March the fifteenth – the boxes were practically all unpacked. All the boxes apart from Olivia’s room. I walked in, and I could barely see her at all. Boxes were piled one on top of the other, and I could just about make out her blond head bobbing up and down to some music.
The blond head continued to bob.
The music stopped and Olivia’s head disappeared, before emerging from behind the tower of boxes. “Yes?”
“I’m making breakfast. Want some?”
Olivia sniffed. “Depends what it is?”
“Cheese on toast.”
“We don’t have anything else…”
Olivia sighed and disappeared again. Moments later the music came back on. “Cheese on toast is fine,” she replied over the music.
I made my way through to the kitchen, which was only a few paces. The flat was nice, just incredibly small. You walked in, straight into the lounge which consisted of a sofa, a coffee table and a telly. There was then a small corridor which had two rooms one side; my room and Olivia’s room, which were both like box rooms and too small to do anything inside, and then across that was a small, cupboard like bathroom. The kitchen was on the other side, but that was intensely small.
I shoved two pieces of white bread into the toaster and perched on top of the kitchen counter, inspecting my painted-blue battered fingernails, chewed and out of shape. I brought my knees up to my chest and hugged them tightly. My feet were wrapped up in my pink fluffy socks, as the whether was still bitter and miserable.
My thoughts were disturbed when I heard Olivia’s door open. She tripped over a box and stumbled out into the hall, holding her toe and cursing under her breath. She stood up straight and walked into the bathroom, shutting the door just as the toast popped up.
I grabbed two plates from off the draining board and threw them on, covering them with a layer of thin, yellow cheese. I turned on the oven and placed the two plates on the top row, before sitting myself back on top of the counter.
From the bathroom I heard a bang and Olivia shout angrily. Moments later she stormed out of the bathroom. “Don’t go in.”
“The toilet doesn’t flush.”
I groaned and switched off the oven, taking out the scolding hot plates and dropping them on the kitchen surface, nursing my burning hands before running them under cold water. “Breakfast is on the table.”
Olivia emerged from her room again. “We don’t have a table.”
I rolled my eyes. “Use your imagination.”
She came and jumped up next to me. “I think we need money, Simone.”
I looked at her. “Really? N’ah, we’re doing alright. We’ll survive.”
Olivia gave me a sarcastic look. “Simone. The cheese is off. The bread we are eating is stale. We don’t have anything in the fridge. The toilet won’t flush.”
I put down my cheese on toast. I knew there was something odd about the bitter tang I got from the cheese and the soggy, raw taste of the toast. “Well then we’ll go shopping.”
“Jeez, Olivia, relax!” I leaned back on my hands, swinging my legs into the air before leaping of the kitchen counter and narrowly missing the wall – that’s how small the kitchen was. “We’ll get through it.”
Olivia raised her eyebrows. “Whatever you say, sis.”
I fell asleep that night at nine. There was nothing really to do these days – merely watch Olivia unpack, and make stale pieces of toast, just to throw out. My daily routine was getting kind of old – wake up, have a shower, wake Olivia up, attempt at making some sort of brunch, help Olivia unpack (but strangely, no matter how long we unpacked for, the number of boxes piled one on top of the other never seemed to decrease) and then order a takeaway for dinner before getting ready to sleep.
I turned on the radiator as my room was freezing cold, but after about fifteen minutes it started to warm. I pulled on my trackies and my sweater and curled under the duvet, turning on the bedside light for a few minutes of late-night reading, before I was out cold.
I was having a dream about camping out in the artic. I was sleeping in an orange tent, drinking hot coco from a frozen, metal mug. The glacial winds battered at the tents thin walls, making a pummeling sound that made the blood in my ears pump louder. The whistling of the storm outside didn’t help my need for sleep, it just kept me wide awake. I could feel the cold, wet snow underneath me through the slim tent-material I was supposed to call a floor.
Suddenly, I was aware of the crunching snow of approaching footsteps. I hugged my knees to my chest and rested my chin on the rim of the metal cup, trying to make myself as invisible as possible. The footsteps grew louder, but they now sounded like heavy pounds on the ground, making the floor shudder. I closed my eyes and curled into a tiny ball, wishing they would go away and I was safe and warm and…
In my dream, I opened my eyes. The tent flap of a door was blowing open, and I was facing the giant head of a polar bear. Its eyes were stealthy and steely, cold black. Its jaw was wide, bearing it jagged white teeth. It opened it mouth even wider and let out a loud roar…
I woke up in real life, and Olivia was towering over my bed, her duvet wrapped around her. Her hair was sticking up all over the place and her forehead was creased into a frown.
“Simone, why is it so freezing!”
I gave her a questioning look, before turning on the light. At the same time, we both leaned over and touched the radiator. It was stone cold.
“Did you pay the bill?”
I looked away. Dammit, I thought.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’ll do it first thing tomorrow.”
Olivia sat on the edge of my bed. “We need to get money. We need jobs!”
I sat up, thinking. “I have an idea.”
“Baby sitting? That’s is SO not going to work, Simone.”
Olivia and I stood in the lobby of our block of flats. I was attempting to pin up a hand written notice on one of the letter boxes with a wad of Blu-Tak. My plan was to start off with the basic job – baby sitting.
“It’ll work, Ollie, trust me.”
A lady with three kids came out of the elevator, one in the push chair and two toddlers hanging onto it. “Talk of the devil…”
The lady looked tired; late thirties I would’ve guessed. She walked past us, and then turned around and looked at the tacky notice I had put up. “Baby sitting?” she gushed. “Really?”
Olivia and I looked at each other. “Um… yeah,” I said. “That’s me.”
The lady breathed a sigh of relief and happiness. “Would it be too soon to hire you tonight?”
I grinned and nudged Olivia discreetly. “No, not at all.”
“I’ll pay you twenty per hour.”
I gasped. “Twenty! That’s very generous, but-“
Olivia stepped forward. “Twenty will be fine.”
The lady beamed, tucking a piece of black hair behind her ear. “Great. I’m flat 24. See you at six?”
“Sure. Six it is.”
“I’m Leslie, by the way.”
By six, I was standing outside flat 24. Olivia had refused to come – she was positive that baby sitting would be a failure, and that we should get real jobs, but I had persisted to go along anyway. I knocked, and almost nanoseconds later, Leslie opened the door. She was a lot more dressed up, but she still look flustered and tired. “Hello,” she said a little breathlessly. “Thanks again for coming on such short notice.”
She opened the door and I stepped into an almost identical flat. The only difference was there was no floor space. It was completely covered in small toys and clothes, and other toddler accessories. I heard smash of broken glass, followed by a long, pitiful wail from the kitchen (the layout of Leslie’s flat was exactly the same to ours), and Leslie sighed frantically. “Millie, I told you not to play mummy’s wine glasses!” and she rushed off.
A little boy, the one I had seen this morning hanging onto the pushchair, came up to me. He was carrying a baby girl, the one who was in the push chair, I presumed, over his shoulder. She was sound asleep, clothed in a white blanket. The little boy looked about four or five, and he had mousey brown hair, completely different to his mother’s. He tugged on my jeans and looked innocently up at me with baby blue eyes.
“Hello,” I said, bending down and smiling. “What’s your name?”
“Hello Marcus. I’m Simone.”
Leslie came running back from the kitchen, a smaller child propped on her hip. The toddler looked a lot like Leslie – black hair, black eyes and a pale face, though her eyes were red, swollen and blotchy and she wiped her nose noisily on the back of her sleeve.
“So,” Leslie said. “I see you’ve met Marcus. That’s his little sister, Andrea -” She nodded at the baby asleep over Marcus’ shoulder. “And this is Millie.” She lifted her hip so Millie bobbed up and down, still sniveling. Leslie put her on the floor next to her brother, before grabbing a sleek black purse and her keys.
“I’m off,” she said, a smiling curving at the corners of her lips. “I’ll be back at twelve latest. Call me if you need anything, or if there is any trouble. My number is on the fridge.”
And with that, she was gone.
I was stood, awkwardly in the lounge. Marcus and Millie looked up at me, their eyes wide and eyebrows raised, as if to say, “Now what?” That’s when Millie opened her mouth and started shrieking.
“I told you so.”
I was sitting on the couch, massive bags circulating my eyes. My head was heavy, and I had the biggest headache in the world. Olivia was leaning over the back of the couch, triumphant.
“They are younger than five years old…” I moaned.
“I know,” she agreed.
“And they wouldn’t stop screaming…”
“I know, I could hear them.”
“Millie dropped six plates…”
“And the baby woke up seventeen times…”
“And I didn’t know what to do when Marcus ran into the door and his tooth came out…”
“And there was blood everywhere…”
“And then Millie fainted.”
I turned around and looked at Olivia. “How do you know all this?”
“Cause you’ve already told me a million times.”
“Did I tell you that Leslie got in at three in the morning and she was stone drunk?”
I groaned and threw my head back against the coach. “I only got ten pounds altogether because she had gone and spent it all, and I felt too bad to say anything.”
Olivia just laughed. “Get a job, Simone. And don’t forget I told you so.”