Victoria sat down at the kitchen table and laid her head on her arms. Her arms ached, her back ached, her legs felt like jelly. But she was finally finished cleaning the house; for today at least. She had washed the dishes, swept the floors, hoovered the carpets, thrown out the rubbish and collected every glass bottle and beer can she could find. It scared her just how many there was, made her wonder how much alcohol it would take to result in alcohol poisoning.
Her father still wasn’t home, but she had started cooking dinner anyway. Pizza and chips was about all she could manage right now, but she had taken Home Economics for her Junior Cert. and she knew she still had her recipe book around here somewhere. It was now when she was exhausted and alone and wondering how she was going to cope with all of this that she missed her mother the most. She had taken the cleanliness of her home for granted as well as every meal and all the other countless things that she couldn’t think of right now but was sure she would find out about sooner or later.
She swallowed against the lump rising in her throat and squeezed her eyes shut. She didn’t have the energy to hold herself together right now. She was about to start shaking into uncontrollable sobs when the cuckoo clock began to chime loudly in the hall, jolting her from her melancholy. She sat up and smelled the pizza starting to singe at the edges. She quickly retrieved it and turned the oven off. She looked at the clock above the door. It was nine o’clock. She had eaten some instant noodles before she had started the housework. She wouldn’t have survived it without them, but it was the only thing she had eaten all day and she was starving now. She doubted that her father was coming back anytime soon, if he did come back at all tonight, so she fixed herself a plate and sat down at the table to eat, leaving the rest in the oven for him. She hoped that maybe if he was sober enough when he came home, he might appreciate that she was trying to make an effort and try making one himself.
Victoria had found the number of Alcoholics Anonymous in the phonebook and someone was coming around tomorrow to talk to her father. She didn’t know who else to call. She thought it would be a mistake to call one of her father’s friends. She doubted that they knew about his problem and he wouldn’t want them to know. He was a proud man. She would be here to greet whoever turned up tomorrow and that included any guards who were coming on her behalf. She just hoped they didn’t turn up at the same time.
As she ate, she thought about the crazy woman. Well, she wasn’t really what Victoria would call a woman. She was only one or two years older than Victoria. But she had been crazy, no doubt about it. Just thinking of that encounter sent cold chills running down her spine again. That was a feeling she wanted to avoid at all costs. But what was it about?
“He will hurt you.” Victoria said out loud to herself and he speared a chip on her fork. That was what she had said. He will hurt you. Did she mean Victoria’s father? But she couldn’t have. She didn’t know Victoria or her father. It was a small town and the girl was memorable enough for Victoria to know that she had to be new. She had never seen her before. Or heard of her. And doubtful that she would know Victoria, or her family situation.
Victoria shook her head down at her plate. It didn’t matter anyway. She was wrong. Her father wasn’t even here. And he would never…. He wouldn’t…… She couldn’t finish that thought though, not the way she wanted to. He had hurt her, but that had been a long time ago andhe had been drunk.
And what is he now? A little voice inside her head asked.
She shook her head again. That had been years ago wen she was a little girl. She was older now. No one was going to push her around. And besides, he was so drunk these days that he could barely stand. She could definitely take him.
“But I won’t have to.” She said firmly, shutting up that little voice as she took her empty plate over to the sink to start a fresh pile of dirty dishes for her to clean tomorrow. “She was crazy. He isn’t going to hurt me. That was just a crazy person having a meltdown.” She looked across the now clean kitchen, the ticking of the kitchen clock, half a second out off sync with the one in the hall, was the only sound to be heard in the entire house. “And what is the first sign of insanity?” She asked herself with just hint of annoyance.
She grabbed her i-pod off the window sill, checked that the oven was off and headed up to her room. She paused at the front door, one hand on the banister and one foot on the bottom stair. Should she lock the door? She knew he didn’t have his keys with him because they were hanging on a hook by the door. Did she really think he was coming home tonight? Did she want to have to see him so intoxicated?
Then that little voice piped up again. Lock the door. He might be dangerous.
She stomped up the stairs at this. She wasn’t going to give in to that voice. She wasn’t afraid of that stupid creepy blind girl and she wasn’t going to be afraid in her own home. No more than she already was.
The door to the spare room was slightly ajar but there was no stench of stale liquor now. She had used copious amounts of air freshener to ensure that. The whole house smelled of ‘Summer Breeze’ now. But at least it was back to normal; Victoria’s room was the messiest in the house. And the last thing she wanted to do was start cleaning it.
She allowed herself to fall face down on the bed. Breathing wasn’t important right now, just rest. She needed to sleep. But she couldn’t; there was something wrong. There was something she had forgotten, something important. She rolled over onto her side and tried to get comfortable. But the thought wouldn’t leave her. She dragged her eyelids open slowly and drew her eyes around the room. It wasn’t until they fell on the mirror that comprehension dawned and her stomach vanished.
She had forgotten her mother’s diary.
The only thing that had occupied her thoughts for the past few weeks and she had lost interest an hour after finding it. And just like that her blissful state of being too exhausted to think or feel anything was gone. She was awake and she felt nauseous. Her skin felt ice cold as she laid her head on her knees, her hands on the back of her neck, now slick with a cold sweat.
“For fuck’s sake.” Was the only sentiment that seemed to match how she felt right now.
She had to read it, she wanted to read it. Her mind was straining to get closer to those answers, for closure, for sanity again. But every fibre of her body was fighting the urge; some sense of self preservation kicking in to stop her from self destructing. Yes, she would have her answers, but was she going to like them? Did she want to know what her mother really thought of her? Was she proud of her daughter? No, of course she wasn’t. It was Victoria’s life mission to piss off her parents, but they never pulled her up on it. She would come home drunk with strange boys and bags of dope and they would say nothing. She would get suspended and arrested and they wouldn’t blink an eye. But she knew it hurt them, she knew they wanted her to stop, stop embarrassing them and herself. That was her reward, to see them helpless and to show them that they had no authority over her anymore. What reason would they have for being proud of her? She had never given the any.
A thought clawed its way out of the dark recesses of her mind, one that she had buried deep before it could even register with her. She couldn’t entertain it, she couldn’t consider it without breaking down completely but it was digging itself up now despite her attempts to ignore it. What if it’s my fault? What if I drove her to it? What if she had disappointed her mother so much, made her so sick to the stomach at the thought of living one more day with a daughter so shameful that she had decided not to live another day? What if she had killed herself to get away from Victoria? What if?
She raised her head until she was face to face with her own pale reflection. She had never loathed anyone so much in all her life and it was all her own fault. She swallowed, turned to the chest and pulled the lid up. Her heart beat loudly in her ears as she lifted the small and unassuming book up, but she knew now what she would probably find. She could feel it in her bones. This little white book, so pretty and clean on the outside was ugly and polluted on the inside. It was filled with every evil thing that she had ever subjected her mother to. Every step that led to her suicide.
She ran her fingers down the soft cover and opened it once more, hands devoid of tremors this time. She didn’t pause at the page that held her mother’s name. She read the first page.
Today was a good day. Victoria caught a bug. That’s sounds strange I know, but it made me so happy. I was able to take care of her. She was resistant at first but she was too sick to argue by the end of it. I made her favourite food and I put the tv in her room and she even let me sit with her. We didn’t talk but there seemed to be a kind of unspoken truce between us. She was my little girl again today.
I only wish she knew how sorry I am for what I did. What we both did to her. I know that she will never forgive us and that she hates us, but there is still time. I still have time to make amends and save her from herself. It’s my fault she is the way she is and I can’t stand to see her like this, so bitter and angry all the time. Where did my little girl go?
The book was slowly lowered to her knees. Her face was wet with tears and her breathes were hitched and her chest tight. It hurt so much. She had never felt pain like it and she didn’t think that she could stand it for much longer. How could anyone stand this pain? Her mother didn’t hate her. Her mother blamed herself for everything that Victoria did. But it wasn’t her fault; Victoria had done all those things to hurt her. To hurt her father. That’s who she really wanted to hurt. She was angry at her mother, but it was all her father’s fault. He had made her this way, and she hated him for that.
Struggling for breath she turned the page and stopped. All the pages had been torn out. There was only one folded up piece of paper lying on a blank page. Victoria took it out and searched the book from cover to cover but she couldn’t find another word. Why had she done that to her own diary?
Victoria set the book aside and unfolded the page. The first half was full of half started sentences and things crossed out untidily, so unlike her mother’s careful writing. The ink was smudged in places. The actual words that were legible were shaky and crooked. Victoria’s heart was like a clenched fist as she read the last words that her mother had ever written.
PLEASE forgive me for leaving you. I never thought it would come to this but I can’t go on anymore. I can’t do it. I am weak and I know that I failed you as a mother. I should have left him, I should have taken you away from him and never looked back, but I was weak and I loved him. I thought he was good but I was wrong. I love you more than anything else in the world and I want you to be strong like I never was. Get away from him. Leave. Go to your grandmother’s. I know that she will take you in.
I am so sorry. I cannot explain the pain that I’m feeling, just that I need it to stop, and it’s too late to fix me.
You are beautiful and smart and strong. Don’t let him break you.
I love you.
Victoria’s entire body was shaking. She felt sick, she felt cold, she felt like the room was spinning and if it didn’t stop soon she was going to black out. She wasn’t crying because she just couldn’t. She couldn’t do anything but stare at those words.
How much did she not know? She hated her father, but she never thought that her mother did. Had he hurt her too? Had he been hurting? Was he that dangerous?
The front door slammed and Victoria jumped. She stuffed the note into her pocket. What was she going to do? She could confront him; it wouldn’t take more than one push to throw him to the ground. She got shakily to her feet and went to the door. She opened it just a crack and peeked out into the landing. The light from the hall downstairs faintly illuminated the stairway. She was stepped forward, every muscle in her body tensed. She could see him standing down at the front door and he wasn’t alone.
A large man had him pinned against the inside of the door by the neck. He looked about fifty, balding, had faded and dirty looking tattoos creeping up his fat neck. Victoria’s father struggled futilely against the man’s bulk trying to catch a breath. Something was very wrong.
“Well? Where is it?” The man said in a low and dangerous voice. His face was inches from his victim’s which was now turning a dark beetroot colour. Victoria gripped the banister of the stairs. Her father dragged his head from side to side, unable to shake it properly. The man suddenly pulled him forward and slammed him into the door, now grabbing him by the shirt. “You owe me money, now where the hell is it Raymond?”
Raymond already had a black eye and a cut lip. His eyes were bloodshot and he struggled to speak, stuttering and slurring his words. “I don’t have it here….. I just need one more day…. I swear, I will pay you b-” He didn’t finish the last word before a fist was smashed into his jaw.
Victoria let out an involuntary gasp and turned to ice. The man slowly turned his head to look at her, one arm still holding her father up. He looked her in the eye and Victoria never felt fear like it. She knew exactly what he intended to do.
“Looks like I’ve found an alternative way for you to pay Raymond. It’s your lucky day.” He let his arm drop and Raymond slumped to the wall beside him, drunkenly raising his head to look up at his daughter at the top of the stairs. Blood trickled from the corner of his mouth. “No. I can pay.”
Tears streaked down Victoria’s face of their own accord and she slowly started to back towards her room. The man let out a triumphant chuckle and bounded up the stairs. She ran, but he was fast and she nowhere to run to. She tried to close the door to her room but he slammed into it with all his weight and it smashed off her forehead and knocked her to the ground. Raymond was shouting from downstairs trying to climb the stairs after them. The huge man entered the room and stood over her. He was breathing heavily, the smell of sweat and whiskey heavy in the air but his eyes were bright. He ran his tongue over his bottom lip.
Victoria was clutching the side of her forehead which was slick with blood. She started pleading. “Please! Please leave me alone. Please.” She tried to back away from him but he swiftly reached down and pulled her up by the hair.
“STOP! I CAN PAY. I’LL GIVE YOU THE MONEY RIGHT NOW!” Her father had gotten to the top of the stairs and was staggering to the door. The man, still gripping her tightly in one fist, closed the door with his other hand and locked it. Victoria started screaming. He laughed. “Good.” He said loudly. “Just the way I like it.”
She tried desperately to kick or punch him, flailing miserably, but he was too strong. She screamed again and he brought his other hand up to grab her face. “Just relax. It’ll all be over soon princess.” He stuck his tongue in her mouth and she screamed again. Her knee came up into his groin and he pulled away. “Fucking bitch!” He yelled. He took his hand away from her hair and using the full force of his strength he smashed her head into the wardrobe, shattering the mirror and spraying the floor with bright red blood.
Victoria fell to the floor, darkness flooding her vision. She tried to move but she was almost unconscious. Her breathing was becoming more strained, the panic rising to breaking point. She could just feel shards of glass pressing into her back. Her father was banging on the door, calling her name weakly. The man wasn’t laughing anymore. He pulled off his belt and punched the door. “Shut the hell up Ray! You know you owe me!” Silence followed. Victoria whimpered and tried to move, but he lowered himself down until he was straddling her. Adrenaline flooded through her veins and she started to struggle more, but he pinned her shoulders down with him knees. The weight was crushing and she was sure her bones couldn’t support him for long.
“Now,” He said slowly and calmly and he pulled off his jacket. “You’re going to do exactly what I tell you to do or I’m going to slit your throat. And then I will slit your father’s throat. Do you understand?” He had pulled off his shirt showing a chest of matted hair and just how fat he was. A large tattoo of a spider decked his massive stomach. Victoria kicked with her legs and opened her mouth to scream. He pressed a hand over her mouth, the pressure pushing her head into the glass beneath her. He grinned, his mouth full of rotten yellow teeth. She was going to be sick. “No no no.” He leaned in close to her face and whispered. “If you scream again it will be a lot more painful than it needs to be.” Victoria whimpered and scrunched her eyes closed. Her arms were starting to go numb. She tried moving her fingers to get the feeling back and felt the raw edge of glass on each of her hands. Terror gripped her as she looked up at his disgusting form. He turned his head to the right and picked something up off the bed. Victoria gripped a glass shard in each fist.
He had picked up her school skirt which she had left on her bed. “Now. This would make me happy.” Bile rose in her throat as she thrust up with her fist and embedded the shard of glass in the back of his thigh. He let out a cry of pain and fell back, releasing her shoulders. She brought her other arm up and using all her strength she slashed at his jowls, digging deep into the flesh there. His eyes widened in horror and he fell onto his back clutching at his throat. Victoria stumbled to her feet and fumbled at the lock on the door as he choked on his own blood behind her. She ran into the hall, her head swimming, and down the stairs. She didn’t see her father but she heard a faint whimpering sob coming from the living room as she ran out the front door.
She ran and she didn’t stop. She didn’t have a father anymore. She was an orphan.