There Are No Monsters, by Bridgette Singleton
Lucy was looking at the blue under her fingernails when the car topped the hill and didn’t at first see the suburb on the horizon. She looked up and saw it covered by a holey gray blanket that looked like fog and smoke but maybe wasn’t. She asked mummy where is the fire but mummy didn’t respond. She said again mummy where is the fire there is smoke and no fire and her mummy looked at Beccy in the passenger seat and told her to put the seatbelt on. Lucy got a last glimpse of the smoke or fog before the car went down the hill and yelled mummy where is the fire and Isabella started saying fire fire fire and Lucy saw her mother’s eyes in the mirror close for seconds and she asked her again where is the fire.
Put on the fucking seatbelt Beccy
Lucy and Isabella looked at one another with horror and amusement as best they could on their infantile faces – their mummy never said fuck in front of them. Mummy said a swear! Mummy said a swear! Isabella was laughing and laughing.
Mummy I don’t want blue under my nails I want pink nails like Beccy
Beccy held her head over her phone and stroked the glowing screen like a pet while her mummy kept saying put on your seatbelt.
The car came to the top of another hill and Lucy leaned from her seat to see the fire. Where is the fire mummy but mummy said nothing and Beccy said it’s rain idiot. Lucy jolted back into seat when her mummy started to go faster down the hill and said mummy make Isabella stop chewing my pencil it’s my favourite she won’t give it back.
Their mummy still said nothing and Lucy felt the car going faster and then faster again and said mummy what are we doing I’m scared and Beccy said what the fuck are you doing I’ll put the stupid seat belt on. Lucy leaned over to look at her mummy and saw her face plain as a white piece of paper with no smile or frown and pulled her sleeve and said mummy stop I’m scared and Isabella is crying because Isabella was crying and saying mummy mummy mummy and Beccy was yelling stop stop and trying to put her seatbelt on but was tangled in her earphones and when Lucy wanted to scream her mummy slammed her foot on the brake and Beccy was thrown forward to meet the glass with her forehead and rebound in an explosion of blood to fall back into the seat and close her eyes.
Lucy realised she was screaming when Isabella’s hand was trying to shut her mouth while she cried and cried and yelled mummy mummy but Lucy kept screaming stop mummy stop mummy stop until she lost her breath and by that time the car had reached their street. Isabella kept crying but Lucy couldn’t breathe and had a headache and her chest hurt from the seatbelt; she reached out a hand to grab her mummy’s arm and saw the blue under her fingernails was shaking.
The car stopped in the driveway but the engine still ran. Lucy would not look at the passenger seat but took off her seatbelt and went to her mummy and grabbed her shoulder and asked mummy?
Her mummy sat staring at the garage door and her eyes wouldn’t blink and Lucy shook her shoulder but her mummy knocked her hand away and got out of the car and shut the door and locked it.
Lucy’s lip quivered and she looked over at Beccy but there was only blood where her face should have been and her leg looked funny and Lucy shivered and told Isabella to shut up. Lucy put her hand on Beccy’s arm and squeezed and it was warm but Beccy didn’t say anything. She squeezed her hand and saw the pink nails but Beccy didn’t say anything while Isabella whimpered and sucked her thumb.
Lucy and Isabella screamed when the car boot opened but Lucy saw it was her mummy and she was putting their bags in the back but where was Beccy’s bag? She watched her mummy come around the side of the car and open the passenger door and grab Beccy under her arms and drag her from the car. Lucy scrambled to go with her but the door was slammed in her face and she watched her eyes wide and stinging as her mummy dragged her sister to the wheelie bin and heaved her inside head first and shut the lid on one of Beccy’s shoes. Lucy sat and stared at the pink Sketcher that sat in the mouth of the bin and felt her mother get in the car and drive them away but her eyes felt not part of her body but attached to seeing only the shoe and the bin, the shoe being eaten by the bin, her sister being fed to a monster.
Lucy woke from the glare of red lights on her face and her mummy laughing and talking and looked to see a cop shining a light into their car talking about turn-offs and the M1 and exit 79 and 82. Her mummy said thanks again and smiled and he said no worries and get that windscreen fixed! and laughed and walked away. The car waited for him to drive away and when he did it turned around and soon they were on a road with so many lanes and cars and lights that Lucy felt sick and tried to ignore the blood on the seat between her legs and looked at her mummy who sat staring at the road.
Lucy looked back and saw Isabella was asleep with her thumb in her mouth and shivered and said mummy where are we going where is Beccy.
Beccy is not coming with us. Beccy was naughty so she’s staying at home.
Lucy picked at the scab on her knee and said but the monster, the monster ate her.
There are no monsters.
I want to go home I want to see Beccy.
We can’t go home yet, we have to visit Aunty Amanda first.
Lucy was quiet and tried to remember who Aunty Amanda was. An aunty was your parent’s sister. Her mummy’s sister had blonde hair and looked after sick people and lived at the Gold Coast near the beach but she had only been there once.
We’re going to the Gold Coast?
We’re at the Gold Coast right now Luce.
Lucy looked out the window and saw nothing but the blackness of trees and lonely houses.
We’ll be at Aunty Amanda’s soon, and we’ll have dinner there, okay?
Lucy thought she might cry and said please can we just go home but her mummy said Aunty Amanda is expecting us we don’t want to be late.
Lucy said I don’t want to go! and wanted to kick the glove box in front of her but remembered the monster eating Beccy and Beccy’s warm arm and her face that disappeared and started to cry. Her mummy leaned over and said shhh you don’t want to be all red in the face when we see Aunty Amanda do you? But Lucy couldn’t answer and felt snot flow out of her nose that she wiped with the heel of her hand.
Lucy looked out the window at the house leaning on its stumps like a fat old grandfather on his walking stick and said I want to go home. Isabella sat in the back sucking her thumb and her mummy had to carry her into the house like she did with the bags but Lucy stood outside and said I know there is a monster in there I want to go home.
Her mummy walked outside and kneeled in front of her and said you are going inside.
No I’m not.
Her mummy stood up and held Lucy by her blonde hair and walked into the house dragging Lucy after her. Lucy lay on the kitchen floor sobbing while her mummy unpacked their bags and she had stopped crying when her mummy came in to start making dinner and took a big shiny knife out of her bag.
What do you feel like for dinner?
Lucy sniffled and bit her nails and wondered where Isabella was. Her mummy took some carrots out of the bag and started to peel them and cut them up on the bench because there was no cutting board.
We’ll have roast lamb then. She started to cut up pumpkin.
I’m sorry Aunty Amanda isn’t here. She would have been excited for us to visit. She cut up broccoli.
She must be away somewhere. Then sweet potato.
Lucy sat in the corner with her arms around her knees and her forehead on her arms and tried to keep from shivering.
It’s lucky I brought something to cook it all in!
Lucy heard her clang some pots and the tap started running and she wanted to find Isabella. She looked up and saw her mother’s back at the sink and heard her humming and then saying you should always wash potatoes because – and Lucy crawled from the room trying not to breath or sob or sneeze and stopped when she was safe in the next room and only then looked back and her mother was still at the sink talking talking talking and she got up from the floor and tried to find Isabella without making a sound. The room was empty so she went to the next and the next and there was nothing but dust and sometimes rubbish and daddy long legs and she was lost in a maze of dust and spiders and thought Isabella was gone when she found a bathroom and there she was.
The bathtub had an inch of cold water that Isabella was sitting in and shivering and sucking her thumb and she looked at Lucy but Lucy knew she couldn’t see her. She knelt down and shook her and tried to pull her thumb out of her mouth but couldn’t so she took off her jacket and wrapped her shoulders with it and pulled her from the bathtub almost all by herself and got Isabella to stand and held her by the shoulders and looked down at her and said we have to get out of here we have to get out the monster is going to cook us and eat us we have to get out and Isabella nodded with her thumb in her mouth.
Lucy took her by the hand and led her out of the bathroom and listened at the doorway. She could hear her mummy chopping and washing and heard her voice low and cheerful so she crept to where she thought the front door was while Isabella shuffled after her. She went around the corridor and felt sick when the front door was not there.
Lucy stopped breathing and blinking and held her hand over Isabella’s mouth and they crouched together and she saw her face reflected in Isabella’s eyes.
Lucy where are you?
She heard the house creaking when her mother started walking around and so she started running and pulling Isabella along with her and tried not to throw up and open doors at the same time and she ran into another bathroom slamming the door behind Isabella and crouched behind a cardboard box with her heart beating in her ears and head and mouth.
Isabella? Lucy? Are you playing hide and seek with mummy!
Their mummy started counting back from 20 and Lucy held her hands over her ears and shook her head but didn’t make a sound and was shaken by Isabella who was pointing at a black hole in the floor next to them. Lucy looked at Isabella who had started sucking her thumb again and looked down the hole that was filled only with black and bit her nails.
Ready or not here I come!
Lucy heard a door open in the room next to them and grabbed Isabella’s arm and jumped down the hole. The air whooshed past her and whipped her hair from her face for a second then she landed on cold concrete feet first with Isabella on top of her.
She stood up and reeled from the pain and she had bitten her tongue and her ankle ached and burned and her back felt lopsided but she helped Isabella up and started to run through the dark with her.
She could hear noises above them and realised where she was and stopped running and held her hand over her own mouth and over Isabella’s and tried to listen. She could hear her mummy’s muffled voice calling out and slamming doors and heard her go down to the other end of the house and up the stairs. She knew the stairs were at the back of the house so she ran with Isabella in the opposite direction and passed the stumps and was in the front yard with the car.
Lucy pulled Isabella on who had whimpered at the sight of the car and they ran past it but Lucy stopped and ran back and opened the door and pulled the keys from the ignition just as their mummy came out the front door of the house.
I knew I would find you!
Lucy turned and ran and grabbed Isabella with one hand and held the keys in the other and they ran across the road and Lucy could hear their mother calling behind them and heard her feet thump the bitumen then the grass then slip onto sand and they ran and ran with the monster behind them and ran into the water and started swimming, and Lucy swam pulling Isabella along and they kicked and swam and Lucy looked back and the monster stood at the water calling their names but they kept swimming and swimming and Lucy didn’t look back again.
Bridgette am a very soon-to-be graduate with a BFA in Creative Writing from Australia, and as such have no idea what to do with my life. So instead of wallowing in uncertainty and watching old episodes of Friends with no pants on – me that is, not a pantless version of Friends – I’m going to pour my heart and soul into short stories like this. And you get to read it, you lucky thing!
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Tags: break downs, bridgette singleton, childhood, family, mental illness, mothers