The night was much darker than normal, the black so thick that even her breathing felt laboured. Ice cold air Nipping at her finger tips, mocking her for not choosing to wear gloves.

She walked home slower than she usually did, however not out of choice. She felt tired tonight, each step more effort than the last, you couldnt even call it walking, really it was more of a shuffle. Her legs felt like lead after the thirteen hour shift she had just completed, “pity my purse doesn’t feel as heavy as my legs” she sarcastically thought. She had been working at the diner as a waitress for over three years now, a minimum wage position, the only one she was qualified to take.

The memories of her interview those three long years ago came flooding back. She had set her alarm clock for an hour earlier than normal to make sure she would be prepared, but this morning she didn’t need it, her baby brothers cries for food had awoken her far earlier than she had anticipated, his long unanswered cries turning into feverishly calling out to her “Emi, Emi”.

Emily dragged herself slowly and quietly off of the sloping, moth-eaten matress as not to wake her sister sleeping beside her. She threw on her dressing gown, she could see her breath in the air, it was mid winter and they still had not been able to use the heating. She zig zagged through the maze of toys, bottles and general trash strewn across the hallway, sighing as she went.

The living room was filled with a haze of old smoke, the smell of stale beer and sex lingered in the air. She was exhausted, her mothers so called “friends” had kept her up all night with their rowdy boozy antics. Her mother knew she had an interview today but she didn’t care, she just wanted to get high and drunk and shun all parental responsibility, trading sex for drugs due to lack of funding.

She followed her brothers cries, ignoring the half-naked, unconscious, dirty men draped all over the dated furniture. Her brother was only two years of age and it broke her heart that she had to see him living in this environment, that’s why she was going to get this job and take him far away from this terrible life.

After feeding him and washing him she carried him through to her sister, “keep him with you until “they” leave ok?” She said.

The bathroom in the apartment was dingy and old, the bath unusable ever since their dad had swallowed a shotgun shell in it, the hole still visible through the side. A tear trickled down her face as the memories of that day washed over her like a suffocating wave, she pushed them aside. She washed her emaciated body with water out of the sink, brushed her long, brown, never been cut locks into a ponytail and applied the last scraps of old makeup she had. She stared into the shattered mirror her cold blue eyes staring back at her….. the reflection summed her life up perfectly, broken.

She pulled up her laddered stockings, she didn’t even have nail varnish to fix them, hopefully they would at least last for the day. She carefully pulled up a black skirt that was far too small for her now, rolling the top over and over to hide the gapped zip. She wore a navy blue blouse, the only new thing she had ever owned, she tucked the tag back into the sleeve, she will return it tomorrow. Her shoes were old leather, the worn bits coloured in with black permanent marker, she hoped that no one would notice.

She grabbed her handbag and headed for the front door, as she walked past the couch she felt a strong hand grab her wrist, “where are you going little girl” Said a gruff mans voice, her mother laughed from the other side of the room, “That bitch is a virgin, she thinks she’s too good for you Jim” her horse, cigarette burnt laugh echoing through the silence.

Emily ripped her wrist from the mans rough hand and quickly escaped out the door, she stopped for just a second, trying to compose herself, her eyes burning, trying to hold back her tears. She glanced around at what once was a beautiful yard but was now another filthy dumping ground. When he was still alive her dad was always gardening, he took such pride in everything he did, she remembered planting flowers with him while he told her silly little jokes to make her smile, that was all gone now, replaced by years of trash, broken bottles and old needles….. Everything that once bloomed here was long gone and forgotten.

Emily tried her hardest to shrug off her feelings and hurt and began the long walk to her interview….

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