Life in the Shadows

this is something I started a few years back but for whatever reason didn't do anything with. Could be fun to play with?

The door creaked open in my bedroom, quietly and slowly, and my mother entered. She appeared almost cowering from me, as if frightened by the man her blue-eyed son had become. I observed this with a remote kind of detachment, as if I was watching it on television, and this once-familiar viewpoint struck me as being more than a little odd.

The woman in the door was not the woman I used to look up to as a small child, Mummy. The woman in the door was mother, with wrinkles like crevasses across her forehead, and grey strands of hair in her mousy-brown bun. She was dressed like the traditional sort of mother; sensibly, with nothing about the outfit in any way memorable, and yet the expression on her face, one of barely disguised fear, confusion and sadness, was anything but a traditional mother’s.

“Yes?” I asked, raising one eyebrow.

She winced and took a step backwards, as if being near me was causing her physical pain. My mother hated me, I thought, with the same air of detachment. It was as if she were a character on a bad soap opera; no matter how hard it was for her just to stand in the doorway of my personal space and breathe the same air as me, I couldn’t feel any empathy for her.

She took a deep breath in, and as her lungs filled with air, her entire upper body rose. She must have used a lot of hairspray to force her hair into that bun, it didn’t move. It was set, like concrete. Her face too, was set. It could have been carved out of stone.

“Cole, can I come in?”

 I nodded. I didn’t want to say any more. There wasn’t anything more to say. Her skirt swished as she entered the room and sat on my bed. She fiddled about with her fingers, weaving one in between the fingers of the other hand. It was a gesture that did not belong to her, and just for a moment, I felt that everything might be all right. Then, I remembered I had no real base for this conclusion, and my stomach began churning angrily again.

I turned to face her, but lowered my eyes to the carpet, so I wouldn’t happen to see the absence of love in her eyes.

“Cole,” she said, “I think it’s time for us to move again.”

“Where to?” I replied; my gaze still averted, my voice still expressionless.

“I don’t know. Somewhere we can make a fresh start.” She sounded sorrowful; she had loved it here in this town, ever since we had settled down here. She had many friends, (although many of them weren’t speaking to her now due to the appalling behaviour of her son) a job which she loved and a comfortable house. I knew it was my fault we were going to move. I tried to feel something, regret even, but I was numb inside. I had been, ever since they'd caught me. . .

“What do you think, Cole?” My step-dad, Simon, stood in the doorway where my mother had stood before. He was wearing his DIY overalls and there was a hammer hanging from his tool belt that threatened to make contact with his right leg whenever he took a step. He came to sit next to my mother on the bed and she buried her head in his shirt. This gesture did not offend or disgust me, as it would have done most children. I was too apathetic for that. I just watched them, as if the two people sitting on the bed were a completely different entity to me.

“I don’t care.” I said, in as polite a way as I could. There wasn’t any fear of sounding defiant at least. “There’s no reason to stay, that I can see,” which was truthful. There wasn’t any more, and Mr and Mrs Foster had seen to that. Really, I had once loved this place, but that was when I could feel emotion, even display it. A luxury I no longer had. It seemed that no matter how hard I tried to grab it, reach out for it, snatch it out of the air, emotion, empathy would just escape me, fly all the harder, and all my pursuing was in vain.

“Well, you should care,” he barked, “Since it’s you fault we have to leave this town in disgrace.”

My mother tensed slightly and he put his arm round her. I didn’t say anything to that, and eventually he calmed down; that is, his breathing became less erratic, his face lost its red fury-flush, and his muscles loosened. I knew what was coming next, I knew what he was going to say before he could even say it; and I almost sighed then at the inevitability of it, the predictability of my life post-Helen. I turned away and looked at the window, where the storm clouds were gathering and it was getting colder and darker by the minute. I was waiting for the question that was forming on his lips.

“Why did you do it, Cole?” he said, and if I had been betting if he did say the question, I would have won a small fortune. His voice was soft and gentle, almost caring, as if he thought that it might be able to provoke my empathy, as if it might encourage me to answer the question. “Please, just tell me why. If I know why, maybe we can resolve this. Maybe we can understand why you felt you had to do this, and we can talk to the Fosters. We can get help for you Cole, if you’ll just answer this question.”

“I don’t need help.”

The truth was too complicated to understand, or at any rate, too complicated for him to understand. I wasn’t mental, I knew that much, and counselling would no nothing other than devour their meagre savings.

He didn’t answer, just grunted.

“We’re going to go and look at estate agents online. If you want to talk about it- get it off your chest, say-I’m here.” With that, he turned and left the room, the hammer tapping softly against his leg.

The End

3 comments about this story Feed