Chapter One - My Life in Detail
“Mom?” I called out as I walked through the open front door. The pungent smell of alcohol permeated from the living room. I sighed and dropped my jacket and keys on the floor. All I’d wanted was to come home after a long shift at work, shower, eat and crash into my bed while watching some crap TV. It had been a hopeful wish, but one I hadn’t exactly expected to come true. Mom had been falling apart ever since my father had died in my senior year of high school two years prior. It had been sudden, one minute he was here, and the next he collapsed and never regained consciousness. He had only been 49.
At first Mom attempted to hold it together, but I guess over time her world just lost purpose, she closed off and supplemented her pain with liquor. I’d tried sending her to rehab, and although her drunken ranting had burned me to my very core, and although she screamed that she hated me as they took her away I had hoped she would return to me as the mom I remembered.
She was clean for a while, we never spoke of the night she had been taken away, but I could tell she was sorry in her own way, but then the anniversary of Dad’s death arrived and I came home to find her comatose with an empty bottle of wine at her side. That was six months ago.
“Mom?” I whispered, walking into the living room. She sat on the couch, awake but not really there. “Mom. Come on, let’s get you in the shower and into bed.”
She glanced up at me, her green eyes sunken in, she nodded and let her head loll forward. I aided her to stand and guided her up the stairs. With my help she showered, dressed and far too drunk to protest, eventually rolled into bed. I walked from her room and closed the door behind me, suddenly too wired to sleep.
I walked into my room and pushed open the balcony doors. I smiled sadly at the spot where Seb used to stand and listen to my youthful problems. I had missed it these past 5 years. We had talked, sent emails and texts for the first year or so although our one kiss was never discussed, but then those dwindled out, until at some point we just lost touch. He never came home, not even when my father died.
The light in Seb’s room flicked on, bathing my balcony in light. I frowned and looked at the glass doors. The curtains opened and his mother Anne walked out. She smiled at me.
“How are you?” She murmured. “I haven’t seen you much recently.”
I nodded and looked down at the ground. The savings account was officially bone dry, I’d been working so much overtime down at the diner I was almost there more than I was home. My feet were always sore and my mind was in a constant state of exhaustion, but the bills needed to be paid.
“I’ve been working.” I replied. “How are you... how’s Ted?”
“We’re both well dear. You know you can always pop over for a chat. I know things haven’t been easy for you.”
I forced the tears that had begun to line my eyes back. I wasn’t going to cry. I couldn’t afford to let my emotions get the better of me. “Thank you.” I mewed.
“I’m just in here sorting out Sebastian’s room. I’ve been storing old boxes in here.” She explained. “You two don’t really talk anymore do you?”
I shook my head, I wished it wasn’t the case because I really needed him right now, or maybe I just needed my youth back.
“Well, he’s coming through for Ted’s 60th. Staying for two whole weeks. He’s bringing a girlfriend as well.”
I didn’t know whether to be happy, excited, nervous or jealous. I’d long forced thoughts of Sebastian and that kiss from my mind. Even though sometimes the memories resurfaced I knew my thoughts were the direct result of wanting to escape my life as it currently stood. I nodded and look back up at Anne.
“It’ll be nice to see him again.” I replied.
“It really will. Listen, he’ll be here tomorrow evening. I’m making a pork roast, with all the trimmings. How about you come along. You can bring your Mom too.”
I closed my eyes, there was no way Mom would be in the right frame of mind for a dinner party. She could barely even dress herself these days. When dad had died she had lost her ability to function. Suddenly I was glad love had passed me by, suddenly I was glad the only boy I’d ever felt anything close to love for had left and found someone else.
I didn’t want the hurt that came with loss. Not again.
“Mom... she’s not...” I stopped and Anne just nodded knowingly. “I’ll see if I can make though.”
“I really hope you do.” Anne said with a soft smile. “And Emelia... like I said, anytime you need a chat.”
“Thanks.” I replied, stepping back into my bedroom. I closed the windowed doors and drew the curtains. Seeing Sebastian again unnerved me. So much had changed since he’d been here last, I had changed. Where I had once been bubbly and a joker I was now withdrawn and serious. So quickly my life had gone from just growing up to being the parent and the breadwinner.
He had text me after my father’s passing. A simple I’m Sorry and at the time I was too lost in grief to reply.
I walked to my dresser and picked up the picture of the two of us together, just a mere week before he’d left for college. We were happy, laughing together like nothing else mattered. I yearned to feel that happiness again. I placed the frame back down and walked to my bed, falling onto it hard. My head hit the pillow and before I could think even another thought I fell into a deep sleep.
When I woke up, the smell of my stale uniform clung to me. I hadn’t showered, I hadn’t eaten and I hadn’t even climbed under the covers. Pure exhaustion and led me to bed, and knocked me out. There was a small saving grace in that today was my first day off in almost three weeks. I got out of bed and a pair of clean jeans, t-shirt and underwear from my drawers. I stumbled out of my room and down the hallway to the bathroom. The smell of stale alcohol still hung in the air, Moms clothes in the hamper at fault. I hung my clothes over the towel rail before turning the water in the shower right up to hot. I needed the water to almost blister my skin because sometimes the pain was the only thing that reminded me I was still alive.
I left the bathroom again to check on Mom. She was still asleep in bed, and I imagined she would be for probably most of the day. I left her and returned to my boiling hot shower. I discarded my clothes in the hamper and stepped into the stainless steel cubicle, the steam from the heat and almost filled the room entirely.
The water hit my skin, burning the flesh without leaving a mark. I let my head hang back and absorb the moisture, rinsing the smell of greasy vats and burger grills from my body. I stood under the water so long that eventually it began to run cold. I frowned and turned the nozzle before stepping back out onto the bath mat. I dried and dressed myself before lifting the hamper off the floor.
I put the laundry on, made a coffee and a piece of toast then went up to my room to use my computer. I’d needed an escape, a place to go when my thoughts were too much. I opened up the document entitled My Life in Detail. Despite it’s title, it wasn’t biographical, it wasn’t even non fiction. I had created a world I could only dream of, one where my life hadn’t fallen apart at the seams, one where hope wasn’t just a figment of my imagination. Of course, my heroine had things to overcome, conflicts and twists... but unlike me, she succeeded.
My fingers hovered over the keyboard as I stared at the mess of words in front of me. My mind blank of things to write. I looked to the left of my computer, and tilted my head. Sebastian’s book, the one he’d given me, stared back at me in amongst my other books, ones I’d actually read.
I’d never been able to bring myself to read the one he’d given me, I put my finger on it, peeling it back from the other books. I had read three quarters of it during that last summer. It was a novel about change, about friends who are wary of letting go of their present in fear of their future. It had always felt so close to home, so I’d never finished it. I lifted the book up and stared at the ambiguous black and gray cover for at least five minutes. It was called At The Start and for the first time since Sebastian had moved away I felt the urge to open the pages and absorb the words. I walked to my bed and lay down.
My bookmark was still nestled in at chapter 15, so I opened it there and continued to read. The characters hadn’t left my mind, I still remembered the story even though years had passed. I found myself transported back into the world of the book. As the chapters became less and less I realized I became more and more invested, my yearning for a happy ending propelling the need to know what happened, but as I read the last sentence my need was fulfilled. It was open for interpretation... did they reconnect like they promised they would, did they admit their feelings, or had they simply continued to live their new lives... separately forever.
I hated that it mostly rang true for the ending Sebastian and I had shared. I hated that I’d finally finished it, because now I couldn’t pretend that there was a happy ending now I knew real life didn’t work that way. Most of all I hated that I loved it, because the book was poetic and unapologetically honest.
I closed the book and then my eyes, letting the book rest on my stomach. I didn’t know if the characters in the book ever saw each other again... but the sheer thought of never seeing Sebastian again filled me with a dread I didn’t even want to comprehend. I needed to see him. I called Anne who told me dinner was at 5:30pm.
There was no turning back now.