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Sport 38: Winter 2010


page 157


Siobhan stands in the bathroom and says to her mother, 'I didn't drink your fucking bourbon.'

'It's not in the fridge.' Her mum is in the hallway, hands on hips, cardie on over her nightie. 'I can't believe my thirteen-year-old daughter's drinking bourbon.'

'Why do you always assume it's me?' Siobhan can't see how her mum makes these logical leaps.

'Don't you lie to me.'

'Why don't you believe us?' Siobhan throws her hands out.

Mum points at her. 'You know if you hit me again, I'll call the police.'

'What the fuck Mum?' Jilly's boyfriend hits his mum all the time. But Siobhan has hit Mum only once. Usually it's Siobhan and Jilly hitting each other, or sometimes Mum hitting them. 'We chucked it out 'cause we were pissed off at you. Last night, before you got home.'

Siobhan slams the door, shoves the lock in as the handle turns. She grabs at her hair, pulls the hairclips out. She'll have to start again.

Her baby brother starts to cry.

'Damn you kids,' Mum shouts. The door shudders and there's the sound of cracking wood. 'Fuck, my foot.'

Siobhan stares at the mirror, makes her eyes wide and tries to think of anywhere else.

This morning is turning out just as bad as yesterday morning. Yesterday, Mum was running around, banging dirty dishes, flapping the old newspapers at the back of the table, lifting up Siobhan's pile of school books.

'What are you doing Mum?' Siobhan was waiting for the toaster to pop up.

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'Where's the bottle lid?'

'Why should I know?'

'You had it last,' Mum said. 'Where is it?'

'God Mum.'

'Siobhan! At least help me find it.'

Then Mum had blamed Jilly too. After school, Jilly found the bottle lid in the other pocket of Erin's baby bag, held it up and rolled her eyes at Siobhan.

'Fuck,' Siobhan said, exhaling.

When Jilly's boyfriend came round soon after, asking for booze, Siobhan said, 'Take Mum's bourbon. She doesn't need it.'

Now, her sister's voice says, 'I've got homework to do,' which means she's off to meet her boyfriend. The front door slams. This is Jilly's new tactic: avoid conflict. Siobhan wouldn't get away with it because she's thirteen, not fifteen.

Siobhan sits against the window in the train, her bag taking up the seat next to her. She took the train this morning because it's easier to bunk school in a suburb that's not your own.

Six Irish guys get on, each draped in green coats and scarves.

'Tickets please,' they call, walking up the carriage. 'Give us your tickets please.' Other passengers laugh. 'Tickets please. We haven't got any.' They're so sure of themselves. Siobhan's not like that. She pretends to be but it would be better if it was for real.

Like with running away. She's real sure about it when she's with her mates but she worries what they'll do for money, where they'll go. Anywhere nearby is too obvious; they'd be found too easily. Mostly she worries they'd get busted before they even left.

Last week, when Mum was vacuuming the bedrooms after school, she turned off the vacuum cleaner and came into the living room waving a piece of paper.

'What's this?'

Siobhan shrugged. Mum held the paper up to Siobhan's face. It was her list of people to run away with.

'It really hurts me that you'd do that,' Mum said.

Siobhan nodded.

'I worry about you,' Mum said.

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Siobhan nodded again.
'You going to apologise?'
'Sorry Mum,' Siobhan said.

When the train reaches the station, it's already dark. Mum doesn't like her walking home in the dark. Halfway along the main street, Siobhan remembers she and Jilly are meant to be looking after Tommy and Erin tonight so that Mum can go on a date.

She runs all the way home, up the drive and up the front steps. 'Hello,' she calls, pushing open the door. Jilly and Tommy are in the living room watching telly. 'I thought we were babysitting tonight.'

Jilly shrugs. 'Don't ask me.'

Mum is sitting at the kitchen table, smoking.

Siobhan stands, catching her breath. 'I thought you said we were babysitting tonight.'

'I don't trust youse enough to leave Erin here.'

'Mum! He's my baby brother.' She loves Erin, thinks he is the cutest nine-month-old around.

'You haven't proven you're reliable.'

'Fine then, look after him yourself.' Siobhan goes into the living room and sits on the sofa, accidentally touching Jilly's toes with her own.

'Fuck off,' Jilly says.

'Don't swear,' Mum calls from the kitchen.

'Little ears are listening,' Siobhan mouths as Mum says it. This was Mum's trick to get them to stop swearing before Erin was born. They were real good for a few months, but then Mum got impatient so Siobhan and Jilly got impatient back.

Erin's a girl's name really, but Dad was gone so he couldn't tell Mum not to use that name. But Dad's not Erin's dad, or Tommy's. That's how long ago he left. He never gives Mum money when she asks. Jilly rang him direct one time to ask for money for school camp but even that didn't work. Siobhan wouldn't talk to him if he called begging.

Tommy stands up and Jilly pulls her feet back. It's like Jilly is always babying Tommy, and being super nice to him; Siobhan thinks this is probably to spite her. They hear Tommy flush the toilet, then page 160 open the bathroom door. Then they hear a drawer opening in their bedroom.

Siobhan turns to Jilly and says 'What's he doing in our—'

Tommy screams. Siobhan jumps up and rushes out of the living room, around the corner, into their bedroom. Tommy is white-faced, and blood gushes from his foot. Her craft knife is on the ground.

'Shit Tommy,' Siobhan says, as he starts to cry. 'Shit, shit, shit.' She picks him up and carries him, staggering a bit through the doorways, into the kitchen. 'Mum, Mum.'

'Shh, you'll wake Erin,' Mum says. 'What'd you do Tommy?' She takes him and sits him down on a chair. 'Look at all that blood. Siobhan can you clean it up? Use this cloth.' She turns around and reaches under the sink.

'Mum,' Siobhan says. 'It's really hurting. He stood on the craft knife and—'

'Did you leave it out?'

'No Mum. He must have got it out.'

'You silly duffer,' Mum says, pushing one cloth against Tommy's foot, causing Tommy to wince. She passes the other cloth to Siobhan.

'Be more nice, Mum,' Siobhan says. Tommy is still sobbing. He looks so little for seven; he's skinny as. She goes to hug him again but he shrugs her off and leans closer to Mum, who doesn't even hug him back.

'Damn, we'll have to get you a tetanus shot,' Mum says, pulling away her cloth. 'Siobhan, floor.'

Siobhan goes to the sink, thinking, they've ended up babysitting Erin anyway.

When Mum and Tommy arrive back in the taxi, Siobhan and Jilly go to the front door to wait for them. Tommy is obviously in pain but Mum doesn't carry him, just walks beside him up the driveway, and holds the gate open. Jilly goes over in her socks and offers him a piggy back.

Mum says, 'Leave him, he's fine.'

Jilly takes his hand and leads him into the living room, where she gives up the La-Z-Boy. Siobhan makes Tommy a hot chocolate, but page 161 he bats it away. He is crying again and there's blood seeping through his bandage.

Siobhan sits back down on the sofa, on the far corner from Jilly. She pulls Jilly's cat cushion onto her lap.

'That's mine, don't touch,' Jilly says.

'Fine,' Siobhan says. She doesn't want the cushion anyway. She did a better one when she was at Intermediate, of their old dog Toby, but Mum lost it in the last move.

Tommy is still crying. Boys are bad for crying. It's really annoying, gasping sobs.

Mum comes storming in and stands directly in front of Jilly.

'Where's my cigarettes?'

'How would I know?' Jilly leans to the left to keep watching TV.

'I know you take them. Who else would it be?'

Jilly shrugs. Siobhan is watching the TV too, but Mum steps in front of it, facing her.

'I had a new packet this evening and now there's at least five gone. Siobhan?'

'Fuck off Mum,' Siobhan says. She needed one earlier, but she didn't take five. Jilly better not nark.

'Don't talk to me like that,' Mum says. 'It stinks of smoke in here.'

'I'm out of here,' Jilly says, getting up. 'I've got homework to do.'

Mum stands in front of the doorway.

'Don't you leave now girl. It's late.'

'Fuck you, Mum.' Jilly tries to get under her arms. Mum shoves her back, then steps forward and twists around to shut the door.

'What the fuck?' Siobhan stands up and joins her sister. There's no way Mum gets away with treating Jilly like that. Mum pushes her back too, so Siobhan slaps her on the cheek.

'I'll call the cops,' Mum says.

'Yeah,' Jilly says. 'She'll call the cops and you know it's only one more thing before we get taken away. All 'cause you hit her, bitch.'

Siobhan swings around and punches her sister on the eye. Jilly slumps to the ground, shoulders hunched, crying. 'My eye. Mum, she got my eye.'

But Mum has grabbed Tommy's hand and pulled him hobbling to page 162 the door, which she opens. Siobhan sits back on the sofa—in Jilly's spot this time. She turns up the volume with the remote. She watches through the doorway as Mum tells Tommy to get his school bag, then sits him on the ground. Watches as she walks in and out of the other bedroom, with two bags, three pillows, three blankets. Watches as she goes out the front door, then back in, twice, loading up the stuff. Watches her go into the bedroom and come out carrying the sleeping baby, then take Tommy's hand.

'Where are you going?' Jilly says.

'We're leaving,' Mum says. 'I don't have to put up with this.'

Siobhan and Jilly look at each other for a bit, then Siobhan makes Jilly a hot chocolate to say sorry. When she comes back and sees Jilly's taken the La-Z-Boy, Siobhan doesn't say anything, just passes her the hot chocolate.

'Do you think she'll come back?'

'Course she will,' Jilly says, 'tomorrow. We should clean up, make it nice for her.'

'Yeah,' Siobhan says, relieved. She sits on the sofa, and tucks her feet up. 'I'll vacuum and get flowers for beside her bed.'

'We could make her pancakes,' Jilly says. She puts on a DVD but then gets a text. 'Nick says it's sweet for me to come over.'

'You can't,' Siobhan says.

Jilly laughs. 'He said his Mum's asleep.'

'But how will you get there?'

'Walk, dumb arse.'

Siobhan almost says, 'Can I come?' Instead she sits still as Jilly hugs her goodbye, as the front door closes, as she hears the first footsteps on gravel. Then she leans over and lifts the curtain just high enough so she can see over the sill. There are two reflective strips on Jilly's shoes that flash for each of her eight steps, then she is around the corner and out of sight. Siobhan lets the curtain drop. She shuts the door and picks up the cigarettes from where they're pushed against the wall. She turns up the heater and climbs onto the La-Z-Boy. Then she pulls the cat cushion onto her lap and hits play on the remote.


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Siobhan stares at the wall. Wind rustles leaves outside the window. The light in the bathroom blew when she went in, and the whole house is creepy without Mum. The room is thick with smoke; she's had three ciggies in the last twenty minutes. Inhale, exhale.

She doesn't know how to get in touch with Mum, even if there's an emergency. She knows Jilly hasn't got any credit left now and Jilly isn't here anyway.

There are two pictures on the mantelpiece, one of Mum and Siobhan and Jilly when she and Jilly were little, and one of them just last year, all four of them and Mum pregnant. Siobhan painted both the frames; she gave them to Mum for Christmas. She goes and checks the back door is locked, then checks the front door again, then checks all the windows. She pulls her blanket off her bed, and sits back on the La-Z-Boy, pulling the blanket around her. She falls asleep wondering if she'll wake up for school.