The alarm clock buzzed on the nightstand, waking me up from my sleep. My hand reached for my phone. A bright light flashed at me, helping my eyes to adjust to the screen. It was 5:30 AM. I switched on the lamp next to my bed. Its dull light illuminated the room. It was a mess. Half of my bed was covered with a heap of clothes and some hung around in the most unwanted places.
The empty bookshelves were flaky and covered with dust. My feet grazed the dusty floor, searching for a pair of slippers to wear. One slipper came in contact with my left leg. I bent down to find the other and ended up falling on my face. Not the best way to start a day. I pulled the half-burnt blinds apart. It was still dark and no other window had been lit up. A cloud of dust burst on me. The blinds had been untouched for days.
It was my first day living in a proper house since I ran away. Life on the streets was difficult. Finding food, water and shelter were not enough if one were to live on the streets. Knowing how to avoid trouble was also a survival skill needed.
I changed into a ragged T-shirt and a pair of grey shorts and pulled my hair into a bun. I pulled a scarf out of the heap of clothes and wrapped it tightly around my hair. I had no idea how many clothes were in that heap because it came with the house. The owner gave away her old clothes to me after knowing what I've been through.
It was time that I started cleaning. I couldn't live in a mess for longer if I were to feel normal.
Normalcy was a feeling I was yearning to experience. The thought of becoming invisible in a crowd somehow calmed me. I never went to high school as normal teenagers did. I was trained to rule over a household, to become a queen below a king. All I was ever taught was how to please my family and future husband. A woman must please her husband my mother's words kept ringing in my ears.
I snapped out of my thoughts and started cleaning. After three hours of effort, the empty broken apartment had finally looked like someone was living in it. The bed was neatly made, the heap of clothes were neatly folded and tucked into the closet, the blinds were replaced and the bookshelves were freed from the blanket of dust. The once dusty floorboards were glossy. It was eight-thirty a.m. My shift didn't start until ten a.m which meant I had time to make breakfast. I quickly hit the shower. Coldwater trickled down my body, leaving behind a soothing effect. I flinched in pain as I rubbed my hand against the grotesque bruises on my arm. It almost etched itself on my arm, reminding me of the trauma I had been through. My eyelids felt heavy and my muscles were sore from working too much. I poured shampoo into my palms and rubbed it on my scalp. My fingers reached down to my mid-back to grab the rough ends of my hair. I needed a haircut badly but I couldn't afford it so I'd have to cut it on my own. I washed the shampoo off my hair and stepped out of the shower. I wrapped a towel around my bare body and stepped out of the bathroom. I pulled out a full-sleeved t-shirt and black denim dungarees from the closet and placed them on the bed.
It was not my first day at work but I had to look good. A woman must always look perfect my mother's voice interrupted my thoughts. No matter what I did her words kept resurfacing, restricting me from enjoying my fresh start. I have been working as a waitress at Enzo's Caffffore for hthee epast three months. Mariella, Enzo's wife runs the café since his demise. She was the one who introduced me to the owner of this apartment. If it wasn't for her I'd still be slacking on the streets. The apartment was much smaller compared to the mansion I used to live in and didn't have one-tenth of the security guards for protection yet I felt safer than ever. It was simple yet safe. A roof on my head and food on my plate was all that could ever ask for at this point in life.
I got dressed and headed to the kitchen to make some breakfast. The living room extended to a small kitchen with a countertop and a few shelves. The kitchen shelves were empty except for a jar of peanut butter and a jar of jam. Pb&J it was, then. My hand reached for a spoon as I assembled the bread on a plate. I scooped out a spoon full of peanut butter when the doorbell rang. I opened the door and a woman buzzed inside.
"Giselle is everything okay? I texted you so many times but you didn't reply" she said in one breath.
"Sarah cool down. Everything' fine. I'm fine. I was in the shower" I explained to her. Sarah was my colleague and my only friend. I was her roommate before I moved here. She was there for me when I needed her and I was grateful for a friend like her in my life.
Her gaze moved from me to the clean apartment. She folded her hands and scorned me.
"Giselle the both of us were going to clean this place together. Don't tell me you did it all alone". She glared at me.
"Well I didn't want to bother so I did it by myself " she moved to the end resumed what I'd been doing.
"You don't need to... -" a pair of hazel eyes stared at me intensely. I let her continue and pulled a chair to sit down.
"We're going grocery shopping after work," she announced as she slid the plate towards me. My lips parted as I took a bite of it.
"Mmm.." I moaned as I devoured the dish. It felt heavenly in my mouth. I hungrily took another bite of it and within no time I finished with my breakfast.
"I'm done." I declared as I began to reach for my purse. "Let's get going," I said. Sarah's gaze moved from my toes, slowly to my torso and then my face.
"You're not going out like this," she said. She paced to the small couch in the living room and produced something out of her bag.
"Here you go. A moving away gift for you" she handed me a pouch. I unzipped it to find it loaded with make-up products.
"I know you, Giselle. You'll never spend your money on makeup because you think it's unnecessary but trust me, makeup is a necessity in a woman's life" she said. Sarah was a lifesaver. I thanked her and slapped on some make-up. I applied a little foundation on my bruise to hide it. Sarah's voice snapped me out of my thoughts
"Let's go" .....