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16 October 2014
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Emerald-Rae Maguire

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 Maguire

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 she loves.

“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.

“What d’you-"

“Aye. And what? You’re a wee angel. Is that it, aye?”

“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. Whisperin-"

“And wha-"

“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 yawned.

“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.

“With Marty?”

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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