Lying back, and surrounding myself with the sumptuous pillows that are piled high on the bed, I can’t believe how comfortable this is. The pillows are soft, their covers are silky, and they have a sensual feel to the touch. The quilt beneath me feels just as wonderful with its thick soft filling, and cover that matches the pillows perfectly. This bed could rival any in those glossy magazines I’ve seen. I’m in heaven. This is the life. It just isn’t my life.
I’ve almost drifted off to sleep when I hear the footsteps coming up the hall, good thing I have acute hearing, and my eyes fix on the door. The handle turns slowly, no doubt to minimise any noise, and a figure slips in closing the door as quietly as possible.
“Good thing Aunt Sarah is a heavy sleeper,” I say watching the figure jump, and fumble for the light.
The face that turns to glare at me could be my own except for the fair complexion that is framed in wispy blonde hair.
I can only assume one of us must have our mother’s colouring, and one our father’s. I’ve not seen any photos of either, we’ve been told that none exist, and I have shadowy memories of him but none of her. Aunt Sarah has always refused to talk about either of them.
The two of us are like night and day, dark and light, complete opposites except for the face. She is fair with blonde hair, and light blue eyes. I look tanned, with dark hair, and dark blue eyes with violet flecks. It’s a strange colour really, and often helps catch the attention of guys. Not that I really need any extra help.
We’re both tall and slim, but still possess the dangerous sexy curves that drive guys crazy, and we both use them, just in different ways. We could pass as twins, our facial features are almost identical, but in reality there are ten months between us. She was born in January and I was born in November.
Either our mother wanted to get the birthing part of her life over and done with quickly, or someone screwed up the birth control. We’ll never know. She disappeared a few months after I was born. I have a vague memory of hearing someone say something about it. Two babies were probably way too much for her.
Then he disappeared when I was about four. Like I said I have vague memories of him, very vague. I remember a tall man, but then when you’re four everyone’s tall.
We both came to live with Aunt Sarah, well for the first year, but when I was five she shipped me off citing I was ‘too hard to handle’, said she couldn’t cope with me as well, or so I was told.
“What the hell are you doing here?” she growls in a low voice.
“Is that how you greet me after all these months?” I ask.
“You’re not supposed to be here. In fact I should let those people know you come here so they can take you back to whatever home you’re supposed to be in,” she says.
It’s her usual threat that she never follows through on. That is the one hint I have that she doesn’t completely hate me. In fact I have a sneaky suspicion that she is more uncomfortable with the thought of me back in the foster system than she is with my surprise visits, but there is no way for me to be perfectly sure about that. I had told her once though that the only way they would get me back in was over my dead body, or someone else’s, and I think she actually believed me.
The foster system sucked, well for me anyway. I never stayed long in any of the foster homes I was placed in. Sometimes it was weeks, a couple of times I lasted a month or two. I had no idea back then what was happening. All I knew was that when I was sad or angry, and one of the foster parents tried to comfort me, as soon they took my hand they became sad or angry, and then fairly quickly, after the second or third incident, off I went to another home.
As I got older I tried to keep to myself, tried not to make physical contact, because for whatever reason, that was the beginning of the end. I was fine with it but the damn shrinks insisted my behaviour was unhealthy, and needed to be dealt with. They believed my behaviour was a sign of abuse from somewhere in my past, and that I needed to be shown healthy forms of contact and love, and they always insisted on the current foster family doing just that.
You would have thought that eventually something might have clicked in their heads, idiots, but no, they just told the next family the same thing. It was as frustrating as hell that no-one would listen to me. I was only a kid, and my opinion was worth shit.
The last home still gave me nightmares at times, and was my shortest stay ever, a real record – one day. I was twelve.
The wife was a nurse on afternoon shift so she wasn’t there for dinner and bedtime, might have been different if she had, but then, it just might have taken a little longer to happen, who knows. The husband wanted to do more than just tuck me in.
I can still picture his large silhouette leaning over me, feel his hot disgusting breath on my face, feel his weight. I started screaming but there was no-one to hear me. I pummelled him with my small fists which only made him laugh. I tried to push him away, fear and hate rose violently up from somewhere deep inside of me, and in desperation I put my hands to his temples trying to push his head away from me, and that’s when it started. His eyes flashed with fear, then pain, before glazing over. He fell to the floor screaming holding his head.
I didn’t know what was happening, but I knew it was my chance to escape. As his screams rang in my ears I jumped out of bed grabbed the clothes and shoes I had worn that day, and the small plastic bag that held a few other items of clothing, all I had, and ran. I haven’t really stopped running since.
Looking at her glowering face I can’t help but feel a little sad knowing how this scenario is about to play out, some things never change, and I know my face is reflecting how I feel, just as her is.
“Hasn’t it ever crossed your mind that I might just want to say hello, and catch up considering we don’t see each other that often? Don’t you think at least one of us should make the effort? We are blood after all.”
It was true, I did want to catch up, make sure she was doing alright, but I knew she didn’t believe me. Not after she had told me to go away, and never come back when I was about thirteen. She had said she didn’t want me spoiling things with her and Aunt Sarah.
It hadn’t been a happy reunion especially when she called me a freak because I had tried to explain to her what was happening to me, but she didn’t understand, couldn’t I guess, because it wasn’t happening to her. She pushed me away, and told me to leave her alone forever. That had hurt, but it didn’t stop me from caring about her. After all she was the only blood relative I had. I didn’t count Aunt Sarah seeing how she dumped me into the system.
“I told you to leave me alone, and I meant it. I don’t know what’s wrong with you, but whatever it is I don’t want any part of it, so get out,” she says glaring at me.
“So, you don’t believe me about catching up, huh?” I ask with a sigh.
“You only ever show up when you want something. What do you want now?” she asks snidely.
“So, no sisterly hug then I’m guessing,” I say.
“You reek, I’m not coming anywhere near you. When was the last time you washed?” she asks.
She has a point. Real showers are few and far between for me at the moment, I don’t have the access, but I try to do my best with the old splash and wipe, or swim, and occasionally ‘borrowing’ someone else’s bathroom.
“And those clothes, when were they last washed? Get off my bed you’re filthy,” she adds.
I look down at what I’m wearing. Yep, another good point. They could do with a clean as well. These two gripes of hers are, from my point of view, the major downside to being technically homeless.
“Ok, down to business then,” I say swinging my legs off the bed, and standing. I reach into my pocket and pull out a photo, a still taken from CCTV footage, and dangle it in front of her. She tries to grab it, but I pull it out of her reach. “What’s it worth to you?” I ask.
She only ever seems willing to believe I want contact to get something so I always eventually play along. I have to admit it does make it a little easier to deal with our completely opposite existences if I score from her while I’m here, but it does perpetuate her belief which always leaves me a little empty inside, but I can’t bring myself to let her know that. She wouldn’t believe me anyway so what’s the point. It seems we’re destined to replay this emotionally destructive cycle for the rest of our lives.
I wish we were closer like we used to be when we were little, but fate, destiny, the universe, whatever you want to call it, put a stop to that, and now it’s simply too late.
“You’re a bitch, you know that,” she says slumping onto the bed.
“So, what’s it worth to you, to keep your squeaky clean image?” I ask waving the photo in front of her again just out of reach.
For whatever reason Aunt Sarah seems to believe my sister is an angel, and not capable of doing any wrong or acting like a normal teenager. Then again, maybe she just doesn’t want to know any different. I don’t know what’s really going on, and quite frankly I don’t care. I just use the situation to my advantage. It gives me a valid reason, well it’s valid as far as she is concerned, to make contact.
“Why do you do this? You never change,” she says softly.
“Neither do you,” I say as I slowly walk around her room looking at all her little possessions.
She’d need at least two large suitcases, no scratch that, definitely more than two, to pack all this up. Kind of puts my backpack with its meagre contents to shame. But then, comparing our two existences puts everything about me to shame. I do have a few more things back at the squat, but they’re what I use on jobs, and can be easily replaced. Everything I value is in my backpack.
I run my fingers over the necklaces on her jewellery stand, lots of coloured beads and crystals, flashy and cheap, none of it real. Below the necklaces in a tray are some rings and bracelets. There, buried under all the cheap gaudiness, is her jade teardrop on a fine silver chain.
“Hey, what’s this doing buried? Don’t you wear it anymore?” I ask holding it up. The light catches the stone, and it seems to glow from within.
“Put it back. That’s one thing you can’t have,” she says glaring at me.
“Why would I want it when I have one of my own?” I ask pulling a chain up from under my t-shirt to reveal my own teardrop made from amber.
“Thought you would have hocked that by now,” she says a little too sarcastically for my liking.
It’s the only thing I still have from my childhood. The only thing that makes me believe I might have been happy once, but something I’m not willing to dwell on. There’s no point.
“I tell you what …” I go to her wardrobe, and remove a few items I had looked at earlier when I was bored, “you think about the photo, and I’m gonna sneak up the hall, and take a shower. It’s up to you whether Aunt Sarah wakes up and finds me here, or not,” I say as I pick up my bag, and slip out the door.
I know she won’t want Aunt Sarah to know I’m here. The shit would really hit the fan if Aunt Sarah thought I’d been hanging around, if she found out I know how to pick the locks. So as long as I’m fairly quiet I won’t be the one to wake her. Aunt Sarah can sleep through an earthquake.
I lock the bathroom door behind me, and undress, dropping my clothes in a pile on the floor before stepping into the shower. In a recess in the wall stands a range of different shower gels, shampoos, and conditioners, which I mull over whilst letting the warm water run over me. Choices, it’s so rare that I have choices.
Normally the places where I occasionally ‘borrow’ the bathroom, okay break into, to shower don’t have a variety to choose from. In fact most use home brands.
When the need arises I stake out a place that looks like it might be an easy target with no alarms, or complicated locks on the windows, or doors. Basic locks are easy to open. I’d learnt that skill years ago through necessity. If it looks like the owners might have gone away for at least a day or two, I hang around, and keep watch. If no-one comes or goes during the day, and into the evening, I enter after midnight to do what I need to do. I nearly got caught once, but only once, and that’s why I only do it occasionally.
I always clean up after myself, and never steal anything. I don’t count using soap, or taking food as stealing, not really even though technically it is. I never go through their personal belongings, or take anything, well maybe a shirt, or pair of jeans, here and there, but definitely no jewellery, or money, or anything. I just do what I need to do to survive.
After showering I dress in the clean clothes, remove a plastic bag from my backpack, put my dirty clothes in it, and put it back in my bag. I had actually gone through her wardrobe, and drawers earlier, and liberated some clothes I thought looked cute yet practical, and don’t want what I’ve been wearing to mess them up. She won’t miss them she has so much.
I quietly walk back up the hall, and into her room. She’s still sitting on her bed.
“So have you decided?” I ask.
She doesn’t look at me, or speak, as she points to the end of the bed where some notes and coins lay.
I count the money as I pick it up. “That’s it? That’s all you’ve got, $67.55? Wow, has Aunt Sarah cut your allowance?” I ask.
“That’s it, I’ve been out and that’s all that’s left. Take it or leave it,” she snaps still not looking at me.
“Fine,” I say flipping the photo to her. “Cute guy, who is he anyway?” I ask as it lands next to her on the bed.
She picks it up, and looks at it. “He’s none of your business,” she snaps at me again.
Obviously I’ve had a negative effect on her mood as usual which is kind of a two way thing. I always feel down after one of our little get-togethers, and it will take a while for my mood to lift. I can only assume it’s the same for her.
“Yeah, whatever, just remember I’m watching you Jade. Hugs and kisses,” I say as I climb out of the window and into the night.