ONCE, IN A STREET not very far from yours, there lived a girl called Anonymity Jones. She lived with her mother – who had over the years changed her name from Corinne Randall to Corinne Jones, then back to Corinne Randall – and with a man called John, who behaved as if he was Anonymity’s stepfather but wasn’t in fact her stepfather at all, since he wasn’t really married to her mother.
Anonymity’s older sister went by the name Raven even though she’d been called Megan when she was first born, and some of the way into high school. Raven loved dark, brooding, frightening things, and didn’t live with her family any more. She’d finished school and was hoping to become a writer but hadn’t yet worked out what she was going to write about. So instead she’d gone travelling to see the world, even though Europe is only a small part of the world, and she was seeing only small parts of Europe.
Anonymity’s father, Richard, had once been very much in love with Corinne. They’d met at the accounting firm where she was a receptionist and he was her boss.
At that time he’d had a wife, Virginia, with whom he was no longer in love. Virginia knew about the receptionist from Richard’s work, and would pretend not to notice when, in conversations about things that happened at the office, he would mention Corinne’s name, before hesitating.
Virginia had also pretended to be surprised when she learnt by accident that the five-day conference Richard and Corinne had flown to lasted only two days and that the rest of the time they weren’t listening to long presentations about tax law, and how to run a private accounting firm, but were in fact ordering meals up to their eighteenth-storey hotel room, which had a balcony overlooking other hotels built beside a beach.
Anonymity didn’t know that this was how her parents had met until Corinne used it against her father. This wasn’t because her mother was an especially unkind person, but because she was doing what cats do when they are cornered, which is to spit and hiss and scratch until whatever has cornered them either runs away or has been stripped to ribbons. And since Corinne was a Leo, this might have made sense to anyone who believes in such things.
Anonymity heard Corinne use this information against her father when he accidentally let slip that the conference in Hong Kong wasn’t in fact a conference at all but a two-week holiday with a sales rep who had visited him in his office and left behind several notepads, two pens, a lava-lamp paperweight with the name of a software company on it, and a piece of her underwear.
It was this very lava-lamp paperweight which Corinne Randall, who was still Corinne Jones at the time, had thrown at Anonymity’s father. The sound of the paperweight crashing into something on the other side of her bedroom wall had made Anonymity jump in her bed. She’d been almost asleep, but after the terrible thump and the sound of raised voices in the next room she grew concerned. Her parents had been known to fight from time to time, just as all parents do. But, until now, nothing had been thrown, ever.
‘You must really think I’m some kind of bloody idiot,’ shouted Corinne, who very rarely swore. ‘And maybe I am. Maybe I should have seen this coming.’
‘Why would you say such a thing?’ Richard shouted back.
‘Because you cheated on your first wife, with me! Do you remember?’
‘Look, Corinne ––’
‘Why would you do this to me? Are you trying to punish me for something?’
‘Don’t be ridiculous.’
‘Are you looking for a way out? Because if it’s too hard, with what we’ve got to deal with around here, I’d understand. I would. But can’t we talk about that without introducing a third party? Christ! Again, Richard?’
The argument didn’t last very much longer. For a while, all Anonymity could hear from her room was the sound of their voices, but indistinctly. Then, just when she was beginning to think that perhaps the argument had been nothing more than a rehearsal for another, larger argument to be staged at some point in the future, she heard her mother screaming, downstairs.
‘Get out! Get out! Get out!’ Over and over she screamed it. ‘Get out! Get out! Get! Out!’
By the time Anonymity had come downstairs, her father had gone. Surprisingly, he hadn’t slammed the front door, and Anonymity stood at the bottom of the stairs and frowned at the back of the door.
Corinne was in the kitchen, leaning against the bench with her head pressed against the overhead crockery cupboard.
‘Mum?’ Anonymity said.
Then she felt a hand on her shoulder. It was Raven, who was still living there at that time because she was two weeks from sitting her final school exams.
‘Hey, sis, leave it and come back up to bed,’ Raven said. ‘Just leave it.’
‘But Dad’s gone,’ Anonymity replied, and as she said it she heard the sound of his car roaring away.
‘I know. But there’s nothing you can do now. Come back to bed. Where’s Sam? Has he headed for the hills?’
‘Yeah, he ran out the back, I think. He couldn’t stand the shouting.’
‘Poor thing. He probably won’t come back in for ages now. I’ll go and get him in a minute. But go back up to bed, sis. There’s nothing we can do about Dad right now.’
As she went past her parents’ room, Anonymity looked in there and saw the lava-lamp paperweight lying on the floor at the foot of the bed. It wasn’t broken, because the paperweights that sales reps leave in offices are not usually made of glass, but of a heavy, unbreakable plastic that can easily smash a hole in the door of a walk-in wardrobe.
(c) James Roy, 2010
(For Facebook Notes readers: this post is redirected from my 'head vs desk' blog at headvsdesk.blogspot.com)