The room was cold and the wood floor beneath my feet almost hurt to touch. Light fog swirled around me about an inch from the floor. I looked out at the rain speckled glass and stared at a pair of droplets sliding down slowly. Vaguely, I wondered which would win; make it to the bottom first. I chose the faster one on the left. The right one won. I sighed, almost expecting the outcome. Oh well, maybe another time. I shifted slightly in my crouched, sitting position in the corner of my room. It was my favorite place in the entire world. This place was the warmest part of my room as it was far away from my window. It was also the safest. At a moment's notice, I could run over to my closet and hide.
Almost longingly, I glanced at my little closet. It was wooden and almost completely destroyed by wood lice. Some of the wooden louvers were broken and I could see inside. The white paint was chipped and turning cream in color. There was a lock on the inside. I knew where everything was inside and I wondered if I should go sit in there for a little while. I could definitely fit. I was small for a seventeen year old girl as I could pass for fifteen. I sighed and watched as the air came out thick, white and smoky. It was pretty.
"ALINA!" a rough voice bellowed from outside my door.
My heart jumped into my throat in fear. Quickly, I touched the closet door in case I needed to make a run for it. What did she want now? Did I do something bad again? Worried thoughts ran through my mind. If she was unhappy with me now, I shouldn't get her angrier. I stood up and opened the frail door which swung limply on broken and rusted hinges. I winced with every step as my bare feet touched the icy cold floor.
"Yes, mom?" I croaked softly as I entered the living room. My voice was hoarse with lack of use.
My mother lay on the battered, brown couch with her legs covered with the only blanket in the house and her arms stretched above her head. Her graying hair was dry, scraggly and frizzled in a messy fluff on top of her head. Her eyes were hollowed with dark circles around them and her face pinched and gaunt. I looked down at her dirty clothes. I saw her bones clearly through her skin as I looked at her frail body. She was not thin from lack of food like I was. Drugs and alcohol had eaten away at her body over the years.
She stared at me as if I was the cause of all her unhappiness and I recoiled under her gaze. "I'm hungry. Go get me some food in the store," she barked. I nodded as she stuffed the grimy, discolored bills into my hand. I clenched them in my fist, knowing that I was less than dead if I'd lost it. I got my worn, rubber slippers and stepped outside.
The shoes didn't make a difference. My feet still splashed in the cold, rain water that puddled on the street. The store was not far away, but it seemed to take forever for me to get there as I waded through the two inch mass of water around me. The street was flooded. I stepped into the air conditioned store and shivered reflexively. The man there knew me well enough and nodded at me when I came in. I returned his nod and made my way to the sub sandwich section. I took one out of the re-sealable packet and warmed it in the microwave. As the smell began creeping out, my stomach grumbled loudly. It smelled so good. I had always wanted to try one but mom never gave me enough money to get food for the both of us. As the microwave beeped, I opened it and took out the hot sandwich. It should have burned me but my frozen fingers enjoyed the warmth of it. I paid for it and a cold drink and left. The drink against my already frozen hand made it sting and I had to switch hands every once in a while. Either way, it still hurt, drowning out the pain in my stomach. It must have been about three days since I had last gotten a meal.
I probably looked as skeletal as my mother but it didn't matter to me. Looks had never mattered because I didn't even know what I looked like. I had no pictures and no mirrors were in the house. The only place that I ever went was the store and that was only on Tuesdays, Fridays and occasionally on Sundays. I was guessing that today was Tuesday.
When I finally reached my home, I looked up and sighed in relief. I rushed inside and went to the couch again. She didn't even look at me. "Gimme that!" she snapped and snatched the food from my hands. Ripping off the packet and paper, she hungrily tore at the sandwich. I winced, almost feeling sorry for it. I didn't dare ask for a bite although my stomach protested hungrily and my mouth watered. Unable to watch anymore, I returned to my room and headed straight for my corner. The rain had started pounding again. The sound was soothing and although I was tired, the pain in my stomach kept me awake. It didn't even occur to me to take food from the store without paying or asking for some for free from the man. It wasn't in my nature. And even though hunger had made me desperate many times before, I refused to stoop to that level. I knew it was wrong somehow.