This was impossible. Sleep was impossible.
For the seventeenth time, Courtney flicked out her covers right to the end, then scrunched them up again and turned. Then turned the other way. Then the other way. She stared at her phone, willing for someone to text her.
For some reason, she wanted a message from Jack. Apologizing. Groveling. Wanting her back. What would she say? Yes. Wait, no. That she didn’t know? Ugh, this was complicated. Courtney tried to forget it.
Who could she text? All her friends were sound asleep or getting drunk. She wished she could be in either situation. Sleep sounded good, but being drunk sounded better. Then again, you’d have a hangover the next day. Sleep is the best thing.
Courtney flicked through her contacts. Janet? Asleep. Felix? Drunk. Kelly? Drunk. Sam? Drunk. Lily? Asleep. Henry? Probably sleeping with some good looking girl. Kim?
Straining her ears, Courtney couldn’t make out any noises of the keys of a laptop tapping. What if she got closer? Slipping quietly out of bed, she let the cold air rush around her legs. Shivering, she made her way to the door, wincing at the creaks. She didn’t want Kim to know she was spying on her.
Was she spying on her? No. Spying on people was childish. She was checking. Checking was fine. Mum’s check on their babies. Stalkers check on the person they’re stalking. She was just a sister checking on her sister.
Carefully, Courtney opened the door. It was still a startling bright pink with painted white daisies looping around the handle and trailing downwards. After begging her Dad to paint it that way when she was five, she sincerely regretted. But she was going through that pink princess stage and had passed it pretty quickly. She had also gone through the gothic stage and wanted it black, but her Dad refused.
Courtney could still the single, wobbly black strip at the top of the door. After her Dad refused to paint the door, she had made a very poor attempt herself. She had completed that one strip when the step-ladder, she was badly balanced on, had wobbled. She had come crashing down, knocking the tin of black paint all over the beige carpet. That had taken a lot of carpet cleaner to get out.
Echoing snores rumbled from down the hall. Billy, their Dad, was in an incredibly deep sleep and he had left the door open a tiny bit. Courtney sneakily crept over and closed it. You could still hear him snoring.
Turning around, she headed for the stairs. These were old and spiraling, spinning up into the third floor. Gripping the hand-rail, she began to walk up. The blue paint flaked off into her hand but she tried hard not to notice. Balancing on your tip-toes was hard enough, but balancing and walking? A much harder task.
Everywhere she stepped seemed to be a place that creaked.
Creak. Creak. Creeeeeeak. Creak. Extra long creak.
By the time Courtney got to the top of the stairs she was absolutely certain Kim would be awake now. Stepping out onto the landing, she stared at her younger sister’s door. It was a deep blue and decorated with heaps of quotes drawn on in thick black marker. They were all different sizes, some of the huge and some of them small.
Courtney stepped forward a bit more to try and read one of the smaller quotes. She’d written it on there in her shaky, scrawling hand writing and it was tiny. What had she written?
She leant against the door casually, squinting to see the small quote in the incredibly dim light. The heavy breathing of Kim wavered through the door. Did that mean she was asleep? Or awake? What if Courtney very gently opened the door and peeped in?
Resting her hand on the cold door handle, she pushed it open. There was nobody in Kim’s bed but the sheets were in a heaped mess and the pillow at the wrong end. She looked at the desk. The laptop was glowing but nobody was on it. Where was she?
“Kim?” whispered Courtney, the word catching in her throat.
The black chair in front of the desk began to move. Was Kim sitting in it? Rotating, the chair stopped in front of Courtney.
“I’ve been expecting you Courtney Brown.”