitcase, clasping the worn leather strap. I had looked longingly at it, as it sat in the corner of my room, taunting me with its promises of a new beginning, a fresh start. I wondered where I would go, what I would do. I honestly didn’t know. I didn’t have any friends. Any other family. I only had the clothes in my bag and a fistful of notes to keep me alive. But I would never know if I didn’t try. I rested one hand on the door handle and looked into the reflection of myself, looked at the distorted and not quite there image that stared back at me. How I had felt all these years, not quite there, not quite real. Now I could leave this life behind me forever. I knew this sudden courage wouldn’t last and opened the door again, fast. I stared into the rain outside, imagining myself as a different person, as someone else. I didn’t know who I was yet, I would have to find out. I stepped into the rain, feeling the sudden wet soak my converse right through. I shut the door behind me.

It was like I was seeing the world with new eyes. The green peeling paint on the door. The dirty gum covered pavement that stuck to my trainers with every step. The way the dark clouds cast such a horrible feeling over the small close of houses. Their roofs loomed over me, boxing me in, the way they had done all my life. But no more. I looked at each individual house, light streaming through the curtains. I imagined families gathered round televisions, kids fighting over the last piece of cake at teatime. As much as I wished that had been my childhood, my cold, harsh reality had been much like the rain which now dripped down my face with me looking through a window at the perfect family life. But it was always out of my reach. I looked towards the centre of the close where a small park sat, its play equipment long destroyed, even the graffiti paint had chipped away to leave ugly faded coloured marks on the swing frames. Only one swing remained but the littering of rubbish that sprinkled the dirt trodden ground was enough to keep any children far away. It was around this time at night before he came back from work that I would escape, watching the world get darker and the stars come out.

I sat on the swing now, kicking my feet off the ground and hearing the old swing creak in protest underneath my weight. Hair now plastered my feet and as I swung faster and faster the rain blurred my vision until I could see nothing but the darkness that came with closing my eyes. It reminded me of the nights where I would wait for the click of my bedroom door to open, to hear the soft thud of feet then followed by the harsh whispering in my ear, telling me to cry out, to fight. But I never did… I stilled the swing, putting my foot down, needing the thoughts to stop. I stepped off the swing and touched the rusted metal; this had been my own special place for so many years. It felt sad to have to leave it behind, as if it were a real person that I was leaving. But I didn’t cry, I was different, I was out and I was going to prove it by making something of my life. The past would haunt me no more.

Where would I go? Before the question had seemed like a mysterious one of wonder and hope but now I realised there was no where to go. Had my new life come to an end so soon? I had nowhere and no one. No friends and no family… No family. Dad. It’s not that I hadn’t thought of it before, after those long nights that seemed to last forever before a panting figure would duck out of my room, leaving me feeling used and disgusting. I had thought of running away, of finding him. He could hate me. He could send me away. He could be dead. The thought send shivers of sudden horror down my spine, if he was really dead then my last hope was gone. But it was true, I had nothing else. I pulled out my wallet from my jeans pocket and carefully removed the faded photograph that lived there. I covered it with my hand, shielding the precious image from the rain which still fell hard and fast from the dark skies overhead.

It was black and white. The man was big, his shoulders wide and his face smiling. In his arms he held a small baby in a white gown. It was my christening, a small affair in the village but it have given me one of the only photos of my father and for that I was thankful. I stroked the happy face with my little finger, imagining him now 15 years later, maybe more wrinkled, going a little grey but with that same age old grin that would light up as soon as he saw me. My heart thumped a little in my chest at the thought of seeing him again. That’s what I would do. I would go to Africa. I would find my Dad. And we would be together again. A beaming smile broke out on my face, a smile that was usually forced for the sake of my Mum but for now anyway was a genuine one. My face felt weird but in a good way, I could get used to this expression.

As the smile showed proudly on my face, the rain suddenly stopped and I looked up into the dark abyss of clouds. Something incredible happened. A sun beam broke through the clouds and shone on the broken hinge gate that led out from the park. I took my suitcase in my hand and moved to the gate, placing a shaking hand on it and closing my eyes against the warmth of the sun. It disappeared quickly, leaving me feeling alone and wondering if it had just been my imagination. Until the warmth filled my body again and my eyes opened to see the clouds departing, leaving blue skies and the sun behind. Raindrops glistened on a take away carton at my feet and as I looked around even the decaying rubbish bags seemed to hold some kind of hidden beauty, some new hidden secret that they wanted to tell me. I smiled at the scene, knowing in my heart of hearts that despite all the bad times, I would miss this place. The small joys of brief sunshine and the comfort of the wind rushing past my face, as I flew high in the sky on the swing. It was a secret place that I could have shown Joey when he was old enough, when he would understand.

I sighed and opened the gate, instantly missing the cold metal beneath my hand and I hurriedly put my hand in my pocket, trying not to think about the ache that entered my chest when I realised I was really doing it. I was really leaving. I carried on down the road, not stopping to look at the rows of houses that lined the streets. Not caring as my trainers collided with unknown shapes in the gutter. I didn’t even stop at my house, knowing there would be no one there to see me as I strolled past merrily, as if I was simply going for a nice walk in the summer time. I reached the end of the road too quickly and soon I was stood by the sign post with its washed out black letters that miserably told the world where the unfortunate individuals who called this place home lived. Larch Close read the sign though the letters actually spelt L rch Clo e as over time even the rain had grown tired of the street where I had previously called my home. But not anymore. I thought for one last time for my Mother, my baby brother, for the man who had made my life a living hell ever since I could remember.

And I smiled. As if he was stood right in the front of me, his arms raised to beat me and his hands ready to grab me and make me do the worst and most unheard of deals. And I simply smiled. That was my past. I scanned the road one last time, letting my eyes drift on my house for a moment longer before turning away to walk out of town. Out of here. Out of this life. To find my Father. And, oh, how good that sounded.

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