it is late, too late to still be awake. it is a school night, father said. i hope you will be asleep when i get home. i wonder why he thinks he can say that, and expect me to sleep. i cannot even close my eyes knowing that he is not here. somebody might get me.
i have been lying for hours now. the light from the street lamps makes patterns through the holes in my curtains, and it keeps me entertained. like clouds, but for the night time.
i have left the window open, and the autumn chill has snuck its way into the room with me. sometimes my toes escape under the end of my duvet and the cold tickles me, i yank my feet back under the duvet. they are safe there.
i imagine little green monsters scampering around on the carpet, hiding behind the legs of my desk and in between the books, behind photo frames, in boxes and baskets. maybe one of them has found a hiding place on top of the door frame, lying down and sucking in its little green tummy to make itself as flat as possible. when it hears me snore, it slides down the door frame and wriggles out into the corridor, tiny feet submerged in the heavy pile of the carpet. it flings itself onto its back and makes angels in the wool.
one of them might be better at climbing than the rest. it heaves itself up the curtain’s edge, and tiptoes along the rail, hopping over the wooden hoops like hurdles. it balances on one foot, and sticks a hand in the air, wiggling its fingers and rolling its eyes. on the ground, the others jump and clap in glee, cheering and shrieking as their friend wobbles along the polished wood.
the little monsters hear it too, when it comes.
their eyes widen, and they freeze – then scamper away, feet pattering into the quiet corners like frightened mice.
i pull back the curtain, just an inch. the car sits in the driveway now, with the driver’s door open. after a moment, i see my father’s hand, and my father’s hat. i hear the door slam, and watch him take his long strides around, boots crunching on the gravel like jaws munching on dry bones. my fingers shake, and i let the curtain fall against my cheek. my face is stiller than my hands.
i suppress my breathing, though it quickens like a racehorse and they cannot hear me anyway. there, he walks. he will open the passenger door, i think. he will reach out a hand and open that door, and someone will come out. some expensive shoes will touch our gravel and crush the bones along with him, fingers linked within his, breath hot and close, perfume ripe.
my father locks the car. i hear the click muffled through the thick glass. the passenger door stays closed, and he goes to bed alone. in my bitterness, somehow i am thankful that replacement and substitution still stand out of reach. yet she will come, very soon. perhaps if i leave a little note, the monsters will gnaw her legs and leave her, bloody stumps too out of shape for silver shoes and stockings.