Each heavy footstep plodding the hallway told Sara she was going to be in trouble. She cowered on her bed, pulled the covers over her head just as her mum stopped in the doorway.
‘Sara,’ screamed Mum. ‘I’ve been calling you for five minutes.’
Sara remained silent.
‘Don’t ignore me!’ shouted Mum. ‘It’s disrespectful.’
Sara slowly pulled the covers back to expose her head and chest. ‘Sorry Mum. I didn’t hear you.’
‘That’s bullshit young lady!’
Mum was really mad now. Her face was red, her words breathless, her chest heaving. Sara avoided staring at her, fear of what comes next pumped her blood, heated her skin from toes to fingers. The last time Mum was this mad, Sara ended up with a black eye. She told the school she tripped and fell; the principal’s eyes had glowered in disbelief.
‘Come here,’ said Mum, her teeth gritted, like they were glued together.
Sara swung her legs out of bed, stood and with her head bowed, stepped carefully across her strewn clothes and shoes and toys, and met her mother at the doorway. Sara’s head still low, yet she saw her mum’s hand was already raised, hovering, ready to slap. Sara braced herself, squeezed her eyes shut.
‘Clean your room. It looks like a fuckin’ cyclone has gone through.’
Sara waited for the strike. After twenty seconds passed and she wasn’t lying in a heap on the other side of her room, she peeled her eyes open. Looking at the ground, she noticed her mother’s feet were gone. She heard the scuffing of Mum’s slippers on the floorboards. Lifting her head to glance furtively around her bedroom confirmed her mum had simply walked away. This time. Sara’s insides collapsed in relief, like a deflated balloon.
She quietly began to hang up the clothes and tidy her room.