"For crying out loud, Jennifer, what is your problem!?” I heard echoing through the corridor. I didn’t turn back to see the look on her face… I couldn’t be bothered, in all fairness. I just wanted to get out of the hell hole I was locked in day in, day out. I wanted to escape!
“Jennifer,” came a new voice, much deeper than the previous shrill, that had called before. I continued to power work towards the grand double doors at the far end of the main corridor. I was near. Not far now, not far until I’m free, “Jennifer O’Connell, stay where you are this instance.”
“Why should I?” I shouted, startled by the aggressiveness is my voice. It wasn’t uncommon for my temper to flare, but this new type of anger was new and scary to me. I froze where I stood with my feet glued firmly to the floor. I looked down at them and breathed deeply.
I could feel the tears building up in my eyes, before brimming at the edges and eventually falling in splashes down towards the dusty wooden floorboards.
Footsteps echoed behind me. They were coming towards me. I turned my head to face them. Their face was calm, yet full of stern warning. Her wrinkles were exposed severely and matched her mood perfectly.
My headmistress was your typical headmistress: middle-aged with graying hair, who wore frumpy skirt suits, pastel blouses, sensible black shoes and a broach on her lapel. She also wore crimson lipstick which stained her lips to a dark, muggy brown. Her cheeks were rouged pink and, in all honesty, did nothing for her complexion, but make her look silly.
She continued to walk and stood in front of me. I turned back to face her. She crossed her arm and began to tap her foot. It was an irritating habit of hers that constantly drove me up the wall.
“I think you and I ought to have a little chat, don’t you think, Jennifer?” she told me. It wasn’t a suggestion, it was a fact. She would march me to her dingy, musty, pale green office whether I like it or not.
I shrugged and began to walk back down the corridor, in the direction I’d come from, towards her office. She followed close behind me, to make sure I didn’t quickly decide to turn back around and make a run for it… again.
Students and teachers were standing at classroom doors, spying on the commotion I’d caused. Once they’d seen that it was me, they returned back to their lessons. It was nothing new to them. I was the main attraction during lessons at this school.
The corridor wasn’t long, but it felt like I’d been walking for miles. All the eyes, staring at me, made me feel nervous and embarrassed. I didn’t mean to cause a fuss… I just did.
The dirty, meadow green door loomed before me, with its peeling paint and rusty door handle, with a sign attached the wood saying: ‘MRS. D. JONES’.
Mrs. Jones, the headmistress pushed the door open and entered her office, with me close behind her. I took a deep breath and tried not to inhale the stench of the vile room.
For the head teacher, her office was very untidy and extremely unorganized. She had papers strewn across her desk and flowing from the metal filing cabinets behind it, she had a row of, about fifteen, nearly empty coffee mugs lined up along the grubby, dusty window sill, her waste bin was piling over the sides and forming a small mountains of rubbish and paper in the corner of the room, stopping the door from opening fully and her chair had so many tears in it, it practically had no cover on at all.
This wasn’t my favourite room in the school, yet I was in here the most. I sat down on the plastic chair in front of Mrs. Jones’ desk and crossed one leg over the other, with my arms crossed loosely on my lap. Mrs. Jones sat in her chair and placed her elbows on her desk, entwined her fingers together and rested her chin on them.
She studied me specifically, trying to figure out what was going on in my head and why I behaved the way I did. Was she missing something? Or was she just not good as reading faces? The truth was, she just didn’t understand me – just like every other head teacher who’d had the pleasure to have me at their school.
“What are we going to do with you, Jennifer?” she murmured; not to me, but to herself. I said nothing. I had nothing I wished to say, so I saw no point in saying anything at all. I just stared out of the window, to my left, and admired the rain outside.
It was hammering down and crashing against the thin plastic windows. The sky was dark and angry clouds loomed above us. It was very ironic that the weather was bad when I sat in this room… almost as if it was fate, if I believed in all that, I guess.
“What happened today, Jennifer?” Mrs. Jones asked me, dryly. She wasn’t the sort of person who appeared to care about why her students were in the wrong and didn’t come across as being the type of person who was even bothered to set things straight – quite the opposite of a head teacher, more like the sub who just wants their pay check at the end of the week.
I shrugged my shoulder, without looking away from the window. She sighed and the creak from her chair and the bare floorboards beneath my feet confirmed that she had moved from her seat and was standing beside me. She stopped in front of the window and crossed her arms. She looked out with me.
“This is the thirteenth time this term, Jennifer, and the term’s barely even started yet. I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be able to tolerate you in my school. You’re attendance is poor, your class work is appalling and you’re a terrible example to the younger students.
“I’m perfectly aware that this is the fifteenth school you’ve attended in the last seven years and it pains me to say that you may have to do the homework in which to find school number sixteen,” I turned to face her, a fraction, and met her stone grey eyes boring into mine. She was serious, “I’ll be having a meeting with your parents, there’s no doubt about that, and this is going to be sorted once and for all.
“If you carry on the way you are, you will, most definitely, be permanently removed from Hallibourne Comprehensive.” She took one last look at me before turning her back on me and returning to her chair, this was always a sign that she was done and no longer had the nerve to talk to me or even be in the same room as me.
I got up from my own chair and walked to the door, not uttering a word. I turned the handle and pulled it open. I stepped out into the corridor and shut the door behind me, not too hard, and made my way back down the long corridor to the main door.
My throat was croaking and my eyes stung with the tears that I forbade to fall down my cheeks. My fists were clamped tight together and the muscles in my legs ached from the pace in which I was walking.
I thrust open the main school doors and stepped out into the rain. As I glided across the wet tarmac playground, splashing in puddles and getting soaked to the bone, my tears fell and merged with the rain water on my face. The school gate was unlocked and I was able to walk into the street before me.
There wasn’t much traffic around and the pavement was mostly clear of pedestrians, due to the rain. I must have looked odd walking along the street in a worn red jumper, white polo shirt, black trousers and scruffy black trainers, drenched with no raincoat or umbrella as a source to keep me dry, but I truly and utterly didn’t care. I didn’t care if people thought I was odd or strange or thought I’d lost the plot; I just wanted to get away from that God forsaken place and go home!
But where was home? Home was gone, gone for good; or never there in the first place. I had a place to live in but no one would be crazy enough to call it home, not even a hospitalized patient with a severe diagnosed mental disorder. Home was where family was and where love was. I had no family – not really – and there was certainly no love in those four walls no one should ever call home.
Mrs. Jones wouldn’t be able to see my parents, they were far too busy leading successful lives and caring more about their next big pay cheque and important dinner dates in fancy restaurants with various rich and very important people. I could barely even recognize my mother’s face in my head, not definitely, or remember the last thing my father had said to me the last time he’d seen me; it’d been so long since I’d seen either of them.
If my calculations were correct, I could probably have said that, in the sixteen years that I’d been in their lives, I’d probably, most likely, have only seen them a small handful of times; in person that is. Oh, I’d seen them plenty of times on the front cover of magazines, and read about them in the newspaper over their latest scandal, but very rarely had I seen them face to face for a long period of time when they’d actually wanted to see me.
Just as I was rounding the corner onto the main high street, something caught my attention in the news agents’ window. I stood to a standstill, turned to face the window and looked at the cover of the tabloid newspaper on display. I frowned and snarled my teeth venomously. Against my better judgment, I marched into the shop, snatched the top copy of the newspaper and slammed it against the counter at the rear end of the little room. The finicky, little old man behind the counter jumped at the motion and his eyes blazed at mine. He knew who I was – everyone did – and he knew I had an extremely short temper; just like my mother.
With his elderly, shaking hands, he took hold of the, now wet, newspaper and tapped in numbers onto the cash register, that belonged way back in the early 1980s.
“£1-00 exactly.” He grunted, placing his cupped, waiting hand in front of my face. I flipped open the flap on my over-shoulder school bag and pulled out a £20 note from one of the hidden compartments inside – I didn’t care much for a purse – and thrust it into his hand, snatching the newspaper as I did so.
“Keep the change.” I stated harshly under my breath, twirling around and storming out of the little corner shop and back into the rain. Most people would have thought I was completely bonkers giving away that amount of money, especially considering I’d only bought a poxy tabloid newspaper, but I didn’t care about money, nor did I care what I did with it or who it was from.
The rain was starting to come down much faster so I shoved the newspaper under my jumper and began to run. I was almost at the building I wanted and just wanted to get inside; to get away! When the red, tailored jackets came into view I sprinted as fast as I could. The owners of these said red, tailored jackets saw me, rolled their eyes and opened each of the double doors wide open for me, just as I skidded to a halt. I nodded courteously, keeping my head down to hide the flush of red that had escaped across my cheeks in the embarrassment that I currently presented myself and rushed on past them towards the elevators.
I pushed the button firmly and, with luck, the elevator doors opened revealing an empty shaft. I stepped in and pushed down the button at the very top of the panel. The doors closed slowly in front of me and the hum of the mechanisms filled my ears, intertwining with the annoyingly, frustrating and un-interesting background music that played on loop constantly in the tiny confided space. The ride was long and tedious – my most dreaded part when escaping the horrors of everyday life – and I was relieved when the doors finally opened revealing the black painted front door of the penthouse suit in which I lived in. I stepped out, reached for the chrome handle and pushed the door open. Once inside, I surveyed the surroundings behind me. The elevator doors closed slowly a short distance behind me, as I closed the front door shut too, cutting off its irritating background music and leaving the great room in which I now stood in a flood of silence.
There was no noise, no atmosphere, no nothing. Just silence. Everything about this space was far too clinical and gave no sense of ever being lived in. The very little furniture and decorations that filled the vast space was hardly ever used or noticed and was merely there for the sake of being there; a cover up for the lack of human contact or use they ever saw.
The silence broke as splashes of dripping rain water hit the tiled floor beneath where I stood. I looked down at my sodden school uniform and sighed. I stripped there and then in the great room down to my underwear, taking the newspaper into one hand and carried my soaked uniform in the other. Sauntering over to the far side of the great room and down a short corridor, I approached my bedroom door, sliding it open as I got closer. The penthouse was far too modern to be called a family home. Its interior design and decor was more suited to that of a wealthy bachelor in his mid forties, who had no plans on settling down, getting married and starting a family. Yet, for the last seven years, here I was living in this showroom of a home twenty-four-seven with not even a mother or father around to give a crap about me.
My room would have been the envy of any other teenage girl if they’d ever been given the chance to see it – I never got close enough with anyone to ever have them around – but for me it was all just material and meant nothing. A bed is a bed: why spend hundreds, if not thousands, on a one of a kind piece of metal or wood frame when other people would be able to use and spend that amount of money for a much more beneficial purpose? I threw my soaked uniform into the laundry basket just inside my en-suite bathroom before retrieving an old band t-shirt and a pair of knitted socks by my bed. I threw on the over sized t-shirt swiftly and pulled the socks over each of my bare feet, taking the newspaper and falling onto Egyptian cotton sheets that were spread across my bed.
I stared at the photographs that were dotted around the front cover of the newspaper and clenched my teeth as I read the headline over and over again. I didn’t need to read the article that followed it, as it was all explained in those short few little words and then illustrated in the accompanying photographs:
O’CONNELL’S INVOLVED IN CAR COLLISION. BOTH DEAD.
The corners of my eyes burned but I was not allowed to cry, I wouldn’t allow myself to die. Why should I care that they were dead? Had they even cared about me and what they’d put me through all these years? Had it ever occurred to them that I was miserable and that it had caused me to be as malicious, stubborn and hostile as I was? I very highly doubt they did ever think about how their lifestyle affected me or my development. They were so absorbed in their own lives that they never even got a chance to stop and smell the roses or admire the one thing that went wrong in their lives: me!
They’d been terrible parents to me, not in the sense that they hadn’t raised me right but in the sense that they’d not raised me at all and I resented them for that. I reached over to the bedside table to my right, opened the top drawer and pulled out a pair of scissors. Hurriedly, but carefully, I cut around the main source of photographs and the headline, discarding the rest of the newspaper to one side, for the time being, and got up from my bed and headed over to the wall full of newspaper clippings, photographs, magazine cover spreads, and anything else that was about my parents. I snatched up the large ball of Blutac from my desk and tore a small piece off, placing it onto the back of the latest edition for the wall. I then stuck it directly in the middle of the mass of cuttings and stood back, crossing my arms as I did so.
This wall showed my parents’ every move throughout the media in all the years they’d left me. The earliest clippings, from when I was very young, had been given to me by my nanny, Eleanor, so that I would always be able to feel like I knew them and that I knew where they were in the world or what they were doing without me. But this new article, this major event in both theirs and my life, was the icing on the cake. I’d never know what they were doing or where they were anymore. There’d never be any more interviews and photo shoots of them in magazines that I could read about and envy. They would never be able to change their minds and come back to me and be the parents they’d never been. They were gone from my life and I would never see them again.
The sharp tone of the phone made me jump and broke the silence that filled the penthouse. I looked down at the flashing handset in the receiver by my laptop and sighed as I read the caller I.D. I lifted the handset and placed it against my ear.
“Yes?” I answered.
“Jennifer!?” came Eleanor’s worried and anxious voice on the other end of the line. I rolled my eyes to myself; of course it was me, who else would have been? Santa Clause? “I’ve just seen in the newspaper about your parents… have you heard y–“
“Yes,” I cut her off, sounding bored, “I’ve just read it and don’t worry, it’s already officially made the wall of fame.”
“Oh, Jennifer, I’m so sorry. I really am. You have no idea how much pain I feel for your loss. You must be devastated.”
“No, actually, I’m not. It was only about time something tragic like this happened to the pair of them. I knew they’d going somewhere along these lines, it was only a case of when it would happen that I couldn’t predict. Phillipa was always a reckless driver, if I remember correctly.” I heard Eleanor sigh from her end of the phone. She thought it was odd how I usually spoke about my parents with their forenames rather than their adopted ‘mother’ and ‘father’ status; they didn’t deserve that privilege.
“Look, I’m in town at the moment, give me ten minutes and I’ll be right back home, okay? And I won’t mention anything about why you’re even there in the first place: you should be in school.” She replied. I rolled my eyes and placed the phone back down on the receiver. I felt a little bad about hanging up on the one person who had been constant in my life and had attempted to be a fill in mother figure to me but I never asked her to try and be one and didn’t really want her to be one. I closed my eyes and lifted the collar of the t-shirt I wore up to my nostrils, breathing in and sighing at the musky smell that teased my senses. It still smelled like Austin, my father. This had been the last thing he wore before Phillipa, my mother, and he took off seven years ago to pursue their careers further. The socks were hers, Phillipa’s. They had been given to her by her grandmother when she was around my age and she’d kept them since, as they’d been the last thing she’d given her before she died.
I wondered if either Phillipa or Austin had ever thought on what they’d leave to me when they both passed on to the afterlife. Had they thought about it? Or would they not leave me anything at all? I doubted they’d leave me anything, I sometimes wondered whether they remembered I even existed. But it didn’t matter anymore because they needn’t remember me ever again. It was just me now; me, myself and I. Alone.