When I was fifteen, I ran away from home.
I had no idea where I was going. I just snatched my dad’s rusted old sports bike from our ramshackle shed and pedalled as fast as my legs could manage. My ears were ringing from the argument. Blood pounding in my head and adrenaline coursing through my body. I cycled through town and out onto the coastal road, towards the darkening western sky. Before long, I reached the cliffs. I leaned the bike against a post and snagged my jeans climbing over the barbed wire fence. I approached the edge of the world, the drop into oblivion. Paused… then sat, hugging my knees into my chest, and burst into tears.
Crying was a sweet release, cathartic. I had been fighting it for so long. Ten straight minutes of sobbing later, the well behind my eyes began to dry up. I let down my hair, loose strands whipping and sticking to my tear-stained face. I willed my heart to calm as the cool evening breeze soothed my senses. The sunset sky was that delicious shade of peach sorbet, just like the one that my dad had bought for my mum on the Costa Blanca four years ago. I could never forget the beaming smile on my mum’s face that day, my dad’s boyish grin. Back when they were happy. But it hadn’t taken long for storm clouds to form on the horizon.
At first, it was just palpable tension; my dad’s moody silences, my mother sipping a glass or two of wine at dinner. Then it was snide comments, biting each other’s head off at the smallest thing. The harsh insults, the snappy retaliations. My grades began to drop, provoking more rows. The raging arguments, and then the all-out screaming matches. Dad avoided spending time in the house, time with us. Mum moved on from wine to whisky, losing so much weight that she became a shadow of her former self. It all built up to this night, the apocalyptic tempest.
Dad came in late from work, as had become custom of late. Slammed his briefcase down onto the laminate floor in the kitchen-diner, my mother jumping and smashing the glass she had been washing up.
“Now look what you’ve done,” she snapped.
A prolonged pause, and then:
“I’m cheating on you.”
My dad didn’t even look guilty; his words were as matter-of-fact as if he were commenting on the weather.
“You’re- You’re what?”
It was hard to determine the emotion in my mum’s voice, but it wavered as she spoke. Her hands were shaking. I took this as my cue to get out of the room, sensing a cataclysmic argument, fleeing to the hallway but leaving the door ajar. It didn’t take long for the filthy insults to start flying from my mother’s mouth. My unashamed father fumed back, blaming her, blaming their sex drought, her indifference towards him, that it had been a long time coming. I could see now through the gap in the doorway that they were circling each other, like matador and bull. Raging, shrieking, scarcely stopping short of violence. Dad brought up Mum’s budding alcoholism. Mum berated Dad for ignoring her, not appreciating her and everything done she did for the family on such a small budget. She accused him of giving up on his dreams.
“Dreams? Dreams? I had to give up on my dreams as soon as we had her.”
He jabbed a finger in the direction of the hall, where I was eavesdropping. Sharp as a knife in my heart.
“I never even wanted her in the first place. In fact, I wish she’d never been born!”
I couldn’t stay to hear anymore. I ran out the front door, smashing it back into the doorframe with such force that the entire end-of-terrace house quaked. I kept pedalling away, even as my mother desperately screamed my name behind me. Why would I stay where I wasn’t wanted?
And that left me here, teetering on the edge of the cliff, renewed tears prickling in the corners of my eyes. Feeling lonely, and feeling so alone. I wasn’t sure which was worse. My throat was dry. Perhaps I could live on my own now, I pondered. Grab the fifty pounds saved in my piggy bank, find a hostel to stay in where they wouldn’t ask too many questions. It was tempting. The thought of finally silencing the soundtrack of my parents’ shouting was appealing. I stared out over the indigo ocean, listening to the waves lapping and splashing against the rocks some two hundred feet below. A dark part of my brain found that option rather appealing too. If they never wanted me to be born, maybe I should spare them the hassle of my existence altogether.
But something stopped me: an image drifting into my mind’s eye. It was the stricken, tearful face of my mother, through the crack in the door. I realised that she was hurting. She was alone too. And as little as I meant to my dad, she needed me right now. We had to stick together. I shivered in the increasingly bitter breeze, suddenly aware that I was straining my eyes against the gloomy twilight skies. My bare, goose-pimpled shoulders yearned for one of my mum’s signature hot chocolates and her warm, reassuring hugs. I took a deep breath, let out a long sigh and turned back to retrieve the rusty bike.
Home was not the nicest place to be right now. But it was home nonetheless.
Emma H, age 26, 13/08/2017
Short story for Sue Vincent’s “Alone” #writephoto weekly photo prompt challenge. If you want to find out more or take part, you can click on the link below:
Such a beautifully composed photo from Sue; I love the colour contrast. I opted for a somewhat sad tale this week, but I enjoyed writing it – let me know what you think!