Stunted creature crouched on bed throttling someone to death - broken neck, dark ... coming for me.
In and out of sleep; waking to nothing.
The last seven weeks have been hell. More than that, nine weeks, but seven weeks ago you left and that was that. It was why you were shaking, drawn, days and days, eleven, without a call.
8.24, the night is through. You don’t want me anymore. Whilst I’ve been rotting you’ve been with her, holding, smiling, laughing, wanting more.
You had me as you needed, then someone else. Please ring and say you love me.
Lost you, haven’t I? Won’t know when it started. Everyone loves you. All along you had her. Five years spent with you friends. No hold, no trust, over.
Could do with a cigarette, a cup of tea, could eat – let it pass, buy some fruit, can’t buy flowers. You had her in your bag. Was there another letter? I should have checked, found out more.
Happy - being with you, now moved on without me when things were going right. Everything lost.
Yesterday waiting calm, thought you would admire me, that there was a chance, like new lovers – glamorous, no-one else in your eyes. I want to be loved, love of your life. Never forget how it started.
Memories, like fragments scattered along a winding dusty road, gathered and pieced together as a montage of snapshots. Forever to flounder in the past, disconnected from the present and the future as a dim flickering light.
The room is quiet and still as she toddles towards the door to the kitchen and opening it sees mum, dad and Brendan standing there.
‘Mummy, I’ve pood,’ she says and smiles break across their faces, a stifled laugh.
A photographer coming to the house takes a picture of them poised upon the settee covered in a patterned cloth, alongside Anne the elder and Margaret the younger – her gaze captured in frame of lens wide eyed, innocent.
She lurches towards the fire and her right arm lands upon the scorching black iron grate.
`Holy Frost!’ grandad exclaims jumping to his feet, mad the fireguard wasn’t there and lifting her into his arms runs along the dark chilly road to hospital. Still she has the scar.
It is a beautiful day at a park, the sun beaming down upon her as she scans the vast expanse of grass. Seeing only strangers a surge of panic rises and an inner scream battling for release is held down, choked in silence.
Put outside in the garden for some fresh air and peering towards the garage she imagines the bogie man lurking, about to slither down the side and get her.
Screaming up at the kitchen window mum’s face appears smiling.
Summers seem endless, drifting upon a tide of contentment through the long sultry days.
One morning as she trails behind Anne along the garden path she turns to see Margaret skipping up behind them; now one of us. Mary is inside, sitting on mum’s lap who points at things around the room and names them: light; door; window.
Each word uttered in a clear firm voice and pressed upon as a piece of a jigsaw puzzle slotted into place.
They sing in the garden, at the top end on the grass:
Edelweiss, Every morning you greet me, small and white, clean and bright, you look happy to meet me; The Clapping Song, My mummy told me, if I was goody, then she would buy me a rubber dolly; Que Sera, Sera, When I was just a little girl I asked my mother what will I be, will I be pretty, will I be rich, here's what she said to me ...whatever will be, will be, the future’s not ours to see, que sera sera; Tinker, Tailor, Daisy, Daisy, who shall it be? Who shall it be who will marry me? Rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief.
And, amidst the dreamy warm haze of a blue and cloudless sky the chorus rises to gladden the hearts of angels.
Playing out the back, a dirt track running behind the houses of their road and the grove, a place of escape and adventure: hide and seek, ‘Count to one hundred in fives – don’t look!’ she exclaims before scurrying behind trees and cars and ducking down low hardly daring to breath; as soldiers crouching in a circle to scratch a plan onto the hard gritty soil with a twig, and swinging on a black oily tyre hanging from a high up thick branch of the mammoth oak tree with deep crevices on its gnarled trunk like the face of a cranky old witch, its bark covered with green sludgy moss and bulbous bare roots pushing through the ground.
Quick, get your costumes on!’ she says on a hot sunny afternoon when Patsy and Marie (Kelly) come round and waits impatiently for their return. Giving someone the end of the hosepipe she sprints across the grass shrieking as cold spurts of water hit upon her warmed skin sending shivers.
Hearing the blast from the ice-cream van in the grove her stomach jolts. Racing in mum gets some change from the windowsill and they dash into the hall to huddle by the front door waiting to hear the cheery tune in their road.
Only one to go,’ mum says cautiously opening the door, `and mind the road!’
Answering the door she sees the ice-cream man, a lodger, carrying a tray of cornets topped with chocolate flakes. Leading him through to the front room mum gets up from a chair.
Ooh, what a surprise!’ she exclaims.
The bread man comes with a large wicker basket over his arm and peering to a glorious display of caramel wafers, club biscuits and cupcakes with lemon icing; the milkman with a crate of silver top bottles and bag of potatoes; the coalman lugging bulky grey sacks through the back door of kitchen and into garden to dump in bunker.
A black splinter trapped under a red raw layer of skin as mum, sitting on a chair in the garden, prises it out with a needle.
With a flurry of activity she makes mud pies filling saucepans from the kitchen tap and snatching forks and spoons. As she digs into the crusty surface of soil the pungent earthy smell erupts to breeze through her air waves and mixing with saliva swallowed. With water dribbled upon the dry black mass it becomes sloppy and frothy to be patted into mounds. A worm wriggling, greyish-pink, translucent; how strange they live after being cut in half. In winter to notice rusty bent tips of forks poking through frost covered ground.
Tying a net curtain, stiff and yellowing, around her head she swirls as a princess with long golden locks flowing. She imagines one day her prince will come.
`I love you,’ he declares, and holding hands they glide up and away over the hedge.
Come in now, it's getting dark!’ mum calls from the back door and she saunters across the grass deflated as a balloon.
`You can have a warm drink before going to bed,’ mum says making sweet tea or cocoa. And, with Anne creating, she pulls her jumper up and over her head.
They all sleep in one bed:
Good night, god bless,’ mum says tucking them in and leaves the door slightly open for light from the landing. Edging in she makes room for the fairies and then says her prayers thanking god for everything.
Stop making a racket. Go to sleep!’ mum shouts up, annoyed by all the talking and laughing. And later in a loud high pitched voice, ‘I'll tell your dad and you'll get a good hiding.’
Freezing, she asks Anne for a `chair’, she always says yes, and snuggling in to feel some warmth.
In the garden one morning she looks through the kitchen window to see Anne at the sink having a wash; it’s her first day at school, so glad it isn’t me yet.
Playing for hours in the hall with pink rubber water bottles dressed in baby clothes seated on the stairs to be fed with a baby’s bottle, patted on their backs to get wind up and tipped over the kitchen sink to be sick. In pride of place is Miranda a cherished blonde blue-eyed doll.
Coming back from the shops `round-the-corner’ one afternoon with mum pushing the pram - Mary inside, Margaret on top, she and Anne holding either side of the handle. Suddenly darting out into the road Anne is hit by a car and with a sharp thud she’s lying across the grey tarmac.
Dashing over mum kneels by her side.
‘She seems alright,’ she says looking back at them, still and silent as a freeze-frame on the pavement.
After they go to nan and grandad’s when mum, sitting on the settee, is talking about working.
‘What do you want a job for? Haven't you got enough to do, looking after the bairns?’ grandad shouts bolting from his chair. And, lunging at her, he grips his hands around her throat as she stands by petrified and helpless.
Grandad comes for Anne his `pet’; it’s funny seeing her charge for the broom to unhook her coat from the back door. Sometimes they’ll go to the eye hospital in
town for tests; she has a `lazy eye’ - maybe from the accident.
When she goes into hospital for an operation a void of absence emerges, her breath and spirit missing. Yet, on the day she comes home and playing in the garden (wearing a black eye patch), the laughter and joy carried upon a light summery breeze seals the gap.
An acrid stench emanates from bucket of dirty nappies on kitchen floor an acrid stench.
The bairns shouldn't be going around in bare feet!’ grandad says despairing. Pulling out and empty drawer she yearns for clothes to be folded and hung in wardrobes, washing left on line for days, in winter stiff-as-a-board with frosted white creases, taken in and dumped on table, dirty dishes and pans piled up around the sink; rooms in perpetual darkness as clouded burnt out light bulbs hang from sockets.