[Author's Note: This story is a work of fiction. While many characters and events have their inspiration and roots in my own life, details have been elaborated upon and changed for the purposes of storytelling. Views and opinions expressed in this story are not my own but rather those of fictional characters.]
I initially wasn't going to write this. My ramblings are usually best left in my head, where they belong. Putting pen to paper and finally writing about myself and all the weird and wonderful things that happened to me in the last few months seems almost like I'm revealing a secret. Something I wanted to keep personal.
I suppose if it wasn't for what happened at the end of July I wouldn't even have considered this.
But it seems like now I'm committed.
I guess it started in the spring of 2010... On the 4th of March...
I woke up to the sound of Mum calling me from downstairs: "Map! Map, you need to get up for school!"
Groggily peering over the edge of my pillow, through blurred vision, I located my clock. It was 7:38am on a Thursday. Thursday was not a good day.
My name isn't actually Map, that's just something that people call me. My real name is Michael Arthur Prior. M.A.P.
The name is the fault of my Father. He promised my Mother that he would let her win every single argument they would ever have as long as he got to name all of their children. It's a promise that he has so far managed to keep for the past twenty seven years. He often tells me that if it wasn't for this promise, he would probably win all of their arguments. I personally think that this is a lie. My Mother is far too stubborn to ever let anyone win anything, regardless of if they're right. I just think he uses the promise as an excuse.
While I have no idea where my first name comes from, other than Dad's mind, my second name is that of my Great-Grandfather. Dad tells me stories about him a lot, but other than that I don't know an awful lot about him.
Rolling out of bed I pulled on my school uniform, all the while ignoring the repeated calls of my Mother in the background. Pins and needles shot through my right foot, alerting me to the fact that I had obviously slept in a very uncomfortable position. Venturing from my room, minus a sock and a tie, I half limped down the stairs.
Reaching the kitchen, the cold feeling of the tiled floor relieved the pain in my bare foot. Dad was sat at the table reading some kind of book, peering over the top of his glasses, and Mum was standing at the far counter, with her back to us.
Not yet noticing me, Mum continued to shout for me.
"I'm up, I'm up!" I groaned, half shouting back.
For a second, I caught my Father flash a brief smirk when he heard me.
Mum turned around and sighed. "You didn't even brush your hair! And where is your other sock?"
"It's just going to get messed up again anyway," I replied, sitting down at the table next to Dad. "And the hell if I know. It's not where I left it."
"Must have been the 'Eater of Lost Socks'," Dad said, his eyes not breaking pace as they ran across the page of his book.
Sometimes he would say things like that randomly. I guess that they must be references or quotes to things, but it seems like he's the only one who knows to what exactly. Mum usually dismisses them with polite indifference.
Ignoring him, my Mother threw me a hairbrush that was laying in the fruit bowl. (I say fruit bowl, however the thing was never used to hold actual fruit. It usually served as convenient dumping ground for all sorts of knick-knacks.) "Brush you hair. And if you can't find the other one, go and get a new pair. I just finished a wash; there should be a pile on top of the dryer."
I get my hair from my Father, a feature that I curse him for nearly every day. Thick and curly, it's almost impossible to get under control and will form knots with a one hundred percent success rate.
He tells me I should feel lucky, as Grandpa and all other men on his side of the family are bald. Honestly, I'd prefer baldness over having to deal with the mess on my head.
Ripping the brush through my locks, I told Mum that I would grab a new pair of socks after breakfast. The sharp tugs against the roots of my hair made my eyes water.
Unlike my hair, my eyes are a feature of myself that I like very much. Like my Mother's, my irises are slate grey. Grey eyes are rare, thus I am proud that genetics held them in my favour.
Flicking the cover of his book closed, Dad placed it down on the table and pushed his glasses back up his nose. Dad's eyes are dark blue. Almost ludicrously so. Many people often mistake them for brown the first few times that they meet him. He would describe them as petrol blue.
My little sister's are the same colour.
"Any good?" I asked him, nodding down at the cover in mild interest.
"It's okay," he replied, rotating his jaw and rubbing his hand into the thick stubble. "I didn't expect much of it, but so far it's doing better than I thought."
Dad reads a lot. At a good pace, he usually finishes at least two books a week. Mum, however, struggles with two a year.
She claims that it's because she rarely finds anything that she can get into. Sometimes I wonder if such a book exists.
"Mind if I give it a go when you're done?"
"Be my guest," Dad chuckled, as he fiddled with the leather bracelet on his right wrist. "I'll probably be done by the end of the day."
After I finished brushing my hair, I ventured forth in search of food. Returning to the table with toast and a jar of raspberry jam, I sat and started to eat; all the while thinking about my day ahead.
I had two hours of Science first thing, so that wasn't too bad. Then after break it would be Art, followed by History. I would be finishing with two hours of ICT. That was not a good thing.
"Any homework due today?"
The question broke me from my train of thought. I glanced up to see my Father looking at me from the corner of his eye. I couldn't tell if the look he was giving me was stern or humorous. He was strange like that.
"Not really," I replied.
"Which means yes, but you haven't done it?"
Again; scolding yet playful. I hate that expression. It makes it impossible to get a good read on him.
"I've done it, but it's not that important." It was only a quiz for science on different atom structures; usually I could do something like that in my sleep.
"Another one of those quizzes?" Dad asked, locking his fingers behind his head and leaning back in his chair.
"Mmm," I hummed, through the slice of toast in my mouth.
"Is it the best that you could do it?" he asked, still holding the look on me.
"More or less."
Just as he was about to continue the conversation, however, something leapt up at him.
My little sister lunged across the kitchen in a flash of baby blue and grey, latching onto my Father's neck as her feet left the floor.
"Hey there, Baby Girl!"
Dad always calls Luci that. When I was younger he had a similar nickname for me, but by the age of ten I felt I'd outgrown it. Mine was "Little Man".
Luci is six years old; ten years younger than me. Born with a natural well of energy far beyond what should be humanly possible, I usually manage to identify her by the coloured blur of her school uniform as she tears through the house. When she was a baby, getting her to sleep was a living nightmare. Thankfully she has calmed down as she has gotten older, but not by much.
"Daddy, Daddy," she said, rocking back and forth on his lap, arms still around his thick neck as she elongated the word. "Mummy said that you're driving us to school today."
"No, Mummy said that he's taking you to school," Mum said, correcting her.
Dad doesn't drive. Never has done and never will. He claims that he can get everywhere he needs to go by walking and if needs must, the train. Mum, however, told me the real reason last year. Apparently he crashed during one of his lessons and has refused to drive a car since.
"Don't you have work today?" I asked, finishing the last bite of my first slice of toast.
"I've got the next few days off. The boss forgot to order in the materials, so I can't work until we get them in."
Luci continued to rock on his lap, staring off into the distance. She probably wasn't listening. I often find myself wondering what she's thinking about when she does this. It seems like she's a million miles away sometimes.
She looks a lot more like Dad than I do. Aside from my hair I get most of my physical traits from Mum; the opposite is true of Luci.
"What are you going to do with your time off?"
Dad seemed to ponder this for a second before glancing over at Mum. He broke into a cheeky grin that showed off his teeth and drummed the fingers of one hand on the table. "I'm sure I can think of something."
I knew what this meant and cringed internally. While Luci was too young to understand, I had grown to learn that whenever he gave this sort of response it meant that he and Mum would be having sex. Despite the fact that the thought often made me grimace (and in a perfect world they would have only done it twice), I was kind of glad that they still managed to make time with each other. It was a welcome change from some of my friends' parents, who were either divorced or didn't sleep in the same bed, and made me realise how well our little family dynamic worked.
I finished my breakfast and grabbed a fresh pair of socks, before jamming my feet into my pointed leather school shoes. Grabbing my bag, I slung it over my shoulder and waved goodbye to my Mum.
Dad and Luci followed suit and left behind me, walking down the road holding hands. Due to his standing height of just over six foot one, Dad had to stoop slightly while my sister was almost on tip-toes as she gripped his index and middle fingers.
The sun was mostly hidden by clouds, throwing a strange shadowy light down on the street, while around it flashes of blue peppered the sky. Bushes and trees were beginning to grow leaves, indicating spring was upon us, yet gardens still showed signs of winter neglect. The road to my left bustled with cars of parents, caught up in the early morning school rush.
I glanced briefly to my left to see a familiar face. Arms and head hanging out of a car window, Richard Taylor smirked over at me, ignoring the comments from his Mother to pull himself back in the car.
"Y'alright, Rich?" I said, hooking my thumb under the strap of my bag to reposition it on my shoulder.
"Not bad, all things considering," he replied, as his car rolled along, keeping pace with my stride. "We got History first thing?"
"Nah, that's Tuesday. Today's Science." I had memorised my timetable in the first three weeks of this school year.
"Oh yeah!" Rich said, in mild realisation. "We were supposed to do that quiz."
"And what quiz is that?" Rich's Mum asked, just about managing to be heard over the squabbling of his two siblings in the car.
"That one on atoms I told you about the other day," he said.
"Well have you done it?"
"Of course! I did it the other day!" he lied. Rich never did his homework. Ever.
"Are you going to come back in the car or get out and walk?" she asked, as he leaned further out of the window. Her lips were held tightly together, elongating the wrinkles either side of her mouth.
As a younger woman, Rich's Mum may have been quite pretty, however the pressures of raising three children in the aftermath of a messy divorce had left her slightly haggard.
"I'll get out," he replied, pulling himself back into the car and grabbing his bag.
The car came to a stop, prompting several drivers behind to beep their horns, and Rich exited. Ms Taylor beeped back and swore loudly, however not loud enough to be heard clearly over the horn.
My Dad closed the distance between us, and lifted his left hand to wave. "Hi Mrs T-" The car pulled out and drove off. "Bye Mrs Taylor."
"Not your fault, Mr Prior," Rich said, chuckling slightly. "She's got mad road rage at the best of times. School rush doesn't do her no favours. Thought that vein on her head was gonna pop the other day."
"So I wasn't seeing things," my Dad said in mock curiosity. "The vein is real."
"Real enough that when you see it you should run."
"What's a vein, Daddy?" Luci asked, looking up at my Father with a perplexed expression.
Picking her up under the arms, he tossed her into the air before grabbing hold of her again and continuing to walk. "A vein is a little tube that carries blood around your body."
I chuckled to myself as I listened to Dad attempting to explain it to her before starting to walk alongside Rich. At just under five foot nine, he's a bit shorter than me but more well built; a side effect of playing rugby and hockey on the school teams. A lot of the girls like that. His hair is blonde and his eyes blue; another thing the girls like. His teeth, on the other hand, are another story.
Rich isnt the brightest of sparks, and often misplaces his mouth guard before matches. The result of this is a grill that would put even Johnny Rotton to shame. Girls fawning over bad teeth... Not so much.
"If we have got Science first you should probably tidy up your uniform," Rich said, glancing me up and down as we walked. "Tait's gonna go mental if he sees you dressed like that."
I looked down at myself. Subjectively speaking, I didn't think I looked too bad. Sure my shirt was untucked and my top button undone, but it's not as if I looked a state. The only thing missing was my tie, but I had that in my pocket. "I think I'll be alright."
"I don't," Dad chimed in from up ahead, slowing so that he was practically walking next to us. "He used to go nuts at us for less."
My Father used to go to the same school as I do now, meaning that a lot of the older teachers had taught him.
"I keep forgetting you used to go here!" Rich laughed. "What was Tait like back then?"
"Sweaty," he chuckled in reply. "And just a bit odd."
I thought to myself that odd was an understatement and began to laugh.
"He still spit when he shouts?" Dad asked, a grin plucking the corner of his mouth.
"Like a sprinkler," I replied, still laughing.
"You wouldn't be laughing if you were in front of him." Dad shuddered in mock fear. "I had to sit in the front row for two years."
"I suppose you could think of it like a cold shower?"
"The problem with that is cold showers are usually cold... That stuff is heated by rage and bitterness."
My Father departed on that note, turning right to take my sister to the Primary School while me and Rich continued en-route to the Secondary School up the hill.
"Dude, your Dad is funny," Rich said to me as we increased our pace.
"He has moments," I replied, thinking back to the numerous jokes he had told me over the years. "But when he tries too hard, it's best to run and not look back."
"Come on, he can't be that bad," he persisted.
Unlike my best friends, Rich had not been exposed to my Father an awful lot, during the course of our friendship. The result of this was him not experiencing just how grating the man could be.
I had met Rich two years earlier when I was fourteen and joined the school hockey team. While not one of my best friends, he was definitely someone I could talk to and have a laugh with.
When he finally arrived at the school gates, we took to heading in separate directions; our home rooms being on different ends of the building.
I walked into school, not realising how much my life would change before the day was over.