“Batman you’re going to have to move. Nature calls.”
Batman is my cat by the way. I’m not secretly dating Bruce Wayne, although I wouldn’t be complaining if I was. I mean, who wouldn’t want to date a man in a bat costume?
The aftermath of waking up from a hangover is not one of my most favourite things in the world. Was it worth drinking all that tequila?
I can’t believe I was persuaded to go to a party on a Sunday night. Apparently, Sunday is becoming the new Saturday now.
I gently push Batman’s body to the side. He doesn’t budge and that’s not surprising. Batman is a rare breed. From a distance, you might assume that he’s a black dog or some kind of wild animal on the loose. Up close, he’s slightly terrifying and definitely doesn’t like anyone else’s company, aside from his own.
“Come on buddy, I haven’t got all day...” I moan, quickly realising that I seriously don’t have all day. College starts in ten minutes. I’m going to be late.
I jump up from the bed, watching as Batman’s eyes pop open. He extends his nails and swings at me. Then he rolls over and ignores my existence.
I take a quick shower and rinse the smells of alcohol from my hair. Then I glance in the mirror and shriek. My blue eyes are bloodshot and have bags under them. I attempt to brush my hair, even though my hand and eye coordination are not functioning to their best ability.
When I get downstairs, my mother is lying on the sofa, disorientated. I’m halfway out of the front door, when her voice invades the living room.
“Ugh. What time is it?”
“Nearly half ten,” I say, tying my hair into a quick bun so it’s out of my eyes.
“I had another fight with Rob yesterday,” she says.
I took an instant disliking to Robert Knowles the first time my mother introduced me to him. I’ve never liked any of her previous boyfriends either, but Rob has caused her to cry more times than all the other men put together. All he does is put her down and make her feel worthless. I don’t know why she’d want to be with someone like that.
It’s hard to describe my mother in simple terms. Sometimes, I feel like she’s so desperate for someone to love her, that she gets lost and can’t find her way back. That’s why she spends most of her time slumped on our sofa and if she’s not there or at work, I don’t know where she is.
She’ll disappear for hours and won’t tell me where she’s been - probably because she can’t remember. She’ll move onto the next thing or person, but that never works either. I think it’s an attempt to fix herself. To be honest, I wish it would fix her too, or that I could.
“What happened?” I force myself to ask, acting as if I’m interested in hearing about it, but any conversation revolving around Robert Knowles is one I try to avoid if I can.
“It’s my fault, I’m always riling him up the wrong way,” she says. “I’m going to go around to his place as soon as I’ve freshened up. I need to sort things out – tell him that I’m sorry.”
“Why are you always the one that has to apologise first though? Why can’t he take responsibility for a change?”
She closes her eyes for a second, as if she might cry. The deep lines under my mother’s eyes seem to be revealing themselves more and more by the day.
She used to be an attractive woman, but now all I see is a person that has seen too much and needs saving from herself. Her features have hardened and her eyes have lost their familiar warmth, where life has been stripped out of them almost.
We look very similar and a lot of people have mistaken us as sisters. Apparently, I’ve been told that I have her smile and bright blue eyes. Naturally, my hair is dark brown but I tend to dye it a lot because I get bored. It’s more of a red ombre colour now. I’m allowing it to grow out before I decide to change it again.
“You can’t keep blaming yourself all the time,” I say, trying to get through to her.
I don’t believe that she’s always responsible for their frequent bust ups. Sure, my mother can be impossible to handle when she’s drunk but she’s not a horrible person. She doesn’t deliberately go out to mess with people. Rob is the problem. But it’s not like I can tell her that. She’ll only defend him.
Mum lowers her head to the floor. She knows I’m right about this. She’ll just never admit it. “It doesn’t matter. I’m going to pop around his place later – sort it out. I guess I’ll see you when you get home from college?”
“I guess you will,” I say, grabbing my bike from the porch and pushing it outside.
I lock the door behind me and glance down the street. We live in a small neighbourhood and it’s the kind of place people seem to know everybody’s business. You only have to walk around the corner and guarantee something dramatic is likely to be happening.
Right now, I have a good view into somebody’s back garden. The fence is beginning to rot and there are toys on the ground.
Barnett happens to be one of the roughest neighbourhoods in the area. It earned itself that title because of the amount of vandalism that goes on and the growing number of street gangs. People are always telling me that once you’re in Barnett, it’s difficult to get out. My dream is to leave eventually, but sometimes that goal is shut down because of how unrealistic it seems.
My neighbour’s door suddenly bursts open and her husband comes fumbling out, along with his clothes and some of his belongings.
Maggie is good friends with my mother. I’m guessing her husband is on the receiving end of her wrath. I’ve lost count of how many times she’s thrown him out this year.
Maggie appears in the doorway, chucking more items at him. “You can take your junk and find somewhere else to park it! You’re not welcome here no more!”
Gerald flips her off and returns to collecting his clothes off the street. Then he points a lanky fingernail in her direction and says, “You’ll be taking me back next week woman! Just you wait!”
“Nah, it’s not happening honey! You can forget it!”
“Who’s going to pay the bills? I’m the one bringing the money in, don’t you forget that!”
“Don’t worry, I’ll sell all those illegal movies you’ve been storing away and earn a quick buck!”
Gerald waves his fists in the air and then storms away. Maggie holds a hand to her head and sighs heavily. “That man will be the death of me,” she says, finally turning to acknowledge me.
“How are you Skye? You got back late last night. Did you have fun?”
“Uh, yeah. It was... good,” I tell her, briefly. That’s the problem with neighbours, they always seem to know more than you’d like them to.
“How’s your mum doing?”
“She’s recovering from her own night out. Maybe if you’re not busy you could pop in and see her later.”
Maggie’s eyes soften. “Course I will love. You know I’ll always look out for your mother. We’re like family.”
“Thanks Maggie. I really appreciate that.”
She glances at my bike and smiles. “You’d better get those legs moving then, you don’t want to be late.”
I haul myself onto the bike seat. “I’m already late.”
“Well, if you see that husband of mine, don’t hesitate to run him over on the way!”
Something tells me she isn’t joking around.
Riding a bike to college every morning has become part of my routine. It’s only a problem when you are running late for class and can only pedal at a certain speed before becoming extremely fatigued. It’s not a long trip exactly, but the building isn’t around the corner either.
I’m out of breath by the time I reach my classroom door. Room 303.
I turn the handle and walk in. All heads shoot to the intruder and then once they realize it’s just me, they return their attention back to the lecture. This is nothing out of the ordinary. I’ve been arriving late to lessons for as long as I can remember.
I scan my card against the machine, signing myself in for the day and then I rush to my seat, appreciating the fact that my tutor Ricky doesn’t bat an eyelid and carries on teaching like he hasn’t just been interrupted.
It’s true when they say that college is slightly different from High school. The only downside is that I still see those familiar faces from school every now and then and have to face their judgement for a second time. I get why they talk about me. I wasn’t exactly popular amongst my classmates... for various reasons.
The only lesson I was interested in showing up for was English. I found that writing was the perfect form of expression for me. I can write about anything and there is no time limit. I can be creative and honest in the best way. That’s why I’m studying journalism. I want to become a writer. I want to see the world. It’s my ultimate goal, despite it seeming so far away.
Ricky has just asked the class a question and Harper Lowe’s hand shoots up. Her hair is in pigtails today, which symbolizes she’s either just young for her age or wants to be an easy target for bullies.
She’s wearing a red sweater with jogging bottoms and on first glance, you would assume she belonged to the P.E department. But despite her lack of style, Harper makes up for it in personality. She is the little bundle of joy this class benefits from on a rainy day. She’s so full of energy that it brings a new dynamic to the group.
I zone out for most of Harper’s answer and then come back to reality when Ricky says, “When you’re writing these blog assignments, I want you to think of things that are relevant to you. Choose a topic that you’re passionate about,” he’s in the middle of saying. “I want you to get started on a plan. Think about the purpose of the blog, your target audience and how a person is going to benefit from reading it.”
Journalism covers three topics this year; blogging, media and we also have a big group project to complete. This is the most important part of the coursework and determines whether or not we pass the module.
I take notes throughout the lecture and when the buzzer rings for break, I’m still sitting there when everyone else piles out of class.
“Skye, is everything okay?” Ricky asks, wiping the marker pen off the board.
I glance at him from over my notebook. “Oh, yeah. I’m just finishing up here.”
“Okay, well I have another class in five minutes.”
I nod my head slowly. “Noted.”
He turns and leans against his desk. “What are you thinking of writing for the blog piece?”
“I’m not sure yet. Maybe I could write about the ridiculous food prices in the cafeteria and how nobody can afford to buy a meal there.”
Ricky has one of those deep bellied laughs that never seems to end. “Well, I’m sure a lot of people would agree with you on that. But this is a chance to really show off what you can do as a writer. It’s not just about the content, it’s the personal element that is going to boost your marks. Don’t be afraid to show vulnerability when you write. Create something that is meaningful to you and you’ll be off to a good start.”
I think it over in my head. I’m not ready to share a personal part of myself to the world. I’m not prepared to take the mask off yet.
I gather my things and make my way out. “Thanks sir, I will keep that in mind.”