"See y' later, Frankie!" Carley yells from the doorstep, her and Jane wave for a couple of seconds before finally shutting the front door. I can see Jane's tall figure lock the door and walk down their narrow hall.
Sighing, I turn down the street. The sun had set two hours ago, Auntie Rose was going to have a go at me, but, strangely enough. I don't care. In fact, I have never felt happier about, well, nothing. It's... weird.
I suppose it might have something to do with bleeding my heart out to Carley and Jane, after I told them about Mum dying it made it easier to talk about the rest of my life. How Auntie Rose detests me like Satan loathes ice cream - okay, that might not be strictly true, they never said that at Sunday school. But that's beside the point.
I told them about how my father only wanted Mum for one thing. Carley didn't believe that, she said, ‘How do y' know that your Auntie didn't snatch y' Mum away from y' Dad and then fed you those lies. Like, she coulda known about y' Mum, y' know, havin' cancer and that, took 'er away when she got sick and when she died, y' Auntie coulda just kept y' away from him.' She dropped a few of her letters from the words as her speaking pace quickened.
The moon lights up the sky, letting off a strange orange glow reflecting the orange, light pollution of the city. Cars speed past me, the force of their speed collides with my body, sending my hair flying back like recoiling snakes. It's a short walk to the house - prison, if you will - it gives me time to ponder about todays happenings and wonder where this smidgen attitude is coming from. Really, is this just bent up teenage rebellion bubbling out?
I realise that I may not be like other kids, but this is just...well, different, I suppose. Never in my wildest dreams would I have actually thought of not doing, as I was told, not even this morning! Although, today did start off different when I didn't have that conniving voice snipe in my brain.
Walking briskly - out of habit, rather than want of returning - I walk down the little stone path that leads from the wooden gate to the front door. Uncle David had deceived this under Auntie Rose's instructions a couple of summers ago. I pull the dirty, copper key from my jeans pocket and unlock the door quietly. I didn't realise how cold it was until I walked into the warm hallway, my shoed-feet nesting in the homely ‘welcome' mat - an ironic notice in my head. The heat cocoons around me, hugging me tightly. I glance to the tick-tick-ticking black clock hanging on the peach walls: 9:39 pm. Damn.
I look to the end of the hall, the living room door shut in front of me. Mocking my existence. The staircase to my right, each step dressed in a beige carpeted-cardigan, looks welcoming enough, but I know I'm not allowed there anymore. There are two other doors down here, in the hall, the toilet (strictly for guests - or when anyone else desperately needs it) and the utility cupboard on the opposite side.
Unlacing my shoes and picking them up again together, in my left hand and unzipping my jacket with my right hand, I take a couple of deep breaths and walk slowly to the living room door. As I approach the buzzing sound of canned TV, laughter escapes under the door.
My hand shakes as it moves closer to the brass handle, it is almost there and behind me, the front door resounds open making me jump out of my skin, drop my shoes and my hands fly to my chest. I look up as a drunk, husky voice calls out, "I'm home!" and slams the door behind.
Rob bundles further into the house before finally noticing me. He smirks; his paralytic state causes his to look like a completely different person. There's only one thing worse than Rob sober and that's when he's drunk.
"'Ello, Cinders. Wot 'cha doin'?" he asks as he staggers over to me. He pauses, looking at the shoes laying in a mess next to my feet. Slowly, he bends down, retrieving the shoes with his forefinger and straightens up again, still staring at the shoes.
He walks up closer to me, I back up against the door. "Where have you been, Cinderella?"
I don't say anything; fear has munched away my communication attempts.
"I said," the side of his nose twitches in a mixture of annoyance and anger. "Where," pause. "Have," pause. "You," pause, his hands shaking. "Been?"
"Um. I-I, er..." Think! Say you where taking the recycling out. No! You always go out of the kitchen door for that, besides, it's Wednesday it gets collected and it's Thursday today!
"Well?" I barely register him speaking. He drops the shoes and with his right hand he grabs my neck making me choke and he shoves me against the wall. "Answer me." He seethes through his teeth. "Where were you?"
Somehow, he manages to keep his voice quiet enough for whoever's in the other room to hear.
"I-I... Um... I was out."
"Really? Would never have thought that." He says his tone sardonic. He pushes me higher, my feet dangling; his hand tightens around my neck. "Who were you with?"
I can't breathe, little black dots appear in my vision, and my lungs feel like they're going to combust within me. I turn lightheaded, the world dancing around me, my vision goes blurry making Rob into a large smudge like chalk.
Rob's hand loosens slightly, blood rushes around my head as if I'd been dangled upside down. He realises me, I fall ungracefully to the carpeted ground, my own hands going to my neck, attempting to ease the harsh pain with little strokes.
The door behind me cracks open; I can feel the hellish heat of the fire. "Francesca Newbold!" Auntie Rose's voice echoes around the prison. "Where have you been?"
"Out." Is all my voice box will allow me, the stabbing pain still there.
"Out? Out! That is all you tell me, that you were, out." She grabs my shoulder hulling me up and pushes me into the living room. I catch a glimpse of Rob standing there smirking, his drunkenness from before seems to have evaporated into the air. He follows us in.
Auntie Rose shoves me down to the beige mat in the middle of the room, Butchers sits like a king on his thick cushion. Uncle Davie isn't here.
"So then, girl. Where have you been, whilst I have been worrying my pretty head off." As if, you have been worrying about me. And pretty, you? Ha! The rebellious voice shouts in my head.
I take a deep calming breath. "I... I was round my friends' house."
"Friends? You have friends? Pah!" Rob laughs, Auntie Rose smile lovingly at him. He stops suddenly. "Wait. Y' don't mean that freak, Carley Moore, do you? Please, she's only friends with you 'cause she wants to be known for bein' strange and befriendin' the loner and outcast that is you."
I shake my head. "No. No! You're lying! Stop lying!" I scream, jumping to my feet.
Auntie Rose stands up quickly, smashing her hand down and across my face. I lose my balance and falls to the ground, my hand gripping the left-hand side of my face. I look up at her, knowing the fear I feel is showing in my eyes.
"Don't you ever, talk to my baby like that again. Do you hear me, Young Lady? Never!" she bellows, her face turning red. I nod, slowly.
"I never want you to go near that girl again, do you hear me?" she says, her tone cold and hard.
"No buts, you insolent child. Never again!"
Speechless, I nod. Tears brewing in my eyes.
"Good." She breathes out. "Now go to your room. You're grounded. You aren't to leave the house apart from school and when I say so. After school, you are to return here, straight away. Understand?
I stand back up, shell-shocked. My hand still stroking my face. I move through to the kitchen door on the other side of the living room, shutting it quietly behind me.
Shaking, with tears running free across my cheeks I move down into my cell. I change into a vest and ragged bottoms and get into bed, not having the need to go to the toilet or brush my teeth.
Instead, I just lay there. Think nothing. The electric clock sending static sounds to me. More tears roll down my face, I ignore them letting them pool in the saggy pillow, next to me.