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."

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7. Day Six

Day six:

What should have been a blissful Saturday was ruined by the arrival of my sister and her boyfriend, back from university for the weekend. Don’t get me wrong, I love my sister, but I think if I wasn’t related to her, I’d probably hate her. She’s really annoying, not to mention the fact that when she’s around I am no longer my mother’s daughter. She only has eyes for Pansy when she’s home, and I mean, I can’t blame her; Pansy is the clever one, the pretty one, the nice one, the success. She’s the daughter Mum’s proud to show off. I’m the disappointment.

So when I woke on Saturday morning, after a nice lie in, and heard voices downstairs, namely, my sister’s voice, my heart sank. I had managed to forget about her visit, what with the new term starting. I groaned and hauled myself out of bed and into the bathroom with my clothes. I had been looking forward to a nice morning (or maybe an entire day) of lounging around in my pyjamas, but there was no way I was going to do that with guests in the house. Besides, I think my mother and sister would probably kill me if I even thought about going downstairs to meet Pansy’s boyfriend Jack in my pyjamas. Still, I dressed for comfort, not company.

My mother and sister shot me disdainful looks as I entered the kitchen dressed in my comfy jeans and a hoody, wet hair all over the place, but I ignored them and acted like I totally knew that we were having company.

“Hi, sister dearest,” I said, sarcasm dripping from my words. “When did you arrive?”

She shot me daggers. I did love winding up my sister. She was such a perfectionist that nearly everything I did wound her up, especially when I didn’t act like the perfect little loving sister she wanted, and especially in front of people.

“Late last night. Jack drove us up after our last lecture yesterday.” Pansy looked at him with adoring eyes and I fought back the urge to gag. “Jack, have you met my sister? This is Skye.” She gestured towards me, a half smile on her face for Jack’s benefit. Whenever I saw her with other people I was always confused. It was like she was two different people. She had her home persona, which involved being mean to me and complaining about everything I did, while sucking up to Mum, and she had her public persona, which made her into whoever the person she was with wanted her to be. I always wondered which person was the real Pansy. If it was the home persona, when she married someone, would she spend her whole life pretending to be someone else for the benefit of her husband? That didn’t seem like a very happy life. When I thought about her like that, I almost felt sorry for her. It was like she had this need to be liked and accepted, so she pretended she was someone else so everyone would like her.

“Awww!” Mum called out in joy, like she did every time there was a silence when Pansy was around. “My baby girl is all grown up, and so perfect!” She reached towards Pansy and enveloped her into a big hug.

Pansy smiled politely to Jack. “Sorry,” she said.

“No, no,” Jack said, his deep voice reaching around us all like chocolate, “I think it’s good that you have such a wonderful relationship with your mother.”

I rolled my eyes. His voice was so deep it almost sounded fake. I reached into a cupboard and pulled out a bowl before pouring my cereal in it.

“So, Pansy, how are you doing in university?” Mum asked.

“Good,” Pansy said, sitting at the table next to Jack. “The lectures and classes are really interesting.”

“She so modest,” Jack said, poking her in the ribs. “She’s top of her class at the moment.”

Pansy glanced at the floor in fake embarrassment. She knew he was going to tell Mum how well she was doing, so she wanted to pretend she was modest by downplaying it herself.

“Oh, my beautiful girl, so clever. I was just like you when I was your age.” Mum put her hand on Pansy’s cheek. I rolled my eyes again and dropped my gaze to my cereal before I threw up at all the love in the room.

“It’s so good to have my lovely daughter back home,” Mum said. “I miss you when you’re away.”

“Aw, Mum,” Pansy said, like she was annoyed at the affection she was giving her, but it was obvious she loved it.

“You’re so successful, and so grown up,” Mum said adoringly. “Isn’t that right Jim?” Mum ambushed Dad who’d just come back after a morning walk.

“Yes,” Dad said, stopping what he was doing and turning towards Pansy. “We’re all so proud of you. You’re such a wonderful daughter.” He got back to making a cup of tea for everyone except me. I knew that was because, logically, we could only get four cups of tea out of our pot, and guests were treated better than residents in this house, but I felt like it was a personal affront to me. Not to mention the words of adoration my parents were showering upon Pansy. Way to make me feel bad about not being perfect. I sighed heavily as the shrill ring of the phone interrupted conversation. I paused with the spoon halfway to my mouth, waiting for someone to get it.

“Skye! Get the phone!” Mum said sharply. I didn’t understand why she couldn’t get it. she wasn’t doing anything. And neither was Pansy. They could both have got the phone without stopping anything. I, on the other hand, was busy eating, so why should I have to stop what I was doing to get the phone? I paused and stared at her for long enough to show I was not happy with her before running to grab the phone before the answer machine picked it up.

“Hello?”

“Hi, is Skye there please? This is Chris; I’m in her biology class at school.”

“Speaking,” I said. “Hi Chris.”

“Oh, hi,” he replied, a little flustered.

“So…” I said awkwardly. “How’re you?”

“Good, yeah. Erm… You?”

“Brilliant…” There was an awkward pause. “So, was there a reason you called?”

“Oh, yeah, erm… do you want to come over to my aunt’s house today? I’m trying to make friends around here.”

“Then you’re going about it the wrong way by inviting me over.”

He laughed. “I’ll take my chances.”

“Oh and how did you get my phone number? Are you some kind of creepy stalker dude?” I asked.

“It was on the list of class phone numbers everyone gets issued with, duh.”

I bit my lip, feeling awkward. “Oh yeah…”

“Well do you?”

“Do I what?”

“Want to come over?”

“Oh. One sec, let me just ask my mum,” I replied. “Mum!” I called, covering the mouthpiece.

“What?” she replied impatiently.

“Can I go over to my friend Chris’s house today?”

“Yes. No. Stop bothering me when I’m spending time with my daughter.” She sounded flustered.

I rolled my eyes. “I’m your daughter too, Mum, or have you forgotten?” I muttered. I decided to ignore everything she’d said except the ‘yes’ bit.

“Yeah, I can come. I’ll be over in ten minutes, if that’s okay?” I said to Chris.

“Yeah, great.” Chris sounded genuinely happy at the prospect of time in my company, which was something I rarely experienced. He gave me directions to his aunt’s house, and I cleared away my breakfast things and brushed my teeth before sneaking out the back door.

The air outside was cold and I could see my breath hanging in front of me in puffs, like dragon’s breath. I buried my hands in my pockets to keep them walk and followed Chris’s directions to his aunt’s house. It really wasn’t that far from mine.

His house was very like mine; a semi-detached, with pretty flowers in the front garden and a small knee height hedge bordering the property. All the houses in Little Riding looked the same. I made my way up the path and pressed the doorbell, hearing it echo around inside. After a moment, Chris answered it and let me inside.

“Hello, new friend,” he said, smirking. “Aunt Jem!” he called over his shoulder. “We have a visitor!”

His aunt appeared from the kitchen, looking very much like my mother, but with a kinder face. “Hello. Are you going to introduce us, Christopher?” she said, wiping her hands on a dishcloth.

“Aunty Jem, don’t call me that,” he whined.

“You know I like teasing you. Now, the guest?” She nodded towards me.

“Aunt Jem, this is Skye, a friend from school. Skye, the woman intent on teasing the life out of me, also known as my Aunty Jem.”

She laughed. “I’m very pleased to meet you. Will you be staying for lunch?”

I looked hesitantly at Chris.

“No,” he said. “I was thinking you could give me a tour of the town and we could pick up some food there?”

“Sounds good,” I replied. “Shall we go?”

Chris nodded.

“It’s quite cold out there, so wrap up warm,” I warned him.

“God, you sound like my m… my aunt!”

I noticed the hesitation. He was going to say ‘mother’, but didn’t. I decided to ignore it. It was his business if he wanted to tell me or not.

We headed out of the door and turned right, towards the high street. I began by showing him the two supermarkets in Little Riding, and then moved on to the smaller shops. Our town was the type of town overrun with charity shops, so there wasn’t really much to look at. We popped into the library for a bit, then I took him into the only food place that did hot food to take away, and we grabbed a bag of chips to share, which he insisted on paying for. He said it was my wage for giving him a tour; he’d pay me in chips.

Next stop was the park. I took him through a small ginnel between shops to a residential street and we walked along in silence, eating our chips. This was the more affluent part of town with the big detached houses with fences and gates around their properties. And of course, it was where Jade lived. I stared at the peaceful exterior of her house as we passed, wondering for the thousandth time how it was fair that such a horrible person had such a great life.

“Anyone you know live there?” Chris asked, noticing my staring.

“Just someone from school…” I murmured.

“Judging by the evil stare you’re giving the house it’ll be that Jill girl or whatever her name is.”

“Ooh, perceptive,” I joked, “but yes, this is Jade’s house.”

“Jade! That’s it! I knew it began with a ‘J’.”

I rolled my eyes. “Anyway, Sherlock, this is the park.” I gestured towards a big expanse of grass a little further down the street.

“I love the park!” he called, running towards it, leaving me with the chips. I ran after him, trying to hold his arm to stop him running off like a lunatic onto the climbing frame, but he managed to evade me. I dumped the chip bag in the bin and followed him on, grabbing his arm. I managed to wrestle him off the equipment and we fell in a heap on the floor, laughing. I felt it in my stomach, a spike of something unfamiliar, and wondered if it was possible that I was genuinely happy. Just thinking this, along with the accompanying cynicism that I was feeling a positive emotion, instantly made me feel bad again. I abruptly stopped laughing, and pulled myself to my feet, heading off to the exit. Chris must have noticed the change in my mood, but he didn’t mention it; he just walked beside me in silence. Without even thinking about it, I made my way to my safe place, the place I always go when I feel down. The ponds where we first met. I sat down on my bench, only remembering that Chris was with me when he sat down next to me.

We were silent for a while, looking at the water, before Chris spoke, softly.

“Is everything okay with you?” he asked tentatively.

“Yeah, fine. Why?” I asked, adrenaline running through me, like every time someone brought up feelings with me.

“Just… you always seem a little down. I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me when I saw you smiling and laughing earlier,” he joked.

I glanced at my feet, summoning up all my energy before I could force a smile. “See,” I said. “I’m happy. I’m fine”

He looked at me dubiously, raising an eyebrow.

I swiftly changed the subject. “So, what about your mum? What’s she busy doing while you live with your aunt?”

Chris fixed his gaze on a pile of goose poo on the floor and ground his teeth together. “She’s…” he searched for words. “She’s going through some issues right now, but she’ll be fine. But don’t think you’re getting away with this, young lady.” His voice picked up and sounded light-hearted again as he looked back up at me.

“Get away with what?” I asked innocently.

“Don’t play dumb with me. I know this technique, turning the conversation around on me so we don’t have to talk about you.” He paused, his expression serious once more. “I get it, you don’t want to talk, and I won’t force you; God knows no one can force me to talk I if I don’t want to, but sometimes it’s good to talk, and let everything out to someone you trust.”

I crunched my knuckles, concerned at the turn our conversation had taken. “That’s all very well, but I don’t really trust you, no offence. I mean, we’ve had like four conversations. I don’t know you well enough to spill my secrets.”

He smiled at me. “Fair enough, but the offer will remain open for when you feel you know me well enough to trust me.”

I sighed, wondering if he’d stick around long enough. In my experience, when people started to get to know me, they stopped hanging around with me. I wasn’t a very nice or tolerant person. Besides, it felt weird having someone care about me, worry about me. I wasn’t used to people caring; they all had something more important to worry about.

“Thanks,” I said. “We should probably be getting back now. Do you want me to walk you home?”

“I can find my own way back from here. This is where I walk Rufus, remember?” He lifted one corner of his mouth into a half smile.

I smiled back, then walked home on my own, trying to forget that he was worrying about me. It was a real responsibility to be the object of worry. I hesitated at the front door of my house, knowing that there was going to be hell to pay for sneaking out, especially when we had guests, so I went around the back and climbed up the trellis by my window and into my room that way. I decided to hide up there for the rest of the day. 

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