Oct/Nov 2008  •   Fiction  •   Special Feature

So Small and So Far Away

by Chelsey Flood

The curtains from this close are green and blue at the same time, like when your brother waves his fuzzy felt picture too close to your eyes and you tell him it's lovely but it makes your eyes ache.

I'm only sitting this close to the curtains so Mum can see the back of me as she leaves. The glass is cold against my spine, but the last thing she'll see is my back, not the other way round.

The green blue of the curtains this close is like how the earth must look from the moon: green blue filling your vision because you are so small and so far away.

Mum walks out, and I hum, thinking maybe it won't be so bad, maybe it'll be okay. I'll go to school, and people will pat my back, say never mind, you've still got your dad. The thing is, they'll be wrong, because Dad has never been there, not in the right way. He has only looked at me from afar and kept his distance. Nothing wrong or sick, just nothing right, either. Just nothing.

He lets Jonah sit on his knee and kiss him with his slobbery lips, but if I try with my normal ones he swats me away like a pest or pushes lightly on my back till I move of my own accord. Only Mum let me sit close to her, and now she's leaving with one of her men.

When I get older, Mum tries to befriend me. She passes me cigarettes and buys me alcopops. I show her my back whenever I can, knowing what it means and that she thinks nothing of it. Here's my back, Mum! It's still saying, fuck you, I think as I walk to the toilet.

The photo I have of Mum from my seventh birthday begins to look more and more like my reflection, and I cut my hair like hers to get at Dad. I start sleeping with boys early, trying to cultivate the same charisma as her. I want to drip sex.

When I'm 15, Dad dies in a car crash that doesn't look entirely accidental. I realize I'm pregnant the next day. Jonah is excited when I tell him—he never quite stopped dribbling. No one's sure if he understands Dad is dead.

I stand at Dad's grave, holding my belly—my final gift to him. I just wish I'd got to see his face. Mum turns up, and I show my back in greeting. She squeals when I tell her I'm pregnant, even though I'm only 15, and I show her my back again, thinking I really never stood a chance.

Mum has a girlfriend now. Suzie. She tries too hard to make me like her, so I persuade her to come with me for the abortion. Don't tell Mum, I say, watching the conflict on her face: the battle of winning over the daughter and keeping the love of the mother.

Jonah grins when I tell him the baby has disappeared.

Like magic? He drools, and I smile and nod. Yes, Jonah, just like magic.