I don’t know what love is, but I can take a guess. My sister Lara has a boyfriend, and when mum goes out to work, her boyfriend Steven comes round. Steven can’t wait to get into the house before his hand is down my sister’s jeans, and he fumbles around making strange noises with a fixed smile and wide eyes, like when Phoebe and I found a five pound note in the bus shelter.
Lara would always tell Steven to stop because I was watching, but Steven didn’t care. ‘Let her watch, maybe she’ll like it. I’ve never had two sisters before.’
Lara didn’t like that. Her face would change, and she would close the lounge door so that I couldn’t see them anymore. I would hear them running up the stairs, and she would squeal, ‘That hurt,’ and then follow it with a giggle.
I’ve seen mum love too, but her love is different to my sister’s. She loves Harry, so she cooks for him every day, even when he doesn’t turn up. When he does come for dinner he’s always late and Lara and I have already eaten.
We are halfway through Hollyoaks when he comes in stinking of beer and weed. He passes us as if we are invisible, and he never kisses mum on the lips the way I’ve seen Lara and Steven do. He sits at the small round table in the corner of the room, and mum brings the dinner she has been keeping warm in the oven. She stands over him as if sheltering him from me and Lara, and she strokes his hair while he eats.
When he’s had enough of her touching him, he yells at her to give him some space. Mum takes two steps back, then an extra step for good luck, but it’s never far enough when he sends her flying across the room. She cowers by the door, whimpering behind her hand, and I wonder why she didn’t take an extra two steps, then he would have to get up to hit her and she would have time to run.
When she tucks me into bed at night I tell her that I’m too old to be tucked in, I’m nearly twelve, but she says she does it because she loves me, she needs to know I am safe and warm.
Then, when she is about to turn off the light, she tells me that Harry isn’t normally like that, he’s just stressed out, that’s all. ‘Like dad was,’ I say, and her face changes and I think I’ve said the wrong thing.
Phoebe tells me during lunch that an older boy wants to meet me behind the bike shed. When I ask her who, she says it doesn’t matter who, all that matters is that he likes me. So I go because I know that love is not like the movies, love is whatever he wants it to be.
KEREEN GETTEN was born in a small fishing town in Jamaica. After moving to England aged seven, she took a keen interest in books and soon after, writing. Kereen has recently finished a novel currently doing the rounds with agents. She writes short stories for her blog and Instagram. You can find her on Twitter @kereengetten