I was frustrated, the dark cloud was back over my head. The head regaled us with the typical ‘work hard and prosper’ speech before we plunged back into the tedium of sixth form school. Same old, same old. Square buildings with straight edges. Grey corridors lined with corkboards of grey text filled with a grey mass of students. Glancing at my timetable told me that today was full of sciences. I grimaced in distaste. If I’d’ve had my way it would’ve been arts all the way. Mum had seen to it that I had taken ‘more stable’ subjects. The only one that had truly been my choice was English, but spending just a quarter of my school life in the only class I had an active interest in was not my idea of a pleasurable experience. I flopped into my seat and before long my face hit the pages of my text book. My pen had been chewed into a pitiable state within twenty minutes. I almost felt sorry for it. If a pen could look so bored it had eaten itself then mine had managed it. I continued to stare idly into the monochrome drizzle and watched the water run in web-like rivulets down the glass. The steady drip, drip of the rain seemed to mirror Mr. Hank’s dribbling voice as he drip-fed us on the wonders of quantum phenomena. I’m sure it should have been interesting, possibly even engaging. Well, the front row made it seem ridiculously fascinating at any rate. I wondered how their hands didn’t cramp from the intensity of their note taking. They all had more effortless intelligence than anyone had a right to possess and seemed to exude a self-satisfied sense of supremacy that really ticked me off. I mean we all knew they were a little set of geniuses already so they didn’t have to be so bloody enthusiastic about it now did they? Tch. The rain kept spattering down in a decidedly apathetic manner as the iron clouds stretched from horizon to horizon across the low hanging sky.
I drifted through lessons and back out again all day just as disinterested and moody from one to the next. Finally, exhausted from so much doing nothing, I climbed back onto my bus at the end of the day and slumped my stuff onto the floor by my seat with a sigh. It was going to be a long year at this rate.
“Why so glum Suki?”
A cool voice ringing softly like bells washed over me and a pretty girl with bobbed auburn hair and brown eyes plonked herself down beside me. She imitated my sigh and looked at me in her typically quizzical manner.
Fighting to maintain my depressed face I answered in a flat monotone.
“Oh the whole world is falling around me, I wish I could just diiiiie.”
Then I burst out laughing. It felt like a pressure between my eyes had just evaporated as I smiled for the first time today.
“Nah, I’m fine really, just the usual”
“That bad huh?”
I smiled again.
“Yeah, well not much worse than that at least.”
Elena never ceased to make me smile whenever I needed it. A central quality of the quintessential best friend. She also had that knack for instantly tuning into my mood and adapting her own suitably. It was an innate understanding we shared without having to say a word. I would be considerably more lost and miserable without her around.
Elena started to tell me about her day and together we lamented how we weren’t in most of each other’s classes and moaned about teachers and shared a little gossip. Eventually I zoned out as I felt my eyelids drooping. Elena wouldn’t mind. She knew I liked hearing what she was saying even if I wasn’t particularly listening to it. She’d just stick her ipod in once I was out and be just as happy anyway.
I slept the rest of the way home.
Elena nudged me awake.
“Time to get off, sleepy head.”
I yawned and stretched, stumbling off the bus in a daze. I returned Elena’s wave and languidly strolled towards me house. I hoped it would be less of a war zone than this morning. I laughed at the thought and let out a short sigh. Yeah, right. I brushed the sleepy haze out of my mind and readied myself for the onslaught.
“Suki!” I was under fire before I’d even closed the door.
“Suki, Suki I need you to take out the rubbish and put the dishes in the washer. Oh and put the wet clothes in the dryer too, 90 minute cycle.” My mother’s voice called imperiously from upstairs like some sort of unseen holy proclamation.
“ANNA, CHRISTOPHER, STOP FIGHTING! Oh and one more thing Suki, could you make me a cup of coffee too? Milk and sugar if it’s not too much trouble.”
I moaned. Why was I inundated with more work the moment I got in? I’d been working all day already, did I not deserve a bit of a break maybe? What if it was too much trouble to make her another bloody cup of coffee? Wishing Elena hadn’t so kindly woken me up, I started with the veritable Everest of dirty dishes on the sideboard.
About half an hour later after man handling three full bin liners into the wheelie bin and tussling with the pile of wet washing I stomped upstairs into mum’s office with her coffee. She took it from me without a word, not looking at me, not even glancing at the mug in her hand, not once taking her eyes off the computer screen in front of her. She took a sip from the mug and straightened her glasses. She set the mug down with a perfectly crisp clunk on the desk.
“You forgot the sugar.”
She still hadn’t looked at me.
“What? Don’t I even get a thankyou? I made your damn coffee for you and all I get is a complaint?”
I was enraged. She had no right to treat me like some sort of slave. How was it fair when she spent all day counting money for a bank on a computer? She didn’t move all day and can’t even be bothered to get herself some coffee while I’m already working like a dog at school, only to come home to this? I fumed.
“You will not speak to me like that again Suki. I am your mother.” Her voice was menacingly level and cold. “Remember you live in my house and eat my food and attend the school I pay for. You’re the only one of your siblings who we can afford fees for so buck up your ideas. Do you understand?”
It wasn’t a question. I understood. I set my face in a defiant mask and turned on heel to storm from the room. Again with the whole “my house” thing. She could do some work around here if she was so determined to insist that this was ‘her house.’
I stalked from the room and onto the landing. I could hear Christopher and Annabel screaming at each other downstairs.
“Shut up down there! OW!” My foot hit something sharp. “For fuck’s sake!”
The pain sparked a wildfire of anger as I saw that stupid toy from this morning again.
“Fucking bloody stupid damn crap sugar bastard!”
I lost any sense of coherent speech and punted the toy down the stairs watching it clatter across the floor.
“DO NOT USE THAT LANGUAGE IN THIS HOUSE AND FOR GOD’S SAKE PICK IT UP!”
Mum added her voice so that the whole house raised a clamour together like a cage of angry crows cawing and shrieking. I flew down the stairs radiating hate and crashed into my brother who took one look at my face and fled. Annabel was right on his tail and vanished into the living room, her shrill cries punctuating the rest of the noise. I took a wild swipe at her and missed, smashing my hand into the banister instead. I moaned in pain and stifled another stream of expletives. As my spat of temper started to dissolve I went into the kitchen feeling thoroughly sorry for myself and fighting the urge to start crying pathetically. I made myself a mug of tea and drained it still hot. It scalded my tongue and made my eyes water but the pain felt good, blanking out all the rest of my world of problems. The blood roared in my ears as I breathed deeper and slower, closing my eyes. I set down my mug on the faux-granite worktop and poured myself some more tea. I took this one slower, inhaling deeply through my nose; the scent eased my nerves as I sipped, bringing me back from meltdown point. I spent a long time just standing there silently.
Once I’d calmed down enough to put my brain back in gear I decided I’d head for the living room where the call of the squabbling siblings still rang out. What I found there wasn’t pretty. My little brother and sister were like fingers and sockets. Bring them together and the sparks start to fly. Anna’s face was contorted with rage and her normally impeccably brushed mousey hair was all over the place courtesy of Chris savagely pulling at it while she tried to claw him off her. I separated them and was immediately assaulted by a barrage of whine.
“Suki, he snatched the remote from me and it was my turn to watch the tv!”
“No it wasn’t you stupid, it was my turn!”
“No, it was my turn!”
Within a few seconds of being in their presence they had almost managed to pierce my thin bubble of content. I took a moment to calm myself.
“It doesn’t matter whose turn it was because it is now my turn.”
“That’s not faaair!”
“I don’t care,” I reasserted myself.
“Anna, go tidy your room, it’s filthy and if you don’t I’ll bin your makeup, and Chris, if you leave your toys on the landing anymore I’ll bloody well set them on fire got it?”
With a little more cajoling, coercing, blackmail and outright bullying I finally managed to dispatch my siblings and flung myself gratefully into the sofa’s welcoming embrace. I yawned and shuffled the cushions into a more comfortable arrangement. I flicked through the channels for a little while. A soap. A talk show. A game show. A football game. I eventually found one I recognised or at least a handsome actor I recognised and settled down. The energy saving bulbs cast a soft yellow light through the lampshades and a warm glow reflected from the creamy- yellow wallpaper. Week-old empty mugs and glasses sat on the dark wood coffee table on the rug in the middle of the room and the soft carpet showed the stains of three children’s misdeeds over the years. I curled up on the sofa and hugged a cushion into my chest. It was cosy here. Alone and quiet at last. I yawned and thought of Elena and how I envied her. She was the only child of two lovely parents with a nice house and garden. Her mother was a lawyer, her father a journalist. She planned to follow them and be a lawyer, author, or editor. She had life so simple, so carefree. Everything was laid out for her. Her path was set and all she had to do was follow it. I sighed. Where did I have to go? I envied Elena’s life but I didn’t resent her. She was the best friend I could wish for. With these comforting thoughts buzzing around my head my eyes drooped and I drifted away into dreams of another life where I only had one sister and she was the most perfect companion anyone could’ve asked for.