By Stephanie Hutton
There are more siblings than windows at home. She must find a way to her parents’ eyes. One brother does it with thrashing and crashing and screams. Their eyes follow, but so do their fists. The eldest sister does everything precisely and well. Her success leaves an afterglow of approval in their irises. The twins’ symmetry mesmerises her parents without effort, pulling their pupils along on invisible threads.
She practises smiling in the mirror whilst pinching thin skin on the tops of her hands. Separation of what is seen and what is felt, like oil from water. Waiting to be wanted, she sits among the shadows in corners of the house. She watches for signs of their thirst or hunger, for red cheeks that need an open window or blue feet to cover in silk slippers.
There is a world of colour out there. But to step out of the front door leaves her clutching her stomach and breathing as fast as her old dog. Did their eyes flicker towards her as she glanced away? Best to keep quiet watch.
In her dreams, she pirouettes or soars or strides out of flames, as loud as opera as her parents turn their heads away.
She reaches the end of childhood belonging to nowhere and no-one. As the cataracts of attachment fade, she sees that they both look straight through her.
One cool evening, she shuts all the windows and heaves the curtains across. She wets the dog’s head with tears as she rubs her nose against his. The weight of his gaze holds her steady as she steps out of the back door under the watchful eye of the moon.
Author Bio: Stephanie Hutton is a writer and clinical psychologist in the UK. She has published her flash fiction, short stories, and poetry online and in print.
In 2016 she won the Writers HQ Competition, Ad Hoc Fiction, and Bibliophone 1000 Words Heard Competition, and was shortlisted for the Black Pear Press Short Story Competition and Brighton Prize. She believes in the therapeutic value of short fiction.