‘Fuck!’ I groaned as I read the email. I had left home at the earliest opportunity that I could, a dad who was always pissed and wanting to use me as his punch bag and a mum who did and said anything to defend him. Hearing her say that it was because of us kids why he drank so much was her poor attempt at shifting the blame from him to anyone else she could. She loved him more than anything, definitely more than me but I had no idea why, she was always sporting fresh bruises. I was desperate to escape that shit and I would certainly never be bringing kids of my own into that kind of shitty environment. I had at least been lucky that our neighbour was like a big sister to me. She was almost three years older but she was my best friend. When she left for uni in London, that was my chance, I had just finished school and had surprisingly done ok in my exams, almost all B’s and an A in English language and literature. I packed a holdall with as many clothes as I could fit in and that was it, I left for London with Lex.
Lexi’s family was not like mine. They cared for each other, they took care of one another and although I wasn’t their blood relative they never made me feel unwelcome and always made me feel that I had a place within their family. I was kind of like a stray cat they had adopted! I just kept turning up and eventually they started feeding me, letting me sleepover and then caring about what was happening in my life. George and Pauline gave more of a shit about my life than my own parents. When I started smoking weed, they were the ones who lectured me, my own parents didn’t even realise. When I lost my virginity at 15, it was Lex who I spoke to and then Pauline – I thought I was in love with my boyfriend then and that me and Ben would last forever and had even discussed running away together. Pauline again lectured me on the importance of safe sex and using condoms. She knew that I was already on the pill but these were to help regulate my heavy horrible periods. She drummed into me that although the pill might stop me from falling pregnant, it would never protect me from all of the disgusting things I could catch if I didn’t use protection. I loved her for her advice and guidance, she didn’t judge me, she just supported and loved me. I honestly don’t know where I’d be without her. My dad was addicted to alcohol and I tried out most drugs, I probably would have headed down the addiction route myself if I hadn’t had the love and protection of Lexi and her family. She had found me one day, blood pouring from my mouth after my dad had hit me for walking in front of the TV as his football team had scored and so making him miss the goal, instead of my mum throwing him out, she threw me out – I was twelve years old. That day Lex took me to her house, her mum and dad George and Pauline took me in no questions asked and allowed me to stay the night. They didn’t ask any questions but I saw the police pull up at my house and I knew it was them who had called them. Lexi’s older brother Tom took me under his wing too, it was embarrassing feeling like a charity case, something people pitied and felt sorry for but from that very first day they treated me with a respect and dignity that I had never experienced before. They gave me a place of safety, somewhere I laughed, I had fun, somewhere I could be my own age and not have to hide away or roam the streets to avoid the hostile home environment which I grew up in. I even studied! If it wasn’t for George and Pauline I wouldn’t have even sat my exams at the end of school. How lucky was I that these amazing people cared for me? I owed Lexi my life, she took me home that day when I was twelve and willingly shared her family with me. Of course they had their own things going on, all families did, but they loved each other and any arguments were just that, they would argue and be angry but I never witnessed any violence and when the argument was over, they each moved on.
With their blessing, I changed my surname via deed pole to theirs, I was no longer Summer Lane, I was now Summer Mitchell and I loved my new name, it was like I finally had my true identity.
Lexi and I worked our arses off in London, she completed her degree whilst I worked as a waitress. Her parents helped us pay rent for a tiny bedsit which we loved even though it was tiny. Eventually I started night school, George and Pauline made me promise that I would work towards a career that I wanted otherwise they wouldn’t continue to support me living in London. I knew they would really, but I had too much respect for them to take the piss and abuse their generosity. I would work hard and make them proud as they were the ones who had given me the opportunity to get out of my shit-hole life and improve it. I loved reading, books were my escapism growing up and I knew it was for many others too. With hard work, determination and support from the family I had now become part of, I had succeeded. My ambition of improving my life had been achieved, Lexi and I had been in London for twelve years now and we had our own publishing company. Lex was a brilliant business woman and ran most of the financial side of things, I was the dreamer who enjoyed finding new up and coming authors and getting lost reading their fictional works that came from their heart and brilliant minds and then there was Olivia who dealt with promoting and marketing.
Since being in London my sister had visited a lot. She was younger than me by five years and I felt awful leaving her in that hell hole, but she was only eleven when I left so there was no way she could come. Although she got hit by dad, my mum actually loved her and did at least try to defend her. I hated my mum for not leaving dad to at least keep my little sister safe. I loved Star so much and wanted a better life for her too so I worked hard to become her role model. She enjoyed her weekends staying with me and Lexi in our tiny bedsit, but she had watched us study, work and struggle to achieve better things for ourselves. The day that she walked into the first apartment Lexi and I had bought, her jaw fell open. We had worked hard and saved hard. We stayed in that tiny bedsit for five years, we saved everything until we could finally afford a place of our own – this time without financial support from her parents. We both had decent jobs, I was working as a proof-reader and Lex was working for a mortgage company. When we had saved enough for a good deposit, we found a two storey apartment – the perks of Lexi working for a mortgage company was that she gained some company benefits if she got a mortgage with them and we could put down a lower deposit than what we would have to otherwise. When Lex moved in with her girlfriend Olivia, we sold our apartment and made a great profit which then helped me to buy my next apartment. Olivia was a really nice person and made Lexi really happy. Olivia was the missing link to our publishing company, of course everyone warned us of the complications of Lex and Olivia being partners in love and work, but we had everything written up by solicitors so the legal side of things was already sorted in case shit did hit the fan one day and they wanted to part ways, but I couldn’t see that ever happening.
My life was good but now my sister needed me back home. Dad was dying of cancer and although I hated that piece of shit for everything he did, I still loved him – he was my dad! My mum was besides herself and my sister was trying to deal with it all herself which wasn’t fair. Although Star was now a twenty three year old woman who lived in her own place, she was a single mum to a little girl. Star was only seventeen when she had Courtney, although she wasn’t with Courtney’s dad anymore he was still a decent dad – Jason loved Courtney, he still loved my sister too and he had asked her to marry him when he found out she was pregnant but Star said no as they were too young and she didn’t want to hold him back. My sister was a grafter, despite being a teenage mum she had qualified as a nurse a year ago and I couldn’t be prouder of the loving, caring person she was. She had enough of her own shit going on than to have to deal with our parents on her own.
I replied to her email and then set about making plans to head back ‘home’ to support Star and our parents in anyway that I could! My stomach churned and I felt sick just knowing that I was heading back and I didn’t even know how long for…