The grey block of apartments where Emily lived with her mother was gloomy in the winter rain. Water dripped down the stair well and pooled around the rubbish bins clustered in the alley at the back of the building. An old car body was covered in graffiti and rust and half blocked the entrance to the alley.
The apartment was empty when Emily got home from school. Her mother was working overtime again, just like she had been doing more and more lately.
Emily leant her skateboard against the wall and walked into the tiny kitchen. She threw her school bag in the corner.
Homework could wait.
She opened the fridge and stood looking inside. There wasn’t much to eat―only some hommus and carrot sticks. Emily couldn’t wait until her mother was over this health food kick. She longed for a piece of pizza.
She closed the fridge and wandered aimlessly around the apartment.
Nothing ever happened in this place.
The door to her mother’s bedroom was open and she walked in. It smelled like the perfume her mother always wore―Chanel No. 5. Emily stood in front of the dressing table and looked at the crystal perfume bottle. She picked it up and quickly squirted either side of her neck. Then she picked up her mother’s brush.
She still felt guilty about that fight last night. If only her mother understood her better they wouldn’t end up in these arguments. It wasn’t Emily’s fault she had failed her last maths exam. It was the way her teacher taught the subject. It just didn’t make any sense. But it was when her mother said she was ungrateful that really set Emily off.
‘I hate you,’ she had yelled until her mother stormed out and slammed the bedroom door shut. Emily had pressed her face into the pillow but she wouldn’t cry. She was determined not to cry.
But that was last night and now she had calmed down she just felt guilty. Emily ran the brush through her long brown hair and hummed to herself.
Out of the corner of her eye she noticed the wardrobe door was ajar. She carefully put the brush back on the dressing table and walked over to the wardrobe. Her mother’s clothes were so out of date, like as if she was stuck in the 1990s.
She closed the door and turned to see a shadow pass across her mother’s standing mirror. Curious, Emily moved to stand in front of the mirror. There was only her image staring back at her.
Emily pushed a strand of hair behind her ear and half turned away. There it was again—almost like someone was ducking out of the way whenever she looked. She felt a shiver run up her spine.
Ever since that dream she’d had on her holiday strange things had been happening. Cups that she’d thought she had put away were back on the sideboard. Doors were left ajar. Her bedroom lamp was turned on when she was sure she had turned it off.
Emily walked back into her bedroom. There it was—the book she had found in the cottage—sitting on her dressing table. But she had placed it at the bottom of the drawer under her clothes. She could hear voices telling her to pick it up.