Perplexing symbols stood out against a grimy backdrop, vague outlines vanishing into the yellowing plastic, mottled with age and humidity. The clock’s hands inched forward languidly, mimicking that of a snail’s pace; an ephemeral wintry breeze purged the classroom of its suffocating atmosphere, mischievously tousling countless hastily tied ponytails and unkempt bobs as it made its inconspicuous entrance; the methodical tapping of graphite against paper formed a mute symphony, tempting its attendants to the heavenly lull of slumber, occasionally interspersed with the rustling of pages and clanging of chairs.
8 minutes, Lyn, you’ve been through worse. Evelyn tilted her throbbing temple against a pigment tinted palm, balefully directing her bloodshot eyes towards the gaping chasm between 6 and 12, tacitly pleading for the orgastic chime of bells. Stained forearms trembled with exhaustion, threatening to collapse under fatigue; she grimaced as a migraine ruthlessly barrelled its way into her skull, wracking her cranium with excruciating agony. Clamping her tear sodden orbs shut, an inundation of regret and agitation flooded her mind, obfuscating her rationale and enfeebling her resolve to remain conscious.
5 minutes, precious time I could’ve spent on my piece, wasted on algebra instead…I wonder if she’ll be back home early today, I can’t risk getting caught. She hasn’t refilled her prescription in months, no wonder she’s been acting all psychotic.
Forehead unwittingly slipping past her wrist, Evelyn abruptly re-emerged from deep contemplation to the horrific sight of a coarse, graffitied desk hurtling towards her.
A resounding ‘bang’ reverberated across the room, class erupting in fits of uncontrollable snickering. Evelyn cowered under the barrage of snide, accusing stares; cheeks flushed crimson abashedly.
“Seems like we have a dreamer in our class. Care to enlighten us with your answer?” A strident voice of authority pierced through the din, the sardonic remark only inciting another wave of contemptuous chortles.
Joints cracking under pressure, Evelyn begrudgingly stood up, pupils frantically darting for a hint, a clue, anything. Reverse it, multiply x by 2 plus 5, then square it…Knuckles tense with trepidation and mild vexation, she hesitated, then blurted her estimations in a wavering cadence: “4x2 +20x+25.”
Clinging onto the coattails of Evelyn’s reply, was the near divine pealing of school bells, signalling her long-awaited liberation from this dreary institute and the wrath of its inhabitants. Without further ado she gathered her threadbare bookbag in one felled swoop, triumphantly marching towards the door, heedless of the indignant protests arising from her instructor, beckoning for her to return.
She sprinted past the derelict corridors, a manic grin etched across her pallid profile, glacial wind whipping past chapped skin as her legs coltishly strode towards the exit and everything that stood beyond those corroded steel gates.
Angling her enervated gaze away from the pedestrians and vehicles hurtling beside her, Evelyn nuzzled up against the frosty glass panel, embracing the biting chill emanating from it. The subdued roar of the bus engine rattled behind her, its ubiquitous presence temporarily numbing the drowsiness clouding her senses. Adjacent to her sat a drained mother and her bubbly daughter, cherubic expression obscured by layers of woolly scarves. Curious irises twinkled with unadulterated mirth as the child caressed her parent’s luscious locks, giggling in guileless delight as as her guardian tickled her in playful admonishment, the adult woman’s sleepless stare brimming with unconditional love.
Evelyn wordlessly observed the pair, a mere onlooker insulated from the paradise the duo shared.
I wonder if she ever loved me, dwelling on the issue as she skimmed through distant recollections. I genuinely don’t know, Evelyn stoically remarked.
“Happy families are all alike, every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
An impregnable mass of nebulous clouds hovered above, leaden with precipitation, a foreboding omen of downpour to come. The sun’s waning rays illuminated the 3 lone passengers, casting elongated silhouettes onto the sordid flooring. Attention drifting, Evelyn basked in dusk’s diaphanous glow, suspended particles scintillating in the faint beam.
My very existence is an accident, I’m not even supposed to be here. A moment of heated passion, who knows? Thing is, I’m here now. Have been for the past 18 insufferable years. Buildings and skyscrapers streaked past her, blurring into a dizzying amalgamation of hues. Evelyn reclined against the unyielding springs of her chair, knackered after a day of ceaseless labor.
They called me the miracle baby, but deep down, I know I should’ve been aborted. If anything, it was more of a curse than a blessing. My survival weighed her down, condemning her to a fate of mediocrity and single motherhood. The bus ground to a halt, presumably reaching a standstill in traffic. A cacophony of vexed horns sounded below, neon headlights irradiating the surroundings.
Funnily enough, her and I are very alike. At least that’s what the neighbors say. I suppose that’s what they call inheritance; after all, I am her progeny, no matter how much she despises that. Not that I blame her for that—before she was disowned, she had everything a girl coveted. A promising career ahead, a loving household, stellar academics, the perfect life…then I came along and obliterated her fantasies. Rummaging through her tattered rucksack, she scooped up battered headphones so intertwined to the degree of resembling the Gordian knot, disparagingly tugging at either ends in a futile attempt to unwind the entanglement.
She loathed me as much as I did myself: neglect, starvation, cigarette burns, stabbings, cuts …I’ve experienced them all by the tender age of 5. No one said life was fair; she and I are both victims of that principle. Unintentionally ramming yesterday’s welts against the sturdy armrest, Evelyn winced internally, bruise igniting with fiery spikes of anguish.
But unlike her, I had art. A resplendent grin blossomed across her features, instilling a foreign air of vivacity within her default jaded expression.
They had their pets and buddies; I had my discount palettes and leftover canvas. Undulating splashes of coruscating colors, flourishing in the trail of a seasoned paintbrush, gently fondling the blank material below, exhilarating possibilities endless… Best of all, something I had control over. Just when everything spiraled out of control, painting became an outlet for me, a temporary escape from the unabated torment known as reality. Accelerating, the automobile now traversed through an unobstructed highway, journey unimpeded. Lassitude long faded, Evelyn lingered on the institute perpendicular to her, blanched posters flapping haphazardly in gusty gales, the bold Admissions Open! seemingly evading scrutiny. A generic male model smiled soullessly at her, posing with a diploma in hand, appearing to taunt Evelyn in a smug fashion.
That’s not to say all hope is lost. If I manage to acquire a scholarship, she’ll have to let me go. I’m legally an adult now, she can no longer manipulate me under the guise of custodianship. New beginnings, a new chapter of my life. Unfettered from the shackles of the past, I’ll pursue my ambitions. Terminating a cycle of abuse, suffering and shattered dreams, a destiny I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemies. “Next stop, Tung Shek Estate.” A monotonous voice blared from the dilapidated speakers above, snapping Evelyn out of her reverie. Scrambling to collect her items, she scampered towards the automatic doors, cynical spirit rejuvenated by future promises of liberty, forever emancipated from the vitriolic critique of her mother.