Free As A Kite

Chapter 1

Kirsty trudged her way home. It had been rather a battle to get through the hoards of mums picking up their darling children, who clutched end of term goodies and badly painted pictures. Kirsty had stuffed hers in the back of her school bag which was, no doubt, already crumpled after being booted around the cloakroom by person or persons supposedly unknown. Although, in fact, everybody did know but the teacher wouldn’t dare risk accusing someone without at least one witness.

Kirsty wasn’t sure if the prospect of two weeks without the year six-ites was worse or better than the imminent arguments that were bound to happen at home. In principle Kirsty would rather be anywhere other than school and if her Dad had a full work load for a fortnight then the Easter holidays may turn out to be fairly bearable. Unfortunately her father always had bizarre ideas about ‘quality family time’, which inevitably ended up with huge rows and Kirsty disappearing to her bedroom in order to avoid the flak.

Kirsty’s feet lingered for a moment and she stopped staring at the damp cracked paving and turned her head to the right. It had become a ritual, ogling the display in the Kite Shop. She had long since ceased entering the shop after the Man behind the counter said sternly ‘Are you ever actually going to buy anything? You’re taking up valuable space meant for real customers.’
Kirsty raised her gaze to the kites at the top of the display, which hadn’t changed for over two months. A lady tutted as she pushed passed Kirsty, almost knocking her off her feet, and muttered something about children being so rude these days. Kirsty was used to this kind of treatment from adults who didn’t know her but it still made her scowl. ‘You Bi….’ Kirsty didn’t have the guts to finish, and besides the woman had managed to bustle a fair way up the high street by that time. Kirsty knew of several boys and even girls in her class who wouldn’t think twice about swearing at an adult but in the back of her mind, there was always the worry that her Dad would somehow find out, a risk she just didn’t want to take. Kirsty reminded herself that time was ticking on and she still had a fair way to walk. There was another school much closer to her house but her Dad had said that it was over subscribed and it wouldn’t be a bad thing to go to school where not everybody lived in your business. Kirsty wasn’t quite sure about the logic of this but knew better than to argue, even though it meant over a mile walk home at the end of the day.

Kirsty, a little out of breath from rushing to allow herself extra time on the last leg of her journey, sank onto a bench, flinging her bag into the corner of the shelter. There were already one or two children with their fathers, tugging at strings attached to brightly coloured fabrics flapping high over the top of the grassy slope. Kirsty’s eyes followed a yellow and green one as it weaved and dipped, ever threatening to fall to the ground in a swirling dive and last minute catching a new gust and soaring upwards again. Kirsty imagined the Kite snapping its tether and flying out over the grey waves towards the North and all that it held. Another month or so and the water would be warm enough for swimming but at the moment it would still be bitterly cold, however inviting it looked as it was whipped into a frenzy by the biting North wind. The brightly coloured beach huts caught snatches of the sun as it battled to make itself seen through the threatening grey clouds and they reminded Kirsty of a girl’s bedroom that she had once seen. She dismissed the thought as easily as it had entered her mind and took a deep satisfying breath. She smelt a faint waft of fish and chips that had somehow managed to spread its winning smell against the windy onslaught from the sea. It reminded her how hungry she felt and she thought hopefully about the supper her mum may have been well enough to cook, if she hadn’t been sofa ridden by one of her migraine attacks.

She lifted her bag which had become oddly heavy during her respite from the daily trudge. At least this was something she wouldn’t have to do for another two weeks. She let her eyes appraise the fronts of peoples houses and was surprised to see that people made such an effort so early on in the year. Already displays of spring flowers adorned peoples flower beds and with the daffodils starting to go over, some were already making space for the summer flowers. Kirsty didn’t know anything at all about gardening and if asked she would have said that she didn’t know why anybody would bother. Secretly, she considered that it must be nice to come home everyday to vibrantly coloured mounds and sit gazing out of the window at your hard work blooming. She had once mentioned this to her mother who had made a half hearted effort on one of her better days to fill some hanging baskets with some garish pink and white flowers. Unfortunately within days these had become withered stalks protruding from dry, hardened clumps – which had lasted in that form until her Dad had taken them off their rusted hooks and dropped them into the wheely bin. An action which had started another row over wasted money.

Kirsty viewed her street with a glance. The over familiar sight did nothing to stimulate her thoughts or senses. It was only when she was within metres of her front door that she turned her head towards the street parking space outside her house. Her stomach lurched and her appetite almost disappeared. Her dad’s car was parked out front which meant that he had made the effort to spend some time with his family. She would have gladly waited outside but knew that the longer she left it, the more likely he would be to comment on her lateness. She could well do without a lecture. She went around the side of the small semi-detached house and gently released the unlocked door
‘….in the washing machine of all places. Can’t you at least use a domestic appliance properly for once. The last thing I need to do is fork out for a new one of those because it’s been broken by your selfishness.’ Kirsty stood for a moment listening to her Dad’s tirade. She didn’t know what to do for the best but knew that she did not want to listen to another sentence like that one. She slammed the door and waded through the kitchen as if she’d only just arrived home. Even if she hadn’t just overheard the end of their row, the scene couldn’t have spelt it out any clearer. Her Dad was standing in the middle of the lounge, still wearing his suit and her mum was propped up on the sofa, pale, with her hands trembling ever so slightly. She turned her tired face towards her daughter and tried to fake a smile.
‘Hello darling, how are you? Good day at school? Can you bare to part with a kiss?’ she turned her bruised looking cheek towards Kirsty’s approaching lips. Kirsty gently kissed her mum, almost afraid of hurting her frail looking skin.
‘Hello Kirsty. Home at last I see’ Her dad sounded almost embarrassed. ’Anything to show for your last day at school’ he looked at her expectantly.
‘No, nothing.’ Kirsty lied quietly, willing her school bag to become invisible and wishing that she’d had the forethought to leave it in the kitchen cupboard.
‘I’ll have to go to the chippy for tea, Kirst, your mum’s not been too well today’ He threw a cold glance over his shoulder, then turned and strode towards the hall. Kirsty heard the front door slam. She didn’t know why he never used the side door like everyone else did. The only other person to use the front door was the postman and Kirsty suspected that he’d probably use the side as well if the door had had a letter box in it.
‘Your Dad’s just a bit tired love.’ Her mum tried feebly to brush the dense air out of the room but the atmosphere seemed to press into Kirsty’s every pore making her want to rush and have a bath.

“I’ll just get changed, mum and then I’ll put the kettle on.” Kirsty tried to brighten her voice.
“That would be lovely darling.” Her mum sounded relieved.
Kirsty pushed her worries out of her mind as she skipped up the stairs -no more school for two weeks and that couldn’t be bad.
She pushed open her bedroom door and dropped her bag by the side of the bed. She would have liked to have described her room as messy but unfortunately her dad never allowed her room to get even remotely untidy before he insisted that she tidy it up. She was not allowed posters on the walls, which were a definite magnolia colour to match with the off white bedspread and beige coloured carpet. Her dad was so boring, she knew that he would never let her paint it any colour other than non-descript cream. She longed to get out her poster paints and sling them lidless at the walls, letting the paints decide for themselves where they would end up.

The next morning, as is bound to happen when one doesn’t have to get up, Kirsty awoke ten minutes before her alarm would have usually gone off. She lay staring at the ceiling, relishing the peace and occasional twitter from outside. Her father got up every morning at six o’clock with almost religious conviction. He said that there was plenty to do and if he didn’t start then he’d never be finished in time for bed. He insisted that Kirsty have cereal, juice and fruit. Sometimes, when her father was away, Kirsty took the opportunity to eat biscuits, drink hot chocolate and sometimes open a bag of crisps, all in front of the children’s morning programmes. Her Mum, if she noticed when she got up around ten, never questioned Kirsty over her breakfast. Instead she’d ask Kirsty in an offhand way whether or not she’d like a mid-morning snack. Kirsty was grateful for this lack of intrusion, and she’d usually reply negatively with “ That’s ok mum, I’ll grab an early lunch. Would you like me to run you a bath?” Her mum would always smile and relax a little. It was their ritual, they knew how each other worked, didn’t interfere too much in each others arrangements and got along famously. Kirsty knew that after a bath her mum would be much calmer for the day. It was only when her dad was at home for a rare week-end break that their idyll was warped out of recognition.

Kirsty’s dad would control the morning in an almost regimental way. Her mum was made to join them for breakfast, which in Kirsty’s view was most unnecessary and then they’d take it in turns to use the bathroom. Apparently there was never time for Eileen to take longer than ten minutes in the bathroom. Kirsty once questioned her dad over this since he always washed before breakfast and Kirsty could wash at the small corner sink in her bedroom. He said that they wouldn’t have enough hot water if Eileen spent longer. To which Kirsty had once replied that the amount of water didn’t change, just the amount of time she spent in it. Kirsty had been made to spend the rest of the day in her room for deigning to argue with her father. There was never any hint of violence from him, even the smallest of smacks, but the way he acted made it impossible to disobey. Kirsty longed to scream and shout about his unfairness. She longed to rage and rant at him listing every injustice he had ever put them through.

Kirsty sighed “Well it’ll be cereal this morning but at least I’ll be able to choose what I want for lunch.” She tensed as she heard the boards creak just outside her door. Her face turned into a steely grimace as the handle juddered ever so slightly. She leaped silently out of bed, grabbed her dressing gown and slung it on shouting out “Morning dad. I’m just getting dressed, I’ll be down in a minute.”
“O.k. then, Cereal ok?”
“Yes, thank you.”
She didn’t understand why he bothered asking since the only other option he allowed was marmalade on toast and he knew that she couldn’t stand the stuff.

The morning dragged as Kirsty’s father insisted that they spend the whole morning doing chores.
“ The floor in the kitchen is filthy and goodness knows when we last defrosted and cleaned the fridge.” He had said as he strutted through the house as if on an inspection detail.
Kirsty was furious with her father, not for her own sake but for her mother who looked terrible and really should have been resting. Kirsty asked her quietly if she could do anything to help but her mother bravely said “It’s just a bit of a headache love, don’t worry I’ll have a bit of a recoup this afternoon.”
Kirsty almost relaxed a little until she saw her mother shaking. There was absolutely no point in saying anything as her father had very strange ideas about what to do with someone who was ill. She could almost hear her father saying back to her “ Keeping busy is the best cure.”
She shuddered and shut her mind against further projected conversations.

By eleven o’clock the house looked almost clinical. Her father, seemingly satisfied with the morning’s achievements set off for his weekend conference but not before he had been through a well worn checklist with the two of them.
“Kirsty, you will remember to go to bed at a reasonable hour – no T.V. past nine….Leena, you won’t need to pop out for anything, I did a full shop yesterday…..Kirsty perhaps you and your mother could go for a nice walk first thing tomorrow to blow the cobwebs away…”
They both nodded and gave affirmation in the correct places. By the time he had actually stepped through the front door, Kirsty was fit to burst. She ran into the back garden and threw herself down on the grass almost as a dog does after it’s had an unwanted bath.
She lay back looking at the clouds forming and reforming overhead like some ancient magic canvas which reads the minds of its audience. She was just in the middle of deciding whether the ones currently overhead were a dinosaur eating a handbag or her dad with his brief case when her mum’s voice intercepted and brought her back down to earth. “ …Kirsty love, did you hear me? I’m just going to pop to the shop, ok?”
Kirsty squinted at her mum, trying to make her eyes adjust to normal vision and she almost succeeded, bar the odd yellow dots floating a little on the edge. “Mum, you look awful, I’ll go for you…”
“NO.. no.” her mum interrupted, “ I think a little walk and some air will help a bit. Those cleaners do get up your nose a little , don’t they?”
“O.k. you’ve got your mobile with you in case you need me haven’t you?” She tried not to sound overly concerned.
“Yes, of course darling, do you want anything?”
“No, mum. No, I’m just fine, thanks.”

Kirsty laid back again and listened for the click of the kitchen door and the rustle of a spare carrier her mum always took with her to the shop. Kirsty pulled her self to her feet and looked at her watch. She’d have about twenty five minutes before her mum would be back. She went in through the back door. The clean house was eerie in its silence. Kirsty switched on the radio to try and block out the nothingness but it blared out echoing round the house, making the space seem even more unnatural. She switched it off again. In any case she would need to hear her mum coming back from the shops.

She started in the bureau in the hall. She wasn’t looking for anything specific. It was her way of keeping herself up to date with family matters. Her father never told her anything and she didn’t like to keep asking her mother. Kirsty and once been caught rummaging by a baby sitter, an old lady who lived across the way. She’d tried to explain that it was the only way she could find things out, like the time she had arrived home from school to find her bedroom being redecorated and her furniture thrown out. Her sitter couldn’t see the emotional enormity of this intrusion and Kirsty gave up trying to explain when the woman had started ranting about today’s ungrateful youth and how lucky Kirsty was.

Free As A Kite

sastro

Deal, United Kingdom

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