As I turn onto the road that leads to home, the rain that has been threatening since this morning finally fulfils its promise. I have no coat or umbrella; I’m used to getting soaked by now. The sun dips below the roofs of derelict terraces, taking its warmth with it and letting the sky darken, unhindered by its weak rays. I’m beginning to lose feeling in my toes where the water has seeped in through the hole in the sole of one of my shoes, I might have to try and patch it up with something, they won’t hold up for much longer if they keep getting waterlogged.
I accidentally step in a puddle of icy water. Damn. It was hidden in the shadow between the streetlights which have just come to life for another night. The chill sends shudders down my leg as I try my best to shake the water off, it’s not like I have any way of drying my clothes for tomorrow, so I have to do everything I can to minimise the damage.
With one shoe squelching with each step, I continue home, under the sky full of clouds. I hear a whistle behind me, I don’t turn, but the drunken laughter tells me who it was. He doesn’t recognise his own daughter before I’ve even got home. Damn. Where did he even get the money from? My answer comes quickly, as the owner of the off-licence runs past me, shouting at my Dad, who responds by hurling abuse and staggering across the road to find somewhere else to lurk. I hate him. When I see him like this, I understand why people have a problem with immigrants; he hasn’t earned a penny honestly since he lost his job back home.
Most of the time I try to avoid being seen around him, but occasionally, like today, he stumbles in my way and messes things up. At least he didn’t throw up on me today. It’s probably a good thing Abi and Ellie didn’t turn up, he would have just confirmed Ellie’s already twisted opinion of me. I’m not sure how Abi would react, but it wouldn’t improve anything. I try and ignore the drunken man, his voice still echoing around the streets. I stare at the ground in front of me, trying to block him out but only focussing more on his howling. Damn.
Eventually I stop being able to hear him and reach the house. Four men in hoodies are leaning on the crumbling wall, smoking something. I choke on the vapour as I walk past, drawing attention to me. One man laughs and points at me, I try to keep walking, but one of them blocks the way.
“Where ya goin’ girl?” he asks, trying to intimidate me. I ignore him and try to sidestep around him to get to my gate, but he grabs my wrist. The three others are now surrounding me, preventing me from continuing to ignore them. Their hoods obscure most of their faces, but I can still make out their smug grins. They are all taller than me and they look considerably stronger, I can’t risk a fight, so I’ll cooperate until I see a chance to run.
The tallest one has what looks like a cigarette, but I’m pretty certain it’s not. He blows the smoke in my face, the pungent cloud forces me to wince, I try not to breathe it in, but I have no choice. He grins and offers it to me.
“Want some more?” he offers. I shake my head quickly; he imitates me and sticks out his bottom lip. “Come on, live a little.” I shake my head again, but freeze as I feel the first man’s hand moving up my arm. I feel another hand on my back and try to jerk away, but there is nowhere to go. I try to work out what to do, but I can’t think rationally, their cold fingers block each thought that comes into my head. I keep twisting away from their hands, but nothing seems to work, the ‘cigarette’ catches my eye; I grab it from the tall man’s hand and shove it in the first man’s face.
He screams as his face is burnt, turning away and staggering in pain. I run through the gap he leaves in their prison of bodies and dash through the gate and into my house. I hastily burst through the door, which Dad evidently forgot to lock, latching it behind me. I quickly negotiate the living room and clamber up the stairs into my room, where Ii crouch by the window and peek over the sill to see the aftermath of my attack.
The three other men are crowding round the man I burnt, trying to help him, but he is flailing his arms around every time they touch him. The untargeted waving of arms become well-aimed punches, the concern they had for each other disappears in an instant and the scene becomes a brawl. The tall man breaks away and runs down the street, followed by the other three who are keener for the fight to continue.
I allow myself to breathe, having escaped without any injury aside from fingernail marks on my wrist. I stand up and check my bag, ensuring the drugs and hands weren’t just a decoy for pointless theft. I don’t have anything worth stealing, apart from my flute which I left in school, so it’s probably a waste of time. As I thought, everything is still here. I guess I made the right decision leaving my flute behind; no doubt it would at the very least be damaged if not stolen. I could do with having it now, to help me calm down, but whatever I chose to do I probably wouldn’t have it anyway.
I wonder why Abi didn’t turn up, did she forget? Or go to the wrong place? I’m sure she’ll tell me tomorrow, but it seems odd that she would be so keen and then not come. Still, I wouldn’t want her to have to deal with those thugs, it would’ve been a lot harder to get both of us away, especially if she didn’t realise what I was going to do. The thought of her getting hurt brings the image of my sister’s crying eyes into view.
She trembles, covering her ears and rocking herself. She is hiding under the oak table, staring. I can hear my mother yelling again, as he throws pots and pans to the floor; his hand hits my mother’s fearful face. A moment of silence, both my mother and my sister stare at him. I don’t know where I am in all this, but I feel myself growing faint, as if in nauseating pain that I can’t feel. His foot hits me as he leaves, but all I am aware of is my mother’s silent tears. My vision is closing.