Harsh Light of Day
Waking with a severe pounding in my head, not knowing where I am. Glancing to my left, I see my best friend, Joey, sleeping. That’s nothing unusual, we’ve shared a bed many times. He looks so handsome, taking a few moments to admire his face, he looks so peaceful when he sleeps. His flame-red hair a stark contrast against the bright white cotton pillowcase. The sharp line of his square jaw, his full kissable lips just tempting me to kiss them, I almost do until I come to my senses. This isn’t the right moment to get sidetracked, considering two arms are lying draped over my waist. One is Joey’s, but who does the other belong to? Peering right I squeak with surprise on seeing my step-brother Pearse. Much like Joey’s, his raven black hair also stands out from the white pillowcase. His jawline much softer than Joey’s, his lips not as full but still every bit as kissable. The surprising thing is the fact my twin Alice is lying with her back to his. How the four of us have ended up in bed naked like this is beyond me.
Surveying the room it becomes more apparent where we are, the antique dresser and wardrobe, the painting of a poppy field hanging on the wall, it’s my old bedroom in the Abbey. We arrived yesterday afternoon for my stepbrother Eric, Pearse’s older brothers wedding. I notice the clothes I had been wearing are now lying on the floor, even my black bra and knickers are draped over the light, how they got up there I have no idea. Everywhere I look, there are pieces of clothing lying, along with empty bottles of alcohol abandoned on the floor. It seems like the merriment got a little out of hand. The pounding in my head ever-worsening as the harsh daylight comes streaming through the curtains were they always that flimsy.
There’s a knock at the door; I am powerless to do anything being pinned down on both sides. My gut is telling me this is not going to end well. Please go away. They keep knocking, how I wish I could pull the sheet that is lying crumpled up at the end of the bed over us to at least retain a little of our dignity. All I can do is lie here close my eyes pretend to be asleep and hope whoever it is gives up and goes away or wait for the fireworks to begin. My money would be on the fireworks; the knocking continues for a few more seconds. The door flies open, and of course, it is my darling stepmother Esther. Her face is a picture of complete shock and utter disgust as she surveys the scene. She gasps, being invisible right now would be fabulous. Usually, I’m not all that bothered by what people think, but even I can see how bad this looks for the four of us. She stands motionless for what seems like an eternity, muttering the same three words over and over, ‘This isn’t happening, this isn’t happening, this isn’t happening.’ I too wish for this not to be happening but wishing it away isn’t going to make it so. “THIS ISN’T HAPPENING.” She screams, oh, dear God, we’ve finally broken her. In all the years I’ve known her, which is most of my life, she hasn’t been one for outbursts of emotions, but here she is screaming for all she is worth. Guilt washes over me, me of all people feeling sorry for my stepmother. The very same woman who openly shows her loathing for me, ever since she caught Pearse and I at the age of ten, kissing in her dressing room. It was one of the many occasions they were hosting a dinner party for dads’ business associates. We’d been fed in the kitchen by the cook and packed off to bed. Couldn’t have us disturbing their guests, oh no that would never do. It was still early, and we weren't even remotely tired, so we decided to play house in her dressing room. Pearse was the husband; I was the wife and Alicia was the cat for some reason. She never wanted to be a child or the wife; she was always the cat; she was odd like that. Anyways there we were innocently playing house, Alicia curled up on the floor doing her best impression of a cat purring when Pearse out of the blue kissed me, and I kissed him back. Being the unlucky bugger that I am, Esther had forgotten her pearl earrings and walked in right when our lips were locked. Naturally, I was the instigator, and no amount of protestations from Pearse was going to change her opinion. So from that day forth, I have been the bad seed in her eyes. Esther’s screaming continues, and now the other three are awake but not entirely conscious of what is going on. All they seem to be aware of is that they have been abruptly woken from their alcohol-induced sleep. After a few more screams from the traumatised Esther, they are conscious. Little wonder she could wake the dead with that scream. Thankfully Alice has managed to retrieve the sheet and pulls it over us, just in the nick of time as she no sooner has pulled it over us than Grandma, dad's mum walks in. It would appear Esther's screams have not gone unheard; God only knows who’ll walk in the door next. Seeing the four of us she just tuts, shakes her head and escorts Esther out of the room. Thank god granny is more liberal than the rest of this family, she was a flapper back in the day. I breathe a sigh of relief hoping we’ll at least have a chance to get some clothes on before anyone else finds out. We sit silently looking at each other thinking whose bright idea was this. Then Joey breaks the silence and says,
“So who’s up for a quick one before this sideshow goes public.” We look at him; he can’t possibly be serious as if this is the time for a quickie.
“Red I don’t think...... what are you doing?” I ask as he leans over the side of the bed his toned bare arse visible for a few glorious seconds. I get an urge to pinch it but restrain myself getting naughty at this moment in time wouldn’t be the wisest course of action.
“Olivia stop looking at my bum you’re making it self-conscious.” His muffled voice comes from the side of the bed. How does he even know I’m looking at it? “Hair of the dog.” He says re-emerging a few seconds later with a bottle of whiskey. Opening it, he hands it to me and says, “Ladies first.” And then giggles, I take the bottle from him drink a mouthful then give it to Alicia. Whiskey is not my tipple.
“So how do we explain this?” Alice asks as she hands the bottle to Pearse. Good question, unfortunately, I can’t think of a good answer.
“Why should we have to explain anything?” Joey comments rather flippantly, it’s so typical of him to say something like that. He wouldn’t be so cavalier about it if it were his mother at the door.
“Umm because they’ll be expecting us to,” I reply not knowing what dad is going to say when Esther inevitably tells him. In one way though Joey is right we have no real need to explain our actions to anyone, we’re old enough to make our own mistakes and live with the consequences. Again we sit looking at each other no-one wanting to be the first to get out from under the sheet and retrieve their clothing. Bugger someone has to be the first and seeing as everyone else has suddenly been struck with modesty I’m going to have to take the initiative. Throwing the sheet off me, I say,
“Oh hell too late to act bashful now.” Retrieving the scattered pieces of clothing, I throw them onto the bed; they look at me like I have no shame. “What? Someone had to do it.” Seeing as they weren’t forthcoming with a solution to our state of nakedness, I as always have to be the one to rectify it.
“Indeed, they did Livi; thank heavens for your brazenness.” Red, it’s not the most original of pet names for a redhead, but it’s one I’ve called him from he was little, says pulling on his t-shirt. From down the corridor, we can hear a commotion, and it seems to be travelling in this direction, two voices can be heard muttering, one is Esther’s the others is dads. As a preemptive measure, I get Joey and Pearse to hide in the wardrobe. My head can’t handle a self-righteous sermon from Esther. Quickly we shuffle them in, and Alice settles down on to the bed in front of me and I start to braid her hair.
“See what I mean, Desmond.” She says as the door flies open, her mouth quite literally drops when she sees only Alice and I looking as innocent as church mice. Dad frowns and looks from us to Esther, who has a look of disbelief on her face.
“But they were here, all of them, naked… in that bed.”
“Who was here?” I inquire resisting the urge to blink and look coy. That might be laying it on a little too thick, she glares at me and scowls.
“Don’t you play the innocent with me you harlot you.” Harlot that’s a new one, she’s called me everything from hussy to strumpet but harlot is a new one. I kind of like it, has a ring to it, the harlot de Winter. Dad says nothing; he lets her call me cruel names. He’s completely spineless when it comes to Esther, always has been. Thank god we’re only here for the weekend. Monday can’t come quick enough, so we can get the hell out of this fucked up judgemental bubble they call home.
“Yes that’s me, Esther, the scarlet woman, why don’t you come out and say it I’ll fuck anything.” I spit back at her, self-righteous bitch standing on her high horse as if she is better than everyone else, don’t make me laugh.
“Olivia.” Dad finally interjects, who is he to criticise me, with a string of failed marriages under his belt and more children than he can keep track of. And as for her, she’s just as bad, cheating on her husband, a sweet, caring man, with my father of all people, oh to hell with it all.
“You make me sick so full of your piety, yes she saw the four of us naked in bed; they’re hiding in the wardrobe right now,” I say getting up off the bed and opening the wardrobe door a rather sheepish looking Joey and Pearse standing looking at their feet. “And no we have no idea what we did last night, might have shagged all night, might have played bridge, who knows. We sure don’t, consumed so much alcohol you see, none of us can remember. That suitably debauched for you, Esther?”
“You are shameless.” She says, shaking her head, yes and she’s so pure and chaste, the virgin Esther.
“I may well be shameless Esther at least I know what I am, unlike you.” She almost convulses at me saying this. That’s the thing about her ever so quick to forget her somewhat chequered past and how her relationship with my father started as an affair.
“Just what is that supposed to mean.”
“Those who live in glass houses, Esther.” I retort, I see her face turning an even deeper hue of red, touched a nerve I have, hypocrite.
“That is enough. You will at least try to act like civilised human beings for the remainder of this weekend. I do not need to remind you this is a family wedding that does not need shame and embarrassment brought on it by you, do I make myself clear?” Dad says the other three are silent, looking down at their feet like scolded children. I, on the other hand, do not see anything to be ashamed of, we are adults and as such, have committed no crime.
“Perfectly,” I reply, staring him right in the eyes, for a few moments we are locked in a glare until he looks away with a sigh. He leaves the room, Esther in toe. I can feel everyone’s eyes burning into me; they look mortified by what has just occurred.
“Was that necessary Livi?” Red inquires, probably not, what is between Esther and I should be kept just that between her and me.
“No it wasn’t, I apologise to all of you,” I reply my voice breaking, he walks slowly over to me wraps his warm, comforting arms around me and pulls me close to his chest.
“Don’t Livi, don’t let her make you cry.” He says, kissing me on the top of my head, I bury my head in his chest, breath in deep, and somehow the tears disappear.