Using her fingers, Janet pushed in any last remaining piece of clothing she could see sticking out of her trunk. She hated this trunk. Even its brown wrinkled skin and sharp corners that jabbed at her whenever she moved it. This trunk made her tummy flip. She knew that it meant uncertainty and that it was time to move again.
Her mum huffed and puffed as she heard the unforgettable sounds of quick packing. Using both hands, she grabbed the trunk’s handle and hauled it off her bed, giving her room one last look.
“Oh for heaven sake, Janet go and get the keys of the kitchen table!” She heard her mum shout from across the landing.
Sliding her fingers over the banister, Janet slowly plodded down the stairs. She had seen her mum in this state lots of times before and the novelty of urgency had worn off.
All the kitchen cupboards were swung open; all the lights were off except for the neighbours back security camera that gave off an unnatural green neon hue. It looked like a dodgy alley from an 80’s detective series. The keys lay on the centre of the table. Janet sighed heavily as she held them in her hand. She couldn’t stand the way the edges dug into her palm.
“Janet, we have to go now, put the trunks in the boot. I have to lock the doors.”
Her mother was waiting for her on the landing with outstretched arms, handing her the trunks with that same panic-stricken face she always had right before leaving. Janet was sticky from the packing and mixed with the cold morning air, her skin felt clammy. It was the worst time of day, where the birds aren’t yet chirping, and the streetlights don’t know whether to be on or off. Hearing the click of the car door, she put the trunks in the boot and went to wait in the passenger’s seat.
After ten minutes of staring at the garden bin, she heard the smack of the front door being thrown closed, and her mother’s court heels crunching over the drive pebbles.
“Right, Janet, are you ready?”
Ah, that fateful question. Was Janet ready? She never really knew how to answer this one, as she had become so numb to this little routine that nothing came to mind anymore. With a little nod, and a turn of the key, Janet and her mother were off. Passing the streets, she hadn’t had a chance to explore yet, like saying goodbye to fair-whether friend from a summer camp, or an aunt you only saw at Christmas. The lights flashed past her, it was like looking through a zoetrope. One minute it was there, then the next it was gone. Just like most of her life. The car became more and more uncomfortable every mile they drove. She could feel her mother fidgeting around in her chair. Janet knew she was going to say something, but all she wanted to do was sit in silence and just be. Her mum gasped like a goldfish before she finally spoke.
“Janet darling, I am so sorry. I really thought he was the one this time. You know, he took us to see that show, and you remember those trips to the beach? I just didn’t know it would have ended up this way.”
Janet reeled off the same rehearsed monologue she used every time, where she would tell her mum that it wasn’t her fault or that someone better would come along.
But, she wished nobody would ever come along, ever. Her mum had been with every kind of guy there was, and no matter how hard she tried they all ended up being the same.
Whether they were wealthy, scraping the barrel, successful, or layabouts; all of them had the same attitude that lead Janet to sit in this car seat once again. She didn’t understand why it couldn’t just be the two of them. But she was always given the same answer.
“You know why darling, I can’t keep us on my café job, and you can’t take anymore shifts at the post office because of school. It just wouldn’t work. Now, how about a McDonald’s?”
That was always her mother’s way of diffusing a situation. If in doubt, get a Big Mac and wash it down with a disposable cup of guilt. As they sat in the services, her mum went through the list of contacts on her phone, one by one of ‘it will just be for tonight this time I swear’ and ‘it’s just the two of us, couldn’t we use that pull out sofa’.
After thirty minutes of calls, she turned to Janet smiling, “okay, so Brandon has said he’ll let us couch surf for a while until I can find us a new place.”
Janet’s shoulders managed to slump even more than she thought they could. Anyone but Brandon. He was probably the worst out of her mum’s exes. At least with the others when they did a runner they would get so annoyed they would let them go. But Brandon was like a verruca, no matter how many times you filed it down it just kept coming back. He was obsessed with her mum; no matter what time it was, his door was always open. Janet thought it was sort of cruel the way her mum kept him hanging on like the skin tag he was, but then again, it meant not having to sleep in the car.
As Janet polished off the last of her halloumi sticks, she heard the same spitting engine that meant she had to be super smiley and nice to stay on Brandon’s good side.
“Ah there she is, goes away but always comes running back to me in the end”, Brandon would say. For a whining puppy dog, he sure did like to have the biggest bark.
“Cheers for this Brandon I owe you one, come on Janet.” Her mother would thank.
The only good thing about Brandon’s is that he was big on gaming and that meant Janet got to sit on his PS4 for hours while they sat in the kitchen talking about something of no interest to her.
Arriving at Brandon’s, Janet jumped out and grabbed her trunk, thinking he was coming around to collect both. He leant over and grabbed her mum’s. With one hand on her trunk and the other round her shoulders he led her up the path to the front door. Well, it seemed helpful would also not be added to the non-existent list of Brandon’s charming traits. Pulling the trunk through the front door, Janet headed to the gaming room with the pull-out sofa and began to rummage around in the trunk for her pyjamas. Once she had pulled her favourite Eeyore set on, she pattered into the kitchen to find Brandon and her mum on the stools chatting.
“Oh, darling, are you off to bed? Brandon was telling me that we can stay as long as we like, isn’t that great?”
Oh, brilliant. Months of hearing Brandon yell at a sports team he knew nothing about while her mother sold Avon products over the phone that she knew nothing about. Janet gave a half smile at her mum and turned to go back to her room when she suddenly felt Brandon leaning down to hug her.
“You know I have always seen you as a daughter, Janet. If you need anything, you’ll tell me, yeah?”
Janet looked over at her mother for help but, she had that glazed look in her eyes. She always got like this when she first saw Brandon again. It’ll probably be about three weeks then she’ll be back to moaning about him, and she’ll realise he’s probably a better actor than Johnny Depp. Surely, she won’t fall for this performance again, will she?
Once Brandon had let her go, Janet picked up the pace and scurried through the sliding door to where she slid under the blanket as fast as she could. Tomorrows another day, tomorrows another day, tomorrows another day. Yet, she was resenting the morning already.
By Jody Cook
Image Credit: Pixabay