ONE - STEPHEN
The swish of light sabres from the Darth Maul alarm clock rouses me from the doze I’d just managed to sink into after another long night of comforting my little sister from the nightmares which haunted her. Rolling over with a groan, I hit the stop button and lie back, studying the pattern of faded urine stains which poked through between the metal springs of the top bunk, watching them move as my little brother tries to get comfortable above me.
The sound of keys in the front door spurs me to finally drag myself up, dodging round the half-finished Lego Death Star on the thread bare carpet, and shuffling my way down to the kitchen. Sitting at the wobbly kitchen table I find my nana, wearing the same stained nightdress she’d been wearing for the last two days, cigarette hanging out the side of her thin mouth as usual.
“Morning, nana,” I hold my breath as I press a quick kiss to her temple. “Morning, ma.”
“Morning, baby.” My mom gives me a tired smile as she pulls off her boots and jacket.
“Can you please bathe nana today? I did the laundry yesterday so there are clean nightdresses in her room.”
“Of course, sweetie,” his mom starts down the hall to the bedroom she shared with my little sister. “Have a good day at school, honey!” she calls over her shoulder.
“College,” I mumble through gritted teeth, grabbing the ingredients to make my brother and sister pancakes. As the sizzle spreads the scent down the small hallway, they emerge; Owen half dressed as normal, and Ruth struggling to tame her crazy curls so similar to my own. “Okay guys, you’ve got thirty minutes before the bus gets here, so what else do you need to do?”
“I don’t know where my gym kit is.” Owen gets out through a mouthful of syrup drenched pancake. I roll my eyes, and stomp back to our bedroom, finding Owen’s gym kit shoved in a smelly gym bag. Grabbing a can of Febreze, I spray the shit out of the offending articles before shoving them back into a slightly less smelly gym bag and dropping it at my brother’s feet.
“What are we having for lunch, Stevie?” Ruth follows me round the tiny kitchen as I try to look for something suitable to put in their brown sacks. Sighing in exasperation, I shove a couple packs of Oreos and an apple in each one.
“Not exactly a balanced diet, but it’ll have to do,” I pause and pluck the cigarette from nana’s lips and tap off the dangerously long pile off ash before placing it gingerly back in its place. “I’ll try and go shopping later.” The yellow school bus beeps outside, and my two siblings grab their lunches and loudly call out their goodbyes.
The first day at any new school or college is always nerve wracking - full of awkward introductions, and the terrifying concern of getting lost on a new campus – but I managed to avoid both of these horrors. Firstly, by keeping to myself – no shy introduction can happen if you don’t talk to anyone – and secondly by having studied the map of the campus for the last two weeks of the summer vacation.
As I am stood, alone, thumbs tucked in the straps of my Captain America backpack, waiting for the T.A to come and unlock the doors to the lecture hall, my attention is drawn by a girl walking backwards down the corridor, a lit sparkler in her hand.
Behind her – or in front of her, depending on how you looked at it – were two boys, one on a BMX and one on a skateboard. Her vivid green eyes appeared to sparkle in the spitting light, contrasting brightly with the bright pink of her hair. The three friends were laughing loudly as they passed by, seemingly ignoring the shouts from the T.A, who had now appeared, to extinguish the firework. The taller of the toy boys, the one who was lazily pushing himself along on the skateboard, flips him the bird, making his two friends laugh even louder.
I can’t help but linger outside a while longer, just to watch the girl as she climbs on the back of the BMX, wrapping her arms tightly round the Asian boy riding it, and resting her porcelain skinned face against his back. She must be his girlfriend. Lucky guy, I think to myself. Hitching up my backpack and biting on my bottom lip, I chastise myself for even daring to look at a girl like that. Tugging on the bottom of my favourite Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy tee-shirt - you know the one with the Venn diagram on with 42 in the centre – to make sure it was covering all of my slightly tubby stomach, I slowly turn and make my way inside, taking a seat at the front of the hall purely so I don’t have to put on my cheap-ass plastic framed spectacles which are probably three prescriptions out of date.
Having chosen advanced classes for most of my first term, I was a little disappointed to find the astronomy lecture a little elementary. Slinking down in the hard plastic chair, I try my hardest to listen to the professor while I flick through the rest of the textbook, soon growing bored and pulling out my phone. The pseudo-cool astronomy professor soon noticed that I wasn’t paying attention, and slipped a hand through his greying pompadour haircut, perching himself on the corner of the large desk which dominated the small the stage at the front of the lecture theatre, and narrowing his eyes at me as I glance up at him.
“Are we boring you, mister…?”