Day 23

Skye has been falling for a long time, but she's fed up of it. She knows it's going to be hard, but she's determined to pull her life back from the brink.
But when Chris gets involved, well, things start going differently to how she planned.
"Why aren't you fighting back goddammit?"
"Because you, Skye Monroe, know nothing about me, about why."


2. Day One

Uneventful. Not much happened today. It is the last day of the Easter holidays. Three weeks ago, they stretched out before me, as they always do, and I tried not to think about going back to school. I settled into a routine of sleeping until noon, if I could make it that far before my five year old brother Rhys decided to take it upon himself to wake me, then eating a sort of brunch, then lounging about for the rest of the day. If my family decided to go out, they would go out, long ago having given up trying to cajole me to join them. My elder sister Pansy was home from university for the holidays, and my parents were making a huge fuss of her, until she left a few days ago to go on a girls holiday to Italy or something. Then my parents had nothing to do except tell me how perfect she was, then sigh and shake their heads disappointedly at me. Now, there was less than one day left until the hell on earth known as school opened its doors for yet another term. I was dreading it. But even more than I was dreading being back at school, I was dreading the look on the teacher’s faces as I failed, yet again, to hand in any decent homework.

So that was what I was doing. I dug my homework diary out of my school bag and checked through the weeks of work I was supposed to have competed over the holiday, certain that Jade, the bane of my existence, had done all of hers in beautiful handwriting with new fine-liners and all the titles underlined. And she was sure to have completed it all ages ago. I threw down the jotter in despair. I hated homework, and I hated school, and I mean really hated it, but no matter how much I hated it, that was apparently not a good excuse for not doing my homework, and I knew the teacher’s patience with me was running out, so I scribbled down some half legible, possibly right nonsense about religious responses to crime and punishment, then turned to my maths homework. I’m not kidding, I literally read the same question four times, and none of the words had any meaning in my brain. I gave my head a good sharp tap on the table to knock out the cobwebs, knock some sense into me, call it what you wish, and tried again, hoping the pain would focus me, but all I had was a headache starting, and the sentence still didn’t make sense. I clenched my fists, crunching my knuckles, gave my eyes a rub, trying to wake up a bit, before deciding that I was obviously not meant to do maths right now and opening my biology textbook. I sighed, and started the arduous task of copying down a double page of information, but only got one paragraph in before all the information on transpiration started to crash around in my head before making its escape goodness knows where. I shut the book with a slap and pushed back my chair, taking deep breaths. I knew there was a way out of doing the homework, so I had no motivation to do it. If there wasn’t a way out of doing it, would I have felt more motivated? I don’t know, but I did know how to get out of it. You can only tell teachers that you forgot your homework, left it in the printer, must have lost it somewhere because you’re sure you put it in your bag this morning, so many times before they lose patience, but if you tell them you don’t understand and maybe squeeze out a few tears, they’ll be a lot more sympathetic. And boy, was I one hell of an actress. It was a necessity for me to be able to act well. If I hadn’t, and everyone could see how much I was hurting on the inside, and worried about me, well… I’d hate it. I’d hate everyone treating me differently, trying not to upset me in case it set me off, or keeping conversation topics upbeat and not discussing depressing things in front of me. I want to talk about what I want, not what other people think is best for me. I don’t want to be different, I want to be normal. And how can I be normal if everyone is tiptoeing around me? In my mind, I was going to fake it ‘til I could make it. If I pretended to be happy for those around me for long enough, then maybe I really would be happy, maybe I could really smile, and feel a stirring in my stomach when I laughed, instead of deadness. That was what I wanted; to be happy… to be normal. But hey, I guess we can’t have everything we want. As Gus says in one of my all-time favourite books, The Fault in Our Stars, ‘The world is not a wish granting factory.’ Or was it Van Houten who said it originally? Whatever, the meaning is the same whoever said it. The world is not a wish granting factory, and although I seemed to have grasped that, it’s a shame to say that the rest of the world has yet to understand that. Especially the girls in my year. They seemed to assume that everything would be done for them, without them having to lift one of their beautifully manicured fingers. It made me sick that there were kids starving in Africa, and they pitched a fit about the number of calories in the school lunches. They were lucky they had freaking lunches!

Thinking about them, and about school was stressing me out, and I began to fiddle, crunching my knuckles and constantly moving in agitation. I knew where this was leading, and I also knew I couldn’t let it get that far. Not now. I grabbed my battered converses from the corner of the room and took them downstairs to put them on, slipping my dad’s oversized leather jacket on too, to ward off the drizzle.

“I’m going for a walk! Back in a bit!” I yelled over my shoulder as I slammed the door without waiting for a reply. I knew that if I waited my parents would make me stay home and do work right under their noses so they could check I was doing it, and that was not what I wanted.

I trudged down my quiet street, trying not to look suspicious. The neighbourhood watch in our area hated me, and if I did anything even remotely suspicious, those old ladies hidden behind their lace curtains would be on the phone to my parents, telling them how out of control I was, which I didn’t mind, except it gave my parents one more thing to have a go at me for. I turned right at the bottom of the road, and then followed a hidden grassy track through the trees to the pond. It was my favourite place in the whole world to be. The pond was literally a huge pond in a clearing in some woods. There was a park a little way away, and the path to it went by the pond, so in the summer packs of small children trekked their way past the pond, past my idyllic spot, tailed by harried mothers, calling out in voices shriller than bird calls, shattering the silence. But at this time of year it’s too cold for anyone in their right mind to be voluntarily outside, so it was just me.

I sat down on a bench facing the water, the same bench I always sat on. It was in memory of some woman called Cynthia Berks, who apparently liked to walk around here, even when she was dying of cancer, which was what finished her off in the end. It’s a funny expression, dying of something, because if you think about it, we’re all dying of life. That’s what people do; they die. So I guess all that changes when you get ill is you die of something else and get there quicker than most people.

I was sitting there, in my own little world just staring at the water for quite a while. The sight of water calms me. It’s so pretty, and so strong. And it always moves. Water is even prettier when it’s surrounded by trees. It makes it look more natural, less commercialised, like the seaside. The fresh air and walking calmed me, took me away from the feeling I had at home, and looking at the water placed me in a tranquil state. Well, until I was interrupted by a dog.

This tiny, yappy terrier bowled up to me like a fat little bowling ball and started trying to mount my leg. I stood up and was considering giving it a boot when a guy ran up to me.

“Rufus! Rufus stop it!” he called. He reached down and snapped the lead onto the dog’s collar, pulling him away from me. “I am so sorry,” he said, looking at me through his floppy brown fringe. His skin was nicely tanned, meaning he’d just been away somewhere, or that was his natural skin tone. There was no way you could get any semblance of a tan in England.

“It’s fine,” I said, wincing. Even I could tell how dead my voice sounded. It’d been too long since I’d faked a happy voice; I was out of practice. I forced a smile on my face and tried to make my tone lighter. “No worries, I mean, it’s an everyday occurrence, dogs throwing themselves at my feet.”

The guy laughed. “Yeah, he seems to have taken quite a shine to you,” he said, nodding at the dog, who was still trying to get close to me. “Mind you, it’s no wonder; the only female he gets to see is my aunt, and she’s hardly a looker. I decided to spring him and take him for a walk. Well, according to my aunt, he’s not allowed to walk, it could hurt his feet. He’s so spoilt. So yeah, don’t tell her I let Rufus walk?” He half-smiled, one corner of his mouth pulled up.

“Your secret is safe with me.”

“Well, carry on with whatever it was you were doing before his Lordship here interrupted.”

“I was just looking at the water. Riveting stuff.”

“I’m sure it was. Well, see you around,” he said, and turned around to walk off down the pathway to the park. The entire encounter felt like something from a movie, it was so engineered and natural, but as he walked away, he didn’t look back, kind of running the movie atmosphere.

When he was out of sight, panic ripped at my stomach for no reason, and I was no longer comfortable being alone. The woods didn’t seem like the safe haven they had been before. I pulled Dad’s jacket closer around me, feeling small, alone and insignificant. There was no way in hell or on earth that I wanted to go back to school tomorrow. And in heaven? Well in heaven, that wouldn’t be an option. 

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