FICTION: The Journey

I’m ready for school. My homework is done and my bag was packed last night to stop me forgetting anything and now, me and dad are in the kitchen waiting for Mam to finish making our packed lunches. Dad is jangling the keys in his hand, a habit he has when he’s getting impatient and wants me or Mam to hurry up. He isn’t wearing his work suit like normal, he has on jeans and a jumper and his big suede jacket. Mam’s working so quick she keeps dropping things and making Dad tut.

“Are you sure you’re ok to take her?” Mam asks, putting the sandwiches into the Tupperware boxes.

“Yes. It’s too late to change my mind now anyway.” Dad’s voice is light, but I can tell he’s getting annoyed. He needs to get on the road for his trip to London.

Mam hands us our lunches. She looks tired, pale and she’s chewing her lip which dad hates.

“I feel sick,” I mumble, wondering if I can get the day off to stay home with Mam.

“You’re going.” Dad takes my bag off me and goes to the car.

Mam gives me a hurried kiss on the cheek, “Have a good day, chick.”

I follow Dad out to the car.

“You’ll be back tomorrow, yeah?”

Dad nods and gives Mam a kiss on the cheek. I fasten my seat belt and watch dad walk round to the driver’s side and Mam goes and stands in the doorway. She’s wearing a big jumper and her fluffy slippers and her brown hair is tied back in a neat French braid. She waves goodbye.

“Ready?” Asks Dad and I nod, fiddling with the hem of my blazer.

I don’t have my phone on me because Dad took it off me last night. I got a C in my maths mock and he kicked off. All that money he pays for my education, all that time with a private tutor, a C will get me nowhere! So he’s taken my phone and I don’t know when I’m getting it back. Mam tried to talk to him and I went to my room to read my book with the music turned up really loud to block out their arguing because it can go on for hours.

We drive in silence, Dad doesn’t like the radio on a morning. It gives him a headache if he’s stressed about work and I can tell he is because he looks dead serious. His mouth is in a straight line and his eyebrows are drawn together and frowny. I try to watch the road but I keep sneaking glances at him. I think he’s still angry about the maths test.

“Dad, it’s that way.” I mumble as we go right at the big roundabout instead of straight on. Dad doesn’t answer me and I guess we’re going somewhere on the way so I don’t say anything.

Dad turns the radio on.

I glance at him, but I know not to ask. He’s not looking at me, his eyes are fixed on the road and it’s like he’s forgotten I’m there.

We’re on the motorway and now I’m going to be late.

“Dad, you need to go back that way. I’m going to be late for school.”

He doesn’t say anything.

“Dad?”

He turns up the radio and I feel myself tense.

I wonder if Mam knows I’m not going to school, but then she would have told me not to bother with my school uniform. Then I realise what’s happening. He’s taking me to the dentist. They did this to me last time because I get so nervous, when I had to go for my check up they didn’t tell me, Dad just drove me there.

“Are we going to the dentist?”

Dad turns to look at me and he must have been daydreaming, or thinking about work, because he looks surprised.

“No love, you’re going to come on the business trip with me, keep your old Dad company.”

“But I’m in my school uniform.”

Dad glances down at my tartan skirt and navy blazer and nods.

“Well, that’s because your mother didn’t want you to come. She thinks you shouldn’t miss any school but I feel bad about shouting at you last night. So you’re coming with me to London and you can have as much room service as you want and have a swim in the pool.”

“So, I get my phone back?”

Dad sighs because I’ve said the wrong thing.

“I’m taking you to a five star hotel, for a treat, but all you’re bothered about is your phone?”

He sounds so disappointed that I feel myself blushing and squirming in the chair.

“No, sorry Dad. Thank you. This is going to be so cool!”

Dad smiles and turns the radio over to one with music instead of men arguing about politics.

“Yes darling, it’s going to be lovely.”

I wonder if Mam will be worried though, if she didn’t want me to go. I don’t dare ask, but then, he’ll ring her when we get to the hotel like he always does and he’ll tell her about surprising me.

The journey is taking ages. I’m bored without my phone and dads left all of my school stuff in the boot so I can’t even read To Kill A Mockingbird or do some of my homework. Plus Dad barely talks, when he does it’s to make important phone calls. The hands free keeps going dead loud and crackling through the speakers, making my ears hurt.

Eventually I drift off and when Dad wakes me up it’s getting dark and we’re parked outside a massive hotel. I stretch and yawn and Dad frowns at me, jangling the car keys in his hand while he waits for me to climb out and get my bag from the boot.

The lobby is all shiny marble and a man in uniform jumps forward to take our stuff from us and I follow Dad to the desk. He talks to the man in a low, clipped tone that is his telephone and business voice. I stand waiting, trying not to fidget.

“This way, sir.”

We follow the porter into a lift and stand in awkward silence as we climb the floors. We’re led to a suite, my room is at the end of a little corridor and has its own bathroom with the biggest bath I’ve ever seen.

“I’m going to pop out for a bit, work stuff. Don’t leave the room, ok? You can ring for room service, get a film or something.”

I nod happily, turning the taps on with one hand and eating some chocolate with the other. I pour a full bottle of bubble bath into the water and then go to the mini bar. I grab a can of coke – full fat and full sugar – and a big bar of chocolate and some crisps. I pull off my school uniform and put on the big fluffy robe left on the back of the bathroom door. I sit on the bed and eat my feast then get into the bath. I read a few chapters of the To Kill A Mockingbird while I’m in there and then wash my hair with the little bottles of shampoo and conditioner left on the side of the bath. By the time I get out I’m so sleepy that I don’t even wonder why Dad’s not back yet. My room has a massive TV facing the bed, I find The Devil Wears Prada and climb under the massive, squishy duvet. I haven’t cleaned my teeth, my hair is wet so it’ll be a complete mess tomorrow. My eyes are growing heavy as Anne Hathaway is offered the job despite being sensible and fat.

*

“Maisy…Maisy…come on, wake up Maisy.”

I open one eye and wait for the blurry figure to turn into Dad. I’m still half in my dream, I was flying over London or something, I crashed into Big Ben.

“Maisy come on, you need to get up.”

“It’s too early.” I grumble and turn over, pulling one of the pillows over my head. I feel Dad pull the pillow away and then the duvet and despite the dressing gown the cold seeps in. I’m awake.

“Why do I have to get up?”

“Because we have to go. It’s a long drive back.”

“But…you said we were going for a swim.”

“Yes, well, I’m not the one who fell asleep, am I?”

I look around the room confused, “you were gone ages.”

Dad frowns. I’ve said the wrong thing again. He purses his lips and I hop out of bed.

“I’ll just have a shower.”

“No time.”

“But my hairs a mess.”

“There’s nothing new there Maisy, get dressed, we’re going.”

Dad’s back in one of his stressed moods and he stalks off back to his room, he’s already dressed and I hear him talking on his phone as I start getting ready. The clock says nine but it feels a lot earlier. I can’t believe we’ve come all this way and I haven’t been swimming and I haven’t got my phone back.

I dress as quickly as I can, then try to smooth my hair down but I don’t have my brush and it’s dried in stubborn waves and curls. I look in the mirror and I look crazy. I don’t want to spend all day in the car again, listening to Dad make boring phone calls.

“Maisy!”

I jump, his voice is so loud even though the doors shut.

He opens the bathroom door, “I could have been on the loo!”

“Then you would have had the door locked.”

He looks me over with pursed lips.

“One night without your mother and you look a complete mess, it’s pathetic. How old are you? Five?”

I glance at myself in the mirror again, he’s right. My clothes are creased from travelling yesterday, my hairs a mess. I shrug.

“I didn’t know so I haven’t got any clean clothes, or a brush.”

“Well, let’s just hope you don’t see anyone you know.”

He turns and marches back into the hotel room and I’m supposed to follow. I grab my things and throw them into my school bag, then rush to catch him up.

In the car he doesn’t talk to me. He keeps looking at me with mild disgust, ashamed of my appearance. But what could I do? If he’d told me we were going I would have had my nice change of clothes and a brush. His words still sting and I wish the windows were tinted in the front so that no one would see me like this. I sink lower and lower into my seat as we drive.

“Sit up properly, Maisy.” He snaps and I jump to attention, sitting up.

He turns the radio off and I look at him. But he refuses to look at me so I go back to staring at the endless line of cars outside.

I can’t sleep, not this time. I’m too upset and annoyed at myself and hungry. I don’t dare ask to stop, we must be behind schedule because we don’t stop for lunch and dad’s always hungry. He always eats lunch at half past one, but not today.

“Ah, we’re home.”

“Not quite.”

But we are really, I can see the signs for our village, we pass the roundabout for my school. Finally. I’m numb and aching and I need a good stretch but Dad’s horrible mood has had me stuck to the chair all day.

We pull onto our road and then through the tall gates, dad pausing to type in the key code that opens them. Mam appears at the kitchen window and then the front door. I can see she’s been crying and I wonder what’s happened. She runs to the car.

“For God’s sake.” Mutters dad, almost quiet enough that I can’t hear.

She opens my door before Dad even silences the engine.

“Oh Maisy!”

“What’s wrong Mam? What’s happened?”

She’s hugging me close and crying into my shoulder.

“You’re making a show of yourself.” Snaps dad and she loosens her grip. She looks between us both and I can tell they’re going to argue.

“Didn’t he tell you he’d took me to London with him? For a treat, he felt bad about taking my phone off me.”

She stutters a bit and then dad steps forward, takes her wrists and guides her back into the house, “of course I did. I rang last night and told her we’d gotten there safely, didn’t I? She’s just missed you.”

Mam nods and I realise we’ve never spent a night apart like this. Only once or twice when I slept at Grandma and Grandad’s.

“It’s ok Mam. I was fine. Though my hairs a mess because I didn’t have a brush.”

“She fell asleep after a nice bath, didn’t you darling? Didn’t miss you at all. We might do it again, mightn’t we?”

Mam looks between us, she’s chewing her lip again and Dad squeezes her wrist so she stops. She steps back again.

“But..I was…”

“Lonely? Well, how do you think I feel on all my business trips? Maybe I’ll take Maisy with me again. Maybe for longer. I get lonely too and she’s my daughter so we can go whenever we want, can’t we poppet?”

He turns to look at me with a smile and I think of the packed mini fridge in the room last night. I nod and smile, then see Mam. She’s still watery eyed, she must have really missed me.

“But…”

Dad looks at Mam and then at me, “you best go and get changed love, we’ll call you down for dinner in a bit.”

I nod and head up, they’re going to have one of their talks. It could be a while, but I have snacks in my room. Dad doesn’t know about them, but just in case they get into an argument it’s best to be prepared. Sometimes Mam is so upset after one of their talks she stays in their bedroom and isn’t to be disturbed. Dad can’t cook.

I go into my room and I can hear the shouting. A glass smashes and I turn on my iPod speakers. Little Mix start singing and I stand in the warm familiarity of my room, with its four poster bed and it’s desk for all my studying and the leather bean bag for when I want to read or watch a film on my iPad.

It’s almost as though I’ve never been gone, nothing ever changes in this house. It’s nice, how things are always the same.

 

 

The Journey is a short piece of fiction that I wrote during one of my university modules. We were thinking about secrets and the lies told by characters during monologues. I wanted to have my character tell a lie, or keep a secret, but one which they don’t know themselves. Maisy is a child and innocent and although she knows that something is wrong, she is able to keep the secret from herself. As the reader we know that her father is abusing her mother, but Maisy can keep her head buried in the sand a little longer. She is surrounded by material wealth and persuades herself the sweets in the minibar of the hotel are enough to make the trip ok, but really she knows deep down what is really going on. I have written in a childs voice here, Maisy is about twelve, which isn’t something I normally do.

I hope you enjoyed reading.
Speak soon,

Hannah

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