Alex Backstory

Alex's Backstory for the Dark Light Competition..


1. Alex

When I was six, it was just my mum and me, a quiet life really. She worked a lot, something that I didn’t mind because when she came home, even though she looked tired and wary, she would always give me a big smile and cuddle me close and the two of us would fall asleep together on the couch in the front room of our small council flat to the sound of an old film; a western starring Clint Eastwood.

I love Clint Eastwood.

When I was eight, mum got her first real boyfriend since my dad. His name was Alfie, and he was incredibly fat, lazy, stupid and incompetent. Mum kept working, she worked harder than she ever had, but we no longer snuggled together and she never smiled when she came inside. Alfie was always berating her, asking her to do things that we could do himself. He would yell for us to clean up and wash up and make him dinner and he never left his pool of filth in the corner of the couch. Then mum would tell me to quietly slip into my room and I would play quietly with a sad pile of toys while I heard Alfie’s grunts from mum’s room next door. The walls were paper-thin.

When I was ten, mum ditched Alfie and it was just the two of us again. But things had changed, she never smiled, she never asked me to watch Clint Eastwood with her, she never had time for me. By now she had picked up another job and I was lucky to see her at breakfast in the morning or dinner at night. I was beginning to resent her, although I could never tell her that. I was almost elven when she met Paul. Paul was everything my father and Alfie weren’t.  Paul was mum’s Clint Eastwood. Paul was tall and handsome; a young doctor with a charming laugh and kind eyes.  Paul was educated and interesting; always with his nose in a book. I suspect he made my mum feel important and valued and at the time I did too. Paul moved in when I turned twelve. Mum never quit her jobs and the two of us began to spend more time together alone. Slowly but surely, Paul began together less interested in my mum and more interested in me. If I was doing homework in the kitchen, he found an excuse to be there. If I was taking a shower, there was suddenly something that needed fixing. The first time he did something to me was around Bonfire Night. There was a great big fire in the middle of the estate. Great logs that used to me might trees were dragged in and one by one placed together until they formed a huge tower. Then each of us, everyone on the estate, threw something into the fire and made a wish. I threw in one of Paul’s shirts and wished for him to go away. Mum threw in an older picture of Alfie and wished for this relationship to be better. I don’t know what Pal threw in. All of the adults were sitting around having a laugh, as the kids took turns poking the fire and seeing how close we could get our hands to the flames before one of us was licked by the heat and had to back out. I wasn’t far away from the rest of the kids, waiting for my turn to stick my hand in. Paul approached me and asked me to help him get something from the flat. He said it was important; something we needed for the party. I went with him, because if I hadn’t mum would saw I wasn’t being nice to Paul and I wasn’t being polite. We walked back and Paul was acting…strange, he stopped us before we even reached the door. Before I knew what was happening he had taken off my jumper and shoved his broad, calloused hand down the front of my second-hand t-shirt. I can’t say how long when stood there, my eyes were on the fire. I was captivated; by the warmth it provided, by the wat it danced, the way it jumped from its bed of logs and into the sky. The way it could…destroy. It wasn’t until one of our neighbors stumbled by that Paul let me go.

I hate Clint Eastwood.

When I was fourteen, my mum found out about what Paul had been doing to me. She was upset...but she just couldn’t let Paul go and I suppose that’s where the final crack in our relationship was. She spent all her time working, or with Paul and I spent my time getting into trouble, smoking cigarettes and drinking cheap whiskey that I stole from some boys who stole it themselves. School wasn’t much of a help. I didn’t pay attention and I didn’t care about what my teachers had to say. I wasn’t doing well. I spent my nights, walking through the streets, not caring about what happened to me, or my mum, or Paul. She told me she was going to marry him. I told her I was going to run away. She didn’t believe me. I wasn’t joking around. At fifteen, I packed up what little belongings I had and left my home. I’m not even sure if my mum noticed; she was too encapsulated by Paul. Stupid, fucking, Paul. That was when I first met PC Richards. He was on patrol one night and found me sleeping under a tree in a park I was not supposed to be in. He told me I had to go home and when I refused; he put me under arrest for the first time. He told me it was dangerous to be alone at night. Pity, he wasted his time acting like he cared. The next day I stole a compass from school and a bottle of India ink and gave myself my first tattoo. A crescent moon. I am not afraid of the dark. I spent a lot of time in the park, sleeping, walking around until PC Richards found me again. That was when he called Sue the Social Worker. She shouldn’t have bothered with me; nothing was going to change. She wasted her time telling me that I couldn’t sleep in the parks and it was either go back to my mum’s or go to a group home. My mum welcomed me back with open arms, but nothing had really changed.

When I was sixteen, that’s when the trouble at school started. The rumors that I was a lesbian; a dyke. The rumors that I took girls out from class and tried to eat them out in the washrooms. The rumors that I hit on any girl that was breathing. The phone calls from boys, begging for tips on how to get girls. The phone calls from boys offering to ‘turn me straight’. That was when I started failing in school. I started fires, small ones in my room when no one was home. The last time I saw a fire…that was the last time I felt safe, whole, and happy.  When the thrill from setting my homework wore off I worked my way up to bigger things. T-shirts, books, newspapers, branches I burned in a bin around back where no one ever came. But the small fires in the bin just weren’t making me feel better; they weren’t making me feel happy or whole. They weren’t giving me back what I lost. So I decided to take something away instead.

The first fire, the first big fire, was an accident.

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