Alice woke up in bed keeping her eyes closed, and waited. The unsettling that rested just under her skin scratched and clawed and reminded her that there was nothing to do but get up and walk through the morning.

Beyond her bedroom and down the hall behind the door to her mother and step father’s room came a loud crash.

“They’re in the bathroom” she thought to herself standing up from bed, shaking the sleep away.

Yesterday she woke up to silence and smiles at the breakfast table so she might have expected this if she expected anything at all.

She checked the time and saw that she had 30 minutes to get downstairs. Kicking through a pile of clothes on the floor she tried to shake the wrinkles from a pair of jeans but tossed them aside, picked up sweatpants and held them to her nose. Deciding that they were probably fine she pulled them on.

Two muffled voices shouted from the other end of the house at the same time making it impossible to decipher words. Alice clicked the play button on her boom box. Preferring Alanis Morissette to a half heard fight.

“What it all comes down to is that everything’s gonna be fine fine fine.”

A door slammed and a pit settled in Alice’s stomach filling her with a dread and a knowing of what would come next. Her door was pushed open and her mother stepped inside eyes puffy from crying. Alice noticed that she was dressed impeccably as usual. Her black pencil skirt, white blouse, high heels and beautifully accessorized matching necklace and earrings showed no sign of the chaos that was written in the lines of rage and black tears running down her face.”Why can’t you be ready on time?” She screamed, wiping at her eyes carefully to avoid smudging eyeliner and mascara. Alice stood speechless. After all this time, she still never knew what to say. “Don’t stand there looking at me like an idiot. Get going! Why do you always have to dress like that?”

The door shut without a sound following her mother’s exit. Not satisfied that her message was delivered it was thrown open again and slammed, the solid frame shook and sent painful chills up and down Alice’s arms. Her mother did this three times before walking down the hall and descending the stairs. Three times Alice stood dumb.

When she looked at the clock she saw that it was 7:45. Fifteen minutes left to get downstairs.

As she rifled through the top drawer in her dresser for socks she heard the door to her mother’s room open again and her step father’s heavy footsteps on the stairs.

It was December but when she could find no socks she slipped on flip flops, grabbed her backpack and put her hand on the door handle waiting a moment before turning it. It wiggled from being shaken loose.

“You bitch” she heard him say followed by the slam of the front door. Something hit the ground and popped. From the kitchen Alice heard a deep guttural scream then silence. When she was younger that scream made Alice vomit on every one of her mother’s bad days. The slamming doors made her jump and she would have been ready an hour early and waiting at the breakfast table to avoid her mother’s wrath. But she was 14 now and knew better than to hope and was no longer naive enough to count on prayers whispered to the empty air. She took a deep breath before opening her bedroom door and walking through, exhaling with every step.

“Let’s GO” Her mother yelled as Alice stepped into the kitchen, hit on the side of the face with a granola bar. The wrapping crinkled as it fell. Alice said nothing but bent and picked it up from the floor.

Her mother huffed and with a mug of coffee in hand opened the door to the garage, “Well?” she questioned as Alice remembered her Biology project sitting on the desk in her room. “I don’t have all fucking day Alice.”

“Sorry.” She said walking through the open door. She put her backpack in the trunk and sat in the passenger seat of the volvo. Her mother didn’t say anything until they were both buckled in and pulling out of the driveway but Alice didn’t listen. She stared out of the window looking at the treetops as they sped by.

Three more years until she could leave, she told herself as she did every morning on the long drive around the corner to school. Beside her, her mother fumed about her stepfather, she was like a teapot whistling in its anger to be taken from the heat and poured.

Without warning the her mother slammed on the breaks in the middle of the road, cars behind them screeched and came to a standstill inches from crashing into one another. The left side of Alice’s face hit the dashboard and she let out a moan.

“When someone talks to you,” her mother began in a voice so calm it was terrifying before screaming, “LISTEN!”

The car pulled into the parking lot at school and Alice stepped to the curb with her mother’s apologies at her back. She turned to face a waiting smile in the driver’s seat before gripping the top of the door in her hand and said nothing before she slammed it closed.

The next seven hours would be filled with a failed grade in biology because of her late project, comments from her friends about why she looked like a homeless drunk and hunger because she’d forgotten to eat breakfast or bring any lunch but as she pressed her fingers to her temple and found that there was no blood and that she was still in one piece she knew that for today, she would be alright.

Callie Armstrong © 2013


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