I slammed the door of my house, kicking off my ugly black school shoes and trudging down the long winding hallway to the kitchen.
"Mum," I sighed, in greeting.
She lay with her head resting on the round cream coloured table, her eyes half closed. The half empty bottle of vodka at the table explained everything quite clearly and yet, it was neither her condition nor the physical evidence that alerted me to her drunkenness. It was the time. I knew that my mother started drinking as soon as she arrived home from work at 3.00 pm and drunk herself stupid before I walked in the door at 4:00. Her blonde hair, nicely brushed and naturally straight this morning, was now tangled from her having run her hands through it.
"Mum," I said again, shaking her shoulder.
Her tired green eyes opened wider for a moment before falling shut completely.
"C'mon," I whispered, using my strength to pull her from the chair.
Heaving and panting, I dragged her from the kitchen to the violet couch in the living room. As I placed a raggedy blanket over her, she rolled over and mumbled something in gibberish.
Looking out through the French doors which opened onto the backyard, I felt a sense of peace. The sunlight filtered gently through the leaves of the big, beautiful eucalyptus trees surrounding the yard and the perfect blue sky peeked through the gap between the fence and the branches of each tree. The grass was green and the flowers well managed. It was a beautiful view and I was enchanted. Nature had always been kind to me, a refuge from my troubles. To look at a sky was to feel serenity fill my body. In an instant, I could let go of all of the sadness and anger that my mother created. Suddenly, Christopher's face appeared in my mind, his comforting smile taunting me. He wanted to help me, he wanted to fix me. But he didn't know how deep the problems ran, that even if he managed to stop the bullies from bullying, I still wouldn't have any friends. I did not want his help and yet as I imagined those strong muscular arms around me, I realised I felt soothed. I shook my head violently, attempting to dispel the thoughts and retreated to my room.
I lay on my bed, my eyes closed and the scene that haunted me constantly appeared. I stood on a grassy hill in England, the wind whipping through my hair and breathed in. The freedom of the moment was incredible. I stared down the hill at the little white cottage that stood on the cobblestone street in the middle of nowhere. The air was cool and I was rugged up in a thick burgundy coat, dark blue jeans and long black boots. I smiled as a pair of long arms wound their way round my waist and his head rested on my shoulder.
“I love you,” he whispered softly.
As I turned to look at him, the image dissipated and I woke up; sad, alone and wanting. A tear slid down my cheek as I imagined my whole lonely life. I knew it would go by without love, without marriage, without a family, much to my despair. I knew because I believed myself frightfully unlovable. How else to explain my lack of friends and my mother’s treatment of me? I couldn’t even begin to conceive that the issue might not be with me. All I could focus on was my scarred skin, my broken soul and what I found to be a disgusting form; a putrid face. It is so very difficult to believe in the possibility of love or in the possibility of someone loving you, when you’ve never been able to love yourself. When you’ve never accepted yourself, you cannot believe that anyone else ever would.
The sunlight on my face awoke me the next day. I sat up abruptly and peered out my small window, which was bordered by white lace curtains and smiled. It was going to be another perfect day. I always tried to perceive things as an outsider would but sometimes it was difficult. I knew my room wouldn’t appeal to most people but it was a safe haven of sorts for me.
My room was a light shade of green, the carpet a soft white that had faded in the eighteen years that we'd lived there. A bookcase stood in the corner next to my window, packed full with all my favourite books. In the opposing corner stood a cupboard that contained another two stacks of books that I'd re-read many times. There wasn't all that much to see as my room was relatively neat and simplistic. There were no photos with friends or family...no mementos....no real representations of me and my character.
I guess, to an outsider, it would seem as if I had no character but it was there in the little things. My mahogany dresser which stood opposite my window held a drawer filled with letters from my absent father. My make-up, though basic had been placed in neat lines on top of the dresser reflecting my obsession with neatness that strangely only came out in certain aspects of my life. On my night stand was the most vital detail of all, my journal. I had many journals, most of them currently stowed away beneath my bed but this journal was more significant than the others. I had begun writing my first novel. Of course I didn't hope that anything would come of it but I'd finally plucked up the courage to try something even though it could end with failure.
You see, I had issues with courage and even bigger issues with the idea of failing. I remembered in primary school when my father had tried to get me to enter a writing competition for young writers. I had plenty of material and some of it was probably even of a high enough standard but the fear of not being good enough stopped me. I told my father that writing was just a hobby. He knew I was lying but he also knew that I didn’t want to be pushed so that was the end of that.
I guess an outsider would say my room was minimalistic and they'd be right. My clothes in my wardrobe were mostly muted shades and were organised perfectly into colours. I didn't like mess and maybe my lack of frivolity was obvious but to me, the journal by my bed, my much loved books and the letters that I had collected year after year were details that showed who I really was.
After a quick but refreshing shower, I stood before the mirror upon my dresser. Refusing to dwell on my flaws for too long, I quickly applied some light foundation and a touch of lip gloss. It didn't do much to enhance my features but it was a veil that made me feel more at ease. I rarely brushed my hair in the morning, preferring to let it dry naturally and curl the way it always did. I'd once been complimented by a hairdresser for my healthy hair and perfect ringlets and waves. I didn't necessarily adore my hair but it was one of my physical features that I appreciated from time to time. I quickly dried it a little with my towel and then as was routine, straightened out my school dress. It stretched tight across my bust and hips but fell loosely over my stomach, gliding against my thighs as I walked. I remembered my mum telling me that I had the perfect body shape; "curves in all the right places," she had said but I hated my body with a passion and no drunken compliment was going to contend with that.
"Where did you put it?" Mum yelled at me as I stumbled into the kitchen, pulling on my shoes at the same time.
"Put what?" I said innocently.
She glared at me with piercing green eyes. Sobriety did nothing to soften her when she was suffering withdrawals. At the very least, her harsh words were delivered with less of a slur. The alcohol and its withdrawal effects made my mother a different person. She wasn’t aggressive or harsh in reality but the alcohol had become her reality. She wasn’t the person my father fell in love with or the mother that I had once admired. She was a shadow of that woman, the darkness quickly eclipsing any light that remained within her.
I attempted to move across the room to the living room where I had left my school bag but her arm came around my wrist, her nails biting sharply into the flesh.
I whimpered quietly as tears of pain welled in my eyes.
"Well," she demanded impatiently, "where is it?"
"Where's what?" I said, looking out the kitchen window to the sky beyond.
She pulled on my arm so I was forced to look at her, purposely digging her nails further into my arm.
"The vodka, you little brat."
Her eyes flared dangerously and I felt thankful I had inherited my eye colour from my father. The green of her eyes was frightening, almost unnatural. I knew I had to give in, like always and yet somehow I found the strength to try again each night, hoping one day maybe I'd get away with it. It was a childish dream that I’d nurtured that maybe one day she’d get to the point where she realised that alcohol was destroying her and that I needed my mother.
I didn’t regret the entirety of the experience because if I had actually had someone to depend on, I never would have learned to stand on my own and take care of myself the way I did but at the same time, I think everybody deserves to be taken care of and that was something I was forced to live without.
"It's behind the azaleas in the garden," I sighed, resigned.
She let go of my wrist and then slapped me across the face, hard. Some days were worse than others. She was smaller than me and not very muscly but she was willing to raise a hand against me and I was not willing to do the same. She used this against me. When the alcohol was warping her mind, it was like I didn’t exist as her daughter. I was just an irritation, an annoyance and an obstacle in the way of the only thing she really cared about; alcohol and the false reality that it allowed her to live in.