Flash Fiction · How to be British

Aeon

Saturday, March 31, 2018. Daily Brit Wit.

Aeon: 

Noun

Alternative spelling of eon; an indefinite and very long period of time.

“I never thought I would come back here, the thought runs through my mind with warning sirens going off in the foreground. Never thought anyone would make me return to the closest place to hell on Earth I have encountered. My breathing is fast and erratic in my breast. I chew on the inside of my cheek to hide evidence of my anxiety; though everyone that is here by my side knows me well enough that I’m putting on a show. Still, when my bottom lip trembles, I lock my jaw and take a determined step forward.

‘Brooklyn, you don’t have to do this.’ a familiar baritone calls out softly behind me.

I close my eyes at his comforting voice. ‘I know, Ezra. But I have to do this. I need the closure.’

His sigh carries toward me with his resignation and I find myself smiling despite every hurtful recollection swimming around in my head. My love for him ripples from my core and puts out some much needed dopamine, as weird as it may seem. It’s probably a worrying reaction.

I refuse to glance over my shoulder at the team behind me and force the first step forward. The yellow tapes and warning signs to keep back do not apply to me. For the first time in twelve years, I return to the household I escaped by chance and nothing clever from my younger self. By the fifth of sixth step, the distinct scent of charred remains hits my nostrils and I stumble, nearly gagging on the scent and an old memory.

‘This is what happens when little girls touch things they mustn’t!’ 

A sharp inhale brings me back to the present. It’s also a couple steps more before the cement stairs up the old cottage, which would have been embarrassing had I tripped up them. I stand for three breaths before the house, examining it with a detached air. The red door is faded now and the brass knob is in need of repair. The shutters appear more washed out than my memories portray them. There’s no plants, dead or alive, lining the window boxes nor the flower beds. Age has weathered the house poorly and there’s a part inside of me congratulating the state, completely overlooking the fact the place has been empty and in police custody going on seven years.

And then I am walking up the steps, breaching haunted territory.

The doorknob is unharmed but there’s an impressive dent above it from where the fire brigade shoved in. I do not hesitate pushing open the door and peering around the frame. The burnt scent within overwhelms me. I bury my mouth and nose inside my dark purple zip-up and urge myself inside.

The blackened silhouettes before me do nothing to diminish the memories of growing up here. The shapes in the front room are identical to the dulled tones my brain is offering up for comparison. The sofa where I slept in the left corner during the days when nobody was home and I had more opportunity to roam freely. The faux wooden coffee table where I was pushed into and resulting in the scar along my right cheekbone; it no doubt ought to have required stitches. The broken bookshelf turned telly stand with the first and fourth shelves broken.

As I walk through the fire damaged place a new thought enters my brain: what would have happened if the fire took place when I was still an inhabitant? Would I have escaped?

My childhood was spent being convinced I would spend aeons here, punishment for the naughty child I was raised to believe I had been. Of course, I escaped more than a decade previous yet I cannot put paid to the circling question. Nobody was inside when the fire broke out. My abusers were escorted off the property years after I left and the sixteen months following their removal saw the beginning of the end for this hellhole. Police still technically own it as they work on slapping other offenses to make sure Mother and Father stay behind bars. It was a long seven years after my escape; the five years they have been in prison have been steps toward reconfiguring my life and reconciling my past.

I tour the remainder of the downstairs before chancing the creaking stairs for the next level. The fire must have been extremely hot if the black marks on the new level are able to be judged; because it doesn’t look much different from below stairs. I avoid what was my bedroom at all costs, the first room I pass as I make my way around.

When I pass the bathroom I have to double back, shocked that the room is unharmed. Not a single black mark has touched this particular room, which so happens to be one of the best hiding spots I had as a girl. The position of the countertop and toilet allowed me enough room to squeeze between the space and hide. It wasn’t the best location, but it kept me from at least three severe beatings. Curious, I step inside and find myself fingering at my engagement ring.

‘You’re not her anymore, Brooklyn.’ I mouth the reassurance. Because looking at that spot I feel the terror of the past as I would wedged between wood and porcelain. ‘It’s not your reality and hasn’t been for a very, very long time.’

‘Brooklyn?’ my fiancé calls out from somewhere inside.

I jerk harshly at Ezra’s voice and don’t even notice the force has yanked the engagement ring straight off my finger and onto the floor.

‘I’m– I’m upstairs!’ I reply back, closing my eyes and focusing on my breathing.

I hear accompanying footsteps but have to force my eyes open when the buzz of adrenaline prepares me for a lashing. I look in the mirror to reassure myself I am a twenty-four year old woman, free and healing, and not a twelve year old girl terrified of her parents, imprisoned and broken.

‘Why’s your engagement ring on the floor?’

‘What?’ I ask, Ezra’s words not processing properly.

Instead of repeating his words, my fiancé walks slowly toward me, cautiously places one hand on my back and leans around me, scooping up something from off the floor. When he corrects his posture, his palm unfurls to show his prize. ‘Your ring?’

I blink at it. ‘Must have flung off when you called for me.’ I murmur the explanation.

‘I’m sorry for startling you.’ he whispers in my ear. ‘I’ll clean this when we get home, okay?’

I nod.

Ezra pockets the diamond ring.

We stand in silence with me leaning heavily against him. His lips press into my temple.

‘Are you ready now?’

‘Yes,’ the word is little more than a croak. ‘I can at least tell Nolan I made it through the house.’

‘He already knows you’re his strong, older sister.’

I smile up at him. Then I lace our hands, tugging us back toward freedom. With each step out of the house, the memories tuck back away and my chest lightens. Perhaps now I may be another step closer to putting this particular chapter behind me. I have a future before me.”

 

© The Loyal Brit Wit, 2018

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