This is a short story I wrote for my AS Level Coursework.
Death of Fear
It was enough.
A long, gruelling day at work always left Juliana tired, but today felt even worse as she stumbled up her stairs to get to the bathroom, leaving her front door wide open. Pushing the bathroom door lightly, she walked up to the sink and turned on the hot tap. She sighed, as a tear rolled down her cheek,
“Five years today. Five whole, sluggish years, I worked my tail off, and what do I have to show for it,” She sobbed, slamming her fist on the basin. “No husband. No family, and now no job. No nothing… pathetic.”
She looked up into the mirror, not that she could face herself, but merely to look at the face of a pitiful, plaintive, workless, existence. How she hated that worn-down reflection. She could see the tears streaming down her face; auburn hair mixed with steam and mascara.
She wondered, ‘Do I really deserve this? Could the old me really have damned the rest of me?’
But Juliana already knew that answer was yes.
Staring at the bathtub, memories came flooding by the dozen. Scenes of past experiences like a whirlwind of emotion, floating through her mind within seconds, one moment she saw herself; the next Henry and then again Tracy. Juliana had been sixteen when she moved in. She could remember it perfectly.
She walked over to her bedroom, picking up a cased photograph of a middle aged woman. Short black hair, petite frame, wearing a tracksuit, stood next to a teenager clad in leather trousers; dark corset, and large bulky leather boots and a jacket that draped across the floor.
She opened the wardrobe and pulled out a now withered version, rough and broken, much like herself, that fabric was ripped in places, purposefully, but each left a small tear in her heart. It read ‘Midnight Wolverine’. It had been Henry’s, which he had given to her. It still smelled of fuel and smoke, something that at this particular moment, she craved.
“From tattered teen, to smoking, to sniffing poppers, to marijuana, then ecstasy, before the clean, rehabilitated, seventeen-year-old me. You really did wonders didn’t you Tracy? Then it all went down hill.”
After skipping from foster family to foster family, someone had finally wanted to adopt her. Juliana hadn’t had a good life necessarily, but she lived. She went to school and got, to say the least, decent grades. She wasn’t stupid; she just didn’t see the point. She didn’t make friends well, but when she did, it did nothing for her.
“You helped me get clean, Tracy, but you screwed it up again didn’t you? And you just had to go and have a bath for a change.” Tears poured down her face, running down the photograph.
Before she met Tracy she became involved in drugs and alcohol. Totally indulged her focus became the high and how it was so outlandish to her. It made her feel so unique, yet accepted, which was something she had never quite felt before. Despite her being completely off her head, she’d never been so down to earth.
She remembered that day too well. The day she lost the most important person in her teenage life.
“I’m so sorry to have to tell you this Juliana, but I’m afraid we did all we could to resuscitate her. Unfortunately she didn’t make it.”
‘I can’t breathe, I can’t…’ She began hyperventilating, and in the end managed to inhale after a few minutes, and several failed attempts at breathing.
“Ca… can I … see her?” She spluttered. The paramedic simply replied with a nod.
Juliana slumped onto the bed. Not bothering to turn on the light, she lay there amidst the sanctuary of darkness. Through the corner of her eye she could see a street light flicker. She slid across the bed and leaned against the window watching the light. On. Off. On. Off.
“Yes. No. Yes. No! Which is it Juliana?” She always called her by her full name when she shouted.
“Tracey honestly, I’m still clean! That’s not me anymore!” the seventeen year old screamed, “Hand on heart, I can say, I haven’t seen, let alone touched a needle, since I moved out of The Wheeler’s place. It’s been six months and you still don’t trust me?” And that was the honest truth. She still saw Henry from time to time but they weren’t together anymore, and he certainly wasn’t her dealer. She rolled her tongue piercing, while playing with a small piece of rope that fell from her bag, while she waited for Tracy to speak.
“Jules, you know that it’s not that I don’t trust you but because of everything you’ve worked for. I’m being careful, because you can’t afford to slip back into your old ways. All of your effort would be wasted in one useless act and I would hate that.”
Such simple words, yet they drove themselves in so deeply, she couldn’t take it. Tears spilled down her face as she dove into Tracy’s shoulder, desperate for affection.
“Honestly Tracy, after that one scare, I couldn’t do it to myself, let alone to you!”
A bright light poured onto her face. Juliana was brought back to her surroundings as a silhouette ran past the street light. ‘Probably just a night runner,’ she assured herself, and continued down the stairs. She carried herself gently and sturdily as she meekly returned to the kitchen. She put the kettle on and looked in the fridge for something to eat, before retiring to the living room. She sat, and island amidst the sea of half-lived promises and torn dreams.
After the death, Juliana continued living in Tracy’s house.
There were three places left untouched, Tracy’s bedroom, the bath, and a small desk, in what used to be a third bedroom, which had been re-decorated into a studio for Tracy’s art.
Juliana began to fall back into her web of drugs. Henry often visited her trying to prise her from her state, to no avail.
“Juliana, you can’t keep yourself locked away forever! Tracy would hate what you’ve become, what you’ve lost after all she did for you.” A wisp of smoke escaped as the front door was wrenched open.
“What she did for me! She left me, that’s what she did. All this…” She emphasized the joint in her hand, “…It’s all because she left me.”
No one could help her.
She was unreachable.
The flickering light of the battered street lamp glimmered. “Something doesn’t seem right?” She whispered “Either I’m losing my vision or is it getting cloudy in here?” she questioned. She talked to herself quite a lot, a futile attempt to banish the solitude she felt she deserved. ‘It smells familiar… like something musty,’
Then it hit her. It wasn’t cloud; it was smoke, crack cocaine smoke, to be exact.
“I haven’t smoked in so long, so why?” she spoke. It smelt like she had had seven or eight in the past hour.
Going back into the kitchen she poured the water into her mug. But … that intoxicating, tantalizing, smell; her hands were shaky and she missed mug catching the back of her hand. She winced in pain as she placed it under the cold tap.
But she managed to pick herself up.
She was miserable. That was fact, but she knew Tracy would have wanted something for her. She got herself some help, and got a job, she wasn’t particularly fussed just something to get money.
Getting off the drugs was on another universe completely, she attained help, yes. However, the battle of the urges was something only she could fight.
It was then it started.
Before Tracy died, Juliana had a near death experience of her own. That was partially why Tracy’s death came as such a horrific shock. It happened not long before, Juliana never admitted it but that was the real reason she even though she’d promised Tracy to stop it wasn’t until that day that she actually did.
It began with a quick visit Henry’s after almost 3 months of not seeing him or any of her old friends. He opened the door and behind where a living room used to reside now only placed a small coffee table that reminded Juliana of the tables at the Japanese style bistro in town. Around it were four plump pillows and placed on top a lone bong; a size meant to be shared.
“Expecting company are we?” She nodded to the table.
“You could say, to what do I owe the pleasure my dear?” He was already high. Wasting no time, Juliana thrust a box into Henry’s arms.
“Thought you might want your things back, I have no use for them anymore. I kept the jacket though, didn’t think you’d mind since it was too small for you anyway.” She began walking away however Henry grabbed her arm,
“Come in for a bit Jules,”
“Don’t call me that, you lost the right to call me that.” She shrugged his arm off.
“I have some things for you too. Come on, Jules, just for a minute.” Wearily, she stepped in the house.
Subtle at first, but growing louder and more obvious by the moment. Sharp, short, stamps marching across the floor, with no feet to make them. Juliana, confused beyond all recognition, stood listening to the constant. Tap, tap, tap…
Tracy’s picture, that usually stood proud, shook along with the rest of the furniture in the house. Juliana’s head moved, twitching out of place, as the noise danced about the floor, her hands shaking uncontrollably, a cold, howling creeping in from outside. That; was when she noticed it. The gaping door at the front of her hallway. It was wide open. Anyone could have strolled in. Panicking, she slammed the door shut, and ran. She ran to where she thought most secure and the best shelter, below the stairs.
She couldn’t remember much else after that, as she awoke later in a hospital bed, and after throwing up copious amounts, she began to realise were she was. In taking her surroundings, she realised Tracy sat by her bed. Her expression blank, almost lifeless.
“I’m so disappointed. You have no idea how much you’ve put me through, not only did you lie, but you almost died.”
She gathered what was left of her shattered and disarrayed mind. She couldn’t think for the noise! The sound of feet, tapping on the floor! And then, when the tapping halted, there was something worse, the small creaking of steps above her, coming down the stairs.
‘Theres someone in the house,’ she thought, ‘What if they’ve been here all along? Could they be watching me? Does that mean they know I’m here?’ She couldn’t take anymore anticipation; she would make a run for it.
She breathed heavily, closed her eyes, and prayed she would make it. She opened the door and ran through the living room straight to the door. Pulling at the locked door, she fumbled with the catch. But still it would not open.
“Shit.” She said. She couldn’t get out, and she was going to die. With no where else to hide, she had two options, die or fight. But the truth was she was tired of fighting, something she had done all her life,
‘Huh life, bitch that’s been.’ She thought, as she pulled the chair beneath her lampshade. She braved the hallway once more to grab an object from below the stairs. Trembling, she gingerly walked back into the lounge. Standing on the chair, with rope in hand, she threw it around her neck, hands still shaking, head still twitching, as she listened for the steps, that never came. ‘No more smoke? No steps? No noise? … Why am I doing this?’ he began to step off the chair, just as she did so looking through the front window.
“Who?” She gasped.
The same silhouette from earlier stood, staring straight at her. Eyes, blood thirsty. Juliana was drawn aback so much that she jumped back. Enough to push the chair and send her flying, leaving the noose tight around her lifeless body. With her last moments, slowly withering, she quickly glimpsed out of the window, to find no figure and no silhouette. Not near, not far. Not anywhere.
I’d love to know what people think!