One Breath - A Sample
I stare at the world around me. A pale blue sky reflects in the water of the swimming pool, the darkness of the tiles allowing for a clearer picture to be shown.
I dip a hand into the water, creating ripples that send a dent in the picture. The sky now appears broken and messed up. It looks better like this.
I close my eyes and fall back onto the grass. My headache is booming and I feel it permeating through my skull. I press fingers against my temples, attempting to push the pain away and back into my skull. It doesn’t work. It never does.
One deep breath.
A small groan escapes from the back of my throat as I hear my mother calling my name from inside the house. She doesn’t like it when I stay out here too long; thinks I’m plotting my escape to a far off land or something similar. She doesn’t even want me to move out of the house, if I moved anywhere else she’d either die of shock or succumb to a deep depression inspired by her oldest child abandoning her.
I walk back into the house, pulling the door closed behind me with as little noise as possible. Duke, my younger sibling, likes to slam the door as they come in, allowing for everyone to know they’ve entered the house, but I like to make as little noise as possible. It means I can sneak around without entering into conversations that I don’t want to have.
“Set the table, sweetie?” Mother asks me, the small smile that constantly ghosts her lips ever-present as she speaks. She less asks and more demands with a polite undertone. If I said no she’d drop the sweetie and start calling me a cow, so both Duke and I have grown to learn that nothing good comes from saying no to Mother when she wants a job done.
I nod in Mother’s direction and turn my eyes down to avert contact. I grab placemats, cutlery and glasses, putting them on the table one by one as I set a place for each member of the immediate family.
“Is Father home yet?” Duke asks, setting their book down on the table next to their designated placemat. Everything has a place.
I shake my head to symbolise ‘no’, not wanting to talk if I don’t have to.
“He should be home around 6:30, he needed to finish off some work,” Mother tells Duke. When she says this she stiffens slightly, a rather forceful smile appearing on her face. I know why, but luckily Duke never seems to notice. She always gets like this when she talks about Father and why he can’t be home at the normal times.
Duke grins and runs outside, grabbing their book and kicking off their shoes. It’s still sunny outside, typical Australian weather, and they love reading in the sun. I personally don’t see the appeal of reading in the sun when you could simply lie there and be in the moment.
“Parker?” Mother asks, snapping me out of the area my mind went to. I zone off sometimes, and Mother likes to minimise those times. She thinks it’s one of the reasons people don’t talk to me. I think people don’t talk to me because I don’t want them to.
“Alive,” I mumble back, placing the serviette holder onto the table and making my way upstairs. I walk into my room and flop down onto my bed, the Parker-sized dent immediately adapting to suck my body into the mattress.
Mother would love if I was popular. She would love if I constantly had friends over, she would chat to them and act as if they were her own children, instead of the older, anti-social disappointment that is me and the younger, hyperactive idiot that is Duke.
Mother constantly enjoys walking into my room and telling me I need to clean up. She’s decided that if my room isn’t clean then my mind won’t be clean, and if that isn’t science then God know’s what is!
That was sarcasm.
I sigh deeply and burrow my head into my left pillow. The double bed is large enough to fit me and another human, but as if I’d ever have someone over. First I’d have to make a friend who I’d be willing to have come into my room, and then I’d have to allow them to share my bed with me. Somehow I don’t see that happening anytime soon.
I open my phone, the bright white of my background shocking my tired eyes. Jordan, my only ‘real’ friend, has sent me a message.
I ignore it.
Does it make me a bad friend if I resent responding to messages? I don’t enjoy replying to people; it starts a conversation, one that I know I’ll ultimately not enjoy being a part of.
Jordan’s the kind of friend who you make and you don’t immediately click with, but once you agree to be friends you just kind of grow together.
Jordan and I met when we were 12, they were sitting across the cafeteria in their now staple fashion statement; knee high leather boots. I remember seeing those boots and thinking, ‘God, those have to be uncomfortable.
Apparently they used to be. Now that they’ve worn them in they’re comfortable.
Jordan had noticed me sitting alone, and a week later they joined me at my spot at the table. Their lunch bag hitting the table was what alerted me to their presence at ‘my’ table. They then sat down, looked me dead in the eyes and stuck out their hand.
“My name’s Jordan. Yours is Parker. I’m sitting with you,” They said, flicking their eyes down to their hand and then back up to me, as if saying, ‘shake my f—ing hand, you dork’.
Ironically, they say a variation of that phrase quite frequently now.
“Observant,” I replied in a hushed tone, reaching a hand out meekly to shake theirs. Their nails were short and black, painted with incredible accuracy. As this was their right hand, it gave me something to know about them; they were very controlled with use of their left hand, leading me to believe that they were a left hander.
Jordan is ambidextrous. They want everyone to know they don’t conform to societies expectation of having just one dominant hand.
I like Jordan.
I turn my phone on again. ‘One iMessage: Jordo,’ reads on the locked screen – right under, ‘6:23’, taunting me with the promise of an angry Jordan on Monday.
I tuck my phone under my pillow.
Time for dinner.
Tense as always.