The year is 2017. It is winter, and the wind can be heard howling outside the small, square window. A girl sits on an ancient blue couch, writing in a notebook. She is nineteen years old, with the stringy limbs and flat chest of a twelve-year-old boy. Her hair is reddish and worn loose, framing a narrow face. The eyes are also brown and appear slightly too close together. Her mustard-yellow duffel-coat makes her complexion appear even more washed-out than it actually is. She pauses. Puts down her pen. Sighs quietly."
I read over what I've written. You can tell the girl is me, even though my hair's brown, not red, and my coat is a shapeless khaki thing rather than a yellow duffel. What shall I call this shameless self-parody? Arden Ellery? Audrey Emerson?
I put down the notebook and slump back, letting my head loll against the back of the couch so that I'm staring at the ceiling with its uncovered light-fitting and its bland magnolia paint. In the room directly above, Henri is playing mournful jazz music - I suppose he must be feeling "tres, tres triste" about something, again. I wish he wouldn't. Play the music, I mean, not feel sad. Every time he plays it, I think about how Dad liked to listen to jazz music, too. And I hate thinking about Dad.
When they found his body, nearly a year ago, people thought I'd put off going to uni to stay home and support Mum. My brother maintains that this would've been the "right" thing to do, but how would he know? He's sixteen. He doesn't really have to think about leaving home, yet. I had to leave. I needed this.
It's too cold in here. Even with my coat on, I'm freezing, and I swear it's even worse in here than it was outside. I wish we could afford to put the heating on. I'm debating going upstairs to get a blanket when Polly comes in. She drops her rucksack on the floor and flops onto the sofa beside me.
"Bloody weather," she says in her broad Yorkshire accent. Then, in the same breath, "I wish Henri'd shut up with that blinking music. It's doing my head in." She eases off her shoes and draws her feet up onto the sofa, scrunching her knees up to her chest. "S'the matter?" she asks me, and I shrug non-committally.
"Come on, Auden," she coaxes, "And don't say it's nowt. You always say it's nowt, and it never is."
I sit up straighter and then push my palms down on my knees to bring myself to my feet. Henri's music goes on, and on, and on. I wonder whether it'll ever stop. I direct a vague smile in Polly's direction. "I'm fine. Really." Leave it, Polly. "I'm alright."
If you asked me, I couldn't tell you why, but inside, I'm wailing louder than the saxophones in Henri's music. Absolutely howling.
* * *
NOTE: The above is an alternate future for my Emery family characters. Being as I could pick only one character, I decided to focus on Auden. I'm never satisfied with neat, happy endings, so I decided to try out something more morose for the end of her tale.