Cold concrete slabs etch lines into my numb backside as I sit here, on the same step that I sat on yesterday. Except now, I'm alone; no shoulder pressing against mine; no glowing eyes; no free laughter. Silence. Not even the whistle of the gale or the patter of rain.
A moody sky looms above me: white, grey and black clouds swirling together to create a canopy, which threatens to release its load at any unfortunate moment. I stare at my rucksack knowing that tonight it will be an impossibility keeping my few possessions dry.
In the past when it was either raining, snowing or exceptionally cold I would seek shelter in Matt's flat, which he owned above the shop, it isn't much, one tiny bedroom, a kitchen and bathroom but if you aren't going to be there nine times out of ten, what does it matter if it is a bit rusty. All I can say is that it was warm and it felt more like a home than the one I lived in with my 'family'.
Like yesterday the only thing I have to protect me from the cold is the same thinning jacket to which has now acquired a new hole in the cuff of the sleeve, due to a mirror-like metal fence that I had to jump over to get to my sleeping spot in Bloomsbury- if I'm going to break the law I may as well do it in style. The cold stillness embraced me, tightening its hold every second and I let it. How feeble my attempts at strength were today. It kept slipping away from me, leaving me nothing to hold on to.
"Hello stranger." A cheerful voice greeted my ears, finally an arm to grab onto, pulling me up and giving me strength. "So." Sam jumps down from the step above to collapse into the space beside me, leaning against me sighing loudly.
Heat radiates from his back and shoulder to my right arm, causing the goose bumps to deflate "Rough day?" I ask with a slight smile.
"You could say that." he replied resting his head on my shoulder.
"I did say that."
He sighs again leaving silence to rest upon the conversation.
"Do you know anyone," Sam exclaims, suddenly moving and twisting his body so he is cross legged facing towards me, leaving my arm exposed to the frightful cold once again, "Who irritates you so much you want to repeatedly smash their head in a car door?"
My Mum, my dad, my sister, Matt, the workers at the homeless shelter who refused me a bed and every school teacher and 'friend' who failed to notice the bruises. "I can think of a few names." I reply through clenched teeth, trying not to reveal my raised heart rate.
"Okay, good. So you know where I'm coming from?"
"Brilliant" he says monotonously, turning his head to the left towards the museum.
I feel odd around Sam like I have nothing to prove; no reputation to uphold and no personality. I could become who ever to wanted to be. Right now I'm just a face in a sea of faces, I don't even have a name for him to call me yet.
"Jess" It spills out of my mouth before I could pull it back. It was: the snapping of a twig in the silent forest; the candle in the darkest room; the lone boat in the vastest ocean; out of place, lost, wrong.
I couldn't see him but rather felt his stare drilling into me, into my soul.
"What?" He knew what it was, that name. My hatred of it grew every time I stuttered it's cursed nature.
"My name: Jess." I didn't know how I expected him to react but it wasn't what he did.
After a second Sam's eyes lit up and a smile stretched across the length of his face, showing off his oddly white teeth "So tell me about yourself Jess."
"Nothing to tell." I shrug him off but you know what they say:if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.
"Jess, I don't believe that." he uncrosses his legs and nudges me with his foot.
I shrug again.
"A sister," I give in, as her memory flutters past the aching returns in my heart."Younger."
"4 years younger than me." when I left home I made a vow to myself to forget her age because knowing how young of a child I left with them was to much for me to bear. Call me a coward for not wanting to feel remorse but don't judge me; I had to get out.
"How old are you?"
"Eighteen." It feels odd to say, eighteen years old-I don't feel that age, I feel older like butter spread over too much bread.
Out of the corner of my eye I spot Sam's eye's flutter up and down my body only to finally rest on the face. "What was that?" I ask him accusingly.
"What was what?" he jumps causing his voice to go higher.
"You were looking me up and down."
His face switches to recognition."Oh," his voice returning to normal pitch "I just wouldn't have put you at eighteen."
"What would you have put me at?"
"Not eighteen." he shrugs
"What about you," I fill the expected lull in conversation "What's your age?"
"Nineteen, twenty in June."
I obviously eye him up and down "I wouldn't've put you at that." I mimic Sam with a smile.
He stares with a vacant expression for a second then breaks into a brilliant laugh.
Once we had calmed down slightly, "Siblings?" I ask, however the question silenced Sam and turned his expression to stone.
"Yep," he stated with a clenched jaw. "I'm the second eldest of five, one girl, four boys."
"God help her." I attempt to make a joke, however it was not met with chuckles or grins rather with contempt and bitterness.
"What is wrong with you today?" I ask him like I'd known him for ages. It was odd, I knew how to talk to him, I felt at home speaking to him even though I'd only known that home for a few hours. To tell the truth, I didn't know whether the angry, grumpy Sam in front of me was the real Sam or just him having an off day. Because we are still aliens to each other, still nobodies.
Suddenly his jaw and whole body unclenched, like it does when you don't know that your muscles are actually clenched and the lines in his face soften as he looked down in a mixture of shame and surprise. "Urm...Sorry." Sam says bringing his eyesight level with mine again, except he doesn't look directly at me. "Danny-the eldest-is twenty-three and is training to become a therapist, says he wants to 'help people remember who they are' pompus twit,'" I huff in amusement at Sam's brother's optimism(People aren't that simple and some might not want your help) "Then there's me and James-also nineteen-except he has been accepted into Oxford university, don't ask me what he does because quite frankly I don't care. After me there's Tom, fifteen years old and is the most arrogant yet also boring person I've ever met. The youngest is Charlotte and she's two, clearly an accident, I mean look at the age difference but like that matters, she is a fresh, blank canvas that they can paint what they like onto. A second chance to get it right-a do over if you will."
"To get what right?"
"Me, boys, call it what you will, but with a girl they can knock out all the qualities they didn't like in me and replace them with different, better qualities that can make her a proper, respectable woman and in turn can get her a proper respectable husband." words crossed the threshold of his lips at such a pace I could do nothing but sit and listen. You could tell by the way Sam spoke that he was undoubtedly extremely learned yet he also didn't agree with his education somehow, whether it was unjust for him to get a brilliant education when others didn't, or he just hated the structure of it all.
"Are you going to go to university?" the question popped out.
"No," he said almost absent-mindedly"School was boring."
"Isn't university supposed to be different?"
"Maybe but I don't like the idea of getting into debt with a government that I wouldn't trust with my dirty washing?"
"You look rich, surely you can afford the debt."
"A)It's my parents that are rich and B) How can some one look rich?" Sam used his right thumb and index finger to count what he had said.
"In the exact same way a person can look poor." I reply, bringing my face closer to his.
"And in what way is that, Jess?" He leans forward, making the distance between our noses only centimeters. I stare dead straight into his eyes, mirroring him in the way his gaze locked onto mine.
Indignation grew in the pit of my stomach, he knew what I meant:that i looked poor. he was testing me, seeing if I would have the guts to say what we were both thinking:we are opposites; beautiful to our own yet ugly to the other. "Just look in a mirror Sam!" I snap pushing him away from it as if the close proximity have suddenly started to suffocate me, leaving me breathless.
"Sorry." he whispers like he isn't even man enough to say it loud enough for me to hear; he deserves no response, not from me anyway.
So finally the mood within matches that of the whether.