Ruth Hosty and is a twenty year old creative writing student attending the National University of Ireland Galway (She says she’s twenty but was really born to be a granny). She’s loved writing since a young age. Her first vivid memory of writing a short story was when she was about six or seven. She found scraps of paper around the classroom in her primary school and got to work stapling them together one by one. And from it she composed her first book: The Adventures of Mr Tubs the Cat. Her mother still shows it to the family every Christmas.
Breathes in the Dark
By Ruth Hosty
It’s been a bad day. He has that look.
He’s pale, bleached white. His lips are pressed together into a hard line, they only open to hiss an insult. His eyes are ringed with pinks and purples, they look out from below a furrowed brow. His stands with his shoulders curved inward, fending off everyone. Anger sparks and sizzles off his skin.
And I am afraid of what he’ll do when no one is looking.
I haul my suitcase across the threshold of our house, battling with its bulk. My mother is standing by the stairs. She doesn’t smile or ask how I am. I can imagine, just looking at her, all the things she saw and heard this week from him. His hopelessness had sunk into her pores and she wears it like a shawl
She didn’t need to say it, I already knew, “It’s been a bad week.”
It’s strange how it works, unspoken. It sometimes feels like we’re actors in a show, I come home and my parents can finally have some time off. I put the suitcase down and go straight upstairs, and before I enter his room I plaster a smile across my face.
Mum says I’m the only one who can make him laugh after a bad week. I sit on his bed and ramble about what things me and my friends got up, while he sits on his computer and pretends to ignore me. But I know he’s listening. Eventually, sometimes it can take an hour, he’ll laugh or he’ll ask a question to clarify exactly how I fell this time.
When I was still living at home, during Leaving Cert, it was terrifying. Mum was a different person, she was so stressed her hair had turned white and I had never seen her so fragile. She cried a lot. Dad couldn’t handle what was going on around him, and so pretended none of it had existed, leaving mum more isolated than ever.
I felt I had now become the parent to my mother. I held her countless times as she cried, promising her that I wouldn’t let anything happen to him, that everyone would stay alive. At home I was someone I hated, I was unhappy and scared to walk around my own house in case I walked in on something I didn’t want to see.
In school I felt more myself, I liked to call it my happy place. I told no one what home life was like. I felt if I did, I would corrupt it. I would do double study after school, meaning I wouldn’t have to go home until half eight at night. I told every one that was how much study I needed to do if I was ever to pass my exams. Really it was because I would have preferred to be any where but at home.
And to this day, I believe that was so selfish of me.
My heart is battering my insides. Panic tries to choke me. I slowly push open my bedroom door and step into the hall.
I don’t know what compels me to sneak into his room, that I try to make absolutely no sound. It would be easier if I just called into him, rather than creak open his door and tip toe in socks across his wooden floor. He never woke when I did this. If he did he would have been terrified. To wake up with a figure in the dark leaning over you, her face almost pressed up to yours. It is only in this moment that my heart slows down; every part of my body stills just to listen.
And there in the darkness of the room I can hear him breath.