Musing Mondays #4

Vivian

Vivian grew up in a home that was not hers. It was her aunt’s, and although the woman tried to make her feel included, there were always little reminders that she was not home. School projects, or whispers at church, her surname on a form – the occasional message from her dad. She could not shake the feeling that she was living amongst someone else’s brothers and sisters, hugging someone else’s mum and dad. Whenever there were photos she stood awkwardly to the side, out of respect to her aunt’s real family, and out of respect to her own unusual one.

What it had taught her, this non standard way of living, was that abstract nouns were exactly that; abstract. Fluid. Those seemingly colossal terms like Family and Home or Love or Life did not have to be so rigid. They could be anything, and anything could be moulded. Anything could be what you wanted it to be.

From an early age her life was ruled by that notion. It appeared for the first time in primary school, when she had taken some chalk into the playground to draw on the recreational wall. She drew stars, something that she had only just learnt to do, and she drew exactly 17. When the bell rang she put the chalk in her coat pocket and went back inside. The rest of the day passed as normal. At the end her Aunt came to pick her up and she had fish fingers for dinner.

The next day her aunt jolted her awake.

‘What’s this?’ she demanded. Vivian blinked drowsily.

‘What’s what?’ she replied.

‘This.’

Her aunt was holding the broken pieces of chalk from Vivian’s pocket in her palms. She must have forgotten to put them back, and by default brought them home.

‘Chalk.’ Vivian replied, unabashed.

‘Where did you get it from?’ Her aunt pressed. There was something in her tone that made Vivian a little scared, as though she had done something wrong. She clawed at the mattress beneath the covers.

‘School.’ She replied quietly.

‘You stole it from school?’

The words shocked both of them into silence. Vivian had never stolen anything in her life, and she definitely had not started stealing now.

‘So how did it get here?’ Her aunt asked, when Vivian shook her head.

‘I put in my pocket.’ Her voice cracked.

‘That,’ her aunt declared, ‘is stealing.’

‘But I didn’t’

‘You took something that didn’t belong to you. That is stealing.’

Her aunt was not interested in any more words. The evidence was there in red and green, making her palms dusty. Vivian had stolen the chalk; that was all.

That episode had taught Vivian that all that mattered was how something seemed. That was why she worked hard at school, kept a clean home, married a handsome man and took up yoga. Because as long as she seemed like a good person, she could get away with everything else.

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Musing Monday #3

Retreat.

“His eyes are still open.”

Alex stands with her arms folded, slowly turning Ben’s face away from hers with the heel of her shoe. His head keeps springing back, despite her efforts. A crescent shape dip is forged in his cheek

“He’s just staring up at me, like he would usually do.”

I see all of this from the corner of my eye. I hear all of this as if she is speaking to me from another room. I’ve been like this ever since it happened. Someone romantic might say a piece of me had died with him or something. But I’m not romantic.

“It’s creepy.” She says finally, turning away in disgust.

I know she wants me to look, but I can’t. Outside rain taps on the window and draws me to the underwater scene that is forming below us. The garden is filling up with water very quickly. A pool is collecting around the pile of bodies at the far end.

“Take his arms,” I say, still distracted, “let’s get him out of here so that we can get out of here.”

“What if he’s not dead?” She continues to prod, “What if when I lean down, he jumps up and grabs me?”

She throws her arms around me to make her point, squeezing me playfully. I try not to tense up at her touch.

“He’s definitely dead.” I say bluntly, shrugging off her grasp, “You made sure of that.”

She killed him with the desk fan. A part of me was thankful that I no longer had to listen to its annoying faltering.

She beat him with it until he stopped fighting back. Then just to be sure, she choked him with the electric chord. She didn’t mention that when I came in, though. She just turned to me, blood spattered across her blouse, with tears streaming down her face and her hair in a frenzy. Her eyes were wider than I’d ever seen them before.

“He attacked me,” She stammered.

I did not open my mouth. I stood in the doorway waiting for the words, but for some reason all that came to mind was the sound of Ben turning over in his sleep. The feel of his breath on the back of my neck.

When I did not speak, Alex rushed out of the room. I did not follow her, although I should have. I stepped into the room instead and sat next to Ben. My eyes were fixed on the carpet slowly turning red with his blood. In my mind, the memory of him carrying him on my back kept playing, over and over. The feel of his skin on mine. Something warm inside.

Eventually I untangled the chord from his throat and arranged him properly. On his side, like he was sleeping. I stroked his hair, forgetting that he was dead until my hands were covered in his blood. Then I went into the bathroom and ran the tap. I think I might have cried too, but that could have just been sweat from the never ending heat. Or steam from the boiling hot bath I took. When I came out, Alex was baking. We ate brownies and watched Amelie.