One week had passed and in that week Victoria had seen her father exactly once. He had fallen asleep on the couch downstairs and she had tip-toed in to turn the TV off. She heard him though, in the middle of the night when he thought she was asleep. He talked to himself between bouts of weeping and Victoria was sure to cover her ears so she heard nothing he muttered hoarsely. How could he think it was so easy for her to sleep? She had a feeling he wasn’t thinking at all, and especially not about his only daughter. Right now he was asleep in the guest room. He didn’t sleep in their room anymore and she didn’t blame him. She wouldn’t either.
That’s where she stood now, outside their room. She stared at the plain white door, her forehead pressed against the wood. She vaguely knew what the room looked like from her childhood when she had sneaked in to sample her mother’s make up. She had never been caught and she hadn’t been in the room for at least a decade. She had her own make up these days.
She put her hand on the doorknob and turned it. For a wild second she had the image of her mother laid back on her pillows reading or opening the curtains to the new day. But the room was empty and it made her chest hurt. The door swung open with a long and exaggerated creak of protest from its hinges. She paused for a second and listened to her father’s snores from down the hall. Satisfied that he hadn’t heard, she stepped into the room and closed the door with a soft click behind her. It didn’t protest as much at being closed. She turned to face the room concentrating mostly on her breathing.
The curtains were open – a short stab of pain at remembering that image of her mother – letting in the dull autumn sunshine that illuminated the dust motes hovering lazily over the floral bedspread. On the left hand wall was a vanity dresser covered in neatly ordered bottles of perfume and make up some loose changed scattered. There were a few family pictures on the wall above it. She tried not to look at these. The wardrobe was behind the door. It was huge old fashioned one that her mother had owned as a kid. She was something of a hoarder and never threw anything away unless it was becoming dangerous to keep around. Like that cd player that used to electrocute randomly. She didn’t want to be in this room. It was full of furniture and nick-knacks but that didn’t make a difference. It was still empty. But she had come here for a reason; she wanted answers.
She had a fair idea where she might find them so she headed straight for the little cabinet on the other side of the bed, beside the window. There was a little blue lamp on it and a soppy romance novel that made Victoria feel sick just looking at the cover. Her mother had tried to pass on her loves of books to Victoria and for a time it had worked, but Victoria could proudly say that she hadn’t opened a book in years. She had stopped reading around the time that she had stopped visiting her mother’s room to play dress up. She resisted the sudden urge to open the book where the bookmark stuck out near the back and read possible the last her words that her mother had. Instead her hand went to the cabinet door, but she didn’t find what she was looking for. She found a stack of envelopes, bank statements and receipts and a box of tampons, but that was it. She didn’t bother looking under the bed as it was solid; she remembered that much. She pulled herself up onto the bed and glanced around the room.
Where else could it be? On closer inspection the vanity table’s drawers were only full of more miscellaneous objects and hair accessories. A jewellery box full of pretty things that she had never seen her mother wear. Victoria sat on the little stool feeling dejected and keeping her gaze steadily fixed anywhere but at the mirror in front of her. She reached her hand out and touched some of the perfume bottles. She knew which her mother’s favourite was because it was almost empty. A blue bottle, almost perfectly round like a ball, with a flower shaped top. The name had long since been worn off the label. Victoria caressed the cold glass like she would a treasured stuffed animal and slipped it into her pocket. She was afraid to smell it.
The wardrobe was her next bet, but that was difficult. All her clothes and shoes still there, waiting to be worn. She knew that they would probably still smell like her, but she kept them at arms length and breathed through her mouth. But there was nothing but clothes in there. She closed the wardrobe and now looked around the room with desperation now. It had to be here somewhere. She had to find it.
The squeak of bed springs from down the hall made her jump. Her father was getting up. Without hesitation she opened the door and squeezed through the smallest crack she could in an effort to stop it squeaking. Skirting along the wall she managed to just pull her door too before her father emerged from his hiding place. She stood watching him through the crack in the door, her heart beating fast. She didn’t know why she felt so guilty, but she got the distinct impression that her father wouldn’t want her in that room.
He took an unsteady step outside the room and stopped. He hadn’t shaved in a long time and she assumed he hadn’t showered either. He was in grubby boxers and a torn and stained grey t-shirt; maybe it had started out white. He was rubbing his blood shot eyes with both hands, the belt of his dressing gown hanging on by one rung and trailing at his feet. He looked like a different man. He looked like a stranger.
He turned to look back into the room as though he had forgotten where he had just come from and as he turned Victoria caught sight of a Jack Daniels bottle in the pocket of his dressing gown. Her blood turned to ice. Her father was a recovering alcoholic and he hadn’t had a drink in over ten years. Not to her knowledge at any rate. She had never even considered that he might fall off the wagon, but now that she did, she wasn’t surprised. How had she not thought of it before? Because she was selfish that’s why. Yes, she had lost her mother; but her father had lost his wife. His love. And he had loved her. And she had loved him.
She watched with a heavy heart now as he staggered down the hallway, past her door and thudded loudly down the stairs. She closed the door fully and pressed her back against it.
She was scared. This was all on her now. If her father couldn’t take care of her then she would have to take care of him. Seventeen years old, her mother had committed suicide and she had to save her dad from alcoholism. The only parent she had left. She sank down to the floor with her head in her hands. How the fuck was she supposed to do this?