I sat on the tube, my head down, eyes on the ground. It wasn’t as busy as most days. Usually I couldn’t even find a seat, but today I was clearly lucky. I just wish I could have more luck when things matter.
London is my home. I know its streets like the back of my hand.
The train came to a sudden halt, making everyone lean to the left before jolting to the right. This was my stop. I stood up and hurried out of the carriage, pulling the hood of my hoodie over my head, hiding my face. It also meant I couldn’t see exactly where I was going and walked straight into someone.
‘Hey! Watch where you’re going?’ The businessman shouted at me as I ran off, not wanting him to catch me.
I took in a deep breath as I came out of the stuffy tube station and the warm summer air hit me. I didn’t stop. You don’t stop moving in central London unless you want to get run over by a hundred businessmen desperate to get to work on time. I was working against the flow of men and women trying to get on the train into the city.
I live in Greenwich, near the bit with the big park and the Maritime Museum. We also have the Greenwich observatory but that’s not really my kind of thing. Not that I would be allowed to go there. My parents are pretty strict about where I can go. I am only allowed out when I have to go to school or run errands for them or my two spoiled sisters. They aren’t my blood family though. My birth mother died soon after I was born and my father quickly followed her. He was a drug user and my mum was a slut. At least that’s what my adoptive parents tell me.
It doesn’t take me long to reach the place I call home; a three-story house not too far away from the station. The walls are a horrid red brick and the windows are like wide eyes staring at me as I walk up the stone steps to the black front door.
‘Cindy,’ my adoptive mother’s voice shouted from the top of the stairs. ‘You’re late!’
‘I’m sorry Isobel,’ I replied in a small voice. ‘The trains weren’t running on time so-‘
‘That is not an excuse,’ she shouted at me, descending the stairs, her dark eyes flaming and her nostrils flaring. ‘I told you to be back here by half one and it’s now twenty to two.’
There was a loud crack as Isobel’s hand met my face, sending me staggering backwards against the door. I cowered down towards the floor as she loomed over me, her hand raised as though she were preparing to hit me again. Instead she grabbed me by the collar of my jacket, pulling me up so her face was millimetres away from mine.
‘You are a useless excuse for a human being,’ she hissed. ‘Get out of my sight.’
I ran for the stairs, taking them two at a time only to go crashing into Madeline and Georgia, my two sisters, who were standing, waiting for me at the top of the stairs.
‘Look who’s in trouble again,’ Georgia teased, pinching the fleshy part of my arm. ‘Poor little Cindy. She doesn’t belong here, she doesn’t belong anywhere.’
‘Just wait until Daddy gets home,’ Madeline joined in. ‘I wonder what he’ll do to you this time.’
I backed hastily away and up the stairs, trying hard to ignore the cackles of the girls behind me.
My room was at the very top of the house, in the attic actually. I had to climb up a rickety ladder to get there and as soon as I was safely inside I would pull it up and shut the trapdoor behind me. There was hardly any light from the single light bulb that hung from the ceiling but luckily I also had a small lamp beside my bed. My clothes were stored in various cardboard boxes around the room and there was no other furniture. I did my homework lying on the floor with my books spread around me.
I took off my hoodie, revealing the multiple cut and bruises that covered my arms. I winced as I put too much pressure on a fresh wound.
I curled up on my bed, hugging my knees up against my chest. This is the point in movies where the poor heroine calls her supportive best friend who cheers her up by talking about a future filled with freedom. But I didn’t have that. All I could see in my future was this; being stuck to this family until one day I was found hanging from a lampshade, a rope around my neck.