MY LAST NOTEBOOK ENTRY. BOOK #37
I know you’re not the first book I ever had, and you probably won’t be the last, but I think that I might be okay now. And I never thought that I’d be able to say that I’m okay, so saying that makes me feel even more okay. I know I’ll never be ‘great’ or even ‘good’, so I’m happy with ‘okay.’ ‘Okay’ is my stable state, my normal. Sure, I fluctuate sometimes with mood swings, but that’s just human emotion. I like that I’m now seen as emotionally normal. I’m not all that different to anyone else in the world. I’ve faces the things that changed me. So, with that in mind, I think it’s time to talk about what got me like this in the first place.
When I was 12, I was possibly the happiest girl who ever existed. I was Arianne Wallis, I had two wonderful foster parents - Richard and Julia - and everything was perfect. They bought me books and cooked me meals and I had friends at school. I was studying, I was eating, it was safe to say that I was a healthy child. Sure, I’d had my issues with the care systems in the past, but all of those seemed to be behind me. What I had felt permanent. I didn’t know at that age that fostering wasn’t permanent, but it was the most secure place that I’d been in for a long time, and I was highly appreciative of that. But my social worker had failed to do complete background checks on Richard and Julia. It was mostly my fault, because I was so keen to live with them that I tried to rush the process, as did my potential foster parents. And so, we lived in that wonderful house together for four utterly wonderful years.
I know that I’ve always been so scarred and so fucked up because of what had happened, and who wouldn’t? My parents both killed themselves, and since then I’ve been in and out of peoples lives and passed around like an object for my entire life. Anything like that would fuck up a kid for God knows how long. I remember wanting to join my parents until I realised how selfish they were with what they did. They didn’t want the responsibility. At least it didn’t take long to accept what had happened to them. I hadn’t known them for long enough for it to matter very much. But what happened when I was Arianne broke me. I’ve grown and I’ve gotten better over the years but that doesn’t stop the memories coming. So I think that it’s time to embrace the memories, and the only way to do that is by talking about them.
It was a Saturday morning. Richard always went for a run on Saturday mornings, early, so he left at about 6AM and came back at 8AM. By the time he was back I was wandering around sleepily rubbing my eyes or watching cartoons whilst snuggled up under a blanket, my blonde hair sticking up and pointing in every direction. As Richard burst through the door on that Saturday morning - panting, with his hair plastered to his forehead with sweat - I was just getting up from the sofa to get breakfast. He came over and tried to give me a hug and, as usual, I refused, telling him that I’d only hug him after he’d had a shower. It was all said with a light tone, with infused giggles as he stuck his tongue out at me. He went into the kitchen to say hello to Julia, who had only just woken up. She was never in a good mood first thing in the morning, and I suppose that they argued that time. They rarely argued. I was confused at first, and started having horrible flashbacks to when I lived with my parents when I was younger, but I didn’t think anything else of it because after five minutes Richard walked past me, towards the bedrooms and the bathroom. I heard the bathroom door shut, and the shower start.
I remember walking into the kitchen and seeing Julia wiping her tears away. Julia wasn’t the sensitive type, she was always happy. I knew that it took a lot to make her cry, and I felt like I should help her, but I didn’t know what to do. I kind of wrapped my arm around her waist and leant against her, rubbing her back slightly. She didn’t seem to respond, her arms just hanging there limply. I felt as though I couldn’t do much else, so I stepped away and looked up at her. I smiled, hoping that the happy, cheery Julia was somewhere beneath the sad mask. She didn’t smile back. She just turned away and stared into the cupboard. Rejection flowed through me, hot and thick, so I grabbed a glass of water and went into my bedroom, not wanting to be a bother.
My bedroom was small and crowded, but it was mine. Several stuffed toys had pride of place on the pillow of my unmade bed, which I climbed into. I pulled out the book that I kept under my pillow, grabbed a toy and settled down to read. I don’t know how long I was reading for until I dozed off to sleep. I dreamt of running around in the clearing outside the house with Richard. Julia was sat in a chair by the door with her sunglasses on and her eyes closed, absorbing the sunlight. I dreamt that everyone was happy because that’s all I wanted back then. I wanted us to all be happy and whole and never ever sad. It was such a childish thing to dream about. It was cliched, but that was the recurring dream that I’d had for four years straight. Even though I was at my happiest when I was with Richard and Julia, I wanted to be happier. Selfish as it was, I desired to keep all of the happiness to myself, to hoard it and only give it to the people who needed it.
I don’t know how long the dream lasted, I just remember waking up. A bloodcurling scream shook me awake. At first I thought it was in my dream, slowly twisting and turning into a nightmare. But then it was real. I was awake and my dream was gone, but the scream wasn’t. It kept coming, ringing in my ears. Over and over and over again the scream turned itself into a thousand different things at once: a boiling kettle, a shrill laugh, my own scream being snatched from my throat.
“Julia?” I called, wishing for her arms to be around me. “Richard? Julia?”
My voice echoed in my head and got nowhere in the real world. The scream was just too loud. I couldn’t overpower the primal instinct. Tears threatened to show as my throat tightened. I was afraid, especially because no one was coming to my aid. That must have meant that they were the ones screaming, right? I didn’t know. I just sat there and trembled.
The scream kept on coming. It sounded close. I got up, clutching my teddy in my right hand, and walked out of my bedroom. The scream was coming from the bathroom. As I crept towards the bathroom door, which was ajar, the screaming stopped. Julia stepped out. I screamed. She had a large kitchen knife in her hand, dripping with crimson, and she was smiling. She smiled at me. I felt the need to smile back. I knew that the only way to stay alive was to be good, so I smiled at her and stood stock still as she walked past me.
“Do you want some breakfast?” she sounded so calm that it made me flinch. I nodded, staring at her. I was shaking. Julia walked into the kitchen, and I took the chance to look into the bathroom, and instantly wished that I hadn’t.
Richard was smeared across the walls and scattered across the floor in pieces. I don’t know if I’m exaggerating it or not, but that’s what I saw. My foster father’s body parts strewn at my feet, blood cascading down the drain with the running water from the shower, and his eyes staring blankly at me from his head, which was almost completely dislodged from his body. A scream was etched onto his face. He was eternally calling to me for help. I couldn’t have ever helped him, and I hated myself for that. Julia had killed him. Julia. I needed to get out of there, and quickly.
I ran into my bedroom and started to stuff various different things into a bag: clothes, books and photos amongst other items. I did it as quietly as possible so as to not alert Julia. She terrified me. The woman who had comforted me for so many years had killed the only father figure I’d ever had. I finished packing quickly and pulled on a coat and picked up some shoes, deciding that leaving without them would allow me to be quieter. I suppose I was an intelligent and intuitive child. I left through my bedroom window with a picture of Richard and I crumpled in my left fist as I ran across the field, ignoring the pain as I trod on twigs and thorns. I needed to get away.
The town took longer to get to that usual, considering I was frightened and paranoid that I was being followed. I remember being afraid. My heart was in my mouth, and all I wanted to do was puke it up and not feel anything ever again. I ran into the nearest shop and bawled my eyes out to a kindly woman with a gentle face, who called the police and handed me a mug of lukewarm cocoa. She misheard my name when I sobbed it out and ended up calling me ‘Ali’, wrapped me in a blanket and took me to the police station, where they asked me thousands of questions about Julia and Richard and my parents and the care system. I couldn’t answer half of them over my sobs. After that, they took me back to the care home. No one fostered me after what happened, and I was more than okay with that. I just wanted to forget it all.
I attended Richard’s funeral. I cried. His family cried. His mother held my hand. Then I went back home.
Two weeks later I was informed that they hadn’t completed the correct background checks on Julia, who had an extensive mental health issue that was too complicated for them to explain to a 12 year old, so they just told me that she was very ill and couldn’t look after to me anymore. She was put in a psychiatric hospital and I never saw her again. I couldn’t say that it upset me much.
So now I’ve talked about it. It was what everyone wanted me to do, so I finally did it in the hope that I would become at peace with everything that happened. It should have made me even better, but it’s just made me feel sad. I’m going to stop writing in these books now, Book. All it seems to be doing is making me dwell on the past, and I just want to look to the future.
Until the next time I’m feeling fucked up, Book. I’ll miss you.