Part Thirty-SixMature

When I get home that evening, Seb isn't in. It's a strange feeling of unfamiliarity. When he's in, there's barely any proof that he is anyway, but now he's out, and the house feels empty.

I go up to his room, and it's spotless. Nothing has changed since I was last in there, except that the bedding is missing.

On impulse, I go into my mother's room. The smell of alcohol on opening the door is suffocating. Like when someone spills beer and doesn't clean it up properly, but fifty times stronger.

There are cans and bottles everywhere and the bed is so filthy I can see the place where she sleeps as a greyish dent in the mattress. 

The floor is sticky with spillages and the room is in darkness. When I try to open the curtains, they fall down, the plaster crumbling from the wall where the rail was held in place. The windows are covered in a year's wroth of grime, and I have to force them open.

I go downstairs to get a bin bag, and my mother is standing in the kitchen.

"Mum..." I say, surprised that she's up.

"Lola," she turns to me. "Your brother had gone to pick up your nan from the train station. Clean up."

"That's what I'm doing," I tell her. "Stay down here."

The bottle I smashed into the sink is still there, and I can see the lack of effort I've been putting into cleaning lately.

I sigh and get on with it.

The process of cleaning my mother's room is quicker than I thought it would be. Once all the rubbish is gone, it only takes twenty minutes to scrub the floors and windows to a point at which the light reflects off of them. I don't clean the walls like I did in Seb's room. It wouldn't be worth it.

Seb's bedding, I find in the washing basket. My mother sees the blood, but doesn't comment as I shove it in the machine with her duvet, sheet and pillowcases. 

Then I tidy up with a thoroughness that I haven't manages for a while.

After that, there's ten minutes of total silence while my mother and I wait for Seb and Nannie.

The End

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