A Little like Home

A Little like Home

A Chapter by avoria

The afternoon’s sun beamed down hot and warm, rays of sunshine glinting through the autumnal trees so that their branches were set alight up with reds, oranges and golds. In the heat of the day, Clare trudged her home, her satchel bouncing heavily against her legs and sweat collecting uncomfortably in the small of her back.


She usually had Anna to walk home with, but she hadn’t showed at their usual meeting place after college, and Clare had waited around for a good twenty minutes to make sure. She didn’t necessarily mind waiting, either; avoiding the large rush at the end of the day was always to be preferred.


She spun her keyring around her finger, occasionally catching it in her hand before spinning it again. Her mind kept reeling back to the day, back to last night, but right at that moment all she wanted to do was get in, check on her father, and hide herself away in her room. Too late did she remember that she’d meant to go to the supermarket on her way home to pick up supplies for dinner.


Heading off a sigh, she slipped her key into the lock of her house, waved to Mrs. Price �" who was on her knees tearing up weeds from her petunias, again �" and disappeared into the confines of her house.


Dad?” she called, throwing her keys into the glass bowl on the small, wooden table in the hallway. Lifting her bag up over her head and shrugging off her coat, she called again. “Dad?”


He appeared from behind the living room door, a steaming cup of tea nursed between his ageing hands. His smile was grainy, as though she was watching him from an old film feel, a whisper away from the real life that surrounded him.


Hello, sweetheart,” he greeted, voice gravelly. He then offered her the mug in his hands. “How was your day?”


Oh, Dad, that’s for you!” Clare rebuked, mortified. She pulled a gentle smile, hanging up her coat. “I’ll just make my own. Would you like anything?”


He harboured a small chuckle, bringing the mug of tea to his lips then spluttering when it was too hot for him. Worried immediately, Clare took the mug from him, placing it on the table next to the bowl of keys.


You’re just like your mother, you know,” he said, patting down the front of his shirt where he’d spilled his drink. “She was always fussing, too.”


Dad, you can’t even drink a cup of tea without spilling it everywhere. What if you’d burnt yourself?”


Now, Millymoo,” he said fondly, ruffling her hair and using a name that had sprung up for her in early childhood. “I may be an old man, but I’m not that old quite yet, hm?”


She rolled her eyes good-naturedly at him, but chose not to say any more. He followed her to the kitchen, where she immediately noted the washing up that needed to be done and the floor that needed to be mopped and swept. But first things first there was a cup of tea and a couple of slices of toast, especially if her dad hadn’t eaten all day.


She quizzed him on the fact whilst she made herself some food.


I had cereal this morning,” he said with a hint of guilt in his voice.


Yes, because I made it for you,” Clare huffed, her hands placed on her slender hips. “You can stand there and say I fuss over you all you like but you can’t even make yourself lunch when I’m not here.”


I was working, love. You know how it gets; the hours just slip by, unnoticed.”


Clare shot her father a stern look, but he just gazed back gently, swilling his tea around in his mug. She hated the way that he could just pretend like everything was fine, like everything was okay, when in reality they were struggling to make ends meet. What with her A-level work and her weekend job, Clare barely got any free time to herself; any time she did have was spent making sure the house wasn’t falling apart �" and all because she wanted to give her father enough peace as possible.


As she pottered around the kitchen tidying bits and pieces and running water for the washing up, she asked how his writing was going. The silence in return was all she needed to know that he’d probably only written about a hundred words, then discarded it in a fit of anger because it wasn’t good enough, wasn’t long enough, wasn’t exciting enough to the audience he had in his head.


Clare began to wash, her back to the doorway and her head bent over the dirty dishes. Her father left the room quietly, as though he’d been shamed, and as she listened to his footsteps thumping up the stairs Clare paused, her hands submerged in hot bubbles.


It wasn’t fair, she thought violently, blinking as tears threatened to break through her usually calm exterior. Taking in a breath she started washing again, scrubbing at the plates as though she was trying to remove the patterns themselves. It wasn’t fair that she had to run around picking up the pieces after everything that had happened six months ago. It wasn’t fair that she was the one who had to balance a job, her A-levels and taking care of a house as well as, occasionally, having time for a social life. It wasn’t fair that her father would spend hours locked tightly up in his study, often not even appearing for the dinner Clare cooked him. It. Just. Wasn’t. Fair.


A stubborn tear dripped from her cheek into the sudsy water and, impatiently, Clare wiped it away. This wasn’t the time to cry about it �" she had too many other things to worry about, and things weren’t really that bad. All she had to do was keep her head down and not worry too much about anything.


A barking and a scampering made her lift her head in surprise and, in the doorway of the kitchen, a young brown Labrador appeared, wagging his tail emphatically. Clare couldn’t help a small chuckle, shaking off her hands into the water as the dog ran up to her, yelping quietly and leaping on his back legs, resting his paws against her tummy.


Hey Monty,” Clare chuckled, ruffling him behind his ears. He moved his head, lapping at her hands with his tongue. “Miss me, then?”


He barked adoringly, getting to the floor again and sniffing around under the kitchen table. Wiping her hands on a tea towel, Clare picked up his food bowl, deciding it would be mean to make him wait until six ‘o clock for his dinner. She watched fondly as he gobbled down the food, splashing little bits of dog food all over the kitchen floor. Another job for her to clean up later, then.


She finished the last bit of washing up whilst he ate, leaving it to drip slowly on the draining board. All she wanted to do now was head upstairs and start work on the assignments she had already been set from college, but she knew she had a lot more work in the house to do, not least finding something edible for dinner.


Checking the fridge and cupboards she realised she really couldn’t make their rations eke out much further, and a trip to the supermarket was due either that afternoon or the next day.


She tried not to think about all the things she had to do, all the responsibilities piling on top of her as though trying to see how far she would go before she broke. There was no use thinking about it, though, and she knew it; things needed to be done and in his current state there was no way her father was going to pick up the slack. He needed all the free time he had to try to work on his book.


They were still living off the funds from his previous seller; but that had been nearly two years ago and, as successful as it had been, their funds were dwindling. They still got money from the government �" single, unemployed parent, taking care of a minor �" but he would need to get something written, published and sold soon if they expected to stay in this house much longer.


Clare shuddered as she thought of all the darker places of the town, places paid for by the government where those struggling for life could just about manage to live. Their noise and their danger didn’t settle well with Clare and the last thing she wanted to imagine was setting up home somewhere like that, if only because it was so far away from the college that she would have to start paying a bus trip to get there.


Pushing the thoughts out of her mind she grabbed her coat and Monty’s lead, yelled up the stairs to her dad that she was heading out, and slammed her way into the world outside, glad for the dog yapping by her side. She didn’t need to ask her father if Monty had been taken for a walk today or not; since he hadn’t even made himself lunch, she doubted very much that he had left the house to take care of their year-old puppy.


She sighed as she walked, reaching for her phone in the pocket of her coat. Her fingers rested on the buttons, hesitant, as she licked her lips. Should she call Annabelle, apologise for how she’d been with her? She was clearly upset about it.


Clare shook her head, snapping the phone closed and slipping it back inside her pocket; right now all she needed was peace and quiet. Get to the supermarket, buy some supplies, give Monty one run around the local park, then get back in time to shut herself quietly away in her room.


An hour or so later found her traipsing home, four bags full of heavy shopping and an exhausted dog trotting by her heels. The money she’d used for the food was her own money �" thanks to her job and EMA, she had enough to cover a week’s worth of food easily �" but she couldn’t help feeling a stab of envy for all her friends who got to spend their money on alcohol and junk food. Such luxuries for Clare had ended six months ago.


That said, in the bottom of one of the bags there chinked a small glass bottle, full to the brim with peach schnapps. She was lucky enough not to get ID’d at the supermarket �" it was touch and go these days, with her tired, worn look that she just couldn’t seem to scrub from her face in the mornings.


The sanctuary of her bedroom, once she reached it, was like stepping into the shade on a hot summer’s day. Locking her door, she turned and flopped down on her bed, face buried in the pink duvet as she inhaled the smell of clean washing. She could quite easily just fall asleep, snooze the heavy afternoon away and awake later in the evening to the crickets chirping outside. But, as tempting as the idea was, she knew she had too much on her plate to go giving up responsibility now. So, instead, she got to her feet, slid a CD into her music player and reached under her bed for a stash of books her father would most definitely have frowned upon.


He took his writing very seriously. His first novel, which sat proudly on Clare’s bookshelf across the room, had been set in the 1970s. It had dealt with the Americans uncovering a secret weapon from world war two, that hadn’t been used: a deadly toxin that, if released, would have poisoned a hell of a lot of mankind. The ensuing story had been gripping, heart breaking, as �" by accident �" this toxin was released into the earth’s atmosphere and across the globe humanity suffered for the mistake.


Clare didn’t have the heart to tell her father that she couldn’t stand his writing style. She could recognise that it was good, but somehow being forced to read excerpts and edit bits and pieces for him as he’d written it while she was growing up, had forced her love of it out of her. That said she would give anything to be approached by him holding a manuscript, asking her to read it. Whenever she enquired too much about his writing he would grow dark, distant, and would swiftly move the topic onto something else. She quickly learnt not to press too hard on him.


The hidden lot under her bed were hardly what she would call best-sellers, though, either. She had a terrible weak spot for romance stories that caught her up in their flying passion and hurricane loves and, though the writing was trite and characters two-dimensional, curling up on her bed absorbing the words while gentle music filtered from her stereo was her idea of heaven.


She knew love wasn’t at all like how she read it in those books. She knew there were no dashing heroes, no whispered secrets, no mystery men hiding around corners waiting to whisk her off her feet. But every time she turned a page and found yet another succulent chapter, her heart fluttered and her mind wandered and she pretended she lived in a world where those sorts of things happened. It was a welcome distraction from everything else.


Too quickly the hours rolled by and, soon, the sun began to dip into the horizon. Clare sighed, laying her book flat on her bed as she stared out of the window, the dusky stars pinpricking their way through the blanket of falling night. Swinging her legs off the bed she went to her curtains, holding them for a brief moment as she gazed out across the neighbourhood.


It wasn’t a bad place to live. There was no trouble to speak of and the neighbours were friendly enough. Especially sympathetic, in fact, since ...


Clare shook her head, pulling her lemony curtains closed with a jolt. No use dwelling on the past, she told herself firmly, and prepared herself for an evening of cooking and clearing up. It wasn’t a spectacular lifestyle, but it was good enough for her.


***

A fire crackled in the grate, throwing shadows across the walls that danced as though they were possessed by demons. In a chair by the desk at the end of the room, there sat a man slouched over an ancient typewriter, his fingers working at the keys as though the world itself would end if he stopped.


The platen pinged and bounced into place as, with a heavy sigh, he sat back in his chair surveying what he’d just written. Then, shaking his head, he tore off the paper and screwed it into a ball, tossing it into the waste paper basket beside him. The routine was the same as it had been for every other hour of every other day. He let out a yell and thumped his fisted hand on the table, burying his face in his other. Tangled hair fell into his eyes and hot tears threatened to leak down his cheeks.


Catherine,” he sobbed breathily into his palm, before pulling lowering his hand, pulling himself together. He stared mournfully at a photograph at the edge of his desk. “This would be so much easier with you by my side.”


The smell of food began to seep through the gap beneath the door, making his stomach growl in response. Clare would be downstairs cooking by now and, soon, would call him to join her for dinner. He gave a guilty look at the large pile of screwed up paper, overflowing from his bin. How could he face her when he had nothing to show for it? How could he turn up at her side when he was too ashamed to even looking himself in the eye?


The dark thoughts persisted all evening, keeping him from venturing downstairs to spend time with his daughter. Eventually, towards the middle of the night, there was a soft knock at his door. The fire had burned itself out to a low glow, its embers weak under the pile of ash.


Come in,” he said gravely, surveying the words he had just written.


The old door creaked on rust hinges as, tentatively, Clare stepped inside, her shadow long across the floorboards. She walked in carefully, setting a tray down beside him with a piping hot plate of food and a tall glass of water.


A small on his shoulder made him look up, smiling weakly. Clare’s beautiful face �" her rounded cheeks and full lips �" shone with so much love for him that it sent another crack shooting through his heart. Covering her hand with his, he thanked her for the meal.


You haven’t been downstairs in a few nights,” she said quietly, her gaze dropping to the floor. “And you should eat, Dad. You can’t work on an empty stomach.”


He patted her hand. “I know, love. But I’m so close, you know? Those words are just around the corner.”


Even though she nodded, Gabriel could tell that she didn’t believe him. He wondered with some alarm when her faith in him had evaporated, when she stopped relying on his words to assure her that everything would be all right. In the past six months Clare had grown up astoundingly, and he suddenly saw not the little girl he’d spent the better part of his life raising, but a young woman. A young woman struggling with responsibilities in an adult world she shouldn’t have to be a part of yet.


We’ll make it, sweetheart,” he promised, knowing the words fell on deaf ears. “If it’s the last thing I do, I will get this book written. We’ll be all right again.”


Clare said nothing but, after a moment of holding his gaze, bent down and curled her arms around his broad shoulders, burying her head in his neck. The embrace was only brief and she was standing straight before he had a moment to react, slipping back into the quietness of the house and leaving him to his work.


Staring forlornly at the meal in front of him �" shepherd’s pie and gravy �" he scooped up a mouthful onto his fork and swallowed it down. In that moment, he swore their lives would change; he would make them change. His daughter, the only person he had left in the entire world, deserved better. Only time would tell if his determination was enough.



© 2010 avoria


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I caught a few mistakes but otherwise very awesome. I like the description in the beginning. Nice plot to it.

Posted 10 Years Ago



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Added on March 25, 2010
Last Updated on March 25, 2010


Author

avoria
avoria

United Kingdom



About
I've been an amateur writer for more than ten years. When I was fifteen I discovered fanfiction and, in my time writing it, explored my own creative writing style and and branched out significantly. S.. more..

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