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It’s cold outside. As cold as death’s icy grip, creeping up to wrap it’s finger around us, around our family, around our home, around our lives.
It’s cold outside but I can’t go inside. There is no inside no more, not for me at least. We had to surrender that when it came, the dark mist of death. We had to surrender everything when she died.
And so now it’s just me, all alone in the cold. Shivering. I don’t want to think about what I had before, because that’ll only make me feel sorry for myself. I don’t want to think about what lies ahead, because that’ll only make the tears come again. I don’t want to think about the present, because that’ll just make me feel cold.
I don’t want to think.
But I must, I must think because I can’t not think. I am unable to shut off the many caverns of my mind. I must consider all there is to consider. Most of all, I must consider what I can do.
I can’t go to work.
I can’t survive out here.
I can’t buy a house.
I can’t do much, actually.
Although I know I shouldn’t, I blame her for all of this. I know she did not mean to die. I know she did not mean to get behind on the mortgage. I know she did not mean to leave me behind.
But she did all the same.
She was my last living relative, we lived in a small but cosy apartment somewhere in the North of England. I was happy enough, though we could not afford luxuries like toothpaste and shampoo, we got by. We survived.
Until the point when we didn’t.
More specifically, until the point when she didn’t.
I guess I could blame her for not surviving, in ways it was her fault. But I think that would be too painful for me. I suppose I could blame myself, for not helping her, for not forcefully pulling herself out of the rut she’d fallen into. But that would be painful too. She died because she drank, but the drink did not kill her. She used to go down to the local pub, drink herself silly, pathetic really. And then she’d be all violent and wild all night. She’d never once made to attack me, but I knew to stay out of her way. Come morning she’d be sending me off to school with a hangover. She’d tousle my hair and send me away. Saying I was â€˜so mature, like a much older child.’ I heard that from everyone, I think it comes from looking after me mum all the time.
One morning, though, as I waited for my goodbye, she did not emerge. I hadn’t hear her come in the night before, but then I hardly ever hear her come in, I’ve an early bedtime and I stick to it. I went to look for her and she wasn’t there.
I went to school, I walk all the way on my own, it’s just up the road but I still feel nervous walking past the older kids on the way. Nevertheless, I kept my head down, went to school, learnt nothing, came home, and was not greeted by my mum in the usual fashion.
So this made me feel really uneasy.
I knew she wasn’t coming back, whatever’d happened to her, she wasn’t coming back. She’d not been home all day and she’d be hungry. She wouldn’t have eaten out, as we can’t afford it. I ran through the options of where she could be.
She couldn’t be at work because she’s unemployed.
She couldn’t be at a friend’s house because she had no friends.
She couldn’t be out shopping because she’d left no note, and she’d taken none of the money we’d saved for groceries.
I knew she was nowhere, I guessed she was dead.
She could have got in a fight and been killed. She could have stumbled into the road and got run over by a car. She could have just run off with some man, and forgotten all about me.
I didn’t care what had happened, I wasn’t going to wait around the house. Someone, a neighbour probably, would notice my mum’s absence and call the police, they’d want me to go to one of those creepy children’s homes with all the older children and stuff.
I wasn’t going to go there, and so my only option was to run away.
I am seven years old.
And I am cold.