Outside by Michéal Eastwood

I opened my eyes and sat up in bed looking around the bland, empty room as I did every morning, to remind myself of where I am. I stood up and walked over to the corner of the room where there was a small dirty bucket that had the word “toilet” painted on it. I did as I did every morning and when I was finished I walked to the centre of the room and sat on the floor with my legs crossed adjacent to the window. The light from the outside hit my face and I thought to myself “The sun must be out to play”. As I looked up to peer out the window, the light blinded me so I had to squint to see. The outside was like a painting that has been worked on to perfection, the clear blue sky was bright and full and there was only a few chalky clouds perfectly placed so as not to disrupt the view. The sun was in its full glory, it appeared to be smiling onto the world with such grace and joy as to bring life to the planet and made the distant green hills that showed their peaks look all the more alive. I sat here a while looking out the window taking in the beauty of what was through the glass portal in my wall.

I heard footsteps coming from outside the door and, as they drew closer, I sprung to my feet and shouted out “Mommy” as I ran towards the door. My mother walked into the room and quickly shut the door behind her. She did this every time she walked into the room and I never questioned why. She turned to look at me, I always thought my mother was the most beautiful person in the world. Her eyes were light blue like the sky and always had the same look of love, She had gorgeous blonde hair that would glisten when the sun would hit it and a slight smile that always made me smile right back at her. She opened her arms and wrapped them around me. “How are you my son?” she whispered in the most delicate voice I could imagine, I looked up at her and softly kissed her pale cheek before replying with, “I want to go outside”. My mother’s embrace loosened as she bent down to my level holding my shoulders and looked deep into my eyes with hers, “You know the outside is dangerous sweetheart” she said while brushing her hand through the hair around my ear. “I’ll be safe I promise”, I protest with a grin on my face, She looked into my eyes again “We’ve talked about this sweetie, the outside world is a dangerous place filled with people who will hurt you”, she says calmly. I could feel her grip tighten as she said this and her voice sounded like she had a lump in her throat, however she kept the same smile and never looked away from me, she kept her composure.”But what if….” I started but she halted me by saying, “Now lets get you fed sweetie”, as she rose back to her feet. She now continued with the usual morning routine, she walked over to the window and opened it to “let in the freshness” as she always told me. This was my favourite part of the morning because I could hear the sounds that were outside. I ran up to the window and looked up, I couldn’t reach it but I just closed my eyes and listened to all the wondrous sounds that came flooding into the room. My mother left to go get my breakfast but I just stood there with my eyes closed, listening to the seemingly endless world outside of my window. A familiar sound met my ear “BIRDS!” I shouted happily, as I listened to their careless chirping, a grin once again appearing on my face I kept listening for more sounds and as I focused in on the things such as cars, the wind, motorcycles and footsteps. I waited for my favourite sound of all…..People. I love listening to the voices of people walking past and especially the sound of other children playing in the streets, although it made me want to know what it would be like to be out there with them, the sun on my face, the wind in my hair and maybe, just maybe, I could be the person that someone else is listening to out of their window.

I heard the door opening again and my mother walked in with a bowl in her hands. She placed it down on the desk in the corner of the room and gestured for me to come and sit on the small tattered stool that was beside her. I had already guessed what she had made for me and as I sat down and looked into the bowl I was confirmed right. “Porridge again?” I moaned, She laughed a little and calmly said, “Don’t you want to grow big and strong?” in reply. “Of course”, I said enthusiastically grabbing the spoon in my hand and taking my first mouthful. I left it in my mouth and smiled happily when I realised she had added honey, I quickly ate the rest of the bowl and turned to face her. She was just standing there smiling at me, I smiled back and she put her hand on my head and said quickly, “Time for lessons”. Everyday my mother would give me lessons in reading and writing and she taught me lots of interesting things. She got my pencil and copybook and placed it on the desk in front of me. She picked up the pencil and began to write out a sentence for me to copy down. As she did this I noticed a bruise on her arm. I asked her about it but she quickly pulled her sleeve down and told me she fell. I knew she was lying but I copied down the sentence like I was asked and did my work.”Its your birthday soon”, my mother said with a smile, “what would you like?”. I was suddenly filled with excitement but I could only think of one thing, “To go outside maybe?” I asked cautiously, she gave me a disappointed look and I quickly said, “A new chair? This one is old and falling apart.” Her look softened and she just nodded in agreement and once again ran her hand through the hair around my ear. Suddenly I heard another pair of footsteps at the door. I turned to look only to see my father standing there. My father was a tall broad man with small, sharp eyes and a rough face. He always had the same look of anger on his face and he rarely came into my room. I saw my mother tense up as he entered as if she was scared. My father didn’t say a word but instead just looked at me, then at my mother and snapped his fingers I knew what this meant, mother had to leave now. My mother bowed her head, she kissed my forehead and whispered “Goodbye sweetie, I’ll see you later” before closing the window and leaving with my father. As my father closed the door he turned to me and ordered “behave” with a sharp tone. I simply nodded in reply bowing my head sad to be left alone again.
I jumped awake. A nightmare had once again haunted my night’s sleep. It was about my father. He had taken away my mother from me once again, except she wasn’t coming back. I spent a while curled up in bed, tears streaming down my face. I didn’t dare cry in case I woke father. Eventually I rose from the bed and walked over to my best friend, the window. I sat cross legged and once again peered through this portal to a world much bigger than my own. The moon was full and high in the sky spreading light throughout the darkened world. The sky was not quite black but rather a dark blue which silhouetted dark clouds and birds gliding through the air. I stood and walked towards the window, reaching for the handle that mother uses to open it every morning like clockwork. I couldn’t reach. Disappointed and upset, I crawled back into my bed and forced myself to close my eyes, I doubted I would sleep. I lay there for a while wondering if I would ever fall asleep and if my mother would be here in the morning. I wanted to see her so badly. I turned to my side and clutched a pillow to my chest. I didn’t like this, I wanted my mother to stay with me longer but she always left. I lay thinking about this for a while before I found myself growing more and more tired, before falling back to sleep.
The next morning seemed to come almost instantaneously. The room began to light up and I slowly peeled open my eyes. I stayed laying in bed for a while before I was disturbed by a crashing sound from beneath the floor. Startled, I put my ear to the ground and tried to listen. It was mother and father. Father was shouting, he must be mad. He gets mad a lot and that’s how mother gets the bruises. Sometimes he isn’t happy giving her bruises and he tries to give them to me, but every time he’s tried to, mother has stopped him, even if it means her getting more herself. The sound of them fighting and the thought of mother being hurt caused tears to flow down my face. I lift my ear from the floor and sat up, keeping my head down. Sitting there for a while I heard a sound coming from above me. I looked up to see my friend, my window to a world beyond this one that I knew all too well. As I glared through the glass I realised out what the noise was, rain. “The sky must be crying too”, I whimpered to myself under my breath, taking in the scenery that I’ve memorized by heart. The sky was filled with dark, looming clouds that seemed to have an ocean’s worth of water flowing from them. The raindrops bounced off window and trickled down to the bottom over and over as I stared through it. The fields in the background were barely visible; of what I could see they looked wet and dreary, as if the sky’s tears had washed away the life. I buried my face in my knees and continued to cry along side my only friend. I waited there in the middle of the room waiting, waiting for my mother to come up with my breakfast and for her to let me get that “fresh air” she thinks is so important for me. I waited for what felt like years, just wanting to be able to talk to someone again, although it seemed like today would be the first day mother wouldn’t come to be with me. My tears had dried up but the heavens still wept like a newborn child. Just as I had given up on the idea of seeing mother today I heard fumbling outside the door. The handle moved and the door slowly opened. It was mother. I jumped to my feet and ran towards her, arms open wide and a grin on my face. She fell to her knees and held out her arms, grabbing me as I came into reach. This close, I noticed it. She had blood on her lip. She mumbled the words “people are cruel and evil things sweetie” under her breath and I just replied with, “I know” ,holding her close. She smiled and kissed my cheek before standing and walking over to the window. The weather was still terrible but she still turned to me and said, “You need your fresh air” and opened the window regardless. The noise of the rain suddenly became much louder and a cold breeze blew through the room. I could hear a whistling sound from the wind outside and an occasional car driving on the wet road below. Mother looked at me and smiled “I have a surprise for the birthday boy”, she said still smiling at me. My face dropped, “Its today?” I asked confused. “Mhm”, she answered walking over to me, “I’ll be back soon with your present and your breakfast”. She kissed my forehead and left the room. I got excited now, had she gotten what I asked? and would she spend longer with me today? After a while I heard a noise on the opposite side of the door. I lept back to my feet in anticipation, eyes locked on the door. For a few seconds there was nothing but then the door flew open revealing not my mother but my father. He was rocking on his feet as though he was half asleep and a stale smell quickly filled the room. His hands were unsteady but in the left he held a brown bottle and in the right thick, black belt. He took an unbalanced step towards me, mumbling inaudible sounds beneath his breath. My hands were trembling, I was scared, and I didn’t know where mother was. He raised his right hand. I put up my hands to shield my face and closed my eyes, waiting for the impact. Smack! I felt it come down on my side. I stayed there as I felt the belt strike me again and again and again before eventually hearing the sound of my mother’s voice screaming at him to stop. My father started to turn around and walk towards her but as he was about to reach her, he fell flat on his face, unconscious.
I was still shielding my face when mother walked over to me with the same bowl of porridge and a spoon. I could see out into the hallway, I had never seen it before and it was a long room with cream coloured walls with a few doors along the walls. When mother noticed me looking she immediately closed the door. She then hastily said, “Wait here”, leaving the room once again. I began to eat the porridge but was taken by surprise to find nothing special about it. “It’s my birthday I thought she had a surprise for me”, I thought to myself. This thought was interrupted by her walking back into the room; in her arms was a solid wooden chair. It was much bigger than the stool that I have been using for as long as I can remember. She put it down beside the old stool and beckoned me to come sit. I did as she wanted but as I sat, I clenched my side in pain. Mother lifted me up and pulled up my shirt, There were red marks along my side that felt like they were throbbing. I saw mother starting to cry but she stopped herself, I couldn’t help but think she was doing it for my sake. I was confused. Mother knew father was like this but she stayed. She knew he would hurt her but she let him. I turned to her and asked her this. She wiped the tears from her eyes and brushed her hands through my hair as she did when she spoke with me. “I stay to keep you safe and away from the danger sweetie”, she said, still caressing my hair. I froze. The reason she stayed was to keep me safe? I was the reason that father could hurt her. I began to cry and buried my face in mother’s shoulder. She put an arm around me and rubbed the small of my back. I caught a glimpse out the window. The weather that had began to lighten up had only worsened. The rain was pelting down from the sky like little bullets shot from the clouds. The outside looked dead, empty and void of life, as if the water had just washed it all away.
Both mother and I jumped when we heard staggering from outside the door. Father must have woken up. Mother told me to wait as she quickly staggered to the window forcing it shut, then leaving in a hurry, not wanting father to come back inside the room. Left to my own thoughts an idea struck me. My only wish was to be outside and the only thing keeping mother here was me. I heard father shouting again and mother shouting back at him but only one thing was going through my mind. Outside! I wanted to see what was beyond these walls but more importantly I needed to help mother. If I left then mother would have no reason to stay. My body began to move on its own, running over to the window, reaching for the handle, my only way to the outside. I couldn’t reach and began to become disheartened, thats when I saw it, the chair. Grabbing it and dragging it over to beneath the window I climbed up onto it. I reached once again stretching as much as I possibly could before finally grasping the handle in my hand. I’ve never been this close to the window before, I could see myself in the glass. I had never seen my reflection before and was surprised by what I saw. My eyes were light blue like my mother but my hair is black like my father’s; the thought of me looking like him repulsed me enough to ignore my reflection. As I twisted the handle I noticed something, the rain had stopped and there were spears of sunlight piercing through the clouds. Amazement struck me, I had seen something I had only ever seen once before. A rainbow. It was so beautiful I could only compare it to one thing, mother. It was as if it was her, smiling at me as I looked at the shining colours in the sky. Smiling back like I only do to mother I forced the window open and a cool breeze hit my face. Pulling myself up, I saw more than I have ever seen before. The world does not seem so dangerous but rather beautiful to my eyes, I see the hills that I have adored my whole life and the roads where I heard the cars drive past, I see the world that I want to explore. If I did this it would let my mother leave, this was the only thing that gave me the confidence I needed to pull myself through the portal in which I have only ever looked into before now and now I am entering it, the world beyond these walls. As the first beam of sunlight hits my face I realise what I had done, I’m outside.

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