At dinner that night, I kept my eyes on the meat on my plate as my mother coughed and downed a glass of wine. "Mum," I said eventually.
She made a noise in the back of her throat to say she heard me. I look up, but she's staring at the ceiling. Her pupils are huge and her face gaunt, teeth yellowed from smoking and hair stringy and unkept.
"Mum," I continued. "You know, you remember all your boyfriends, yeah?"
"Yeah," she says, taking another drag of her cigge. "Sure I do."
"And do you remember, remember what they did to you? And me?"
Mum's eyes fix on my face for the first time that night. "What are you on about, girl?"
"They hit you," I choked out. "And me. They shout and yell and are mean!" Tears well in my eyes as I stare at my mum. "It's not fair!"
Mum laughs, shallow and rasping. "It's not fair!" She imitated my voice. "They're meaners! Meeaaners!"
I dug my nails into my palm and dropped my gaze to look at the grimey kitchen floor. The table is cluttered with junk: unopened bills and rent payments; mugs and cups and plastic bags filled with powders; a stained teapot; papers and clothes and uneaten food.
It smells in our house, and I don't like it.
It smells of drugs and depression and ugly, mean things.
The tears that had been filling up my eyes overflowed and ran down my cheeks. I wiped them away fiercly, but Mum saw and laughed again.
I ran upstairs and slammed the door, tears still coarsing down my face and getting my faded pink sweater wet. I paused in front of my bedroom miror.
A small, angry face looks back at me, with huge brown eyes that are filled with sorrow and hate. She is thin and pale, and her blonde hair is straggly, however much it is brushed.
I turn away. My little painting of the Virgin Mary is hung above the end of my bed and I stare at it. I think about how I've never met my Dad, how Mum has stopped caring.
It feels like part of me is missing. A family. A loving, warm family who laugh and look after me.