To say that I was ever popular would be a gross overstatement. However, in the end, my previous invisibility was an object of envy. The thought of trudging the dreary halls of Idenborough under constant scrutiny and suspicion another day seemed too much to bear; to say the least, it filled me with dread. I had always scoffed at people who worried too much about what others thought. To me, their concern seemed misplaced and rather foolish. Just another thing that had changed since last week. They say that life is always in a state of flux, shifting and changing like sand. You think you know where you stand, but life seems to like reminding you that nothing is permanent.
It’s amazing how one person’s word can hold so much weight, and another person's gains no purchase in the rough unyielding rock of society. Well, society would be a bit of a stretch in my case. It was just EVERYONE I knew. Rumours seemed to spread faster than Covid-19 in my school. Just as I thought the story had achieved its maximum reach, it popped up somewhere else like an unwanted spot. You’d think that the ‘top 2% of the country’ would have better things to involve themselves in than spreading filth, but unfortunately, bright minds love nothing better than continuing their search for knowledge in MY business. It’s only a matter of time before my parents find out, and mind you - it won’t be a pretty sight. My mother and father both have the wonderful character trait of steamrollering their way through things, throwing their weight around like its two a penny. I know they’ll believe me, it’s just that I’d rather ride this one out alone.
I drag myself out of the bath reluctantly and watch as the water swirls down the drain languidly. I turn to the mirror and sigh dramatically like a character in a soap opera. As if anyone is watching. I get ready with little enthusiasm, going through the motions before pulling on my school uniform. I turn to the full-length mirror in my bedroom and pull my bonnet off my head. I look at my hair and groan. I should have slept with it on. I look like the queen of hearts. I put my hands on my hips and lift my chin.
‘Off with their heads!’ I say in a stern voice, before collapsing into giggles. My brother pokes his head in the door.
’What are you doing?’ he asks
I turn to him frustrated, ‘None of your business that’s what.’
’Oooh sorry did I touch a nerve there, your highness?’ he sneers
I kiss my teeth in frustration, ‘I don’t have time for your nonsense. Now get out of my room.’ I push the door closed on his irritating self. Honestly, he’s only 2 years younger, but he acts like a child of that exact age. I roll my eyes at myself in the mirror, pick up the brush, and set to work tackling my hair. I brush it into a low ponytail and secure it in place with a hair tie. I frown, touching the short frizzy parts of my hair which are sticking up at the front. Ugh, sometimes I wish I had low maintenance hair like white girls. I fetch the gel and my edge brush from my bathroom and quickly lay the edges. I look at the final product in the mirror. Dang, I do look good, beat that white girls. I put on my headscarf to set the gel, and rush downstairs. I look at the clock on top of the piano. 7:35. I should get to practicing.
Some people find it weird that I practice in the morning, but I hate the feeling of coming home in the evenings, tired from school only to remember that on top of homework, I have to sit bashing out the same three bars for half an hour. No siree, I’ll take it in the morning. I take out my books and start. Some musicians say that they “lose themselves in their music”, that when they’re playing “the whole world fades away”. Not me. There is never a time when I feel free from the worries that haunt me. Ever since the incident the other day it’s felt like when I’m in public I have to tread on eggshells because everyone is watching me. And talking. A tall tale gets taller with time.
I blunder through the same passage of the piece again. I sigh again. It seems like I’ve been doing a lot of that lately. I look at the music and make a face. It gets better with time, they said. As you practice more, you’ll get better, they said. My question is, how much longer? I’ve been playing for 12 years now, and I’m no better than when I was 3. Gosh, I can’t wait to quit. Three more months until I take my Grade 8, then no more piano. At least for me. My brother still has two more years. I smirk and continue playing. My moment of calm is interrupted by my father. ‘Oh my goodness Ava, if you don’t stop that infernal racket right now, I will go insane.’ He comes downstairs. ‘Between you and Aiden I get no peace. All this banging, banging all day and night!’ Chuckling, he pats my head. I make a noise of discomfort and move his hand away. ‘Leave practice for today and go eat some breakfast.’ he says.
‘But Dad I haven’t finished.’ I whine
He holds up his hand in front of my face, ’“But Dad” nothing, my head is going to be finished if you don’t stop!’
I get up from the piano and put my books away and stroll into the kitchen. I pull down a carton of Weetabix and put one into my bowl. I take the box and put it on the table for my brother. I’m too nice, I think to myself. I open a new box of Shreddies and put a bit on top. I place the box on the table too, before opening the fridge and getting out some almond milk. I pour it onto my cereal and sit down at the table to eat it. My brother comes down and plonks himself down on the seat opposite. He looks at the cereal boxes on the table.
’Ugh, this tasteless filth again. Are you kidding me? Why can’t we have normal cereals like normal people?’ he complains.
’Aiden, I refuse to let you eat that non-nutritional garbage, and you know that. Plus these are nice cereals. ’My mum says, coming into the kitchen.
’Mum, no one likes these cereals, they’re gross.’ he whined, pushing the box away.
I took my spoon out of my mouth and put it back into the bowl, ‘I like them.’ I said. Aiden looked at me and then rolled his eyes.
’Sorry, no one normal likes these cereals.’ he snapped back. I glared at him and settled for sticking my tongue out at him. I prodded my cereal. Everyone likes Weetabix, I thought to myself. Mum looked between us before saying,
‘Aiden, for the last time, eat your damn cereal. I don’t have any time for your antics today. I have places to be.’ I chuckled, standing up from the table and putting my bowl to soak in the sink.
‘Uh, uh I don’t think so,’ Dad said, ‘wash that bowl of yours, Miss Ava. What did your last slave die of?’ I turned back to the sink reluctantly and started to wash the bowl. Putting it in the rack, I headed back upstairs to brush my teeth. I picked up my toothpaste, to find that it had a big dent in the middle as if someone had squeezed it. I frowned.
‘Aidennnnn, how many times have I told you, don’t use my toothpaste! I don’t want your dirty little hands all over it.’ I shouted downstairs.
‘Well maybe if you didn’t leave it out, I wouldn’t have used it.’ he said, appearing at the top of the stairs. I was about to clap back when I looked at the time. 8:10 already? I was going to be late if I didn’t hurry. I didn’t want to give them all another reason to look at me. Me entering the classroom 10 minutes late out of breath, glasses fogged was not a good way to remain inconspicuous.
‘Aiden, hurry your little toothpaste thieving self up, or I’m leaving you to walk.’ I said.
‘Yeah yeah whatever, I’m coming.’ he grumbled. I picked up my bag and clarinet from next to my bedroom door, and put my coat on. It was mid-March and still cold around these parts. I sometimes wished we lived somewhere other than cold rainy England. Americans romanticised it way too much, there were no dashing young men in black silk top hats, nor mysterious country mansions with inhabited by likewise mysterious inmates. At least if there were, there were none to be found in Idenborough. As far as I was concerned, the city was filled with blabbermouths who were only interested in imparting other people’s business far and wide. I snatched up my keys and headed downstairs, doubling back for my hockey stick. I waved bye to our parents whilst pulling on my shoes, cursing under my breath as I caught a nail.
‘Oh well,’ I thought, ‘they needed cutting anyway.’ I open the door and am met by the brisk wind which is catching the bare branches of the trees, making them sway like drunken silhouettes. I head towards the bus stop, starting up the hill in front of me, Aiden trailing behind.
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