‘Be A Little Bit Wiser, Amy’ by Kate Lunn-Pigula

I am the feckless chav his mother said I was.
       My little brother is playing Slade’s ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’ on repeat. My mum is making biscuits. The smell of cinnamon fills the house. It mingles, where I am sitting, with my own urine and my mum’s cleaning fluid. I’m staring down hard at the test in my hands. I feel it, the stark coldness, the weight of the result.
       I heard his mum poisoning him against me once, when I was at theirs. I was helping him revise but he was more interested in doing other things. She’d been polite to my face. As I was coming back from the loo I heard her say ‘she’s common as muck. You can do better.’ I wanted to scream at her, that she was an ignorant bitch, but that that would prove her point. She is not a screamer. She doesn’t respect screamers.
       I’m looking at the test. Two lines. Positive. There are two tests in the pack. I’ll do the other one, just to make sure. You get false positives. I probably did it wrong. I can’t be pregnant. I’m only eighteen.
       I helped him revise Biology. I was doing an Art BTEC. I didn’t have to learn about science anymore, but I helped him. He wanted to study Sports Science at Loughborough. He dumped me the month before he left for uni. Out of the blue. I think his mum made him, which makes me think less of him.
       I need to take the test again. I need to pull myself together. I can’t see it properly.
       I lie the positive test on top of the toilet. How can I wee accurately if I can’t even see? I might vomit again, for the third time today.
       A knock at the door.
       ‘Are you ok in there Amy?’ It’s my mum.
       She’s been watching me all week. She knows that something’s wrong. How does she always know? I could never be as perceptive as she her. I am so not ready for this.
       After he left for uni, I was moping around at work. I’m a waitress. Jen, who hadn’t talked to me much before, said that I had a ‘face like a slapped arse.’ She wanted to take me on a night out. I said ok. Most of my friends had left for uni and I didn’t see the people on my course anymore. I had spent too much time hanging out with him. His friends. I needed a night out. The bar we worked at was full of hen nights and office parties. I hadn’t been able to hack their happiness, their rowdiness, their eagerness to dance on tables to shit music from the 1980s. I normally enjoyed it. But seeing other people happy had made me feel like shit.
       Jen had been right. I needed a night out.
       My mum knocks again on the door. Her voice, softer, this time. ‘Amy?’
       ‘I’m ok,’ I croak. I try to make my voice sound normal but I couldn’t. I heard my brother shouting ‘muuuuummm,’ going up at the end, a whinge.
       ‘I’ll be right back,’ she said. Slade started up again. ‘Are you hanging up your stocking on your wall?’ screamed Noddy Holder. I wish he would stop. I wanted to shout at him be quiet, to rip the CD out of his CD player, but I would only be drawing attention to myself. It wouldn’t help.
       Beyoncé had been playing two months earlier, on the dancefloor, when Jen had taken us to the club. Tottering in our teeny stilettos, which I had never worn out before, I pretended that I could walk in heels. I was even dancing in them. It was a quiet Thursday night in a glowing red bar, and we were drinking pink drinks and I was finally starting to feel good. I was thinking how good it was to just have a girls night, no men allowed. And then two men approached us. One of the men, he said his name was Kyle, was really interested in me. It was flattering. I would show him.
       I did show him. Of course, he doesn’t know anything about it. I wipe away more tears. I’d felt powerful and in control when I was kissing that guy – Kyle – on the dancefloor. I heard Jen cheering. She was proud of me. But I was really kissing him and, simultaneously, wanting him to turn up to the bar and feel jealous. He would be upset. But he was in Loughborough.
       He would be laughing at me now, of course. He can’t have feelings for me anymore. His mum will find out. She’ll say ‘I told you she was bad news,’ pursing her lips like she was a fucking nun. Her in her beige trousers that made her bum look rectangular. I hate her.
       ‘You wanna go back to my place?’ Kyle had slurred. I did. I felt smug that a man – with his own place, no less – found me attractive. This was what I wanted, I thought. I was eighteen! I shouldn’t have boyfriends who still listen to their tedious mothers. I wanted to be an adult.
       I don’t feel like an adult now. I’ve stopped crying. Time to do the second test.
       Of course, it’s positive.
       Kyle never texted me back. Whatever, I’d thought. I wasn’t very into him either, sober. Plenty more fish in the sea.
       Now would I have to text Kyle that, by the way, he was going to be a dad? Wonder if he’ll reply to that.
       I have no idea what to do now. I feel dirty, like a scumbag. I lined up the two tests next to each other, on top of the toilet. Then, the knocking started. Slade was still playing.
       ‘You got diarrhoea or something?’ shouted my little brother. I had no idea how long I’d been in the bathroom. I gathered up the tests in some loo roll and shoved them into my dressing gown pocket. I unlocked the door.
       My little brother was stood there, wearing a Simpsons t-shirt. He was just a stupid little kid. He didn’t know what my life was like.
       ‘Why don’t you play another song?’
       ‘I like this one. Why were you in the bathroom so long?’
       ‘This song is dumb. Put another one on.’
       ‘You’re dumb.’
       I felt anger rising inside me like I had never known before. I barged past my little brother, into his room covered in paraphernalia of his favourite football team. He said ‘what are you…?’
       I took the CD out of the CD player, tried to snap it but couldn’t. I couldn’t see anything to scratch it with. I threw it on the floor. The anger disappeared. I felt tired.
       He called for mum, of course. He look hurt and confused. I briefly relished the hurt on his face, then I felt worse than I had before. How could I look after a baby if I was so awful to my little brother? When mum appeared, I was crying.
       My mum looked confused. ‘What’s happening here?’
       ‘Amy’s being a bitch,’ said my brother.
       Mum started shouting at my brother for swearing. I ran into my own room. Slade started up again. I held my pillow over my head. I wanted to, simultaneously, run away from this house and never look back and stay here forever. I wanted him to tell me it was going to be alright. But he’ll never talk to me again.
       There was a knock on the door.
       ‘Amy,’ it was mum. ‘We need to talk.’

Kate Lunn-Pigula has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Nottingham. Her writing has been published by Litro Online, NewMag, The Honest Ulsterman, Other People’s Flowers, Bunbury Magazine, For Books’ Sake and Thresholds, amongst others. For more work, visit her blog.

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