The bangs, the flashes, screams, people running and shouting. I am stuck, I can’t move, the group of men move closer and closer to where me and my sister are hiding. We’re covered by some baskets, I’m trying not to breathe, my sister is shaking, I’m sure the baskets are moving as she shakes. One of them reaches out and grabs the basket, tossing it aside and looking down at us. His eyes are dead, there’s no emotion. He grabs my sister and pulls her up then throws her on to the dusty floor, she looks back towards me as she falls, I look up at him, he hits me and then it’s blackness.
The fireworks keep banging but I’m not back home, I’m here in this place, lonely and trying to make friends. I am not even sure what all the fireworks are about, what the celebration is for. There are kids burning dolls and pieces of wood, their parents looking on at them laughing while they drink from beer cans. A small boy runs up to me and smiles and hands me a sparkler, he lights it, gives another cheeky smile and runs away to where his friends are trying to set something on fire. I swirl it around, watching the orange glow, I want to throw it away but the boy keeps looking back and smiling.
When it is finished I put it on the floor, give the boy a wave and go back to my new home. I don’t know how to mix with these people. They aren’t bad people, but their culture, their language, it’s all so different to me. I never wanted to leave home but I had no choice. They help me here, they’ve given me everything I need, I am grateful, but I don’t want to be here. I want to be in the fields where I grew up, looking after the goats, watching my sister play in the fields, hearing my mother call us to come and eat dinner.
There isn’t much in the place they’ve given me. There’s a chair in the main room, a table that I eat on each evening and another table with a television that doesn’t work on it. My room has a bed and a small cupboard that I keep my few things in. I’ve put a sheet over the window so people can’t see in and the sun doesn’t wake me up in the mornings. The bed is uncomfortable, it is too soft and I am not used to it. Each night I go to sleep I take the small picture I have of my sister from pocket and look at it, remembering the good times we had together.
I awake to banging at the door, constant knocking. I am frightened to open the door but I can’t ask what they want, I understand few words and can speak even less. I open it enough so I can see out, there is a man standing there with a bright yellow jacket.
“asdjo aosjd eowr English?”
“safdjon awerojnr oajewr money sofdoa oasdf”
“Sorry, no I speak English.”
“osfoer wernjon weorjo weorj wejr wperj”
He walks away and I shut the door. I am shaking, I don’t think he meant any harm but it frightened me. I am feeling sorry for myself, I have been through worse, at least it is safe here. I am going to have to learn the language, try and make things work. That’s what my family would have wanted. It’s a bright day, looking out the window I can see the leftovers of the party last night. It is a strange place, people all live so close to each other. There’s a skinny kid kicking a ball against a wall outside, why isn’t he in school? Do any of them go to school?
I should go out for the day, try and see somewhere new. I grew up seeing pictures of London in books, seeing it on the television. I dreamed of going to London and now I am here I haven’t left this place that I am living in. How do I buy a ticket for the train? I don’t know which direction I am supposed to go in. Big Ben, I know Big Ben, I know how to say it too, I can say it to the man at the station, he will know where I want to go. I hope I say it properly though, if I get lost I’ll have a problem, I won’t get lost though, I can try and ask a policeman.
I want to get up out of my chair but something is holding me back, it’s like this every time I go out, like I am stuck. It feels like my mind moves forward but my body stays in the chair. This is stupid, I am in a safe place now, I have to try and make something of my life. Going out to enjoy myself will be the first step. There’s still guilt, every time I want to do something fun I think of my mother, my sister, that they can’t do anything fun, would they be angry at me for enjoying myself? Go! You are only torturing yourself.
At the bottom of the stairs there are three boys standing by a wall. The stairwells are dark, the light broken. They all stare at me as I walk past, I keep my head down, my eyes on the floor, shaking again. As I get past them they laugh. I hear the sound of something hitting the floor, a small copper coin. I want to look back, shout at them, tell them that really they don’t scare me, that I have seen things they will never see. But I am frightened. I keep walking, I can feel their stares on my back, laughing to themselves.
“adasjn don’t want aknewpq akdsn wer go home!”
This has been taken from my book of short stories called ‘The Unwashed’ which is 9 short stories based on a fictitious housing estate in London.
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