Christina Charteris

[Author bio: Christina is studying a Bachelor of Arts in Gender Studies and Electronic Music with a minor in Womens’ Health. She is passionate about female empowerment in the Arts, and the advancement of gender equality through education and advocacy.]

She lay face down across the stairs, legs sprawled. Her chin nestled on top of her arms; eyes focused on the grey threading of the carpet in front of her. Her untamed, thick, brown hair tickled the sides of her face. The band of her purple pyjama pants had twisted all the way around her body, and her shirt was slowly sliding up as gravity gently pulled her down the stairs. Her father was working in his study. Or, at least, pretending to. She drifted in and out of reality.

An idea blossomed from the friction’s weak grip on her skin. She grabbed her dressing gown from her bedroom, put it on, and ran to the top of the stairs. She laid down on her stomach, placed her arms by her side and pushed off with her toes, conducting a chaotic descent that ended with face planting at the bottom. The dressing gown had unraveled along the way and carpet burn decorated her chin and limbs.

Determined to make this a sustainable activity, she went back to her room to construct a foolproof safety suit. The dressing gown was assembled back-to-front, secured with a double knot at the back, and customised with long socks over the feet and hands. To bypass the chin burn, she held her head high. To avoid face planting at the bottom, her arms were outstretched torpedo style. The suit was a success. She ran back up to the top of the stairs and repeated the process many, many times. This new sport was bestowed with the honorary title of Penguin Sliding.

The rumble of the garage opening summoned her father from his study. He opened the front door and a perfectly poised woman entered, wearing a black pantsuit, black pointed high heels and a crown fashioned from black sunglasses; she greeted her husband with a kiss on the cheek.

The child wrapped herself around her mother’s legs. “Guess what I did today!” she beamed.

“I really don’t have the time right now Sarah. Tell me later,” her mother sighed.

“But it was really cool, I got…”

“I said later.”

She peeled the child off her legs and clomped into the kitchen to make herself a cup of coffee. The adults engaged in discussions on politics and economics as the evening’s routine settled in. Sarah climbed into a seat at the kitchen bench and patiently listened to the conversation.  On many occasions, Sarah sharply inhaled as if to speak, hoping someone would notice, but that flickering flame of hope slowly dimmed and eventually went out.

Once Sarah entered high school, she boxed up her previous endeavours and focused on her education. She slicked her hair back into a low tight ponytail, adopted a knee-length blue tartan skirt, and a perfectly ironed white button-down top.

“How was your day?” her mother asked after Sarah’s first day at her new school.

“Good,” she replied.

“Anything interesting happen?”

“No.”

The truth was, she couldn’t remember what happened. Getting home at 4:00pm, her mind was a blur. The academic institution had forcibly sucked the soul from her body, allowing exhaustion to find its way into every muscle, causing her motions to become robotic and routine.

After another long day at school, Sarah stumbled through the front door; hair spiked up in multiple directions, dirt across her knees, bruises on her arms, and two silver medals hanging from her neck. She flopped down on the couch, waiting for her mother to arrive home from work. The front door burst open and a woman shuffled in, eyes trained on her phone.

“How was the sports carnival?” her mother asked, placing her handbag down on the kitchen bench.

“Good.”

“Win anything?”

“Not really.”

The father emerged from the study and busied himself in the kitchen as the mother embarked on a glorious rant about the workplace drama of the day. Sarah took this as her cue and left to take a shower.

Inevitably, as Sarah progressed through school, her ponytail started to regularly fall out, her skirt gradually rolled up, and the top buttons of her shirt adopted a tendency of undoing themselves. This appeared to be the case for most girls at her school.

On days when it was raining, Sarah’s mother agreed to pick her up after school.

“Who was that boy?” her mother asked sweetly as Sarah slipped into the backseat.

“What boy?” she grumbled.

“The one you were just talking to.”

“He’s no one.”

The car was silent on the journey home. Music serenaded them through the car speakers, rain splattered on the roof and windows, and the windscreen wipers squeaked as they waved at cars travelling in the opposite direction. Sarah lay her phone on her lap, opening it every so often and sighing when it remained void of notifications.

“Waiting for someone to text you?” her mother asked.

“No.”

That evening, Sarah’s phone made an appearance at the dining table and her mother opted for the snatch and toss method of extraction. Words were exchanged, doors slammed, and a man was left sitting alone at the dining table. He took the opportunity to drown his roast vegetables in tomato sauce, and enjoyed the silence as he finished his meal and cleaned up the kitchen.

After many dangerous encounters with the household’s raging menopausal dictator, Sarah’s phone eventually decided to avoid family interactions. Sarah chose to follow suit, spending evenings at home in her bedroom with the door shut. She would curl up in her bed with her phone, awaiting the clomping clicking heels of terror. The sound would begin around 6.30pm each evening and would exponentially grow louder as the woman strutted down the hallway. The heels would come to a halt at her door and proclaim that dinner would be ready soon. The execution and degree of completion of this affair depended on the day, ranging in abruptness and intensity.

In her final years of school, Sarah cut her hair short, dyed it bright green, and pierced her ears. This invoked the most expressive response ever seen from her father: a furrowed brow.

“Are you okay?” her mother asked.

“I’m fine,” Sarah shot back.

“That’s… a lot.”

“And?”

Sometimes, Sarah’s parents could hear slight whimpers coming from her bedroom. In instances where loud wailing was heard, her father escaped to the study and her mother turned up the television. It stopped after a few weeks. The noise was replaced by the muted but resonant sounds of pumping jumping dubstep and techno house music.

The school year flew by and graduation came and went. With her exemplary grades, Sarah received an academic scholarship that covered all her university expenses. She re-dyed her hair back to its natural colour and adopted a beach pants and T-shirts aesthetic. The change was noted by her parents but nothing was said.

Sarah chose to board at the university and spent a few days packing up her possessions and tossing whatever she didn’t need anymore. Her mother objected to Sarah’s decision and was quite vocal about it. Her father embraced the study as his full time safe haven and disappeared into a newfound love of Spider Solitaire.

The day before Sarah was set to leave, her mother came into her room wrapped in a dressing gown.

“On the news today, they were talking about how…”

“Can you tell me later. I’m kind of busy,” Sarah said bluntly as she surveyed the floor of her bedroom, quilted with piles of clothes.

“Of course, sorry,” her mother sighed.

The following day, Sarah reversed out the driveway in her 2015 white Honda Civic, green P-plates stuck to the front and back windows. Her bags were packed into the boot. Her room was stripped bare. As she rolled out onto the street she kept her eyes trained on the road ahead. And as she drove away, the thin thread that tied her to her family home finally snapped.

Her mother watched her disappear down the street. Stepping back inside and closing the front door, water trickled down her cheeks. Hugging herself, she sat down on the stairs. The harrowing silence enveloped her, gripping her shoulders and causing them to shake. Her muscles ached, as if, after years of carrying a load, she had accidentally fumbled it, causing it to fall and shatter across the floor. She dropped her head into her hands. After taking a few deep breaths, she wiped the dampness from her face and lifted her head up to the ceiling. When she finally arose, she noticed the disheveled grey carpet had left a red woven imprint on the underside of her legs. A man came out of the study and entered the kitchen.

“Do you want a coffee?” he asked.

“No,” she replied.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”


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By Pelican Magazine

Pelican is one of the oldest student publications in Australia and the only independent paper at UWA. If you like having opinions, writing, drawing, and/or free tickets to local events, then Pelican is the place for you! We print six themed issues a year, and run a stream of online content.

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