8 minutes, Lyn, you can do this. Evelyn tilted her throbbing temple against a pigment tinted palm, balefully directing her bloodshot eyes towards the gaping chasm between 10 and 12, pleading for the chime of bells. Stained forearms trembled with exhaustion, threatening to collapse; she grimaced as a migraine ruthlessly burrowed into her skull. Clamping her tear sodden orbs shut, an inundation of agitation flooded her mind, enfeebling her resolve to remain conscious.
5 minutes, time I could’ve spent on my piece, wasted on algebra instead…I wonder if she’ll be back home early today. 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 contemplation to the horrific sight of a graffitied desk hurtling towards her.
A resounding ‘bang’ reverberated across the room, class erupting in fits of uncontrollable snickering.
“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 inciting another wave of contemptuous chortles.
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 mild vexation, she hesitated, then blurted her estimations. “4x2 +20x+25.”
Clinging onto the coattails of Evelyn’s reply, was the near divine pealing of bells, signalling her long-awaited liberation from this dreary institute and the wrath of its inhabitants. Without further ado she gathered her threadbare book-bag, triumphantly marching towards the exit, heedless of the indignant protests arising from her instructor.
Angling her enervated gaze away from the automobiles 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 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, Evelyn stoically remarked. I genuinely don’t know “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. 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.
The result of a moment of heated passion, who knows? I'm an unsightly error, a blemish in the family name. 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 if anything, it was more of a curse than a blessing. My survival condemned 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 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 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, …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, 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. When everything spiralled out of control, painting became an outlet for me, a temporary escape from the unabated torment known as reality. Accelerating, the vehicle now traversed through an unobstructed highway, journey unimpeded. Lassitude long faded, Evelyn lingered on the university ahead, 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 promises of freedom, a future forever emancipated from the vitriolic critique of her estranged mother.