‘What happened to the doors?’ asked Lucy.
‘Dad took them off,’ said Emma.
‘To stop them slamming.’
‘But that’s stupid. He could have put something in them to stop them slamming.’
Emma shrugged; mum would only slam harder.
‘It’s a bit weird having no door on your bedroom,’ said Lucy.
‘You get used to it,’ said Emma.
‘But don’t you hear things… you know… things you shouldn’t hear.’
Emma shrugged again. She heard stuff, but not what Lucy thought.
‘The worst thing’s the cold,’ she said. ‘We’ve got the fire in the front room, but we got no wood.’
She laughed. ‘Dad’s already burnt the doors.’
Lucy hadn’t taken her coat off; she wasn’t staying long.
‘Have you got my book?’
‘It’s here,’ said Emma. Everything was on the floor; a mattress, a pile of clothes and a much larger pile of books.
‘Hope you’re not burning the books,’ said Lucy.
Emma turned her back on Lucy to search the book pile, ‘What was it again?’
‘Book Thief,’ said Lucy
‘I’m not,’ said Emma, ‘honest.’
Lucy laughed. ‘You’re funny. My book – it’s the Book Thief by Marcus Zusak.’
‘Yeah,’ said Emma.
‘It’s there,’ said Lucy bending over to point. ‘Did you like it?’
‘I’ve not read it yet,’ said Emma as she slipped the book out of the pile.
‘Have you read any of those?’
‘I’m working my way down. I will read them all.’
‘I’ve got to write a synopsis this weekend,’ said Lucy, ‘for Mr Broom. He wants it Monday morning.’
Emma held the book longingly in her hands. ‘I could read it tonight and drop it off tomorrow.’
Lucy laughed again. ‘You’ll never finish it that quick.’
‘I’ve nothing else to do.’
‘I’ll need it in the morning as soon as I get back from ballet.’
‘I could bring it round to your house.’
‘Go on then,’ said Lucy. ‘See how far you can get.’
Emma watched Lucy escape down the street.
‘Close that friggin door,’ shouted mum. ‘It’s the only bloody one we’ve got, so keep the damn thing shut.’
Emma put her hand on the door frame with one finger extended. She pulled the door against her finger and then guided it slowly shut with no slam at all, just a single quiet click. The scrunched up newspaper still fell. Emma bent to retrieve it and stuffed it back into the empty letterbox slot.
She avoided the creaky stair and dived into her bed, slipping her cold nose under the duvet and pushing her glasses up onto her head.
The Book Thief caused the cold to creep into her exposed knuckles. Any other book would have been snapped open with its spine sacrificed on the pillow. Her arm would dart out to flick the page before retreating back into the warmth.
‘What you got for the fire?’ asked mum from the empty doorway.
‘Nothing, you got ‘em all last time.’
‘You must have finished something by now,’ mum insisted.
Emma shook her head.
‘Well give us what you’ve read of that one.’
‘I can’t. It’s Lucy’s.’
‘This one then. Don Quicksote – it’s nice and thick’
‘No, not Don Quixote. Here, have Harry Potter.’
Mum weighed the book in her hands. ‘That’ll last a while but you’d better get reading if you want your dad to bring any more. Otherwise they’ll all go straight on the fire.’
‘I’ll go skipping tomorrow,’ said Emma. ‘See what I can find.’
‘There’s a large skip down the high street with old shop fittings. There should be plenty of wood in that one.’
The door slammed. The newspaper rustled as it fell out of its slot. Dad dumped stuff on the floor.
‘Fire’s out,’ he shouted.
‘Bugger,’ said mum. ‘Where the hell you been?’
‘Don’t you start,’ said dad, but she already had.
Emma’s cold fists were tight against her cheeks. Knees sucked into her chest.
Why didn’t they shout? Talking was worse. Such quiet talking. Her ear next to the empty doorframe caught some words. Caught more than words. Caught meaning. Dad was leaving. Mum and dad were breaking up.
It wasn’t fair.
Emma flung herself onto the mattress. The duvet pulled over her head. If only she was better. They were always shouting at her. If only she were good.
They’d be better off without her.
Emma shoved the duvet back and looked around her room. What should she take? What did she want?
There was nothing.
The window. That would show them. They’d be sorry when she was gone. They’d know how sorry she was, and then they’d stop.
She opened the window and climbed. She could hear their voices floating through the house and into her room. She looked down at the ground a long way below her dangling feet.
Would they notice? Would anyone notice?
The cold ridge of window frame dug into her bottom.
She wanted them to come quickly. Still their voices charged on. She couldn’t hear words now, but she heard plans. Plans she needed to change.
She slipped her shoe off her left foot. The shoe, crashing into the tarmac, sounded loud, but their voices ignored it. No one noticed. No one cared.
Maybe the pavement felt something. Maybe it saw Emma on the edge. Waiting.
Waiting to be noticed.
She bent down and slipped off her other shoe. She held the window frame and leant forward.
The shoe bounced off the window below and slapped the pavement in the face. For a moment the voices were silenced
Then they started again.
Everything back to normal.
back into the room.
onto her bed.
her fists into her pillow
And she cried, real tears, but still no one noticed.
She couldn’t fix it. She couldn’t make it better.
She bashed her head onto her bed and hit something hard.
It was Lucy’s book.
The Book Thief.
She’d take that.
It was easy slipping down the stairs. Their noisy voices smothered her steps. Their angry looks directed at the empty fireplace never turned in her direction.
Emma quietly opened the door and stepped into the cold darkness.
Retrieved her shoes.
Stepped back to the door.
Paused to gather all her strength and then…
She’d see how far she could get.