The Art of Starting Over

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Have you ever sunk so low that you actually feel relieved knowing that it can't possibly get any worse? Well, I have... Many times. I lost everything. My family, my future, my home... I swore I would never depend on anyone ever again. He swore nothing will ever tie him down. He said he has ghosts. I told him I have fears. But I fell for him slowly and deeply and now I don't know how to be without him. And he fed on me gently and steadily and now he won't let go. Everybody warned me. They said he'll never stay. Yet, here he is. I said I'll never fall. I said my heart will never break. Yet, here I am. My name is Alison Lewis, and all I want is to start over.

Alias Tummas
4.5 4 reviews
Age Rating:

Prologue – Special Delivery

The glass panes rattle as the door slams behind him. I stare at it, the loud bang reverberating in my ears. I hear the hurried pounding of his feet, like rapid gunfire, as they carry his heavy body down the alley steps and away from me. I guess he’s not finding the place quite so charming after all.

“Oh, this is nice! Look at all these plants! And the colours! So vibrant! Yes, quite charming, I must say. What do you think, champ? Not bad, aye?”

That’s what he said, on and on, in his exaggerated, high-pitched voice, as we climbed up the steps of Abram Gatt Street. That’s all he said.

I didn’t reply. I know I should have said something but what was I supposed to say?

Yes, Daddy, it’s beautiful. I’m sure I’ll be perfectly happy on this speck of an island, with its uneven steps and crooked houses and stupid, over-sized plants. Thank you for sending me away to live with my grandmother, whom I’ve met twice in my whole life!?

No, I could never say that to him. My voice would abandon me. It always does. So, I climbed on silently, ignoring the loud creaking of the rotting windows and the flickering reflections of sunlight all over the otherwise still alleyway. I kept moving, eyes fixed straight ahead until we came to a set of bright, blue doors with the number 85 painted in curly, blue calligraphy on a ceramic tile cemented to the wall. I watched as my father lifted a gold, fish-shaped door-knocker and let it fall back with a bang that made my gut wrench.

I didn’t say anything. I didn’t move.

A tiny, solemn-looking woman appeared behind one of the bright, blue doors. I watched as her eyes glazed over my squirming father, her expression blank and unchanging until they found mine. Sharp. Clear. Unapologetic.

I watched as she moved aside and wordlessly invited us in. I entered obligingly and passed through a second set of doors with frail, white wooden frame and large, frosted glass panes. My father followed. I saw him drop the bags on the floor. The smell of bleach had barely hit my nostrils when I heard him say, “I’ll come back for you as soon as I can, I promise.”

The words were slow as they came out of his mouth. I watched him edge back out onto the alleyway, mocking rock n’ roll music coming from somewhere to my left. I watched him pull the frail, white door and then, BANG!

He’s gone.

Gut wrenches.

Don’t let me down… Lennon wails from behind me as I stare at the glass doors placidly, numb to everything around me.

Don’t let me down…

A small part of my brain is trying to fight the fog creeping through my peripheral vision, trying to make sense of what’s going on. But I don’t get it. He said he’d come back as soon as he can.

Nobody ever loved me like she does...

He’s not back, yet. Why has he not come back?

Come back!

...oh, she does... yes, she does…

I feel like I’m spiralling down a bottomless, dark hole. I want to scream. But I don’t. I don’t say anything. I just stand there and stare at the unmoving handles of the flimsy doors. I hear a door slamming somewhere down the road, followed by the angry roar of an engine. My heart races, my surroundings swirl around me, faster and faster. The taxi is taking my father to the airport. He told the driver to wait for him. I heard him. He knew he wouldn’t be long. In and out. Job done.

...Ooh, she do me, yes, she does…

And now, there’s only silence. A thick, encroaching silence that makes me go cold inside.

I blink once. I blink again and everything goes still. Still. The stupid white doors are still firmly shut! The light is still bright behind the glass panes, no hint of a man’s silhouette standing behind them.

Don’t let me down…

I feel a hand on my shoulder, small and bony and foreign, and my whole body goes rigid. My vision is suddenly very clear. The ground is firm under my feet and I’m back in the room with John, his foolish buddies and of course, Emily.

Don’t let me down…

I want my mother. I want her hand on my shoulder, soft and steady.

I’m in love for the first time... Don’t you know it’s gonna last...

Emily removes her hand, but it leaves a searing print. She rubs her sweaty palms on the back of her jeans and clears her throat as she shuffles past me, through the flimsy doors and out to the alleyway. I glare at her as she looks up and down the steps, her arms wrapped protectively around her chest, knowing perfectly well she’s as unhappy with this arrangement as I am.

...It’s a love that lasts forever... It’s a love that had no past...

She comes back inside, shutting the doors behind her, first the sturdy, blue ones, then the frail, white ones. The light is sucked out of the room, the smell of bleach intensifies and I realise how small it is. Suffocating. Musky.

Her eyes are on me, scanning me. Her face is expressionless but her eyes, her big, clear, hazel eyes hold volumes of unspoken sentiment.

Don’t let me down...

She picks up my bags and carries them past me, towards a dark, narrow staircase.

“Your bedroom is on the second floor,” she says in a strong voice as she starts up the steep steps, “you can’t miss it, it’s the only room there. It’s not big and I have to disturb you every time I need to hang the washing. It’s the only way to get to the roof, but you have your own bathroom.”

Her accent sounds severe in my ears. I turn around and see her hesitating on the landing, her chest heaving from the weight of the suitcases.

“It used to be the washroom. I fixed it up as best I could,” she shrugs. Then, she squares her shoulders and disappears up the second flight of stairs.

I glance back at the entrance, both sets of doors still resolutely closed. The alley outside, still quiet. Still.

Don’t let me down...

I look around the room helplessly, take a deep breath, and follow Emily up to the second floor.

Don’t let me down...

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