Fragile clouds allowed the morning sun to soften the bathroom, but nothing felt soft.
“What on earth are you doing Maggie? You’ll make us late!” a voice chilled the air.
I stepped from foot to foot on the ice-rink lino. The gritty, smooth toothpaste tasted cold and sweet.
But Angela’s cold voice was not as sweet as she shouted again, “You’ll make us late for school!”
A mouth full of froth prevented me from answering. Quickly I played the checklist through my thoughts: washed, pencil case packed, dressed, bag packed, teeth. Next, socks and shoes on. I was following my daily ritual, but the jumper that I needed to wear on Mondays, was still in the wash. I wasn’t ready to face school today without it on, but then was I ever really ready.
Every day brought some problem – tables test, spelling test, Jane going off with Rachel, Rachel going off with Jane, spelling test, tables test. Some days I got it just right. Some days I followed the morning ritual with ease and my clothes were the right ones. My lucky ritual plus my lucky clothes equalled a lucky day. Some days Jane was off ill and Mrs Richardson would forget to give us the test. Lucky day: perfect day.
I pulled up my socks, rolled them over, pulled them up. Looking up my sister was in the doorway; her tongue was ready to slice me up.
“I’ll catch you both up, go on without me…I…I can’t find my shoes,” I lied.
I could hear my heart pumping; could she? I heard my brother jumping down the stairs and tearing out of the front door. Window frames rattled and the mirror on the bathroom wall tilted.
“Brilliant! Dan’s gone without us now. Why do you always leave it till the last minute to find your shoes?” She didn’t need, or want, an answer and was soon behind Dan, running off up the street.
I sat on the bottom step of the stairs; the carpet was worn and tufted. The house breathed. I held my shoes on my lap and pulled at loose stitching. I curled over, smelling the cracked leather. The tan leather changed to dark brown as my tears stained my shoes. I wanted to be like Dan and Angela; I wanted Rachel to go off with me; I wanted ten out of ten without the stomach pains.
What if …what if I wore the dirty jumper? Who says it’s dirty? I ran up to the bathroom, turned the washing basket on its side and pulled it out. I threw the yellow jumper I was wearing on the floor, tunnelled into my favourite one and smoothed my hair. Flying out, straightening the mirror as I went, I spotted a flash of red…my red jumper.Fragile clouds allowed the morning sun to soften the bathroom and it felt soft.