Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Book Review Club: Fear Blog Tour *Giveaway, Interview and Book Blurb...: We want to welcome Author Laura Huntley to Book Review Club with this awesome interview a blurb from her book Fear A Modern Anthology of H...
Saturday, October 27, 2012
‘Be still,’ she mutters to her stomach, the movements tickle like bubbles bursting against the surface. Her eyes flicker, she’s regaining consciousness.
‘Miriam, thank goodness,’ her mother weeps with relief.
Miriam opens her eyes, she recoils as she realises that she’s in the hospital until her eyes fix upon the bright light above her which helps her to feel at peace.
‘Miriam, what’s happening?’ asks her mother.
Miriam’s hands instinctively clutch her abdomen. A fierce pain rips through her. It is time. Her mother shrieks and hides behind a nurse.
Miriam props herself up on the wafer thin white pillows and grits her teeth, beads of sweat glisten across her flushed face. She calmly seizes a scalpel and slits a bloody line across her stomach, the skin is tougher than she had imagined.
They flee immediately, escape, and break free, greeting the universe, embracing the precious light and flapping their wings, Miriam’s whisper of moth babies.
Everyone kept asking if I was sure that I wanted to be alone on a night like this. I managed not to scream at the top of my voice that of course I don’t want to be alone, I want Harry. But I can’t have Harry. Harry’s gone. And now it’s official since we just said our goodbyes at his funeral.
As the coffin arrived, I looked back at the sea of black garments and sad, red eyes. I tried not to but I kept looking at the curtain that I knew would soon swallow him up and really mean the end. Music blasted though and that felt good, I could feel it humming in my veins. Sinatra. Harry’s favourite, he’d have loved that, Frank’s crisp, haunting voice sending him off, the final lullaby.
Then the words, true ones, proud ones, happy ones, sad ones, all about my Harry. It was odd really; it felt almost rude to be talking about him when he wasn’t here to chip in with a smattering of spicy details. All I could smell were the flowers. I’ve never seen so many flowers in my life and although the floral tributes were kind and touching, the pungent aroma stuck in my nostrils and distracted me further.
After that was the wake. My daughter, Isla, fussed and bothered me with tasteless sandwiches on a paper plate. She was just trying to look after me but I couldn’t eat more than a bite, my throat felt too dry. So I had a cheeky tipple of Harry’s favourite scotch, a big old tumbler full with clinking ice cubes. It went straight to my head and I had to go and stand outside to wait for the brain fog to clear.
Then the obligatory stiff hugs, taut bodies wanting to appear caring but not wishing to actually touch, a peculiar affectionate gesture that didn’t pay off. I just felt tired and wanted to be free of the company. I wanted to come home and sit still and let it all sink in. and here I am. Except that now it’s silent to the point that I can’t stand it and I’m afraid that I let them burn him into a pile of insignificant ashes that I will sprinkle somewhere some day. I don’t want to remember him like this. I pick up the old biscuit tin of photographs and take the first one out. I smile immediately, despite suddenly feeling so desolate and lonely that I wonder if I could too die of this terrible pain inside me.
It’s a picture of us, me and Harry, so long ago, our faces so young and fresh that I barely recognise us. We’re laughing because he’s trying to take the picture of us from an awkward angle and he’s only just made it into the photo at all. At once I’m back in that field, that picnic, on that glorious summer’s day. I can actually smell the newly cut grass that tickles my legs. I feel the burning heat of the sun on my skin; I have to squint every time that it pokes out from behind the gently swaying trees.
I hear a river nearby, a slow satisfied trickle of water. I hear nature in the sky, birds calling out to one another and bees buzz past my ear. I don’t hear people or traffic because we’ve made sure that we won’t be interrupted, this is our special day. I have been excited all week. Harry feeds me a strawberry. I don’t always particularly care for strawberries but this one is more succulent than any I’ve tasted before, juice trickles down my chin and he laughs at me, kissing it away until his lips find mine and I taste the sharp, dry white wine on his tongue which is a heady mix with the delicious fruit.
I feel the trail of his fingertips dance down my spine and by the time it reaches the bottom, I am a shivering delight. Crawling scarlet blushes sear my cheeks at what I am feeling and thinking. As though he reads my mind, Harry makes us comfortable on the grass and we melt at the very same time, sensibility disappears and it is replaced with a mighty passion that we cannot ignore today. We touch each other intimately. I hear our matching rapid breaths and soft moans of pleasure as we make love for the very first time. He holds me afterwards, for over an hour, I fall asleep for a little while, so safe and happy and relaxed, feeling like a woman, not a girl any more.
I open my eyes and wish Harry was here. I would stand in the doorway with my hand on my hip and ask him if he remembered the picnic. He would smile his slow, mischievous smile that I loved and we’d kiss like we were still teenagers, desperate to be as close as possible, super glued together, body temperatures rising.
I place the photo down on the arm of the chair and reach in for another. It’s us again, the happy couple on our wedding day. Again, I inhale at the shock of the youth looking back at me. Simultaneously, it seems like such a long time ago and just like yesterday. I scan Harry’s face, he hated wearing that suit, some fuss and nonsense about double buttons, but I thought he had never looked so handsome. All day long I had felt like we were starring in our own film, everything was so elegant and idyllic.
Closing my eyes again, I remember putting on the silk white dress and the gasps from my mother, my father in curious tears at giving away his little girl (they didn’t know that I had actually become a woman, of course). I recall how my face hurt from smiling; it actually ached due to the permanent beam spread across it. It was magical.
My senses come alive and place me back there; my lips part to kiss him in front of the crowd of joyful faces. Harry kisses me so sweetly that my head spins with the sensuality of it and for the overwhelming love of him. I float outside, on his big, strong arm and confetti is thrown into the air, it’s snowing pastel coloured paper and it gets stuck in my hair but I don’t care. I can hear Harry’s raucous laughter in my ear, I feel him squeeze my hand tightly.
I see us sitting down for our meal, I smell the Filet Mignon and I realise just how starving hungry I am. The nerves are gone, it’s done, we’re married, and I’m his. The butterflies have left my stomach and now it growls at the sumptuous scent of the food before me. I’m actually drooling and impatient. I look across at him and he has the same eager face and we erupt into an understanding chuckle. We dig in and it’s like I’ve never tasted food before. It’s so tender that I forget my manners entirely and wolf it down.
The reception was the most magnificent fun, the big band, the fizz of the champagne, the sweet smell of the cake with the pink icing. Moonlight Serenade plays, our first dance, starting off slow and serious but ending up crazy, struggling for breath as we take up the whole of the floor, my mother rolling her eyes at our antics, Harry’s mother doing the same.
Finally going to bed together and it’s allowed, no more sneaking around, this is it. Waking up feeling him next to me in the morning and knowing that the rest of my life will be spent with him, I am truly content.
I open my eyes and see that I am tapping my toe to the beat of the reception music in my head. It’s amazing how powerful memories can be, that a smell, a song, a touch can send you right there in your own private time machine. It hurts to feel all this, knowing he isn’t here, that I will never see him again, but I need this. I need this time, I have to remember and feel it, put it all together in a folder in my brain to access again and again and again. I can’t be remembering coffins and ashes. Harry was my everything. I put down the picture and turn the next one over. Instinctively, tears prick at the corners of my eyes. I wipe them away. Just for a moment I don’t want to be sad, I want to be as happy as I was in all of these photographs.
Us again, but now we’re joined by a tiny little special person who tuned our world upside down and made us yet happier, our little baby Isla, just born. Harry has the biggest smile here; he’s so proud and has such intense love in his eyes for his brand new daughter. He has a protective arm around me as I cradle her. In seconds, he has become a dad, and what a kind, selfless dad he turned out to be. I could not have picked a better man; there never was a better man.
My senses jump and try and run away as I remember the excruciating pain that it took to get this tiny, heavenly creature out of my body. So long ago now, but I still wince and cross my legs. It’s so difficult to describe, a low pain, dull but it builds to a point where you really are certain that you can’t take it. I remember a few expletives left my lips at certain points, I apologised to the hospital staff afterwards. They weren’t bothered; I suppose they must hear it all the time?
My mind plays out the moment of her birth and that terrifying second of silence where I held my breath in anxiety. And then it came, the most perfect sound that there ever could me, the shrill yet feeble cry of the newborn. It changed me forever that sound, I knew at once that every time I heard that voice, I would come running. I was scared when they gave her to me, she looked so delicate and helpless, and what if I held her wrong, and would I hurt her? I felt the soft cellular blanket and peeled it back so that I could really see her. I wept at the miniscule finger nails, the softest skin in the world. I kissed the crown of her head and discovered a shock of dark hair, just like Harry. She had my small button nose, but other than that she was all Harry, I could tell straight away. The rush of awe and intoxicating love was like some wonder drug. She changed us, right there and then; we were her mum and her dad.
I’m crying now, properly crying. Tears blur my vision and my nose is leaking, sobs catch in my throat. How can I live without him? I know now, it isn’t a nightmare, and he isn’t waking up. Why didn’t he wake up? My whole body heaves and trembles. I want him back. I want to run to the crematorium and explain that I’ve made a dreadful mistake. They can’t have him, he’s mine. I know it’s too late but I just feel so bloody useless and heartbroken and empty.
I put the photographs back in the gaudy old biscuit tin, out of fear of spoiling them with my falling tears. I sit like this for some time, the pain goes nowhere but after a while the tears gradually become quiet and contained, they dry until it’s more of a whimper. I look at the clock, one of our wedding presents, and realise that it’s not quite as late as I had assumed. I reach for my shoes and put them on. I grab the pad of paper and Harry’s perfectly sharpened pencil and write my list: Strawberries, Filet Mignon, Scotch. I’ll go to the supermarket and make myself a memorial supper, toast my wonderful husband and see if I can keep my special memories going tomorrow. And, perhaps, the day after that.
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Stop. I remember that I am not supposed to go in this room. It’s just that I can’t remember why. My fingers loiter on the door handle. It’s locked. If only I had the key. I keep thinking about my father’s decanter in the drawing room. It’s a hazy memory but it’s the only one that I have.
Go. My father is asleep on the brown leather armchair; his newspaper has dropped to the floor. I tiptoe by and quietly search around the decanter. The key is behind it, on the silver tray. I glide back to the hallway.
Stop. The key almost burns in my hand, I don’t like the way it feels within my sweaty palm. I shouldn’t have it. I should go and put it back. I know that I should not enter the locked room. It’s just that I can’t remember why.
Go. I’m tired of being told what to do, of being an adult but still having my mother choose my clothes and brush my hair. I put the key inside and hold my breath. I close my eyes in case I see something bad, something that I don’t want to really see.
Stop. What could be in here? Why can’t I remember? I’m frightened and my hand hesitates now that the key has fully turned.
Go. I will only find out if I go inside. I poke the door open a little, wide enough for my left foot to fit inside but not far enough for me to see. I feel around for the light switch and flick it on.
Stop. I feel uneasy. I feel sick. I feel as though someone has their hands gripped around my neck and that I can’t breathe. My head hurts and I feel cold. I think I might be coming down with a bug.
Go. I walk into the room and gently close the door behind me. Maybe it is okay if I don’t open my eyes? How scary can this room really be?
Stop. It is scary; it’s full of terror and a huge palpable agonising pain. I shouldn’t be here. I just can’t remember why.
Go. I must do it. I must take a peek. Suddenly, I remember being a tiny girl; I’d got into trouble for sneaking into next door’s garden. My mother apologised to Mrs. Drabble with a red face and told her that I had always been an inquisitive child. Sometimes I feel that I will always be that little child, I don’t think that I am allowed to grow up. I can’t explain it.
Stop. I want to open my eyes but the churning mixture of half memories keeps them scrunched tightly shut. I want to open them. I want to open them. I want to open them.
Go. I’m in the purple room. I remember the purple room. The purple room is lovely and pretty. The walls are lilac and mauve and the curtains have tiny daisies on them. I think this was my room, when I was a little girl. Why am I not allowed in here? Why did I change rooms? There’s my rocking horse and my dolls. I pick up the floppy fabric doll with the smiling face and blonde woollen hair. I’m sure this was my favourite, but I have forgotten her name.
Stop. Something’s not right. Something is wrong with the purple room. It’s covered in dust and it smells funny. I don’t think anyone has been in here for a long time. I don’t understand what is going on. I’m breathing too quickly and I need to slow down. My heart is beating wildly.
Go. I glance at the book spines on the case, I remember all of them. I used to be such a bookworm. I wonder why I don’t read anymore.
Stop. My own reflection startles me. I see myself in the dusty old dressing table mirror.
Go. I have to laugh at my silliness. I am being ridiculous, I’m in the lovely purple room with teddy bears and other loves and precious things. I should be rejoicing the return of my childhood treasures. When did I become such a jittery jumpy girl?
Stop. My mother’s at the door and she looks cross with me. She asks me what I think I’m doing.
Go. I tell her that this is my purple room and that she can’t keep me from it anymore.
Stop. She shakes her head, her eyes look tired, and her face looks blotchy. She tells me that this is not my room, that it belongs to
Go. I laugh in her face. I tell her that nobody here is called
, she doesn’t exist. Lydia
Stop. My mother weeps into a sodden tissue full of holes. She tells me that
is dead; she whispers that I can’t remember. Lydia
Go. Who was
? Who was Lydia ? I scream out the words until my chest hurts. Lydia
Stop. Your twin sister, my mother says, shaking her head. We went through all this yesterday, when I came into the purple room.
Go. I tell her that I haven’t been in the purple room for years, nobody has, and I scrape a thick layer of dust from the shelves to show her. I tell her that these are my things.
Stop. She quietly informs me that I came here yesterday and that we had the same conversation.
was my twin sister; she died when we were seven years old. Lydia
Go. I sob. I tell her that I don’t remember.
Stop. She says that it’s because my brain won’t let me, it’s damaged, I’m sick, because I pushed
out of the window after a petty squabble. Lydia
Rewind. I see it. I see a little girl with the same face and honey blonde hair as I had. I see her at an awkward angle on the floor below. I remember peering out of the window and my mother’s scream that didn’t end until after that first year.
Go. But this is my doll, I say.
Stop. No, my mother says, it belonged to
; all of this belonged to Lydia . She says that it’s late and that I should take my pills and go to sleep. She says that she’s picked out a soft cotton nightgown for me and that she will brush my hair and sing my favourite song if I come now. Lydia
Go. I let my mother lead me out. She closes and locks the door behind us. I take my pills and feel weary. I long to place my head on the pillow and sleep. The soothing brush strokes make me feel warm. My mother tucks me into the bed sheets. She tells me not to go into the purple room again.
Stop. What purple room, I yawn.
I normally slam the door on cold callers, even the needling charity ones with clipboards and faux fixed grins, but this was one was gorgeous, so I invited him inside for a cup of tea.
He had the most beautiful eyes, dark, mischievous, irresistible. And that smile, so sultry, teasingly wicked. He talked about a special offer, a £6.66 monthly direct debit, something about a soul and eternity. I was too distracted to listen properly; he made me want to wear red lipstick and whisper obscenities into his ear.
I signed the dotted line.
I was a little girl on a grey rainy Sunday afternoon, playing with my Barbie dolls, I remember it so vividly. My mum switched the television channel over and I moaned at her, claiming that I had been watching the cartoons but we both knew that wasn’t true. A film had just started on the other side, this was a familiar and frequent weekend event, my mum would watch an old movie as I played with my toys. I would pretend that I wasn’t interested but I would rapidly get swept up in the dark and haunting Bette Davies, I’d gasp in shock when Clark Gabel frankly didn’t give a damn about the beautiful Vivienne Leigh and I would smile at the comedy and pure oozing glamour of Marilyn Monroe.
I was half dressing my dolls in ostentatious ball gowns and half watching ‘The Long, Hot Summer’, until I saw him, and then I forgot all about Barbie’s prior engagement with Ken. Those eyes. I stared at the screen; I had never seen such eyes, the most dreamy, delicious, piercing, scene stealing blue. I felt myself melting and when he appeared shirtless, with a bronzed chiselled torso and those eyes, my knees wobbled and I felt a peculiar sensation in my stomach. I was seven years old and hopelessly in love. I was hooked by the plot, I partly wanted Ben and Clara to live happily ever after, but I partly despised Clara because she had those eyes looking at her and loving her.
My eyes scanned the film credits once it was over. Paul Newman, I whispered his name and a crimson spider crept up my hot freckled face. I was mesmerised. My mum told me that Ben and Clara were married in real life, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. My mum always knew how to piss on my chips. I have never since cared for Joanne Lucky Pants Woodward.
I felt so very lovesick that I couldn’t eat my tea, which was strange as Sunday dinner was my favourite. My mum sent me to bed without dessert and just this once, I didn’t care, even though it was Sara Lee’s chocolate gateaux. I closed my eyes and placed myself within the film, his sultry voice called my name.
After that, I developed an obsession with eye colour. I checked everyone I came into contact with, all the children at school, the milkman, the customers in the tiny local shop, the passengers on every bus, but nobody had eyes as blue as Paul Newman.
Brown eyed boys couldn’t delight me. I had the blues about those blues. I wanted to look into the eyes of a boy and see an ocean, have my breath taken away, find my own soul there. I wanted to find the bluest eyed boy and make him mine. I wanted to be Clara. I wanted my own long, hot summer.
I grew up, became a confused teenager, a time that I did not relish. None of my friends understood my unusual quest, they were happy decorating their pencil cases with stickers of floppy haired band members in jeans, but it wasn’t what I wanted.
As spring arrived, along with my sixteenth birthday, hormones fell with April showers; lust arrived with baby pink blossom buds. I had stirrings and yearnings and longings and needs. I was frustrated, empty and so desperate to be touched that I would lie on my bedroom floor, like a wretched wild wounded animal, for hours, wailing, feeling it as a palpable pain.
The boys in my school year must have felt similar pangs because, all of a sudden, they talked to my chest and looked at my legs and begged me to meet them in the evenings, to go to the park and kiss badly against an uncomfortable tree trunk. I tried it, I wanted to be kissed, tasted, devoured, but I couldn’t feel the magic, the butterflies had died, nothing danced and teased and tickled within my abdomen. I still wanted those blues. I wanted a man, a man with a chiselled torso who would stand, half naked, outside my bed chamber and seductively call out my name. I still wanted Ben. I still wanted Paul Newman and the longest, hottest summer.
College was a riot, pubs, nightclubs, lager, spirits, too many late nights and early mornings. I went along with the frolics and played my part but there was something always missing. I never saw those eyes, those exotic blues.
University was even better, a diverse and eclectic mix of new and old friends, different experiences and perspectives, being a tiny goldfish in a vast yet noisy sea. I even found a film club which was wonderful. We’d all meet up, drink wine and watch old movies. One night, we watched ‘The Long, Hot Summer’ and I felt ill with desire, dizzy, nauseas, hot and sticky. I was seven years old again, transported back in time to my mum’s living room, silly, foolish, lovesick and in awe.
Now I am thirty six and I look around at all my friends, cosy, coupled, married, mothers and fathers. I am still alone, untouched, burning, and still waiting for those blues. I wonder sometimes, if I should have settled, would I be happier. I worry sometimes; where are those blues and will I ever find them. But I so want and need those blues and so I wait.
Saturday, September 29, 2012
Deidre’s mother was a peacock: beautiful, colourful, breath-taking. Deidre’s sister was a butterfly: graceful, elegant, appealing. Deidre was neither of these things; she was a shadow, a black and white faded photograph of herself. She felt lost amongst their pungent perfumes and social gatherings.
Deidre didn’t fit in with the girls at work either, with their laughter, chatter, luminous cocktails and bubblegum pink lipstick. They didn’t bother with her; sometimes they forgot she was there.
Deidre had often dreamed of being a peacock or a butterfly but her shape was all wrong for electric blue mini skirts and scarlet high heels, so she became a caterpillar, eternally cocooned within her drab grey cardigan.
Deidre was shocked when Graham from the sales team had invited her out for a drink, how had he noticed her when she’d done such an excellent job of camouflaging into the office walls?
Two glasses of Merlot into the date, Deidre explained to Graham about peacocks and butterflies. He smiled with kind eyes and held her hand. He told her that she was a wise owl, much more impressive and higher up the pecking order. He told her that she should forget about the peacocks and butterflies, you have to unwrap a present to find the joy.
She asked him about the birds and the bees and he took her home and loved her gently. She shook off the moths and transformed into a contented little skylark, singing and dancing, their private duet.
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Nobody else would get away with it, not even Johnny Depp, not even Brad Pitt, but somehow, like magic, Adam can do whatever he wants, especially with the ladies. It’s almost like he was put on this planet to keep husbands on their toes. He strides into the office building, kisses the blonde receptionist full on the lips, grabs Sue’s ass in the lift, she backs into his hand. He’s had all of them in accounts. Maggie, his PA, wears short skirts and unbuttoned blouses, her breasts jiggle as she walks and spill over the top when she bends down. Everyone wants a piece of Adam and he has enough to go around, he’s generous like that.
Adam is the biblical first man, peeling back Eve’s fig leaves and touching her just there. Adam is whoever you want him to be, in the back of a cab, under the restaurant table, in your marital bed. He just snaps his fingers and you come running like teenage Beatles fans, like starving cannibals, like sex hungry zombies. Adam loves his life.
What it is about him that provokes this illicit response? Is he attractive? Sure, he has those dreamy peepers and that wicked and hypnotic slow smile. Is it the way he dresses? Probably, in his fine grey suit which belongs in a page of an expensive and glossy fashion magazine. Is it his way with the words? More than likely, he’s seductive with his language, sensual and then sometimes outright dirty. Words are whispered closely into a tickled ear, hot breath lingers on a sensitive neck, and the shivers are delicious and delightful. Is it his confidence? Yes, I do believe this is the key. Adam knows that he can have you, take you and devour you, so he does. The deed is done, he clinks the door shut before your head even remotely catches up with the rest of your tingling body. There’s a drop of swagger, a spoonful of cocky and a large helping of arrogance. You know that he’s a bad boy; maybe you could be the one to tame him? God, you’re all so predictable. But on you go, in frenzied drones, falling at his feet, asking him what aftershave he wears, giggling like idiots, flickering your eye lashes, offering up your kohl doe eyes and licking your pink lips. He’ll never change.
I know that because I’m his fucking wife.
Saturday, September 15, 2012
Little Lorna Mae suffered with night terrors; her parents had bought her a large doll with a pale face, blinking blue eyes and blonde ringlets. She was called Susan, it said so on the floral box. Susan was supposed to make Lorna Mae happy and, hopefully, stop the hideous dreams and images that crashed around her mind during the night. But Lorna Mae didn’t much care for Susan; she didn’t like the odd clinking sound that her dead eyes made when they snapped shut. So she placed her in the white trunk, with the rattles and other baby toys she had grown out of.
As approached, Lorna Mae’s small six year old frame jolted upright. Her parents rushed in, wearily clasping dressing gowns around their bodies and went through the motions. Lorna Mae’s eyes remained wide open as her brain was caught in a horrific trance. She couldn’t wake up, nor go back to sleep, so she cried and screamed, not even recognising her tired mother and father. There was nothing they could do but hold her, forgive the pushes and scratches she bestowed upon their faces, and find Susan the doll, tucking her up close underneath the lavender bedspread.
Susan the doll wet the bed. Lorna Mae knew it couldn’t have been her, her pyjamas were bone dry and she hadn’t done that since she was three. Susan had a mean smile on her stupid face, she looked different today. She tried to explain but her mother scolded her, slapped her legs for uttering silly fantasies and wicked lies, as she bundled the stinking sheets into the washing machine. She wasn’t allowed dessert, which made her cry as it was strawberry cheesecake, and she stomped up to her bedroom to stew and sulk.
Niceties returned with kisses and the usual bedtime story at . She brushed her teeth and snuggled into the freshly laundered bed linen. Susan the doll was placed beside her head on the pillow. Her eyes snapped shut and made that clink noise that made Lorna Mae feel a little bit sick. As soon as she heard her mother’s steps on the creaky stairs fade, and the living room door softly shut, she got up, stuffing Susan back into the trunk and pitter-pattered back to bed.
She fell asleep, sucking her thumb despite the regular chastisements from her mother. It helped for a while, she felt soothed and serene in her dream time. But the monsters in her head awaited their nightly frolic and so they arrived, laughing and closing down the hatch behind them. Susan was there, devilish grin, pulling at her bed covers and this was just too much for her brain to behold. Like clockwork, in trooped her exhausted parents, securing her down as she thrashed and sobbed.
‘It’s Susan,’ wept Lorna Mae.
‘She’s here, tucked up next to you, just where I left her,’ explained her mother, stroking her hair.
‘I hid her away. She came back. She’s alive,’ the little one cried.
‘Don’t be silly, you’re just having another bad dream.’
‘I don’t like her,’ Lorna Mae sobbed, salty tears racing down her flushed cheeks. Her mother snapped.
‘I don’t know what to do with you any more; you’re such an ungrateful girl.’ Her mother bustled out of the room, slamming the door, leaving her young daughter trembling and afraid. This wasn’t a night terror. Lorna Mae was wide awake.
She looked down at Susan, who had a wet face, like she’d been crying too.
‘I don’t want the bad dreams. I don’t want them to be cross with me,’ she announced.
‘I wish I was you,’ she added.
‘Do you really want to be me?’ asked the doll, causing Loran Mae to gasp in shock and jump out of bed.
‘Well?’ asked Susan.
Lorna Mae considered the question.
‘Yes I do,’ she replied sadly.
‘Go to sleep now. You’ll get your wish,’ beamed the doll.
Susan clinked her heavy lids shut. Lorna Mae thought that she looked like a dead person with her rigid arms sticking out by her sides. She shivered, pulling the covers up to her chin and closing her eyes.
When her mother came in to wake her for school, Lorna Mae saw her body rise from slumber and leave the room. She tried to follow, but as she had become the doll, she was rooted to the spot. She watched her mother make the bed, but she couldn’t speak to her. It was a very long and lonely day.
When Susan, in Lorna Mae’s human flesh and gingham uniform, returned from school, she was full of joy, chattering non-stop about what a wonderful day she’d had, skipping in the yard with friends, how juicy the lunchtime apple tasted. She noticed the wet face of the doll, but pretended that she hadn’t.
At bedtime, her mother came to tuck them in, Susan said, oh so sweetly ‘I’m sorry for what I said about the doll, I do like her really, and she is helping. I don’t think I will have a bad dream tonight.’ Lorna watched a beautiful smile emerge on her mother’s face.
‘Goodnight darling,’ she whispered, kissing the top of Susan’s head, padding out on to the landing, feeling hopeful.
‘I’m going to be a much better you,’ Susan vowed, rolling over and settling into an undisturbed sleep. Lorna Mae clinked her eyes shut and her thoughts finally melted away.
There was much fuss and happiness in the morning, her parents relished their first uninterrupted sleep in a long time. They celebrated, decorating Susan with new pretty hair bows and kisses; they made her pancakes with golden syrup for breakfast, which had never happened before.
As the week went on, Susan slept peacefully. Lorna Mae’s parents looked years younger and she had to agree, Susan did do a much better job.
‘Mummy, thank you for Susan, she really helped. But I don’t think I need her any more. I thought it might be nice to give her away, so another little girl can love her?’
‘Oh my sweet girl, what a lovely idea. If you’re sure, we can drop her off at the charity shop in the morning?’
‘I’m sure Mummy.’
Susan went to school. Lorna Mae was left in the doorway of the charity shop. She felt dizzy, seeing all the legs and feet of the people rushing by, so she clinked her eyes shut.
The next thing she was aware of was a small girl prising them open.
‘What a beautiful doll! Mum, can we buy her? Please?’ she begged, stroking Lorna Mae’s curls adoringly.
The little girl’s mother patted her enormous belly full of baby aware that, any day now, her daughter would feel rather left out and envious at the excitement of the new arrival.
‘Yes Hannah, it can be your special present from the baby.’
Lorna Mae smiled.
His aftershave lingers,
Smiles, embraces, sings,
Upon my satin sheets.
I inhale the masculine scent,
Musky, dizzying, sex.
It’s as though he’s still here.
The film runs in my mind,
Repeat, pause, play,
A flashback of desire.
I imagine his hands on me,
Strong, yet, gentle,
I remember his skilled tongue,
Licks, tastes, devours,
And I sigh his name out loud.
I recall his fleeting visit,
Disappointment, hurt, pain,
That he couldn’t stay the night.
I think of his wife,
Lucky, married, to him,
And envy stains my face.
I picture his children,
Giggling, siblings, innocence,
And my blood runs a little cold.
I wonder what I am,
Casual, Fridays, Orgasms,
I hoped for so much more.
I wake up,
He’s not mine, together, always,
And he never will be.
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
The show begins, just as rehearsed, with a whimper of pretend pain from her pursed lips. Word for word, she recounts the symptoms. Every line is delivered perfectly with feeling, the desolate tones of the unwell, of this month’s feigned illness.
Crocodile tears flow freely, her incessant moaning voice pleads for attention and the very thing that she craves more than anything else in the world, the illicit diagnosis.
The doctor sighs; he allows her this moment of glory. After all, she’s far sicker than she attempts to portray with a deep mental malaise.
Bravo! A winning performance.
Monday, August 6, 2012
My sister Rosie, preposterous, pompous, picky and unreasonable in life, is preposterous, pompous, picky and unreasonable after her death. She sits in a cage lined with pastel floral curtains in our living room, whilst others like her run amok, scooping out people’s brains in the streets outside. Despite the drama and the changes, she’s still very much her irritating self. I see it in her face, the disdain and the disgust at the fresh corpse I provide.
‘This is no Sunday school picnic!’ I shout, ‘Just fucking eat it!’
She primly sinks her pinkie finger into the ripped apart abdomen, pulls it out and tastes it. Her nose wrinkles, as usual. She holds out a string of intestine and looks at me, a flash of anger dances across her eyes.
‘No way, Rosie, I’m not cooking it.’
Honestly, if she had her way I’d be roasting it with vegetables and tarragon or whatever. She drops it to the floor and refuses to eat it.
She hits her hands on the bars of the cage. I sigh, and give in. I return with a plate, cutlery, and herbs. I toss them through the gaps, except the plate which I tentatively poke through. The little bitch almost bit me last time.
I roll my eyes at the ludicrous scene. She actually sprinkles parsley on the sinewy mess, takes a bite and dabs her bloody lips on a cotton napkin.
Sunday, August 5, 2012
I reach over to give him a cuddle but he moves me out of the way, I’m blocking the television. I ask him if he remembers the time that we stripped naked and made love by the river, on that glorious summer’s day. He never even looks up, provides not even a grunted acknowledgement. I start to get pains.
They begin in my arms, my shoulders mostly. I tell him about it and request a massage but he shushes me and angrily snaps that I am disturbing his enjoyment of Team GB.
I don’t care about the Olympics, or sport generally. I guess he thinks that I’m being silly, attention seeking, trying to drag him away from his beloved, important sports events.
It’s just that the pains have rapidly become unbearable and I’m worried and can’t cope. I go out, shuffling slowly to the pharmacy, and purchase the strongest painkillers but, after several intolerable hours, they haven’t even dulled it. It spreads to my back and it’s so excruciating that I have to demand to see the doctor. My skin feels as though it’s burning and my bones feel like they’re growing, wishing to break through my tender flesh.
The doctor examines me and exclaims that it’s a curious case, but not the first one that he has seen this week. He tells me that I have ‘Olympic Fever’ and prescribes me a cream to rub in, three times a day.
‘But I don’t even like the Olympics!’ I protest, disbelieving his peculiar diagnosis with wide eyes.
‘And this is why you’re ill!’ He bellows, ‘You, and women like you, ruining your poor husband’s enjoyment. Do you let him watch Match of the Day in peace? Well, do you?’ He’s shouting now, he removes his spectacles to reveal mean eyes.
I silently weep. It’s true. I confess it. Every Saturday night I parade around in a corset, stockings and high heeled shoes in a vain attempt to lure him away from Gary Lineker and the sofa based boys club. It stopped working months ago. Tears race down my hot, crimson cheeks.
‘Collect your cream and for the love of all that is precious, let your husband watch his sports without the nagging and petty resentment.’
I nod meekly and scrunch the prescription into my tiny coin purse.
Upon my return, I gaze at my husband who is watching the tennis. He’s shouting obscenities at Andy Murray again. I zip my mouth and leave him to it. I make his favourite sandwiches, egg and cress, he doesn’t care or offer any thanks, but I still keep quiet. I attempt to apply the cream but it’s impossible to reach the most painful area at the top of my back.
I ask my husband to do it and he glowers, he’s trying to watch the gymnastics now and reminds me about what a selfish bitch I am. I throw the pot of cream against the wall but he doesn’t flinch, his eyes are fixated on the screen.
I run up the stairs, upset, slamming the door shut behind me with a temper. I crumple to the floor and the sobs arrive, choking cries stick in my throat. I’m sick and dizzy and I feel a ripping sensation in my back which is the most diabolical agony. I stand up, rip off my clothes and look in the mirror. I look different. I’m changing. I turn around and freeze. Out of the top of my back, wings are sprouting, white feathers cover me, and some fall to the salmon pink bedroom carpet. I can’t move or make a sound. Fear renders me useless.
As I hear my husband’s celebratory cheers from the floor below, my entire body contorts. I fall back to the floor and see spindly bird legs replace my soft, womanly ones. I touch my face and feel the sharp beak that used to be a button nose. It takes mere minutes and I am a bird. I perch on the window sill, timidly stepping forward on to the ledge outside. I’m not alone. Kirsty from number 24 flies out of her house and soars into the blue sky. Maureen from 32 follows her, flapping her wings with power and freedom. They coo in encouragement, I should join them.
Sunday, July 8, 2012
I’d lost my job, my husband had left me and I’d been feeling quite low. So, I hadn’t kept on top of things. The house was a mess and, outside, the hedge had taken over. Its highest branches now tickled the sky. But I just didn’t have the energy, or the desire, to sort things out.
So when Mrs. Simpkins from number 18 came round with a cross face and a raised voice about my lowering the tone of a good neighbourhood, a palpable flash of anger boiled my blood.
It started with just one letter. It was only supposed to be a prank; I had no idea that she would take it so seriously. I’d sat, that night, meticulously cutting out individual letters from magazines. In the morning, still feeling irked by her botheration, I posted it through her door.
When the fuss died down, I forced myself to tend to the unruly hedge. I was out in the front garden with the shears when Dorothy, from number 26, strolled by. She told me it’s such a shame, I used to be such a pretty girl, and comfort eating wasn’t the answer.
Once again, I saw red, out came the scissors, snip, snip. She received her letter the following day. I ate three cream cakes and wept.
The next Sunday, I went for a walk to try and shift a pound or three, when I ran into Mrs. Anderson from number 14. She turned up her nose and commented that it’s no wonder the economy was in such a mess when certain people refused to do an honest day’s work and sat on their backsides all day.
I stormed back home, slammed the gate shut and wasted not a second before starting her special letter.
Later, I walked to the shop for a newspaper to peruse the job listings when Mr. Crooks shook his head in disgust at the rotten core of society. That within a friendly, upstanding area, there could be a raving lunatic sending nasty letters to folk.
I really tried not to this time but I couldn’t sleep that night and the concentration and hypnotic sound of the blades on the glossy paper helped me relax, so Mr. Crooks got one too.
I worried about my behaviour and made an appointment with the GP. The receptionist was Sandra’s daughter from number 36. She said it was good I had finally come; it was about time I got rid of that ugly mole on my chin.
I was speechless at that, my hand instinctively rubbed it. I used that as my reason for being there and said nothing about my recent actions. I sent a letter to Sandra’s house.
People were really talking now and I started to feel afraid about leaving the house. Paranoia followed me around, day and night. But nobody will ever know it was me. I sent one to myself, this very afternoon.
Saturday, July 7, 2012
Three seat sofa for sale,
In much loved condition,
Arse and elbow grooves,
Comes with a romantic history.
Three seat sofa for sale,
Has held cuddles,
And tickle fights
And sleepy bodies before bed.
Three seat sofa for sale,
The end seat in immaculate condition,
Only two seats used,
By lovers intertwined.
Three seat sofa for sale,
Has seen tears,
And the making of love.
Three seat sofa for sale,
It’s where he told me
That his love had gone,
He’d given it away to another.
Three seat sofa for sale,
It’s where I wept for five days and nights,
Unable to believe and accept
That it was all over.
Three seat sofa for sale,
The cushions are free.
Please take it away
And give me some peace.
Three seat sofa for sale.
You can have it for a fiver.
I really don’t mind,
I can’t sit there now.
Three seat sofa for sale.
Three seat sofa for free.
Take the three seat sofa and I’ll pay you.
Three seat sofa.
Monday, July 2, 2012
Eternally captured in the photograph
The romantic summer picnic
Framed in sepia tones.
Their smiling fresh faces
Squinting from the sun.
A recollection stirs her mind,
The succulent strawberries,
Sweet red juice trickling down her chin
For him to carefully kiss away.
The sharp white wine
Upon his breath and hot tongue
Ending on her lips
Leaving her drunk only with desire.
The buzzing bees and birdsong
The only sounds that day.
Finding love and heart shaped clouds
When she touched him there.
When he touched her there.
Leaving the field as a woman,
No trace of the girl she had been.
Saturday, June 30, 2012
My heart still weeps when I allow myself to think back. It doesn’t seem to matter how many years pass, the pain does not fade and runs so deeply through my veins that I often experience long periods of misery and inertia. I will try to explain what became of my life after the dark, harrowing night in October, 1848. This is not an easy task; I only hope I do this justice.
I had found myself in a most privileged situation after some hard times and six young mouths to feed. After working in the kitchen for two years, I had risen to become the royal wet nurse of Queen
Baby Louise was a beauty, so bonny with her short blonde ringlets and big blue eyes; I’d stroke her rosy cheeks as she suckled at my breast contentedly. I was chosen for this job for several reasons: I was healthy, I’d never lost a child, I had a good temperament and my more than ample breasts overflowed with nutritious milk. I knew how fortunate I was, the several wet nurses on constant standby would tell me often enough.
So, there I was, 26, married, mother of six and responsible for feeding the two princesses in the royal palace. I’d often stay over in the servants quarters but I’d try not to leave it too long before I made my way back to our little family house, arms swooping at my skirts and squealed delights as soon as the children heard my voice. I always had to rush back though; I couldn’t have anyone stealing my place, and then I would get the same response from the royal children, a flurry of affection that I had returned.
And then the tidal wave of destruction arrived, haunting my broken mind for evermore. The Cholera epidemic came upon
It was the governess who broke the news,
‘You’re not to feed the babes, Ettie. Her majesty went mad; she thinks you might pass on the fever. You must go,’ her voice was trembling, as was the hand stroking my hair.
‘I heard. I’m so sorry Ettie, my love. These are cruel times indeed. You must tend to your own babes now, the family needs you. Give them all a kiss from me, poppet,’ she helped me to my feet and embraced me tightly before seeing me to the door.
‘Goodbye Mary’ I tried to smile but my heart was broken and images of little baby Louise suckling at another woman’s breast pricked at my pride.
The crisp, cold October air filled my lungs and the wind whipped my face. I had not even a shawl to warm me; the black night sky rumbled overhead as the rain started pelting down. I walked as briskly as possible; it was so quiet and eerie. Not even the backstreet pub spilled out the usual noise and drunks. The Cholera must have hit hard around here. I shivered, imagining
A flash of movement from the corner of my eye made me spin round. Squinting to see what lurked in the shadows, I saw nothing. My mind was clearly playing tricks. The streets were deserted and silence reigned; only the splatters of rain collecting puddles could be heard, though my heart now raced and I felt on edge. My stride accelerated as a bolt of lightning cracked through the night sky. The low, angry rumbles of thunder setting my feet into a half run.
And again. What was that? I felt certain that I had just seen another flash of movement. I didn’t stop this time to find out. I ran like I never had before, panting, my lungs on fire, and the scenery beside me a bouncing blur. The heavy rain was hindering my every step; I could barely open my eyes for the backlash of water pouring down my face. Yet I carried on, I was close to home now, almost at the top of our street. I just had to keep moving and try to forget the very real sensation that I was being followed.
As the identical houses greeted me with familiarity, my feet slowed a little, the candle light glowing in our window the most welcome of sights my eyes had ever beheld. I had made it. Home. My muscles tight, my breathing rapid, I attempted to calm myself; I’d worry the children half to death if I went in like this. I took a few seconds to straighten myself out although it was futile; I looked like a drowned rat. I opened the door.
The strong odour made me wretch and I gasped back into the night air, the smell of faeces hit my nostrils immediately, causing waves of nausea as I heaved and heaved onto the doorstep. I could not go back in there without something to wrap across my face. I stumbled, another crash of lightning waving goodbye to my nerves and reason. I looked down at myself, I had ripped my dress, and the hanging fabric would do the job, I decided. It took some doing but I tugged and ripped at the tattered material until I felt confident that I had enough to act as a mask to the offending stink. I tied it in a knot around my head and held it close to my face.
Again I slipped through the doorway, not expecting the usual excitement at my return, it was gone now and the children, at least, would be fast asleep. The candle was close to burning away completely so I walked over to the old, faithful wooden drawers and took out a new one, lighting it and surveying the empty room. Even with my handmade mask the reek was so powerful, my body convulsed once more, though I had nothing left inside of me to give. I turned towards the hallway and froze.
‘Arthur?’ I managed to stammer, my voice shaking with fear and impending doom. There he was, lying flat out in his night shift on the floor.
‘Arthur?’ I called out again, louder this time, urgency thick in my voice.
I knew I needed to go over there and see him but my feet didn’t want to know, they were very much locked into position. If I did, if I really did walk over there then my life was changed forever. I knew that. And for just over two minutes, my brain refused to let that happen.
But then I shuffled over and faced the inevitable. He had soiled himself, his face a fixed grimace of horror which is how I now remember him. I can’t visualise the happy, laughing, passionate man I married. I see this.
I couldn’t even cry which still shames me to this day. I think I was so shocked that normal bodily functions such as tears evaded me completely. I remember just saying no. No. No, no, no, no, no, no over and over again, shaking my head in a useless method to make it all unreal. But real it was. And I didn’t know the half of it.
Slowly, as quietly as I could, I made my way up our creaky old stairs, shutting my eyes as I passed the drawing Nancy had done for the children, our smiling faces captured forever, beaming for all to see. Each step filled me deeper with dread but I had to remain positive. I had to remain positive.
I came to a halt at the top of the stairs, where first? My feet turned left and paused at the door of the boys, pressing my ear to the wood in a desperate need for the blessed sound of snoring or creaking beds as they stirred. Nothing. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, opening that door. In the end, I swung it open quickly, hoping for a reaction, but I didn’t get one. My heart shattered then, into an irreparable thousand pieces. I sidled over to the bed and gingerly pulled back the covers. And there they were, both my angel sons, holding onto one another. I stroked Albert’s head, icy cold. I felt Charles’s cheek, the same. I fell to the floor, weeping until I could scarcely breathe, loud yelps escaping from my lips. I don’t know how long I was there, curled up, beating my tight fists into the floor. I hesitated, not really wishing to see my daughters in the same state. But some vague hope dragged me to my feet. I covered up my sweet boys, wishing God would strike me dead with a bolt of his vicious lightning, and strode out of the door, straight into the room of the girls.
My first born
What about Amelia and my baby Martha? Where were they? Had they got out? Were they still alive? Were they out there, somewhere, searching for me? The sensation of hope created a surge of energy throughout my body and I flew out of the room and almost fell down the stairs in my haste.
Catching another glimpse of Arthur laying at the bottom, my insides felt as though they may burst. I stopped to kiss his freezing brow and whispered my sorry, knowing that would never be enough. I peered into the kitchen and it was all over. My life ended. In the corner, I could make out the silhouette of my darling Amelia in the chair; she was holding something and my mind refused to respond. I could not face this. I could not stand this. As traumatic and tragic as the whole evening had been, I knew this sight would seal my fate, propel me to an insanity I couldn’t possibly return from.
I went a little mad there and then, sweeping the rosebud china jug from the table, hearing the smash as I opened the cupboard door and compulsively dragged out every single matching item from the set, the plates, the cups, the saucers. I threw the sugar bowl at the wall and emptied all the spoons out on to the floor. I screamed and I wailed and I just could not dispel the anger, putrid reality and utter hell fast enough.
I hated myself. I marched over to Amelia and pulled the bundle from her adamant, unyielding arms. And I fled. I ran out of the door and immersed myself into the unforgiving, sinister night, unperturbed by the lashes of rainfall and found myself at the river. I should feed the baby. I was a rotten Mother;
I moved Martha right up to my breast, expecting immediate lactation. That’s what I did, after all, the human cow. I didn’t understand why she wasn’t taking it? Had I been away too long? Had she got so used to
And there he was, as strange as could be. His long hair, even longer than my own blonde locks, cascading down his body, black as true as the night, eyes the same colour. His tall frame and long shroud created quite a frightening picture. He was so pale that he almost glistened despite the horrendous weather. At once, I knew he was the flash of movement I had spotted earlier that night. I had no words; I just remember looking at him quizzically.
‘Ettie,’ he purred, holding out a white hand. How did he know my name? I declined to shake it and went back to helping Martha latch on.
‘Ettie, please, see sense. You know she’s dead don’t you?’ his voice was gentle which jarred, stabbing me all over.
I despised him at that moment but my eyes shot straight to my baby and acknowledged his words.
‘Let her go, Ettie, I beg you. You’re only bringing yourself more agony with this charade. Put her down, sail her down the river and let her be at peace now,’ his voice clinked and charmed and I knew he spoke the truth. He had made it so that I could not continue with believing I still had a child, she was gone like the rest of them. My baby was dead.
I still struggle to comprehend how I managed to do this but I actually did lean over, watched the gushing, swollen river water and lowered her into it. I watched as her tiny body rushed away and peered up at him for further instruction.
‘You’ve had quite a night, dear Ettie. I had you in my sights as you dashed through the rain but I let you go. It would have been kinder if I had taken you then, spared you from the sights you have seen tonight. Your heart is broken. I can’t mend it. But let me try to help you now. Let me give you a new reason to exist in this world,’ his words were a riddle but I no longer cared for my well-being. I deserved nothing but the depths of Hell after letting my family die and my world fall apart. I didn’t desire to live when everything I cared for had gone.
‘Come to me,’ he ordered, his arms outstretched. I rose and felt him embrace me. My naked breast rubbed against his silky cloak.
‘This is going to hurt, Ettie, I won’t lie. But it will be worth it. It’s your second chance,’ I didn’t have a clue what he referred to but I didn’t fear pain or death at that moment.
His hand squeezed my breast and his head lowered, his cold lips skimming the nipple. And what came next shocked me right back into the moment. He bit me. His teeth ripped right through the sensitive flesh of my breast and I screamed and screamed into the night. I could feel his mouth hungrily lapping at my blood, gorging at my bust. The pain was unbearable and seemed to last forever. All my instincts shouted fight for your life, but what for? This is what I deserved so I didn’t even struggle, I just allowed him to continue with this agonising act.
It wasn’t long before I sensed I was fading, close to death and I welcomed it. Death was the release I hoped for. But then things changed completely. He pulled at my head until my lips touched his neck. I didn’t understand. What did he want?
‘Ettie, sink your teeth into me,’ he growled through gritted teeth. His absurd request had me speechless.
‘Do it! Do it now or all is lost. Do it!’ He roared, and so I did.
It was the oddest thing in the entire world but I was under his spell and had no sane mind of my own to rely on. I burst his skin and sucked his blood, taking out on him all the heartbreak of the evening. He pushed me away after a while and I felt so tired. I just wanted to sleep. He picked me up and held me close as he ran into the night, faster than the lightning itself. I drifted off and don’t remember that first night at all but I awoke in the same desolation.
‘You are a night walker, sweet Ettie. Your life begins anew today with the taking of another. You need the blood of humans, you will find yourself feasting upon it,’ he said.
Death I had seen too much of and refused to take part in it as a sport. He killed, I drank.
This has continued for over a century and I have come to the decision that I can’t do this any longer. I should be dead. I wish I was. I’m writing this memoir to leave a little truth behind and some sort of testament to my family. I don’t deserve a second chance. I don’t deserve a second thought. I can’t take the pain for one more night. The moment sunrise occurs, I am stepping out into the June sun and my sorry carcass can burn to dust.