"Are you doing anything this weekend?" asked Sam's mum over the
Chinese take-out food. It was her day to cook.
Sam sighed, keeping her eyes on the telly. "I'll probably try to finish my painting."
Her mum shook her head pitifully. "You should go out. Meet people."
"I don't feel like it."
"You need some more friends, Sam."
"No I don't. I have a friend."
Her mum's jaw clenched at her daughter's refusal to cooperate. "You need more than one friend."
Sam scowled at her. "Who are you to dictate how many friends I need?" Her heart pounded and her palms went clammy at the thought of attempting to make new friends. More people to ruin and disappoint. But after what had happened yesterday…maybe she did need to start looking. It was only a matter of time before Doug left her too.
"I'm your mother, I worry."
Sam scoffed and mumbled, "You've got a funny way of showing it." Just as her mum opened her mouth to retort, Sam raised her voice. "And anyway, you don't have any friends."
"I don't have time for friends," her mum replied in that accusing tone of hers. "I have to look after you."
Sam rolled her eyes and looked back at the telly. "You always make time for one night stands though, don't you?"
Sam couldn't see the anger blazing in her mother's eyes but she could sense it, hot against her cheek. "How dare you!"
Sam sneered and continued eating.
"I do everything I can for you and this is how you talk to me?! How dare you judge me when you do exactly the same."
To this, Sam looked back to her mum. Her mum laughed evilly. "Yeah, you think I haven't noticed you coming back in the dead of night? I know the walk of shame when I see it."
Sam arched an eyebrow. "I wonder why."
Her mum gasped. "You can't talk to me like that, Sam. I am your mother!"
"Then start acting like one instead of a cheap whore!"
Sam could see in her mum's eyes that she wanted to slap her. Her nostrils flared and her muscles tightened. Sam stiffened against the sofa, ready for the impact. But instead, her plate went flying across the room, spilling Chinese food along the floor in a wave like a blood splatter.
They both sat frozen on the sofa, staring into each other's eyes. Her mum brought her shaking hand back to her side and let out a steadying breath.
"You remember why I am like this before you judge me. I am like this because of you, Sam. Your dad left me because of you. I am alone because of you."
Sam could feel tears burning in the backs of her eyes. She didn't know why she wanted to cry and she hated herself for the feeling. It wasn't something she hadn't heard before but the words still hit her like a punch in the heart.
Slowly and carefully, Sam got to her feet and weaved around the fold out table in front of her. Her mum's eyes stayed stuck to hers as she rounded the sofa. Finally, Sam sneered and said, "sorry for existing," before leaving her mum alone in the living room.
Her mum went out Saturday and Sunday night, Sam didn't ask
where but charged her iPod to block out the inevitable moaning
and banging coming from the room next door.
But she came back alone both nights, drunk out of her wits. On Sunday, she didn't even make it to her bedroom and passed out in the hallway.
As she had planned, Sam stayed in her room in her paint-spattered clothes, adding the finishing touches to the painting for her art project. Sam loved art, creating things out of nothing. She could turn ugly things into something beautiful. Many of her works were dark and ominous. A street at night, a looming presence in an empty room. But no matter how eerie and unnerving her work was, no one could say that they weren't magnificent.
Sam thought her work represented her. Or maybe she hoped it did. She had a void inside her. A dark, empty space that made her feel as if she weren't quite real, as if she were a shadow in the distance of one of her paintings. But maybe there was someone out there who still found her beautiful.
Like every morning at 8.00am, Doug was waiting by his window for Sam to jog by. It was a tradition, he couldn't stop now.
Again, he pretended to busy himself in his room when he spotted her rounding the corner of his street and then looked up, as if surprised to see her. Sam smiled and waved and caught his wave before looking back ahead. They never talked about this morning ritual but Doug thought with slight embarrassment that she must know that he did it on purpose, that he made sure he was by his window just in time to spot her. His heart fluttered at the thought that maybe Sam timed things so that she'd be under his window at exactly that time too, to see him. He shook off the idea with a goofy smile and continued to get ready for college.
"Right, I'm going!" Doug called up the stairs as he shrugged his rucksack on his back.
"Okay, sweetie, have a good day!" his mum replied.
"Hey!" his dad leaned over the banister.
Doug's lip curled with contempt at his voice but looked up. "What?"
"You should ask your friend, the girl that helps you with your Maths, to dinner sometime."
Doug gave him a funny look. "Erhh…why?"
His dad shrugged with a smile that didn't look right on his face. "You don't have many friends, right? It'd be good for you to spend a little more time with her."
Doug rolled his eyes and headed for the door, mumbling, "I love how you sugar coat things, dad. I've done pretty well without you for the last few years but thanks for the advice."