"You can do very little with faith,
But you can do nothing without it."
Why am I spending my Friday night shopping in London? There's a reason as always.
It's because I've been told to, as always. The bruises on my arms show what happens if you don't do what you've been told. The tear at my spine, the slash on my wrist, and the bruises on my legs all show what happens if you don't do what you're told. But nothing changes and nothing ever will.
The rules of life you're taught from the age of five are pretty simple, say please and thank-you, smile when someone gives you something and always listen when you're being talked to. For normal kids. Mine are different. Obey Elaine at all costs, cry when you're hit, do meaningless chores and always be thankful to be allowed to stay in 'her' house. The punishments change too.
So that's pretty much why I'm shopping for her. It's about two miles from our house, I'd guess. I wish we'd stayed in Japan most of the time. When Mom was there. But she's gone, and I'm here. She could have been worse than Elaine for all I know, she died when I was five; I didn't know her. My Dad told me the basics of life, my school, too – the one I'm legally made to go to. Or else I couldn't and wouldn't be allowed to go to. Salvation.
The air funnels at me, blasting its way through my thin clothes. If she's in a bitter mood she'll make me pin extra bits of material on the sleeves so I look like a scarecrow. It's her way of humiliating me. She tells people I ruin my own clothes, that I scratch and bite myself to get attention because I'm jealous of my Dad.
I don't know why Dad stays with her. Sometimes I hate him more than her. He looks away when she hits me, refuses to look at me, like he's ashamed of me. It's as if he wants to forget everything about his past, Mom, me, everything's moved on and I'm still wishing my childhood back.
It's hard not to want it. I used to play in the parks and stuff like a regular kid, which was fine. The next year Elaine was around and I was cleaning the house where I'd left my blood on it.
My feet slump again the concrete, the hole in my shoes pooling with water every time I step in water. London's cold this time of year, it feels more like home to me because I've lived for ten years, moved as soon as Mom died. 'Ridding ourselves of our past.' Ten years of hurt, and it feels like nothing. You get used to it.
The neon signs are gone, it's dark, hardly anyone around, it's coldly uncomfortable for anyone to be out normally. Too cold for someone in thin clothing and broken shoes, but its better than 'home'.
The streets are soothing this time, there's no loud noises, it's empty; a place where I can think or be alone. I'd rather have nowhere to go than go back there. But she'd find me. Otherwise, people might find out the truth and that'd be her downfall, and Dad might leave her. She wouldn't let that happen – it's a control game – she'd leave him first and he'd be upset. I guess. I don't know if she loves him, and I don't want to know the answer. He wouldn't have married her otherwise. I'm not sure why he did in the first place, and at whose suggestion?
I'm there, the bold, burning light of the discount store itching against my eyes as I slip into the store. I've been given money. Of course it's never enough and I could never steal any from her - she has a ridiculous counter on her purse, so I can't get in – and I have no money to use of my own. Pocket money is a no-go. So I steal.
Shocking I'm sure. It's hard to get away with; if she caught me I'd be dead. Not quite literally but close enough. She's caught me before; I've still got a burn on my stomach where she pushed me over used the gas cooker that just 'happened' to be on. People ask? I obviously slipped and fell. She said wanted to watch me burn. She likes to tell me why she's doing each small thing, it makes me feel like shit, she enjoys it - trying to spook me. Though she still complains about money, she gives me too much supposedly. She won't notice what's obvious, if she gave me money I wouldn't steal. She doesn't care though – it gives her another excuse. Like a bad hobby.
There's always an excuse.
Once my asthma caught on and she wouldn't stop. She hit my stomach extra hard; I'm sure she gets kicks out of it. Smashed my face against a mirror, streaks running down it.
The packet of rice crushes into my hand, I pick a different one. It's hard not to care. She makes me feel so worthless and I just can't get it out. If ever I responded back to her, she'd drag my Dad into the room and I'd have to tell him what I told her. About how she shouldn't do this. It makes my Dad shrivel. He doesn't want to know. I can't tell him, I'll never tell him, his life's bad enough as it is with me in his face every day, and if something happens, I'll go and hide in 'my room,' which is the cellar right now. Lucky in her opinion.
I drop it into the basket.
I can only steal small things, thin clothes show bulges against thin skin. 'Haute Cuisine' I think it's called; small and expensive stuff. She won't accept what things cost, claims I'm stealing the money: And where would I keep it I wonder. It'd fall out of my trainers, and I don't have socks. I don't have pockets – they're a luxury in her eyes. I'm not allowed those.
The two pounds slips out of my hand. Checkout's through, I take a few extra bags for myself. They'll come in useful. I get a few weird looks for that. I slip past the scanners, it's simple enough – you've just got to change stores now and then or else the cameras recognize you. The gap's thin but I make it. It's harder when you look different. There aren't many Japanese in London that live there. Most are trippers you find around the tower, palace and stuff. I've never seen either apart from in tacky postcards. Black hair and dark eyes show up, but at least I'm small.
She calls me a runt but I don't care. The less like her I look, the better. We aren't related and I 'd hate it if anyone thought so.
It's drizzling with rain, the wind's gone but I'm getting wet. I start to walk quicker, feet slapping the floor but there's no one to be ashamed in front of. Elaine says Mom would be ashamed of me but there's nothing left to compare myself to her, everything of hers was burned.
Kept away - how it should be. I'm told I'm just like her, ugly, rude, negative. It's the one thing that makes me cry. I won't cry for her, she makes me but they're fakes. Nothing for her is real.
I stop. The straps are cutting into my hands, raw already and it's only plastic. She caused this problem. She sometimes moans at me about that -I have no tolerance apparently. I wonder why?
I reach a tree; it's sheltered slightly from the rain, coming faster now. A shadowed wall nearby stopping the wind. Not the best place to spend a Friday but it'll do; anything to stop me going 'home,' even if it'll make me pay.
An arm flicks out, grabs the material on my shoulder and yanks me to one side. I'm probably on private ground or something. I open my mouth to defend myself, a useless apology forming in my mouth, as long as they don't tell her.
A drop of rain stops early on something. It's metal, and sharp. I stop moving. A voice comes at me, not particularly gangster impersonation, but they're waving a knife so I'm not going to complain. This should be TV or something. I used to watch those shows when I was little, try and understand what the people went through, why rape victims killed themselves and why criminals did what they did. But the TV got taken away so I never found out.
Now it's in the flesh.
"Money, now," shutters into my ear.
I'm stumped. I don't have any, Elaine doesn't like it if I come home with money, she says I'm wasting a trip or something; I tune out after a while. But we all know what the results of her not liking something, don't we. I twist my head round slightly, trying to see if there's any way I get out of his grip. "I don't have any," I mutter quietly, hoping he won't hear me.
"Sure, cut the crap," There's a pause. I wonder why he's picking on me, but wish the lights of the store twinkling against the wall; it's not too hard to guess. Who goes shopping and comes out without money or change at any rate.
"Now," But I can't give him what he wants.