006: Dirty Bloody Habit

‘It’s a dirty bloody habit, Katherine.’ I called down the hallway. The smell of smoke was all but choking me. I’d never found anything pleasant about the smell. It was enough to make a person dislike breathing, and I breathed shallow to avoid taking too much in. ‘One of these days, Katie – you’re going to get yourself sick. And you know what? I’ll laugh. I dunno how many years I’ve been telling you…’

I pushed myself up and stumbled forward. The room spun around me, dark and grainy. I’d closed the curtains earlier to stop the glare, how many hours had that been? Who knew. Kate hated the curtains drawn. Sometimes I did the things she hated. Kate was exactly the sort of woman who would come back just to rip me a new one.

And here she was now.

I laughed at her shadow.

‘I suppose you think this is funny, Katherine.’ I taunt her, waving one hand wildly. She says nothing, just haunts the doorway. Her silence angers me. I stagger closer, clutching at the darkness until I find her shoulders, grip them tight. She squirms a little. ‘Coming here like this, smoking like that.’ She felt so solid, so warm. I bore down on her, still angry. ‘Don’t you have anything to say to me?’ my voice was loud. It echoed down the hall. It sounded almost like someone else.

She was shaking under my hands.

‘You’ve burned the couch again, Dad.’

Sobriety sucker punched me in the face. My hands dropped immediately, the shadows clearing and Hazel was already crying. She didn’t look at me. She turned around and wiped her eyes with the sleeve of her school jumper, hurrying to her room.

Just like Kate, she never liked me to see her cry.

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