Sometimes I feel so out of place, even when I’m surrounded by a group of people. I sit around the lunch table with some of the girls from class. I’ve never fit in and that’s partly my fault. I don’t give people a chance. I don’t let them get close enough to hurt me and half the time, I have no clue what to talk about.
“Skye, what do you think?”
All eyes are on me now and I have no idea what they’ve been talking about for the past half hour.
I jump back into character. “Sorry... what did you say? I wasn’t listening.”
Harper’s smile takes over her entire face. “How would you feel about going ice skating with us at Christmas time? It’ll be a weekend trip.”
As fun as that sounds, it’s not manageable for me. I don’t have the money and I couldn’t just leave my mother to fend for herself for a few days. She needs me.
“I can’t go,” I say, glancing down at the floor. “I won’t be able to afford it.”
“The trip is all paid for by the college. All you’d need to take is some spending money.”
That does sound tempting. I’ve never had the opportunity to leave town. It would be nice to go somewhere new. I might even grow closer with some of the girls on my course.
Before I can get too ahead of myself, I realise that leaving my mother for the entire weekend will only cause me too much anxiety. She can’t be trusted and I probably wouldn’t be able to relax knowing that we’re not together.
“I can’t. Sorry,” I quickly say to Harper, hoping that she’ll drop the subject.
Harper looks genuinely disappointed. I honestly don’t know why. It’s not like I’m the easiest person to be around. It’s not like we’re friends. I don’t have those.
“Well, you don’t have to make any decisions yet.”
“I’ve already made my decision. I don’t even have to think about it.” I notice their faces drop as I say this and it looks like I’ve already killed the mood. “Ice Skating is not really my kind of thing anyway.”
“Okay, well we don’t all have to go ice skating while we’re there. There’s lots of stuff to do on the site. What do you enjoy Skye?” Harper asks.
Sleeping and that’s about it. “Um, nothing really.”
Harper raises a brow. “Nothing at all?”
“Christmas isn’t that big of a deal to me. I don’t usually do anything special.”
I don’t associate Christmas with anything positive. I remember being nine years old and seeing all the other children in my class get excited about opening their presents and spending time with their families. I would envy them. Christmas day was just another reason for my mother to get wasted. I’d be there to pick up the pieces when it all went wrong.
Josie gasps. “Are you saying you don’t celebrate Christmas Skye?”
“I celebrate it, but I don’t get too excited about the occasion. It’s one day and it goes by in a flash. People spend so much money on gifts and decorations, only to take them down when it’s all over. Is it really worth the effort?”
The three girls’ glance at each other, nodding. “That is true,” Sheryl says.
“I see Christmas as a time to come together as a family,” Josie adds, speaking for the first time.
“It’s a day to remember the birth of Jesus, which is the most important part,” Harper adds. I forgot to mention that Harper is a Christian and tends to drop ‘God’ and ‘Jesus’ into virtually every sentence.
I think it’s great that she believes in something as much as she does and never seems to worry about the future, because apparently, she trusts that God has it mapped out for her. I wish I had as much belief as she does.
Josie checks the time. “Well, girls, more work awaits us. We’d better get moving.”
“Ugh, I know it’s only the first day back, but kill me now!” Sheryl exclaims, as we all head out of the canteen and up the stairs.
A boy bumps into my shoulder, making me lose balance. The folder is knocked out of my hands and the papers fly everywhere.
I throw my hands in the air, exasperated. “Thanks a lot!”
“Sorry!” he shouts back, not even bothering to turn around and help me.
I crouch down onto my knees and start picking the pages up. “Ugh, I hate people,” I mumble to myself.
Once the papers are back in my file, I jump onto my feet and that’s when I nearly get rugby tackled to the ground by two boys hurtling towards me.
“Woah! Seriously. I’m not a Ping-Pong ball!” I scream after them, gaining some unwanted attention.
One of the boys stops running and whips his head around to look at me. A gasp leaves my throat. My stomach drops and I’m pretty sure my mouth does too.
Rory Keaton is wearing his usual playful expression. He runs a hand through his brown hair and smirks at me. If his ringtone isn’t ‘Danger High Voltage,’ then there’s seriously something wrong with the world.
We were in High School together and while he got applauded for misbehaving, it was the opposite for me. Unfortunately he chose to study at the same college I did, so I haven’t managed to escape him yet.
He’s taller than most people and I hate that I have to practically rise on my tip-toes to be considered a worthy opponent. His eyes are too green, kind of similar to Batman’s. Actually, now that I think about it, he reminds me of a cat - all mysterious looking and unpredictable. He could easily blend into the shadows and nobody would notice, especially since he’s dressed from head to toe in black clothing.
“Nice trousers Clemons,” he says, skipping the introductions altogether. “Looks like something my Great Aunt Bertha would wear.”
Be calm. He’s just doing this to rile you up. Don’t give him the satisfaction.
“Wow Rory, is that the best you’ve got?” Damn. So much for keeping my mouth shut. “Seriously, that was so lame.”
Rory crosses his arms and leans against the wall. He looks way too comfortable. “Did you have fun last night?”
“It was interesting...” he says, licking his lips. “I mean, I don’t know how it happened... but when you shoved your tongue down my throat, I was a bit shocked at first. I always thought you had a crush on me. I definitely underestimated how strong your feelings were.”
Wait. What is he talking about?
I shake my head repeatedly. “I understand that sometimes your imagination can run away with you Rory, but I think you’ve taken things way too far this time, because you are the last person I’d ever want to kiss.”
He closes the space between us, his smile growing wider. “What’s the matter Skye? Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten the special moment we shared together,” he says, laying a hand over his heart.
Rory’s just doing this to mess with me. We’ve been playing this game for years.
“I don’t remember anything from last night,” I tell him honestly. “Whatever I did... it was completely out of character and I didn’t mean it.”
He laughs and his eyes crease at the corners. I’m instantly reminded of the rowdy nightclub and how drunk I was. I do remember kissing someone. It sickens me to think that it might’ve been Rory.
“Maybe this will refresh your memory.” He reaches for his phone and I watch as he clicks on a video. It shows the inside of the nightclub. Myself and Rory are on the dance floor, lip locked.
I cover my face with my hands. Please don’t let this be true. Why can’t I remember doing that? Rory is always at the same parties. I’ve never tried to kiss him before. It was a moment of weakness.
My cheeks burn as the memories come flooding back. Maybe I’m still drunk.
Rory stops the video and puts his phone away. I’m dying inside. The last thing he needs is his ego boosted. I’ve got to save myself somehow.
“The fact that I don’t even remember kissing you, says a lot doesn’t it?” I manage to say. He narrows his eyes. “It clearly couldn’t have been that good if I’ve forgotten.”
His smirk fades. “You loved that kiss. You’ve wanted it for ages.”
I stick my nose in the air. “Hm, well judging by the video you just showed me, it didn’t look like you wanted it to end anytime soon. Maybe you’re the one with a crush.”
I shift around on my feet and breathe out a sigh, “Well, here’s to hoping we won’t bump into each other like this again Keaton. Have a nice life.”
I practically leap up the stairs to get away, my heart pounding with every step.
My bike collapses on the porch floor when I get home. I throw my house keys onto the side table. Our floral wallpaper is starting to tear in certain places and is in urgent need of replacing. In fact, the whole house could use a makeover if we could afford to pay for the damages.
There is a draught coming in from somewhere and during the winter months, not even the central heating can help to provide enough warmth. The house is still standing after all these years, which is a miracle in itself.
I overhear voices coming from inside the living room and my eyes roll automatically into the back of my head. My mother and Rob are sharing a drink together. He’s not a good influence and she’s usually worse when he comes around. I wish he would stay away and leave us alone.
“Skye, you’re home early,” my mother says, as I walk into the room.
She’s cradling a glass of wine in one hand and has the TV remote clasped in the other.
Rob’s eyes travel upwards. I wrap my cardigan tighter around my body. He’s always been a bit of a pervert and I like to get out of the house whenever mum has him over, because I don’t trust his intentions.
I hope that one day she will come to realize he’s an absolute scumbag. Rob is destructive and mum is insecure. It’s not a healthy combination. Her relationships never last and only worsen her condition when the guy decides to pack a bag.
“Where’ve you been then?” Rob asks, attempting to start a conversation. You can tell he’s smoked about a million cigarettes in his lifetime.
I roll my eyes again. “College. You know, studying... getting good qualifications so that someday I’ll be able to earn a living and get a proper job.”
Rob ignores my sarcasm. “What are you studying?”
“What sort of job can you get out of that?”
“A good one,” I retaliate, earning a warning look from my mother.
“I didn’t pay much attention in school,” he says, as an afterthought. “Didn’t think there was any point. Can’t remember much from my teenage years.”
I pretend to act surprised. “Really? I never would have guessed!”
Rob’s face scrunches up and my mother narrows her eyes at me, as if to say, ‘don’t start.’
“Would you like to join us Skye? There’s always room for one more,” he offers, patting the space next to him.
“Nah, that’s okay. I’ve got work to do.” And I’d rather stick pins in my eyes.
“Ah come on! Join us for a drink.”
I halt by the stairs. “I don’t want to.”
“Fine. Be a bore. Me and your mother will have fun without you. More wine for us.” Rob squeezes my mother’s hip and she squeals, spilling some of the wine onto the carpet. That’s going to leave a mark.
“Ugh, can’t you at least wait until I’m out of the room first?” I moan.
Rob cranes his neck back to look at me. “Don’t you have a boyfriend yet then Skye?”
“Ah, you’re the picky type, are you? Can’t decide what you want? Sound just like your mother.”
“My private life has nothing to do with you Rob.” I hate that he talks about my mum so carelessly. Why can’t she see that he doesn’t even care about her?
“When I’m under this roof, it becomes my business,” he declares, baring his teeth.
“Just because you’re dating my mother, doesn’t mean I have to like you. Honestly, I don’t know what she sees in you and you should just count yourself lucky that she’s giving you the time of day.”
They’ve both gone insanely quiet and I know that I’m about to suffer the consequences of my actions, so there’s no point backing down now.
“Oh, and please be sure to put all your empty beer bottles in the bin when you’re done Rob. I don’t fancy cleaning them up in the morning. It’s getting old, just like you.”
Rob’s face turns red and he’s suddenly full of anger. “You’d better teach that daughter of yours to watch her mouth the next time she opens it Collette,” he says to my mum, who has a blank expression.
“Try not to be such an arse and maybe I’ll consider changing my choice of vocabulary.”
“That’s enough Skye!” mum snaps, jumping to his defence. “Why do you always do this?”
Rob is getting more agitated by the minute. He will never be anything more than my mother’s scumbag boyfriend. He’s foul mouthed, unattractive and seems to be wearing the same clothes every time I see him.
I run upstairs to my room and slam the door behind me. I can still hear his voice echo through the walls.
“I can’t believe she said that to me. The cheek! That girl needs her mouth washed.”
I throw some pillows around to express my anger and hurl some at my closed door for extra effect. They each land with a soft thud on the floor. Batman watches the entire thing from my nightstand and then leaves me to drown in my own tears.
“You coward!” I yell after him.