I cried the first time the windows broke. The shards covered the Persian rug like pixie teeth, working their way in between the loops of thread. I picked at them until my fingers bled, staining the fabric, smearing myself into the intricate swirls of colour. No-one ever tells you that broken glass makes the best of rainbows. Perhaps they’re scared we would spend our days desecrating the temples we build to house ourselves. People who live in glass houses should never throw stones. Anyhow, Mother took my tears as a sign of remorse and so the punishment wasn’t as bad as it could have been. I’ve never needed much food anyway.
The second time, I wasn’t let off quite as easily, but by then I’d learned to lie. Janice next door was an easy target. Poor, simple Janice, with her face like an underdone sponge pudding, skin the texture of orange-peel and large gormless eyes protruding from beneath her oversized brow, she so desperately wanted to please that she walked into my traps again, and again, and again. Whooping with glee, she proved to me she could beat my impressive score by shattering not just the upstairs windows, but the hallowed stained glass in the interior door. Locked deep in a special chasm of my heart is the picture of Mother’s face that day, her face fury incarnadine, her mouth an open wound of weaponry as she turned to poor, pale, simpering Janice. Janice who turned and shrieked and fled. Fled fast, but not fast enough.
Janice didn’t speak to me after that, so I was forced to get inventive.
The decimation of the food store was easy: a sprinkling of mouse droppings (I’m nothing if not resourceful) led to nothing more than a deeply confused pest controller and an explosive dose of expanding foam. My sister’s headless barbies were another matter entirely. If the heads had merely been removed, then it could have been put down as a game, or a harmless prank taken too far, but the nailing of them to crosses hung from the ceiling like a children’s mobile designed by the love child of Francis Bacon and Hieronymus Bosch made it a little harder to explain. I put that one down to an art project. It meant pulling an all-nighter in order to create the requisite sketchbooks and repetitive strain injury due to faking letters from my art tutor and head teacher, but I’ll admit to feeling just a tiny bit satisfied with myself for pulling it off.
By the time the cat was involved, I was old enough to leave home, which seemed like the most sensible course of action, all things considered. I observed Mother’s face from my pocket mirror, a gift for my seventh birthday which had proved to be both the most beautiful and most useful object I owned. It took me a while to read her expression, as it was as unfamiliar to me as loneliness. Her face was an engraving of pure fear.
As I picked my way into the waiting vehicle, pinpricked by the needle-pointed fragments of gravel which had wormed their way into my open-toed shoes, I risked a glance back at the windows of the house. As far away as we were, as clouded and misty as the day was, the reflection was as clear as you are to me now. Climbing in through the opposite door of the motorcar, flicking the long poker straight exhale of her hair behind her, she was palpably and undeniably there. She was coming with me.
© Copyright Abi Hennig 2019
Photo Credit: Александр Раскольников on Unsplash