“I can’t remember how many times we’ve had to pull you up on your behaviour. We see your surly looks and the way you try to avoid us. It has to stop!! Why can’t you be more like your brother? He does what he’s told without question. But you disappear all day at weekends and try to keep away from us whenever we come home. There’s you doing your own thing, like always. What’s wrong with you?!? You’re not a true Nobody. You may think you’re strong-willed, but you’re flawed…” Steve’s father glared with menace. “Flawed to the core. Sooner or later, you’ll be found out. And then you will fail again and again.”
Steve locked his eyes onto his father’s during the whole put-down. He tried not to show any emotion, despite his anger within. But this was not the time for him to speak. Steve wanted to say they were talking rubbish and he refused to believe anything they said. But he held back. Nothing would be achieved by antagonising them further. The door slammed shut and he was left alone. Getting up, he switched the light off and returned to bed. He rolled over, frustrated with his home life. For now, he would just have to take it on the chin because he was too young to leave. Sleep never came easy after acidic incidents with his parents. Steve thought back and there were some happy childhood memories. Like going hillwalking or adventuring in the local forest. But the difficult times were inescapable. Often, he considered leaving home and his mind wandered to the first time he tried.
When he was about five years old, Steve recalled when his brother had a lesson in telling the time. Using a big cardboard clock with red plastic hands, his mother repeated the various times and pointed at the clock. His brother struggled to grasp it, which triggered a foul mood in his mother. Steve leant toward his brother and whispered.
“Half past three.”
They both looked at Steve and his mother’s anger bubbled.
“See? Even HE knows the answer!” She screamed.
An open hand cuffed Steve in the face. His cheek stung and a tear rolled downwards. The lesson continued with his brother struggling along. Steve was scared and sat in silence. Eventually, he left the room and went to the kitchen. With a sandwich and a teddy bear stuffed into a bag, he sneaked to the front door, turned the handle slowly and stepped onto the porch. He ran across the garden toward the street. Steve went about two kilometres before a large road barred his path. Sitting there for over an hour, he was found by a search party and returned home.
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