I wake up on the floor, half on my mattress and half on the freezing floor. My breath forms clouds in front of me, with not even the blanket around me, I find myself shivering. Just like every other winter morning, I can’t feel my feet. I stand up to return blood circulation, but I can’t balance and fall backwards. I hit my head on the windowsill, dazing me for a second. I guess I hadn’t woken up enough, but I don’t really understand why I couldn’t stand up properly. More cautious this time, I get slowly up to my feet, leaning on the wall to steady myself.
The already murky glass of the window is frosted over, making the room seem darker than normal and more closed in. I realise I’m still wearing my damp uniform; I must have fallen asleep before I could get changed. I even still have my shoes on, why didn’t I take them off? I vaguely remember running from those men outside, but after that is a little uncertain. I was hiding, then they were gone, then what? I suppose it doesn’t really matter.
The sound of smashing glass makes me jump. A shout follows that sounds familiar, but I can’t be sure. I can’t see through my window, so I make my way downstairs to see what’s going on. I brush my hair out of my eyes, which are still a little slow to focus.
Entering the front room, I find my dad, holding a piece of broken fence. He swings it round to knock another piece of glass from the edge of the window I still haven’t boarded up. His hands are covered in splinters from the rough wood in his dirty hands. His bloodshot eyes spot me, trying to stay out of his way. I try to dodge the swing, but he still catches the side of my face, causing me to lose my balance for the second time this morning. Damn.
I hear the plank hit the floor and look back at him, his bleeding hand is in front of his mouth and he is sobbing. I suppose he just recognised me.
“I-I’m sorry,” he chokes, speaking in slurred Czech. I straighten up and put my hands on his shoulders, leading him over to the sofa that may as well be his bed.
“I’m fine, Dad, get some sleep, you’ve had a hard night,” I say, trying to reassure him in my native tongue.
“But, I need to–ʺ he starts to protest.
“–No, it’s fine, I’ll do it later, you need to rest.” I cut him off and lie him down, making sure I don’t touch his evidently painful hands. He doesn’t quite make eye contact with me, seeming to look slightly to one side of me. With a little more persuasion, he rests his head on the arm of the sofa and closes his eyes.
As soon as I’m sure he’s asleep, I tend to my injury. Small stabs of pain pierce my cheek as I splash the frigid water on my face. I manage to extract most of the fragments of wood from my face, but a few are too small and continue to irritate me. Damn. I hate him so much, but I can’t stop loving him. He’s all I have left of home; he reminds me that home wasn’t that much better than here. I keep trying to tell myself that, so I don’t miss it as much. But it doesn’t work. Nothing works. Damn.
I will always want to go back, but slowly, I’m beginning to realise that I never will. Trying to accept that takes time, time I always have when I don’t want it. It doesn’t help that no one else seems to accept it either, telling me to go back to ‘where I belong’. I wish I could. But I know I can’t.
I must be running late, who knows what time I got up? Judging by the sun’s position in the frozen blue sky, it could be any time from about seven to around ten. I grab my bag with one last look at my father, a picture of neglect and exhaustion, and step outside.