Up until the age of 18, I lived in a small farm house in Derbyshire with my father Andrew, and my Irish step-mother, Rose. Yes, that's right, probably a quarter of my only life spent in the lonely, boring emptiness of what my parents liked to call "country heaven". I could never understand why they thought that getting up at 6 o'clock in the morning to muck-out the horse in a very unfashionable pair of wellingtons could be described as ‘heaven'. Never the less, I did that job every morning up until a couple of days after my 18th birthday, when I decided that it was time for me to get away from all the mud, and find a flat in a lively city where I could make a home for myself, maybe adopt a couple of fish to keep me company and invest in a new television. My parents did not believe in spending money unnecessarily, so they still had their TV from the late 1980s.
"18 years old and still going strong!" my dad would say, "I don't see what's wrong with it Sophia, you can get a decent picture when you give that aerial a nudge".
"Nobody has TVs like this anymore, Dad, there are more than 3 channels now", I would say, but it was no use arguing.
Yes, I would definitely need to buy a new television.
I was never really a country girl, even when I was young. I chose to sit inside with my colouring books, when my dad went out on long walks into the fields. My mum would often sit with me; she was always a keen painter. That's where I got my passion for art from. She was always talking about ancient artists and sometimes bought me books full of famous paintings. My mum moved to Australia with her boyfriend, Adam, when I was 10, and I hardly ever saw her after that. We still kept in touch, and spoke on the phone a couple of times a week, but it wasn't like it used to be. She could never afford to come back to visit us, and my dad thought there were much more important things to be spending money on, like more holidays for him and Rose in the south, probably.
"Dad, I'm thinking of moving out." I announced at breakfast.
"Whatever for? It's lovely here!" he said, looking genuinely confused and almost hurt by the idea.
"Yes, it reminds me of being back in Ireland..." Rose interrupted.
Oh shut up you daft cow, I thought. She'd go on and on about the "incredible scenery" and "astonishing villages" but somehow still ended up living with me... in England. I wished she'd bugger off back.
"Well I've been thinking about it for a while now, and I think it's time for me to find my own place. Nothing too far away, I was thinking of maybe getting a flat in Sheffield or Manchester."
"But you're happy here with us! Who's going to help out with the house and keeping the crops healthy?" my dad exclaimed, his confusion turning into anger.
He was so unreasonable. I was, by all means, an adult, and was truly sick of the countryside and everything that went with it, including his smarty pant Irish girlfriend.
"Well as a matter of fact, I'm not so happy here with you. As much as I love having you around, dad, this whole country lifestyle... it's just not... my thing" I explained, trying to use words that would not hurt his feelings or make him feel as though I wanted rid of him.
"Don't be so stupid Sophia! Your father and I have brought you up in this house; of course it's your thing." Rose added.
"No you didn't. I was almost 14 when you moved in here. I was brought up by my own mother, if you haven't forgotten."
It just came out. I didn't mean to snap at her, but I couldn't help myself. She had no place in the conversation and should have kept her big mouth shut, and carried on with her organic poached egg on seeded toast.
"Don't be so rude!" my dad exclaimed, raising his voice so loud that Rose almost spat her cup of decaf onto the freshly ironed fair trade cotton table cloth. "How dare you speak to Rose in that manner, after all she's done for you over the past 4 years?!"
Rose had quite frankly done fuck all apart from sit on the sofa and soak up her own snobbery (apart from, of course, the occasional embroidery pattern that she'd pick up from the charity shop down the road). She ate nothing but over-priced fair trade, organic food, which she bought every Saturday morning from the local farm shop. She wore only expensive clothes, as it made her feel even more conservative than she already was, and she read the bible on a daily basis. My dad had even started to say a prayer before dinner, clearly under Rose's influence as he always thought religion to be a load of bollocks before she arrived.
"I'm sorry dad." I said, trying to sound as apologetic as possible.
"Hmm, well we'll talk about all this moving out business after our morning walk... it's nearly 9 o'clock" my dad replied.
One thing that hadn't changed about my dad was that he was a complete control freak. Everything revolved around routine and order, and he felt somewhat at ease by his personal organizer and ‘to do' lists. He was a shy and reserved type, always trying to please other people. His brown hair sat perfectly combed on his head, and his shirt was always carefully ironed and tucked into his trousers which made him look geeky and awkward. When he was married to my mum, she would mock him and ruffle up his hair; he looked slightly more edgy when he stood next to her. But not Rose, she did the exact opposite. When Rose and my father stood side by side, it was like looking at an exaggerated example of two members of the Green Party.
"Okay dad... and I am sorry Rose!" I shouted from the table as they strolled down the garden path.
"See you later, Soph." my dad replied.
I finished my toast and went upstairs to get dressed. I didn't have anything planned for the day but I wasn't one who could sit around in their pajamas. I washed my face, brushed my hair and slipped on some old jeans with a hooded jacket. I thought about ringing my best friend, Kate, but I wasn't in the mood for listening to her ramble on about her new boyfriend Liam all morning. Instead, I decided to call my mum.
"Hi mum", I said, when she answered the phone.
"Hello love! How are you?"
"I'm okay; I just thought I'd call to see how everyone was."
"We're all fine, dear. In fact, Adam, the kids and I were just about to go down to the pool for an evening swim. Is it okay if I call you back later on?"
"Yes, Adam's children are staying with us for a couple of weeks while their mother's on holiday in New Zealand."
"Oh... okay. I'll talk to you later then."
I always felt so jealous when James and Bethany stayed with Adam. They were only 12 and 13, but I always thought it unfair when they got to spend time with my mum, and I was stuck over in England on my own. I put the phone back on the stand, and went into the kitchen to make a start on the pots. It was nearly half past 10, and Rose always complained when the kitchen was untidy.
As soon as I put the last bowl back into the cupboard, there was a knock at the door - it was Kate and Ellen. "Just wondered if you wanted to get the bus into Sheffield with us?" Kate announced with a large grin on her face. I was only going to be stuck in the house for the rest of the day, so I thought I might as well join them.
"You need to give me half an hour to get ready then; I look a right state," I said, peering down at my ripped jeans and faded sweatshirt.
"Okay, we'll come up with you!" Kate said, taking off her shoes and helping herself to the left over biscuits on the kitchen side.
Great, this is all I need, I thought. Kate would happily tell me that I looked "a bit fat" in most of my favourite clothes and that the colour was "vile". That was the thing about Kate; she never really understood when a joke turned into a cruel insult. She never really meant to upset anyone, but there had been many times when she had made another girl cry because of commenting on her hairstyle or dress.
"Brilliant", I told her, sarcastically, and followed Kate up the stairs. "You can come too Ellen!" I shouted.
Ellen was painfully shy, and had turned into Kate's shadow over the past couple of months. She was lovely, but she always looked awkward and I never really managed to get to know her properly.
I opened my wardrobe and sighed. I had been saving all my earnings for my own flat and I hadn't realised how short of summer clothes I was.
"Gosh, Sophia why are all your clothes so old?!" Kate exclaimed. Her voice edged on disgust as she rummaged through my clothes. That was usually the situation - I would sit on my bed waiting, whilst Kate picked out something for me to wear. She seemed to think that I was her own personal mannequin, but I didn't mind. What made it worse was that Kate was always dressed so perfectly. She only lived down the road from me, but her parents were so different to mine. They always had the latest fashions and fanciest cars, and their house was so beautiful inside. Her mum was an interior designer, and her dad had his own business; so they were never short of money.
"Here!" she called from inside the wardrobe, "what about this?"
Kate pulled out a stripy dress from last summer with some black sandals. It would do. I was only going into Sheffield after all. I put it on and got ready to walk out of the door.
"Where are you going?" Kate said, confused. "I still need to do your hair."
"It's fine how it is..." I said, reaching into the top of my wardrobe to find my bag.
"You've got to be kidding me. I am not walking with you, with your hair looking like that."
"Oh... how lovely of you", I said.
"It won't take me long!" Kate said, smiling.
Even though she was a pain and she made me feel like a large pile of shit most of the time, I couldn't help but love her. I sat back down on the best whilst Kate quickly straightened my hair, pulling some of it back into slides. Ellen stood in the corner of my room, looking around aimlessly.
"Are you looking for anything in particular in Sheffield, Ellen?" I asked her quickly, trying to make her feel more comfortable.
"Not really. I'm just going for the day out", she answered.
"Done!" Kate announced, looking extremely pleased with herself. "But please put a bit of mascara on before we go."