The house is still and silent. It is pitch-black, except for the lamps outside my bedroom window. They look like tiny Belisha Beacons that will lead my troubled ship back to their concrete shore, where I will no longer drown.
I have packed a few hours ago. I did it so discreetly that nobody suspected a thing when they entered my room. Surprisingly, I did not make a mess; I folded my clothes neatly into piles and stacked them into my backpack, and made an effort to replace the unwanted clothes into the closet gingerly, so that they would look untouched. I did not pack much, as my backpack is not big enough to contain all of my belongings. I wanted to take my family photograph album along as a memento of the life that I will soon leave, but it was too big to fit into my nondescript backpack, so I left it out.
I check my watch. It is close to two a.m., about time for me to leave. I rise from the comfort of my bed and quietly open my bedroom door, being extra careful to be silent as a cat. I hug my inflated backpack close to me as I creep slowly and lightly down the stairs, past my brother's room, past my sister's room, past my parents' room -
I stop short, and my breath catches in my throat. There it is, the unmistakable sound of somebody switching on the light. Light seeps into the staircase landing, and it spreads like wildfire towards me. I take a baby step back and flinch, as if light would burn my skin, but heave a sigh of relief when it stops inches away from my toe.
I press myself against the wall into the shadows. I dare not move, for if I do, I would make a noise, and I would be prominent as - drats - I was wearing white. Besides, there is no cover beyond this wall, for the hallway outside my parents' room stretches into deep infinity with nowhere to hide.
I strain my ears for the turning of the doorknob, but I do not hear it. I hear my father's voice instead.
"That Santiago kid called the house today."
"You mean Joaquin?"
My mother mispronounced, and said "wer-kin". There is a brief moment of silence, followed by my mother's sigh.
"You'd think he'd have enough sense not to," she says.
"Well, our daughter certainly doesn't, does she? Getting mixed up with someone like that." He finishes his sentence with a contemptuous snort.
"Oh, you know it's not her fault. She's so young, and still innocent, and Joaquin suddenly tells her that he loves her. Who wouldn't be enticed by that?"
My father snorts again. "Love? Ha! What do young people know about love, especially an uneducated brute like Joaquin?"
In my mind's eye I imagine my mother nodding in agreement. She reaches out to pat my father's hand, which should be clenched into a tight fist by now. She squeezes it, and replies,
"You're right. But don't worry, Jing is a sensible girl. She won't go against our wishes, especially not when he knows we want her to marry a Chinese man."
The television is switched on, and I can hear no more. I think I hear my father mutter, "I hope you're right", but I cannot be sure.
Well Mom, you're wrong, I think to myself as I step out of the darkness and continue my way down the stairs. I do not make a sound, but if silence could speak, my resentment would have been sounded loud and clear.
I complete my journey down the stairs, and embark on getting out from the front door. The night is so still that the murmur from my parents' television set is almost deafening. I walk across the dining room, and the marble floor is cool beneath my feet. The front door appears to be miles away, and as the tension in me grows, I fear I will never reach the finishing line, until I feel the doorknob in my hand.
Joaquin is waiting outside for me, his silhouette illuminating the front porch. He catches my eye through the small plastic window in the door, and smiles, and it warms my heart.
I am about to turn the doorknob when, almost instinctively, my gaze flits to the family portrait on the mantelpiece. My parents are smiling wide, happy smiles, and my father has his arm around me. My 8-year-old brother has his hands on my sister's head, giving her two fake rabbit ears. She is scowling, while he is grinning mischeviously.
A portrait of a happy family. My hand almost slips from the doorknob, but I think back to the conversation I overheard on the stairway, and I look out to see Joaquin's inviting face, and my resolve hardens. Soon, I am running across our immaculately-manicured lawn, the grass pricking the sole of my feet, but I do not care because Joaquin's arms are around me.
He greets me with a quick kiss and hoists my backpack onto his shoulders.
"My parents are up," I tell him hastily. "We have to hurry."
He nods, and takes my hand in his. His grip is warm and assuring.
We shoot hand-in-hand towards the streets, towards his motorcycle parked a few blocks away. Joaquin hands me a helmet and helps me onto the back of his motorcycle.
"Ready?" he asks. He brushes my hair away from my face, where the wind had blown it, and softly grazes his hand against my cheek.
I nod. I clutch his waist tightly as we speed off into the new dawn, where a whole new life awaits us, and I try not to look back at my old house as we run away.
A/N: This was written as practice for my O Level English exam. And also because I didn't feel like doing Mathematics and Physics.