In the second of our ‘Voices’ we are delighted to introduce you to Miranda. Miranda writes prose and poetry that is born out of her personal life experiences and her observations through practice with others. She illuminates places and events from the inside-out.
They didn’t mean to do it. Not really.
Characters larger than life who just didn’t belong in a row of terraced housing in Leeds. My mum liked to waft around in her kaftan, gin and tonic in hand. My dad had a red face and a loud laugh and always sat at the head of the table and held court.
In the early days the house was always full. Parties every night, everyone bursting at the seams. My dad’s voice could be heard right down at number 32 at the bottom of the hill. Reckless hilarity playing out often until 6am. It was hard for my brother and me as we had to be up for school. After no sleep we would climb over the bodies on the stairs and into the kitchen carnage to make some breakfast. Often to find there was no food. Always an array of empty bottles on the counters and the floors. Once my brother sliced his foot open on some broken glass. We had to call Mrs Zimmer next door who took him to the hospital. We couldn’t wake mum and dad.
Those were the fun times. Dad was changeable like the weather. On his sunny days he would grab us as we ran past and pull us onto his knee. Tickle us until we couldn’t breathe. Smother us with whisky kisses. Slap us affectionately around the head until we saw bright lights and sharp pains. Then tell us to piss off. Sometimes he came home (from his mysterious ‘work’) with bulging bags of boiled sweets. Or a crisp 10 pound note each. Other times he came home with a rough beard and dark circles under his eyes. Then he would just go to sleep. Mum would mutter under her breath something about whores. We never really knew where we were with dad. I guess that made it more exciting. I know my brother was really scared of him.
We knew that he hit mum. Sometimes she would have a black eye or a bruise on her cheek. She would try to hide it with make up or sunglasses. She would say that she had walked into the door. To some people my mum may have seemed invisible. She was fragile like china. To us she was like an ethereal fairy queen. Pale and beautiful. Bewitching and detached. To be admired from a distance. She tried to be a warrior in the end. Rising up to triumph in the face of adversity. Not easy after two bottles of Vodka.
My brother and I had to lie to our teacher. She often asked if we had eaten breakfast. Once she asked us if our washing machine had broken. Another time she gave me some shiny shoes and said that her daughter had grown out of them. Looking back I think she was worried about us. Life wasn’t perfect but we muddled through.
Until that day. The day everything changed.
Mum and dad had been to the pub. Their days of wild parties had diminished. Dad looked worn now like an old overcoat. He hung in loose folds. Mum was lined and her face was hard. She didn’t speak very often. Well not to us anyway. Her shine had gone. We always tried to hide when they came back from the pub. We would stay in the shadows while my dad’s face grew redder and we knew what was coming. Mum would stand and wait for the punch. He would usually miss. After nine pints of lager and four whisky chasers he was a poor aim.
We watched as she threw something over dad. It all happened in slow motion like a bad film. I ran in and tried to push her over as she lit the match. Dad would have gone up in flames but my brother pulled him out of the back door and he landed on the rosemary bush. I wasn’t quite so fortunate. I didn’t actually ignite. Just smouldered a bit. I remember the pain. I remember the screams. Mrs Zimmer’s face leaning over me with her mouth open. I must have looked bad. Fade out.
I was in hospital for several weeks I think. It was all a bit of a blur. My brother came every day. He cried a lot and said that we had a new home. Mr and Mrs Blake. He said they always made breakfast. Mum and dad had disappeared. He wasn’t sure where they were. No one was really telling him anything. He had heard Mrs Blake and the social worker talking about a court case. I don’t think he really wanted to know.
That was my brother all over. He left number 91 Rigby Terrace that day with emotional scars. I left with a melted cheekbone and singed eyelashes.
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