“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you…” as the singing trailed off, she blew the candles on the strawberry and cream covered continental cake, wishing for only one thing. She wished that everyday in their home could be like this one. 12 years old. She wasn’t quite a child anymore, but also not wisened to the things she’d overheard older kids talk about, or the things her older half brother got up to, like the time their father discovered a half dozen bottles of beer stashed in his school duffle bag and got one better, replacing the bottles with some broken bricks that weighed about the same. Would I do that when I’m a teenager? She wondered.
They lived at Number 23, on a quiet street, in a quiet suburb, in the inner western part of Sydney. It was a cul-de-sac, one half of a street that was spliced by a main road passing through its two halves. Since they’d moved in, there was a looming threat of the roads authority buying up their house, and demolishing it to widen that busy thoroughfare. By the time she was 12, the house that was closest to the main road, at the curved, dead-end of the cul-de-sac, was already gone. There were just two houses between theirs and the empty lot. They were sitting ducks, house sitting. The roads authority didn’t issue empty threats. So there was that, but a more imminent threat to their home, she realised, was what went on within its walls.
The household lacked harmony, and its members- her mother, father, three brothers, never really expressed joy, love or any kind of affection, except in times of “celebration” when the façade was wheeled into place, together with the cakes, the candles and the visiting outsiders. The spell was always broken soon after the wisps of dark smoke curled and disappeared from the just-blown birthday candles.
Number 23 consisted of 3 bedrooms. The main bedroom was closest to the street, with a window looking out – its curtains often pulled back just a touch, to spy on the goings on outside, or to check if that was mum coming home from one of her flights. The main bedroom was her parent’s. A room shared when much else wasn’t- certainly conversation was scarce, with silence being the modus operandi between bursts of anger, fights, name calling, and a front door opened and slammed too quickly for a resolution.
Bedroom number 2, just down the narrow hall, was the boy’s room. It was furnished with bedding for three- a bunk bed and a separate single bed. The boys shared the room with regular disputes over ownership, and shifting rules on what was and wasn’t communal property, the reason she was given a room of her very own.
Which brings us to bedroom number 3. It was a small, fibro extension at the back of the house, no effort made to blend in with the older brick exterior. She felt safe in her room, with the door closed. It was a haven where characters in the novels she devoured came to life and offered friendship. Alternate worlds, families and lives offered hope for a future outside of No. 23, when she’d be old enough to leave.
Prompt from Writing 101 Day Eleven: Size Matters (In Sentences). Today’s Prompt: Where did you live when you were 12 years old? Which town, city, and country? Was it a house or an apartment? A boarding school or foster home? An airstream or an RV? Who lived there with you? Today’s twist: pay attention to your sentence lengths and use short, medium, and long sentences as you compose your response about the home you lived in when you were twelve.