10. Yana.

Backhand.

"I don't want to feel this small.

You know I just can't handle this.."

- Something Corporate.

I drag myself over the grey cobbles to the door, my heart in my ears soaring through my brain, feet stumbling, the grey weather scowling at me.  She's there, half a metre inside the door.  I lower my head, the two small bare scuffed steps below me, dingy water sweeping across sideways into a puddle wandering off down the road.  I pull my eyes back to centre to meet her feet.

She steps out, glances to the right, flicks her eyes out to the left and gives me a broad sideways slanted smile.  "So that's where you got to," she grins at me. "Had me worried there."

"Sorry I'm late" I reply looking at her, my own smile not stuck to my face enough, my teeth clenched.  I swallow hard, feeling nauseous.  She steps backwards leaving a thin off-coloured carpet in front for me to step onto.  My body's ready to be inside, my arms by my sides and my face at the carpet as my feet pull me in.  The door shut softly, brown paint flaking off behind me, fluttering down to the carpet.  She always was a good 'homemaker'.  The smile drops straight off my face.

"Where the fuck have you been?" she spits, backhanding me, her fingers meeting with my left cheek, the ring on her finger catching but not tearing, her aim for a healed bruise striking, a burning on my skin.  I shut my eyes for a second pretending I'm not here, a boil of black in my brain.  I swallow roughly again, angry with this.  My chin shifts, my throat dry.  She doesn't expect an answer.  Never does.  "The kitchen needs cleaning" she barks.

I look to my sides in confusion, isn't she going to try and kill me or something?  Perhaps it's a day off my mind asks sarcastically.  My head dips into a slight nod and I start to move.  She turns and walks off, my mouth drops and I stop for a moment; there's gotta be a catch somewhere.  I shake my head suddenly, snapping out of my reverie and continue walking the small steps to the kitchen on the right, shutting the creamed door behind me.

I breathe out, a long drawn breath; so relieved, slowly stretch my shoulders backwards and forwards, gasping slightly when my stomach pangs.  I push my tongue against the roof of my mouth as I press my hand over my left ribs, relaxing my shoulder, swallowing loudly.  My shoulders shake and I cough, my eyes meeting my job.

I step towards to sink, rolling my sleeves up from where they'd fallen down when she dumped me.  My hands reaching forwards to start the taps, I twist the cold and reach to the hot, hand jumping away from the burning metal handle.  In the background I hear water running.  She's so thoughtful like that.  I snatch my hand out to twist the unusually stiff hot tap on; I didn't leave it this tight.  My hands sears and I press the palm between my thighs, scowling.  I pull it back, wave it around and blow angrily at it, scowling.

My Dad would probably have been pleased with three course meal she presented him yesterday, the congealed soup bowls sticking to my fingers as I pour soap in them and push a scourer over him, the soap stinging the can cuts on my fingers, the metal scrubber bristling against my skin as I try and remove the muck from twenty four hours ago.

I'm sure he'd have liked the chicken too, the skin stuck to the sides of the wide casserole, crusted yellow desert on the sides of another bowl, burnt slightly black at the edges.  I glance at the pile slipping the dishes into the sink of water, spying a hoard of cups.  Why did they need to have three rounds of coffee, in different cups?  My fingers scrub the metal inside them, picking the caking off and setting them to the side.

I move across the linoleum floor to the metal rail where the towels hang dismally, scrunched or torn, pick the cleanest looking one and step back to the sink, reaching for the first bowl.  I lean it half against the silvered sink and support the other half with my left hand.

I'd finished by 8:30.  Or so the beige wall clock told me.  I look out of the window, the blinds horizontal and lean my head on my hands, elbows against the sink, and wonder again what it would have been like to grow up in a 'normal' household.  I've always wanted a pet; take a dog to the park or something, a replacement friend.  It's just be lovely, to have someone who understood me and I understood them.  Not someone's I always agreed with, someone I could just well.. talk to.

I blink and step back, heading to the door to find her.  I pad along the hallway, walking next to the stairs, ignoring the off-coloured decorating and turn at the bottom, the living room door dark and shut.  I stick my hand out to knock and stare at my shoes, waiting.  My mind wanders.

This morning though, someone talked to me.  Okay, so he'd tried to mug me but.. no one's talked to me for years – apart from shop assistants and people that have to be polite.  It was, well just nice.  Surprised me, seeing him sitting there and I wasn't afraid.  There just didn't seem to be a reason.  And we had, well, nearly had a conversation – I just walked and didn't think of what Elaine might do.  It just seemed… right?

I shake my head quickly and look at the unopened door, listening quietly, our house, silent.  I reach for the brass door handle, turning it slowly and stepping forward as it opens, my eyes scrutinising the room.  The magnolia paint slips into view but my eyes are drawn to the desk, behind the plumped sofa to the wooden chair where my Dad sits.  His eyes glued to the white, unblinking screen, his back facing me.  I stare, taking in his unkempt hair, and upright back, my eyes wide, then gulping, step back quickly: this isn't in the rules, neither hers nor mine.

I turn, blinking strongly, a shiver running through me, and jump as I see a figure two steps up from the ground on the stairs.  I nod slightly at her, my face shaking, clenching my fist.  She's so.. unpredictable.

She grins down at me, a malicious glint in her eyes.  "Come on" she says as though talking to a young child, "Let's get you cleaned up."  She turns and walks up the stairs, I stare at her back, my face radiating annoyance.  What the hell is she on about?

She turns at the top of the stairs, the yellowed gold carpet scrunching slightly under her toes as she turns right and walks along the corridor the last door, pausing outside to find the handle.  I sneer behind her, the bathroom? My index finger works at the hair above my right ear, messing my already messed bun, itching the scalp from not being allowed to wash.  Now what's she on about?  I follow, confused wondering if perhaps she might-

"Get in" she barks, interrupting my thoughts.  I stare at her, following her eyes to the full bath, my forehead wrinkling in confusion.  Surely she's not..  "If you don't.. " she released a croon, "well that's your choice."  She shrugs; we both know that's not the case.  I mentally grunt to myself, naïve.

I make a noise under my breath, 'hm', watching her leave.  I shut the door staring at the hole the lock was pulled from.  There's no privacy in this house.  I peer at the bath disdainfully; you can never tell what she's thinking.

My fingers work the buttons on my school shirt, peeling it off me and rolling the sleeves back down from their three quarter length I've folded them to.  I pull the grey skirt down off my legs and set it out on the floor with my shirt, trying to stop it creasing any more.  I pull the remaining clothes off, old and grubby and stolen, and stick my toe in the bath pulling it out quickly as the heat burns me, a stifled yelp erupting from my mouth, turned into a gulp.  I'm expected to get into that?  It's boiling.

I peer at my toe, burnt and angry and wonder how the hell I'm ever gonna get out of this one.  I look around for a cup or something, spotting one on the windowsill next to a mini cactus, pulling the toothbrushes out and setting them down on the sill.

I panic, I can't put the water down the sink, she'll hear it going down the inside pipes - so that rules out the toilet, I look over my shoulder and scowl at it.  I pull the white cord to my right and the blinds tilt open horizontally, I look for the other one and give it a slow pull and the blinds roll slowly upwards.  I angle myself across the sink and peer out of the window.

A grin seeps across my face as I fumble with the latch in the centre, pushing the window out and looking down onto an open drain.  Thank god.

I glance over my shoulder in paranoia that she might be standing there, cross to the door and stick my head out, just enough to see.  The light of the hall makes me feel out of place and, seeing no one, I pull my head back inside, feeling out of place.  I move to push the window open fully; feeling suffocated in the small sauna and begin using the cup to get the water out of the bath, pouring it carefully down the gutter and praying she doesn't hear it.

It takes me a good fifteen minutes before the bath is half its height and my wrist is aching.  I rotate it, the stiff feeling dispersing a little and I lean with my back against the sink for a minute or so, breathing hard.  I'm terrified of what she'll do if she finds out what I've done.

I look at the bath, seeing it half full and stick my finger in again, holding it in to find the temperature.  It's hot but the window must have taken a lot of the heat out.  The noise of feet on the stairs filters into my ear and I pull the window shut, flinging the toothbrushes into the cup and hopping in the bath, leaning forwards and wrapping my arms around my knees, clamping my teeth together to distract myself from the lessened heat on my cuts. 

Her face doesn't appear at the door.  "You.  Are you in that?" she demands sharply.  I'm surprised she hasn't come in, probably too sick of me for one day.  Usually she doesn't care what the situation is, it's so degrading.  I'm almost a non-existent, but today I seem to repulse her, oh goody.

I snap out of my mental rantings and move my hands to make splashing noises.  I pray that's enough.  I hear the footsteps stalking off back towards the stairs and jump quickly out, grabbing a hand towel; the only one conveniently there, old and dirty, and dry myself best I can, slipping back into the clothes, catching myself once on a scab and being overly cautious after that.  My limbs pull from moving so much and I roll my sleeves back up to below my elbows.  I pull the door open and begin walking downstairs, creeping silently in our dead house.

"You need to go shopping" she barks from another room.

________________

Author's Note:

Actually, I am still alive.  I feel awful for not updating it, but I just couldn't get into writing it, which I suppose I have now.  I'd really appreciate reviews for this, everyone knows how a review feels & I'll match them back.  Thanks for not all killing me and keeping with this thing, especially Kalmia and Maria for beta reading for me.

– 14/05/04