The bright shine of the landing light filled my room as the door was pushed open. I knew who it was. "Can I sleep in your bed?"
The little figure asked, peering around the door.
I sat up and tried to make out the time on the tummy of my dancing hippo wall clock. 11.30.
"Is yours wet?" I asked gently, my eight year old mind already knew what the answer would be. The figure nodded and came into the room, closing the door softly behind her. I shifted my pillow across and she climbed in beneath the purple duvet, wriggling down. "Arguing 'gain", she said sleepily, and reached for my hand.
"I know.." I replied, once again hearing the raised voices of our parents, that I had tried for the last hour to block out, ..."Don't worry, it will be over soon."
We lay there a while in silence, listening to the angry sounds from below. I was grateful for the comforting darkness as it wrapped itself around me. Then, as expected, the voice beside me spoke again, "He'en, tell me a story...."
I woke up in a familiar position, my nose, as always, pressed against the pink flowery wallpaper, and my body along the very edge of the bed. I didn't mind. The wall at my back was solid, reassuring, and cool. The space where the restless five year old had eventually slept was long since empty. The sanctuary of the bedroom was once again mine.
Beams of sunshine flooded in through the big window and bounced off the wall. I smiled. My room always seemed to be a sunny place, unlike the rest of the house.
Saturday morning passed like any other. Once dressed, I absent- mindedly flicked up the 'ON' switch of the stereo. Karen's voice filled the room and I felt even more relaxed. I am a' Carpenters'fan, and I often found my escape in their music. At least if there were arguments any time soon, I would be too busy singing to hear them!
'When I was young
I listened to the radio
Waitin' for my favourite songs,
When they played I'd sing along,
It made me smile'
I was blissfully happy for a while, right there and then, sitting perched on the edge of my bed singing along, and pretending to play the drums with the music. I was lost in my own little world, overtaken by the adrenaline rush that came with singing. The bedroom door was shut tight, during that time. The reality of my parents loud and bitter arguments did not intrude.
As the afternoon turned into evening the sunbeams faded and shadows spread across the painted black fireplace. Dad was home and it wouldn't be long before the rows would begin again.
The lamplight found my sister sitting cross legged in the middle of the pale brown carpet, scribbling with a wax crayon on a colouring book.
I had my back against the headboard of my bed, a pen in hand and notebook resting unevenly on my knee.
She looked up at me, her wispy blonde hair momentarily caught the light and she smiled, well actually, it was more like a grin.
" I like it in here" she said quietly, as if saying it too loudly would spoil the moment.
"Me too" I replied, picking up the mug of steaming tea my mum had brought me and gripping it tightly to feel its comforting warmth.
Down in the lounge the voices of our parents were once again becoming raised in anger. I took a few sips of tea and got up to click the door shut.
Standing in the corner for a few seconds, I looked at my sister and wondered how much of this she would remember. Then I looked around my bedroom and took in every detail. It wasn't the wall paper, pictures or the strewn tape cases that made it special, but the fact that it was a place which held peace and safety from everything that happened beyond.
I went back to the bed and curled my knees beneath me, pen in one hand and what was left of my tea in the other, when the little voice on the floor reached my ears,
"He'en, tell me a story..."