Dear Anyone Who Finds This, Do not blame the drugs.

Dear Anyone Who Finds This, Do not blame the drugs. Do not blame their little pink selves. Do not look at them in my pocket and then tell me that this did not happen. You know it did, and that they’re irrelevant to the voices. And, I hate writing. I wouldn’t do this for some fake kid’s story. So there.

It was yesterday. I am at home, not alone, not really (because I know Bobby is coming back soon, and the thought of someone going to enter your life is almost as comforting as them being there already). I shouldn’t be- alone that is, because isn’t it illegal to leave a 13 year old alone in the middle of New York City? Isn’t that the case? It’s a stupid case, as I’m fine. But still alone, and this evening I had some work to do. Bobby had told me to write down everyone who had bought from him so far, so I had all these scraps of paper in a neat mess and a notepad to write down my findings. Ollie O. has appeared no less than four times, that cheeky guy, and I’ve only just started! Well, if he and his insides can afford that many orders, then it’s not our problem. It’s what keeps this dingy apartment going, right? We have a TV, obviously (we ran away from home, but we’re not animals, okay) and a sink where we sometimes wash things up. No, that’s not true. That’s where Bobby sometimes washes things up, after the tabletop overflows and one of the shiny take-away cans finally crashes onto the floor. That’s when he knows it’s time to take out The Soap. Eugh. I don’t watch him do it; it makes me sick.

You know that feeling, right? When you’re watching something simple, and it takes you back way back when, to place for hell you’re not ever going back to. You claw at the present, your nails catching on the furniture around you to keep you grounded alright, but no. That sight, or smell, or even someone’s voice sends you whirling right back. Well that is the case with me and dishes. You see, I am not a dirty person; I sometimes wash my own clothes in the sink with The Soap, and the shower and I are familiar enough. I’ve got to look respectable, don’t I, because if I’m too grimy or dirty then Those People will sniff me out good. They’re like high-schoolers, who can smell your weakness from afar and know just how to bully you. Except these guys kidnap you and take you back to where they think you belong instead. The house of your bio-logic-cal parents. Hell, do you think I snuck out of that lousy Pennsylvanian town 6 months ago for nothing? Christ (how I don’t miss those daily services), I left for a reason, and helped you cops do your job so that you didn’t have to investigate our house! No, the mere whiff of that squeaky green soap makes me think of the days where all I’d do for hours was wash up in the kitchen and make food. Oh, that’s so not bad, buck up you’d say; but you weren’t there. Bobby knows. I’d finish school and come home, happy as anyone, when Mom would turn on me, snapping her jaws like a dog at a fly, and send me straight there, to the kitchen. Or to the living room with a mop. Or the attic with a duster. She’d say, do it in your uniform, so if you make a mess you will have to deal with it tomorrow in front of everyone else in the classroom. So I didn’t make a mess. I don’t know why she made me stay inside all those long afternoons after school, whilst the others played outside. For years. My childhood is just a picture of the inside of that goddamn awful house. And I mean it! I learned quickly that there was no point signing up for after-school classes, either. I tried everything. After-school assignments (she even called the teacher and made me come back early so I didn’t miss my chores) and friends’ houses (a plain no) were no excuse. I tried to sneak home late once through the window, about three years ago. To avoid having to sit and stare out at my neighbour’s playing ball whilst I chopped some vegetable. But when I came back, she was waiting for me. She made me eat dog-food. Slowly. Eyes gleaming with the sort of delight which seemed – which seemed damn cruel, okay. I don’t like talking about it. I left there for a reason.

Bobby understands.

So now I’m sitting here in the apartment, happy as can be, with two simple instructions: don’t open the door, and don’t answer the phone. Not while Bobby is out tonight on business. So I don’t. I do get bored though, damn it. I watch a whole episode of something stupid, some girl trying to flirt with a guy but god it’s trash. So… I go and find The Stash somewhere in Bobby’s mattress. The first time he got those little pills and puffs of powder, he slit that mattress sharp with a knife. Somehow he got it just above the springs, and so he slid them into that little bit of foam there. The cupboard, he said, if the cops ever looked, was too obvious, as was under the mattress. No, he said, with that little bit of a smile, they’ll look under the mattress and think they’ve checked. And that’s when you win, because it’s inside it.

I picked my way over the pile of clothes and magazines and old food tins. I can’t believe we don’t have rats yet, but I guess we’ve already had the alloted run of bad luck in our lives, and the rats know that. It’s weird, I never go into Bobby’s room and I don’t really like that sneaky feeling. Like I’m a robber. But boredom is worse, so I peel back the sheet and feel along the mattress’ side. There! I take out one plastic packet. No label, nothing. There are sweet little pink things in there; I think I’ve seen the guys take them before, so I know they’re fine. Right? There are, what, fifty of them- Bobby will never know if I take only one or two. I take five, just… just to be on the safe side, then stuff the packet back inside the mattress, and redo the sheet. Run and jump onto the sofa. I would be screamed at like nothing before if he knew I was taking this stuff. But I’m doing the list of names, so there. Water, or no water? I put one in water; I think that’s what the others did. But there are so many pills, in so many shiny colours, that it is hard to keep track. A commercial for detergent comes on. I sip, excited like at the start of a movie when you know it’s going to be good. Another show starts, one about a little girl who can’t tell the time and goes to all the wrong places, and her parents follow after her, half-laughing, half-fake serious. Nothing yet. I’m going to need to take more to make this fun. Refill glass at the tap. Three, two, one- there. Two down. I should probably stop, yes, pick up the pencil, look at sheet. Have I read this one already? Well I don’t know, all this handwriting looks the same to me.

I throw my notepad across the room. I’m his sister for Christ’s sake. He can run his own cartel. I want none of it! If he has to make me do it, then he can’t be very good at this business. When is he coming home tonight? With another black eye, like last time? I used to stay up, my arms wrapped around my knees like I was trying to keep myself from exploding. I learned quickly there was no point in waiting for him. Sometimes it would be days and I would have to go to the cafe underneath us and try to steal something to eat. Something small; I would pay them back when Bobby gave me money again, leaving enough of a tip to cover what I owe. That’s fine, right? It’s just that I get hungry and when Bobby just leaves sometimes he doesn’t leave me cash, and what am I going to do, huh? There isn’t even a fridge here. I take off my jumper, because suddenly it’s really hot. How I did not notice this before? I don’t know, but sweat is like a fat blanket across my face now. Too much. I drink more water. Did I accidentally take two more pills in that second round? They’re so small… I walk back to the pile on the countertop, then-

What. A knock at the door. Hell, it’s 12am. I may be living out of whack, waking at 2pm and going to sleep at 4am, but other folks sure don’t. Why are they making such a racket? They don’t stop. Bobby said don’t open the door. I freeze, my foot still midair, my mouth a little bit open like a fish. There’s a few people outside, that I’m sure of. A guy, and maybe a girl. No, maybe two adults. Bobby said don’t open the door. My face is pure heat. They’re saying something, telling me that if the door doesn’t open, then they’ll have to take action. Oh Lord above. Little blue dots bounce in front of me. I don’t know what to do. I know what to do. Hide the evidence. I grab the pills from the countertop, shoving them in my pocket. The balls are getting larger, blocking my view, but I can’t bat them away. I can’t feel them. I can’t see because of them. I run over to the scraps of paper and throw a couple jackets over them and a pillow. It’s a rushed job, but the floor is such a mess this won’t look too odd. They’re growing louder. I run over to the door, undo the double lock (Bobby added another one after we moved in). Bobby said don’t open the door. I’m sure that Bobby will kill me when he hears of this, but he will kill me even more if the door gets kicked in. I open the door.

I am wrong.

Breathless. There is a small little nothing before me. Nothing. Nothing in the large space that is floating before me, outside my door. Nobody, that is. My heart catches in my chest: it would with some horror like that. Where did those people go? They were my parents’ voices I heard. I know it. And worst of all, I wanted them to be there when the door swung open. I shouldn’t have wanted it, because they would’ve taken me away, and there is a darkness now, so thick I can barely see. I had just wanted to see the effects of Bobby’s matches on them. Well, the effect of Bobby’s matches on the living room curtains in my childhood house. I wanted to see if they were goddamn sorry now. My skin has a bubbles of rashes now ,too, screaming for something. I don’t know what. Yes, Bobby had set fire to the curtains in my home, just before we left. That is what happened. Burning in my cheeks and the back of my neck. It seemed like it would be a good idea at the time. Of course, the fire would distract them whilst he escaped. I was already waiting at the train station. We both knew it would maybe destroy the house, maybe not. We did not know if it would destroy our parents, though. We hated them: true. We didn’t wake them before we left: true. Bobby still had the bruises on arms and back when he struck that red little soldier: true. But we did not want to see them die. A cover and distraction was all we wanted.

Later, I did not really search on the news for a burnt down house in a lousy town in Philadelphia. We were being smart, by not asking. They were probably looking for us, for arson, Bobby said. So we could have no connection with that event, not even with questions to strangers were allowed, to see if they’d heard anything. They could be secret cops, he said. They had them here apparently. But the fire did not make any New York newspapers. I know because I sneakily looked at the headlines in the stands as we walked by them. I tried to be sneaky, that is. So either they were fine, or that goddamn terrifying house is nothing more than a pile of ashes and there is no one left to speak about it. Or no one left who cares; the town certainly hated my family.

I lean over the stairwell, quickly, just to check. Maybe I would see them running away, suddenly shy. Unlikely. But I do check, and I do it quickly because the stairwell ain’t a place where folks want to hang about in. Just to see if they were there. There are only rings and rings of steps though. I twist my neck up: the same. Then my face flushes, hard, the dizziness setting in like a glazing on a cake, and I can’t- I try-

I crumple onto the floor.

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