6AM: I opened
my eyes and Alice was kneeling by my bed and staring at me, frowning. She is my
nine year old sister and often angry. With good reason.
Go away, I
said and turned over, wanting more sleep.
said, sitting up. Piss off.
I want to tell
you what I saw in the night, Alice said. Now she looked frightened; her
eyes big in her pale little face. She swallowed and I lifted the covers
indicating that she should slide in next to me.
it? I asked although I didnt really want to know. I felt her skinny
body pressing next to me, one of her bony legs over mine.
doing something funny.
funny? I asked.
He was sort of
holding Stella, sort of playing with her clothes, and Mum was lying on the sofa
with her eyes closed.
Stella is our
neighbour and as bad as our parents. Worse even. She comes around and sells
them pot. And brings bottles of beer and puts on loud music and sings along.
Dad joins in. Mum does sometimes. Stella was the first person to get me stoned.
Last year when I was
twelve. She showed me how you have to take a deep drag of the joint and hold
the smoke in your lungs for as long as you can. And then when you let it go,
you feel dizzy and strange thoughts come into your head and you dont care
about anything anymore. Dan told me that shed turned him on too, a few
years earlier. Dan is our big brother. Hes nearly sixteen and hes
planning to leave home soon.
You must have
dreamed it, I said to Alice.
No. I got up
because I needed to pee and after that I went into the kitchen and looked
through the doorway at them. I stood there for a long time because I wanted
Mum. But they didnt notice me. Then I called out for Mum and she
didnt even open her eyes. Even when I called again quite loudly. Then I
came back into the bedroom and you were snoring.
snore so it must have been a dream, I said although I was sure that what
Alice had said was true. I didnt want to get up and see the remains of
the grownups evening in the living room. Some school mornings I have to
clean up a bit before we leave else itll be the same when we come home.
The mess is usually worse at the weekends because they stay up even later as
Mum doesnt have to get up early to go to work and today was a
Kitty. I really
did see what I said and Ive got a pain in my tummy now.
My name is
Marilyn, dont call me Kitty, I told Alice and she kicked me. It
Alice insisted that she needed food we went into the kitchen and I tried not to
notice the full ashtrays, the dirty plates and glasses, the empty bottles, one
of them broken, and all the other stuff in the living room. There were even
some of Stellas clothes. I wont say which ones but it nearly made
me sick. Or that may have been the smell of old smoke, grownup skin and stale
pizza. We ate the last of the cereal and there was enough milk for Alice, I had
water with mine. After that, I started to clear up. I found half a joint in one
of the ashtrays and when Alice went to get dressed, I sat on the sofa, smoking
it and thinking about my life. I leant back and closed my eyes and planned the
house I would live in when I was grown up. There would be big squashy sofas
around a huge square wooden table and a folding door that opened onto a wooden
deck with potted plants and a swimming pool just below it, like Id seen a
magazine one time. Alice came back and I sat up and stubbed out the joint.
She lay on the floor
and said it was boring living here and would I take her to the playground or
even the swimming pool. She said shed money and could pay. So I told her
not be silly but if she helped me that I might do something with her. She stood
up and slouched out into the garden. I saw her kicking something that was on
the lawn, her shoulders hunched. When all the rubbish was in bags and the dirty
stuff in the sink, I hung Stellas discarded clothes on one of the pegs in
the hall and I started searching for spare coins. I looked under the furniture
and the cushions but all I found was twenty pence.
Alice came to the door
and shouted, Youre mean, through it so I told her to piss
off. It was too early to go anywhere so I went to our bedroom and lay on my bed
and thought about being Marilyn. Who is who I am. Kitty makes me sound soppy
and light and as if I need protection and want to be stroked. As Marilyn I am
strong and can look after myself and dont take all the bullshit that
grownups give you all the time. Also its sexy, like Marilyn Monroe. She
changed her name from something boring to one that would help her be
successful. As I have done. Different name, different life.
eventually settled down to drawing pictures on the living room wall. She loves
doing that because it makes Dad cross and then theres a big row with
Alice as the centre of attention. Mum just moans at her, as if being a mother
was nothing but a struggle. Dan came out of his smelly bedroom, yawning, and
then swearing because there was no food. He went out soon after without
answering any of the questions Id asked him. Stella came in without
knocking. She acts as if she lives here.
early, I said to her and she looked at me as if Id insulted
sleep, she said eventually. She saw her underwear hanging on the peg,
grabbed it and stuffed it into her bag. I watched her to see if she was
blushing but she wasnt. Left my purse here, she said and went
into the living room. I doubted that she had as Id already had a good
poke about earlier when I was looking for money. She hunted around but there
was no sign of it and then she sat down and lit a cigarette.
Have you seen
it? she asked. I shook my head.
She opened the box
where Mum and Dad keep their dope and started to roll a joint. I watched as she
did it, I thought her skilful as she was smoking at the same time. Sometimes I
think wed be better off if Stella was our mother. Shes more of a
drunk and is always on some drug or another but she manages her life better
than Mum, who just lies around and lets things happen to her. I imagine
thats how she ended up with Dad and with Dan and me and Alice. Not that I
like thinking that sort of thing but sometimes I cant help it.
Alice finished her
wall drawing and came and sat next to me, watching Stella.
You seen my
purse, Alice? Stella asked when the joint was rolled. Alice shook her
head and looked down so I knew that shed taken the purse, especially as
earlier shed said she had money. I didnt say anything.
Stella shared the
joint with me then she said she had to go.
in the purse except a big bag of weed, she said. Alice frowned.
it? I asked her once Stella had gone.
silly buggers with me.
what youre talking about, Kitty.
Im Marilyn, I shouted. When Im called Kitty I feel powerless.
I went into our bedroom and lifted Alices pillow and there was the purse.
It was made of shiny material and covered in coloured sequins. I imagine Stella
made it; she makes lots of things and sells them. Thats one of the ways
she earns money. When I opened it, there were a two dollar coin, a fifty cent
coin and a bulging bag of weed. I put that under my own pillow and went to give
Alice the little bit of change. I couldnt decide what to do with the
purse itself so I put it in my pocket.
1PM: When Dad
got up and started shouting at Alice and yelling about who had taken the last
of the milk, I left, closing the door quietly so no one would know Id
gone. I sat on the wall at the front of our house and thought about what to do
next. I was planning to leave home as soon as I was old enough. I thought that
I might become a dope dealer as you could make quite a bit of money that way.
And youd always have some stuff for yourself. That was one idea and
another one was to stay on at school because I was always top of the class even
though I didnt work hard and bunked off when I got bored. I could even go
to uni, like some of my cousins, and get a good job. The problem was working
out how I could do all this with my parents the way they were.
Stella came walking up
the road and stopped outside her house.
What you doing
there? she asked. I kicked the wall with the heel of my shoe. I did it
again. You can come and have a drink with me, she said. Or
are you too young?
I slid off the wall
and slouched over to her place.
5PM: When I
came back from Stellas I lay on my bed and tried not to think about what
had happened at her place. I could hardly bear to have all that stuff in my
head. This is what happened.
She opened a bottle of
wine. She poured us each a glass. I dont really like the taste but still
I drank some. We went into her living room which is really lovely, not like
ours, its full of un-matching furniture that somehow goes together and on
the sofa is a purple velvet throw and silky cushions with embroidered covers. I
sat down and Stella put some old fashioned music on and of course she rolled a
joint and kept pouring wine into our glasses. I think I must have fallen asleep
because I woke up and Stella was sitting next to me. She was stroking my arm
and smiling at me. I sat up and tried to move away because I felt
Kitty, she said.
Marilyn, I said almost choking.
Of course you
are, Stella said, her voice smooth like cream. She touched my cheek with
the tips of her fingers and I saw how plump her arm was and breathed in her
smell, which was like ripe apricots. I knew what was about to happen before it
did and I felt as if my heart was trying to run away. In spite of all the wine
Id drunk and how woozy Id been feeling before I fell asleep I
wasnt in the least bit drunk.
She leaned forward and
kissed me on the lips, her hand on the back of my head so that I couldnt
pull away. Her mouth was soft and disgusting, like a big slug and I tried to
Marilyn, whats the matter, she said as she pulled away. Old
enough to smoke, old enough to drink, old enough then for sex. And how much
better with a woman than a man for your first time?
I tried to answer.
There were all sorts of phrases swirling in my head but none of them came out.
I stuttered and moved further away from her and she put out both arms and
pulled me to her. I stuck out my elbows and kicked Stella on her shin. She
pushed me down and lay on top of me. She pulled up my blouse and her other hand
was on my thigh. So I screamed and struggled and she let me go. As soon as I
was free, I jumped up and started walking around the room. I didnt want
to leave without trying to understand what had been going on.
you would like it, she said, her voice still creamy.
I know you do it with Dad. Im a girl.
So? I dont
discriminate. Anyone attractive. Why not? Sex is lovely.
I didnt think it
was. Not so far in my life.
sorry, Stella said. She didnt sound as if she meant it. The
creaminess had gone. Have another glass of wine
Sit down and talk
I shook my head. I put
my hand in my pocket and there was her purse. Id forgotten about it. I
pulled it and threw it to her. It landed on the floor and she reached out for
empty, she said as she picked it up. I shrugged. We stared at each other
and she shrugged too. Then I came home.
I told myself that
what had happened was just part of growing up and that it might even make me a
stronger person. Most people are partly good and partly bad. Sometimes you meet
someone who is just good. I know just one, a teacher at school who encourages
me and is kind to all of us. She smiles a lot and speaks slowly as if she is
thinking about what she is saying. I hope that I will meet more people like
I decided that I would
go out and sell the dope from Stellas purse and save the money for when I
was old enough to leave home.
8PM: I escaped.
Dad shouted at me that they needed me to babysit Alice, but apart from the fact
that Im not legally old enough to do that I knew theyd be too
stoned or drunk or both to go out. So I yelled back that Dan could do it. He
was in his room with a girl hed picked up while he was out earlier. When
I say his room it was once the scullery so its small but he has a
mattress in there and if he cant be bothered to go the bathroom he can
pee in the sink.
I slammed the front
door shut behind me and stood on the crumbling front path holding my breath to
see if Mum or Dad were going to come after me. Of course they didnt.
Somehow this made me feel so sad and I wondered what it would be like to have a
family where the father goes to work and the place is kept clean, meals cooked,
pot not smoked or other drugs taken, maybe a civilised glass of wine in the
evenings like some of the stuff on the TV. My friends Nancy and Kate had homes
like this. When I was younger, I used to go around to their houses sometimes.
Nancys mother wore an apron in the kitchen and there was a smell of
lovely baking. Kates dad had a booming voice, but he was kind to me and
laughed at some of the things I said. But in a nice way. Nancy wont talk
to me anymore and although Kate does, her mum has told her that Im not
welcome to visit anymore. Probably because she saw me sitting on a wall smoking
one afternoon when Id bunked off school.
After I banged out of
home, I went to the park where people buy and sell dope. Dan took me there once
and I think it was Stella who had told him about it. I didnt like hanging
about there trying to signal that I was selling. It was scary and I felt like a
child, which I havent done for ages. Id just hooked up with a buyer
when the police arrived, so suddenly that I didnt have time to run. Oddly
when I saw them coming towards me I felt as if I was being rescued rather than
Now here I am in the
police station. They told me that when they called my parents, Dad said he
didnt have a daughter called Marilyn.
I dont know what
to feel. Perhaps Ive really escaped from home. Perhaps this is the start
of a new life.