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Chapter 1

On the edges of Toronto, the bleak January morning began like any other. Whilst the rest of the world had slept off their holidays, most hung over from hours of partying to the blaring music from night clubs, or the few that stayed at home enjoying life, the late December baby welcomed another year quietly on her own. Those with their lives on track, give themselves targets to achieve that coming year. The normal and repetitive ones make their appearances, becoming less of a couch potato, finding alternatives to the chocolate addiction which has just grown especially in the past year and avoiding late-night breakdowns with junk-food as comfort. For Erica Dixon, although of course these were some of her resolutions, she also dreamed of getting a job, living stress-free and providing for her family. However, that was as far as she thought those ideas would ever get. As for her they were just dreams and certainly not reality.

For Erica, there was no fancy gathering with fireworks and a countdown to honour the New Year. Instead, when she woke up on 1st January, Erica tried not to give the unknown of the day much thought. Flicking through newspapers, circling jobs of interest with the help of her mother became a ritual for her. Endless rejections from interviews made her miserable but rather than feeling downcast all the time, Erica hoped that something good would come from her resilience.

This year was certainly no different. After snoozing through her alarms almost three times wanting to continue dreaming about the hot hunk Theo James, Erica finally managed to drag herself up from the slim and uncomfortable futon that she had been sleeping on for the past four months

The futon was supposed to be temporary. At least that’s what her mother had promised her.

Erica sat up, feeling the cool breeze from the open window against her bare arms. She gathered her thoughts and drew back the green and white striped curtains to let the gentle suns rays into her life. The sudden moving of the curtains sent the dust falling like miniature snowflakes to the carpet. She stood there with her eyes scrunched up, the light blinding her temporarily whilst her eyes tried to adjust to her surroundings. The sun was low in the sky and the ground was covered in a thin layer of frost after the sudden temperature drop the night before. Bearing this in mind, Erica slid on a pair of black jeans and thin khaki hoodie. With the temperature fluctuating every day, she tried to dress for any eventuality.

After brushing her teeth and putting her hair up in a messy bun, Erica glanced at her reflection. Her clear complexion and curves gifted to her by her mother were the only things she was proud of. Her wavy brown hair, dominant jaw-line and thick, arched brows were nothing out of the ordinary, and Erica glanced disdainfully at them wishing they were more unique. She stared some more at herself, realised that there were more to life than just how she looked and decided to start her day with a positive outlook. She looked beautiful, she told herself.

Meanwhile, her mother Kristin was downstairs watching Season Three of Desperate Housewives for the fourth time. Why her mother had a fascination with this programme she would never know and did not plan on finding out. She turned down the volume as heard Erica shuffle into the kitchen.

β€œMorning sweetie,” she called out. Then returning her full attention to her programme.

β€œMorning Mum,’’ Erica muttered back, only half concentrating as she tried to dislodge bowl out of the wire dish rack and using a moth-bitten dishcloth to wipe it dry. She poured herself some cereal and like always, stood in front of the kitchen sink staring out of the window. It gave her some serenity. It allowed her some time to herself. It allowed her to concentrate and to be calm for the morning before being thrown into the fast pace of city life. Nature never ceased to amaze her as she watched the birds darting high in the sky, free from responsibility and the harsh reality of life.

β€œAre you not late?’’ Kirsten asked Erica as she wandered in from the kitchen.

β€œWhat for?’’ Erica questioned in return, distracted by the last mouthfuls of her breakfast.

β€œWhat do you think the date is today, darling?” Kirsten smiled as Erica glanced at the calendar. Erica knew her mum’s smiles, it meant that something was not quite right and she was in the wrong.

β€œMum, quit playing games and tell me what it is,” Erica inquired as she returned to the kitchen and put her bowl into the washing up and turned on the tap, filling a glass of water. She gulped it down quickly, panting slightly as she got her breath back.

β€œIt is Alisha’s birthday today. I just got off the phone with her and she seems quite angry,” her mother chuckled. β€œMake sure you run as fast as you can. I don’t want Ali to come here and murder you. I would much rather have my only sane daughter alive, thank you very much!” she said whilst striding out of the kitchen up the stairs still laughing to herself.

Erica stared at her mother’s retreating figure with a look of horror. She grabbed her coat from the table and threw her bag over her shoulder and without a glance back to her mum rushed out of the house. A burst of cool air enveloped Erica, as she tried desperately to run and get her coat on properly before the cold took over from the little heat she had. Multitasking was something Erica prided herself in being able to do, but today it seemed like luck was not on her side. She ran as fast as she could in fright of her best friend killing her, which she knew she wouldn’t even think twice of doing. But that certainly didn’t stop her friend from thinking about it.

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