This was a story we had to write in class. The story had to start with “As I entered the room, I saw what I hated the most…”. Here’s what I wrote:
As I entered the room, I saw what I hated the most: Ezekiel Heap, sprawled on the crouch, helping himself to generous spoonfuls of my freshly cooked pudding for the bakery.
I cursed inwardly. The fool would never learn.
“What is it that you don’t understand about ringing the doorbell before entering someone else’s house?” I asked him harshly as way of greeting.
Heap turned his head in my direction and beamed at me. Bits of pudding were wedged in his teeth. I resisted the urge to gag.
“A pleasure to see you too, Eishal,” he said in that oily voice I despised so much. He rose smartly to his feet and nodded at the pudding, or what was left of it. “You are an exceptional cook, I must say. I shall make a point to come by to eat more often. Your mother would have been proud of your talent.”
The mention of my mother nearly cracked my patience. A furious rage was boiling inside me, threatening to unleash itself through my mouth – or my fists.
“Enough with the small talk,” I snarled, taking a step toward him, hoping I looked intimidating. “I know you haven’t come to praise my culinary skills. You aren’t even invited here. So out with it, and be quick – what do you want?”
Heap leered at me. “Eishal, Eishal, Eishal. You never will learn to respect your superiors, will you? Particularly one you are dependent on for a roof under your pretty little head. Particularly one who is kind enough to let you live on your own, even after your parents’ deaths. And let me also tell you,” he added,” I require no invitation into your house. I require no invitation from anyone in the whole of New Lumbering. I come and go as I like, when I like. You, of all people, should get used to it.”
I spat a string of oaths at him. Heap chuckled, but his eyes – one an icy blue and the other amber, like an alleycat’s – hardened with coldness.
“What language from a delicate flower of sixteen years,” he mused. “Really, Eishal, you should watch yourself in my presence. I normally have no tolerance for such disrespect, and my patience with you,” –his tone suddenly turned quiet, cold, deadly- “is reaching its end.”
I stared at him, taking in his impeccable cashmere suit, his perfectly polished shoes – shoes that matched the cost of a dozen family dinners, second helpings and dessert included. A gold watch peeked out of his sleeve, mocking me, mocking the entire population of New Lumbering of our pitiful lack of wealth, reminding us of the twisted grip this man, and the rest of his crew, had on our lives. There was nothing I despised more than the sight of him in my parents’ living room.
The silence wore on. I broke it with a hiss: “You killed my mum and dad.”
He didn’t bother with the artifical shocked/offended expression anymore; he knew I could see past it, and he knew that I was aware that his next words were a blatant lie. But he launched into the same speech anyway:
“I did not kill your parents. The government had nothing to do with it. They went out after dark, for a walk, I imagine, and were found murdered near the Complex. It is unfortunate that we have been unable to identify their assailant, but I’m sure we will soon.”
I clenched my fists tightly to conceal the fact that my hands were shaking, “Funny how almost every kid’s parents have been murdered, huh?” I said venomously. “Funny how their deaths are very convenient for the government. Your parents die, you have to pay additional rent, or join the Force.” I took a step forward and added clearly: “And since no one out here can afford the bills, the only option is to enter your Force.” Another stride forward, and I found myself breathing into his face. I was not scared of him. “Don’t you find it too convenient?”
Heap didn’t blink once. “If that is how you see it, then very well. I cannot do much to change your view of the world. But yes, now that you mention it, I am here to collect your bills.”
He lapsed into silence, the corners of his lips quirking up in a smirk. I wanted to smack his face, do back all the evil things he did to us in return, then see how condescending he would be.
“I need more time,” I growled. “I haven’t collected enough money, as you very well know.”
Heap sneered, obviously relishing my answer. “Then I suggest you quicken your pace – work extra hours – or I will have no choice but to throw you out of this house.”
I seethed. Extra hours? I worked in the bakery noon through sunset, and spent the weekends chopping meat at the butcher’s, imaging I was hacking at Heap himself. What extra hours were there to speak of?
“Or you can join the Force.”
I snorted in disgust. That was never going to happen. The Force were a group of young soldiers coerced into joining the government, paid to do their dirty work: assassinate emerging democratic figures, philantropists, priests – and obviously all adults with families, so that their children would be obliged to join the ranks.
“Never in a thousand lifetimes.”
Heap grimaced. “Your time is ending, Eishal. You cannot keep up with the bills for much longer. Soon you will have to succumb to reality. There is no backdoor.”
He stepped away and headed for the door. Curling his fingers around the knob, he turned to face me. His expression was jarringly open, no sympathy in his eyes, only a chilly twinkle.
“One week, Eishal. After that, if I do not have the cheque in my palm, I promise I shall personally escort you to the Force headquarters.”
Then he opened the door and let himself out, leaving me in my worst nightmare.