Emerald-Rae Maguire attends the Belfast Royal Academy. "I've only recently tried to publicise my work and hopefully I'll be getting published next year in a magazine and a book. I am really interested in art and writing short stories and films, and would love to follow a career down one of these paths."
Familiar by Emerald-Rae
As I walked around the corner of Glenview Street, I peered
through the back gates and saw a faint yellow glow from
the bathroom and kitchen windows. Why amI not surprised?
The kitchen was a mass of plates and clothes. I let my handbag
slide off my shoulder onto the ground, then flopped onto
the sofa. Cracks and crunches arose from an old newspaper
underneath me. My head was full of the workday’s rants,
heavy and weary; as it fell against the flat pillow I caught
a glimpse of her across the living room. Vacant and unfazed
by my presence.
“What time did you get in last night?”
I couldn’t muster any emotion as I asked her, every
day the same question and the answer never meant much.
“I don’t really remember.” She droned.
I stared at the dark yellow stain on her pyjamas and remembered.
“Did you clean up that mess in the bathroom yet? ‘Cause
I’m not doing it again. I’m sick of you thinking
that I’m your skivvy.”
Her eyes grew wide in defiance. “Right well!”
She spat at me. “…Sake.”
I looked at the TV for a while, more of that Trisha crap
“Well are you gonna do it?” I demanded.
Almost immediately she propelled herself out of the chair
and stomped heavily into the kitchen leaving a trail of
“Jesus Christ!...can’t I sit down for…you
go on and on and on…” behind her.
My eyelids fell and I welcomed the silence. The newspaper
underneath me crackled again. Her mumbling’s were
just audible from the kitchen, the clang, bang and slam
of bottles of bleach from the cupboard under the sink gathered
like a grumbling storm. It isn’t worth it.
As I approached the toilet I felt a nauseating cloud of
stale vomit slap me in the face. The blue and red stains
of Alco pops around the floor disgusted me. Two years ago
she never would have talked to me with such venom and hatred.
I’ve spent hours and days at a time racking my brain
to think of what I did wrong. It just made my headaches
worse. I gagged as I scrubbed off the last thick stain and
flushed. I wish I could be flushed away too.
As I slowly plodded down each step her cracked voice was
more and more apparent.
“Aye. God I know. ‘Round the Glenpark last night
so I was. Mmhmm. Yeah. Mmhmm…”
As I cut her conversation I felt like cutting her throat.
She sat staring at me clutching the phone. I wanted to slap
that look off her face.
“Help me make the dinner.” I was shocked at
the calmness of my voice, inside I was about to burst.
“I’m busy.” She waved her head and craned
her neck as she mouthed each word. Her foundation was too
heavy and her over glossed lip hung revealing a blob of
chewing gum crushed between her tongue and teeth. Orange,
dry skin was forming around her mouth, her dead eyes fixed
on mine. They used to sparkle with a warmth. The familiarity
is gone. I felt as though tears were welling up from my
throat as I gently bit my lip.
“Where did you go last night? Were you out with Marty?”
Maybe if I asked it would make everything better, these
past few years I always felt that if she knew how much I
loved her and needed her then maybe she’d stop.
“I wasn’t.” Her eyes darted away.
I paced back to the sofa, flung the newspaper across the
room and sat.
“Why are you talking to me like a dick for? If you
aren’t goin’ with him anymore why are you still
knockin’ about with him?”
“Here, sorry. I think I’m old enough to knock
about with who-
“Old enough? Why don’t you ACT LIKE IT THEN!?
Up all hours at the Glenpark with a skirt up your arse like
a slapper. D’you think you’re 26 or something?”
Her eyes grew wider. “And what?” she spat.
“Aye. And what? You’re a wee angel. Is that
“I never said I was!!” My words forced me upwards,
the power of my voice surged through me."
“How do you think I feel. Standin’…Standing
in Jerry Rogan’s last week for a pint of milk. And
I heard them! Everyone, they stand there staring at me.
“Whispering and laughing at you! Going with half the
district! At your age. You know how that makes me feel!?”
I already knew her answer.
“I’m old enough to do what I want!”
“Our Damien having to drag you out of a shitty flat
in the Newlodge last week. You in bed with a father of two!”
My tears muffled my roars.
“And how was I supposed to know he had kids!?”
Her disregard for me was manifesting into anger as she stood
up to equal me.
“Know? The kids were running about…you were,
you were too pissed to realise!”
I roared and roared at her, old things and new things. Like
a violent earthquake, now reduced to her mumbling. My anger
spent I lay limp and lifeless on the curry stained sofa.
In a way it felt reassuring when she was like this. Reminded
me that she was alive.
“Do you want anything from the kitchen?” She
“What can you cook? The last thing you cooked was
a pot noodle and I had to boil the kettle for ya.”
We shared a faint smile. From a distance we almost looked
normal. She sat fiddling with a piece of tissue rested on
her lap, spinning it around.
“You aren’t going out tonight…are you?”
Now she stared down at her tissue creation for a long time.
I grinded my back teeth together slowly.
Silence draped off every wall.
“I said are you goi-"
“Yes I am! With Marty. With Marty, Marty, Marty.”
Her face remained unchanged.
“Knockin’ about with Marty. How long before
he starts knockin’ you about again? Hmm?"
I leaned over the edge of the sofa.
“Hey? How long?”
“I don’t know!” she snarled.
“So I take it this time four months we’ll have
another one you’ll have to get rid of? Aye. Another
wee trip to Manchester? Open your legs for another bloke
to rip out your child, sure you won’t mind will ya?”
The words spilled out of me like poison and hung heavily
in the air. I shouldn’t have said that. I couldn’t
bear to look at her, I shut my eyes, shut them tight. They
felt warm and stung from my tears. I dropped my head. Felt
her eyes on me, burning into me, I wish I could disappear.
I heard her heavy footsteps approach me, a cold sting on
the side of my face.
“Bitch.” Her coldness was broken by her broken
heart, still aching from my words. Then ascending thumps
and finally a slam of her bedroom door.
I desperately needed away from this room and this house.
The TV glowed under the harsh naked light bulb hanging from
the yellow stained ceiling. I wish things were the way they
used to be. She used to love me, loved me more than anything
in the whole world.
Each step into the kitchen echoed regret; I clinked on the
kettle and waited. Waited for everything to be ok again.
As I poured two cups of coffee the kettle spat at me.
I opened her bedroom door, the crack let the light flood
in, illuminating her face. If only for a second it was like
manmade warmth. She was familiar. I whispered to see if
she was awake. Silence. As I leaned over to put the mug
by her bed it spilled over the sides. My arm trembled as
the tears fell down my face again and again. I swallowed
hard, then kissed her forehead.
“Goodnight, Mum. I love you.”
“I love you too.” She whispered.
I slowly closed her door, even though I wanted to stay for
as long as I could.
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