Fiction: Late Morning Silence

By Nova Warner

I’ve already woken up three times. Once just after five o’clock when the first rays of sunlight pulled my eyes opens, very much against my will. Rolling over and burying my face under my duvet is enough to get me back to sleep. Then I wake up at seven o’clock when my little brother barges into the room and sits on me. His tablet blares in my ear, but he ignores my weak protests and I’m left to stare at myself in the wall of sliding mirrors, broken and unable to move. I didn’t use to look so tired before I left for university, when I would already be awake at six o’clock and would jump out of bed as soon as the seven o’clock alarm signalled the start of a school day.
While I stare at myself in the mirror Mum has taken Nate out of the room. Gen is up by now; I can hear the distant sounds of her watching her tablet while eating her breakfast in the living room. Maybe she still eats chocolate spread on toast. I’m not sure yet. As Nate and his noise descends to the living room I close my eyes, just to collect my thoughts, and there’s silence.
No electronic echoes, no yelping yodels, no stomping steps, just silence.
It’s nine o’clock. Gen has gone to school, the one I used to go to. But it’s better now in all the ways I didn’t know I wanted it to be. Nate’s gone to school to, a different one. Mum will be gone too. Maybe she’s having a coffee with a friend where they’ll watch the people come and go with their little oddities, or maybe she’s not allowed to work from home today. I check my phone, stretching more than I want to because the charger is just too short to reach the bed. The notifications are mostly news alerts I forget after reading, emails I ignore and Discord servers I never use, but buried underneath them are a couple of messages that I actually read. One’s a meme that makes me blow a little air out of my nose and the other a response to a message I long forgot, and so their message is left in a contextless void where any and all possibilities of its meanings hang in my head in equal possibility.
Eventually I stand up amidst the ruins of my possessions, half unpacked half stuffed into carrier bags. It doesn’t seem that long since it was my room and I didn’t have to sleep in the corner or worry about Nate getting to my stuff behind my back. There’s a small pile of trinkets and junk next to my bed, the two stacked mattresses that my feet hang off when I lie down, which I’m sure I don’t need but can’t move in the fear that I’ll lose something before I move out. Numerous empty bottles of cherry coke, hidden well enough to avoid critical comments from Mum but present enough to make me despair slightly more, only worsen the image of my corner. I’ll get rid of them, at some point. There’s an oestrogen patch stuck to the mattress, a red square on my thigh where it had been before.
I skip breakfast again and head straight to the bathroom. A piss and two minutes of teeth brushing later I slump back into the bedroom and begin searching for clothes. The two piles of trousers and tops I set apart after first moving back in, originally neat and tidy, have by now merged into an unruly mess of fabrics. That’s another item on the to-do list. I pull some stuff on that’s creased but presentable and lie down again, thinking in the silence.
Has Gen told her counsellor that her older sister is moping around the house and keeps smiling with sunken eyes? Does Nate wonder why his older sister has returned and is sleeping in the corner of his room? I’m not even sure if he recognises me as his older sister, or if he just sees the old me from before. Then there’s Mum. Is she confessing to her friends that she’s getting worried I’ll be a layabout leaching off her? The job search hasn’t been going well, in fact it hasn’t been going at all for a while. I try not to dwell on the questions, but they lurk at the back of my mind, with the silence.

Nova Warner (she/her) is a recent graduate of Durham University in the midst of a job search. She has previously been published in Indie BitesSyncopation Literary Journal and From the Lighthouse. Outside of writing she enjoys photography and collecting books. She can be found on Twitter and Instagram @novawarner01.