You sound so terrible and reckless to my ears. I want to shake the child inside you so it spills from your eyes but you’ll have none of it. You say it will be alright, everything’s okay, it won’t matter after tomorrow. There is blood on my knuckles; I’ve never hit someone before and it stings. I was a child when I put bruises on my thighs, but I’m fifteen now. I’m old, old enough, and your sister is yelling at you, asking what I’m doing there, why you brought me. You tell her to calm down and she slams the door and drives away in her little green car. I’m crying but you don’t notice because you’re pacing the hallway with shaky fingers. The books on your bookshelf are nicer than mine are — they are more worn out and they smell like dust and they are by authors whose names I have yet to learn. Two years later I realise they are wonderful; Wallace and Fry and Tullis and Stoddard and Eldridge.
I am sixteen and you call me Jemima, after a girl you used to know with an accent like mine. You are smoother now, less painful, less hurtful. You tell me you’ll miss me when I move to Australia, you say the city will die a little. I laugh and tell you the city will be brighter because I won’t be there to steal the light. This is a joke, of course; I am dull, you told me that. We share a cigarette, but I hate smoking. I tell you I’ll miss you too. We sleep in your car until the sun rises at seven, and then you buy me breakfast from McDonald’s and bring me home. We feel like best friends but I hate you. I don’t eat your food. You call me anorexic. I close the car door and tell you I’ll call you that night, but I don’t.
My phone rings and it’s you, we haven’t spoken in months. I’ve been away from home for a year now. You whisper my name like a question, I reply with a sniff so you know I’m there. You tell me about your day, about how you were in the hospital, about how it made you think of me. I don’t answer. Well, you say, thanks anyway, and I hope you like your life now. The phone beeps with an ended call and I try to bite my fingernails but I have none left. I cry because I hate me and I have too much work to do for my stage two math class. Also, I miss home.
I am three months to nineteen now, I feel like a lady but not like a woman. My Saturdays sound like you if I let them. I have new friends, they drive me places and buy me drinks and roll me cigarettes and tell me secrets about their lives. I know everyone’s stories. I stay up late because I feel less homesick after four in the morning. Sometimes I cry but I don’t know why; things are wonderful for me. I study journalism and public relations at university, I like it and I’m doing well. I’m looking for a job but I can’t find one. I still take pictures but no longer play the piano. There are photographs of you under my bed in a plastic bag, I think I will throw them out this week. I miss only one thing about you and it is all your pillows, because they were cold and musty and that is the smell of home to me. I wonder if you’re still alive, it doesn’t feel like it anymore. I don’t care if you’re happy I just hope you’re not dead.
thank you! you’re lovely