How to Brush your Teeth

Buy a toothbrush.

Buy some toothpaste.

Put some toothpaste on the toothbrush.

Scrape it it off again in the edge of the sink.

Take plastic wrapper off of toothbrush.

Scrape toothpaste on edge of sink into bristles of toothbrush.

Put toothbrush in mouth.

Take toothbrush out of mouth.

Looks at blob of toothpaste that has fallen from toothbrush onto bathroom floor.

Try to decide if the three second rule applies to toothpaste.

Decide that it doesn’t due to having flushed toilet without lid being down.

Pick a piece of old tissue from the bin.

Wipe blob of toothpaste up.

Throw tissue in bin.

Throw toothbrush in bin.

Pick up mouthwash and try to read the sell by date on the side.

Give up trying to read sell by date.

Open mouthwash and drink half the bottle.

Look at label and realise it say No Alcohol.

Put cap back on and throw bottle in bin.

Go to bed.

What He Did Next

He went through her site and Liked every single one of her posts simply because he liked all of them. Her creativity and enquiring nature fascinated him and he wanted to know that he liked her, even if she thought he was disgusting. He then watched as she deleted all his comments.

He thought of what had gone wrong and decided that there were some things they would never understand and that there were other things they would never admit. It didn’t matter. Communication had ceased, so they were both freed from any necessity to explain or understand.

He went inside himself and contacted the deep well of silence at the foundation of his being and using this he went up to the truth of all existence and through these connections he gave light and peace into her life and heart. She would feel it and be benefitted on some level.

Then he went out and bought a big bar of chocolate – his only addiction. As he walked back to the office he wondered about her addictions and hoped that they were no more destructive than his.

And then he wrote this.

Remembered and Forgot

I remember when there was nothing to remember. I remember a time before it was necessary to remember anything at all – days where I just woke and moved and ate and slept without bothering about memory.

We went out to play without thinking about coming back – our mothers would call us when it was time to eat and when it was time to sleep again. We lived like that – from second to second.

I remember the times when the more we played the less we would bother about the effect we had on the people around us and the animal ways they had of making us feel that we should not be reading and playing and enjoying ourselves. Even now, as I write, I should not be writing – I should be working. I am taking ten minutes out to do this and I feel guilty.

I never felt guilty as a small child. I remember that.

Growing up is a matter of learning rules. Rules to bind us to places and people. Rules to keep us safe. Rules to keep us driving down an endless highway that can only lead to one place, and it ain’t Santa Monica, California.

I remember when I didn’t have to look up things on the internet before I gave my sage opinion about this and that. The internet has become a manifestation of just another rule.

I wish that I could break all these rules but they are bound too tight about me.

Oh look. Do you see that? A forbidden subject has flashed into my mind – suicide!

It occurs to me that the only way to break all the rules is to kill oneself. Rules can’t bind me from the other side of death.

I say that and then I think ‘I don’t know that for sure.’ And I guess that it’s this uncertainty that keeps most of us bound to this plane, this existence, this set of rules.

But I’m going to break all of those rules.


I don’t remember the way that your hair fell across your face – was it to the left or to the right. Why does this seem so important to me now, of all times – just as I’m about to leave?

It’s been hard thinking about you recently. I seem to remember the good things along. I only seem to be able to remember your kind eyes and the way made me feel when you did something nice for me, like wrapping your arms around me when I was cold, or blowing flies out of my eyes when they flew in there. It seems like they were always getting in there.

I should be remembering the thing you did that got me annoyed – like the time you … But I just don’t remember them.

I guess that’s why I’m choosing to leave.

You always said that I needed a balance. And I never listened. I ought to have. I still need to now.

If I could only remember the scorn in your eyes as you watched me that day. But which day?

If I could only bring your mean streak to mind. But I can’t.

God, I miss you so much!

I’m going to go now. A world without your ever-constant smile, without the kindness that never failed me, without the feel of your fingertips against my cheek – that’s not a world worth living in.

I’d write you a note – something just for you, but I know that it’d just fall down the back of the sofa and get lost, or accidentally get burnt on the cooker. I’ve seen you do that to letters, and not just the red ones that demand and demand and demand more and more from you until there was nothing left but a cold look on your face. But I don’t remember that look. I don’t remember your pain. I don’t remember.

So instead of a note, I’m sending this message into the world instead.

Goodbye.

Amelia

shadowy face

Amelia worked carefully – building the life she had always wanted and was rewarded by babies by the bed-full. They filled her mind and heart with their vigorous lives – not one the same as the next. Her heart was whole.

Her husband, Muhammad, was the kindest of men. He provided for her – bread on the table and love in her life. His nature never fell from poetry into casual indifference and she adored him for this.

So why did sorrow stalk her?

Tuesday began with sunshine against the curtains. Such a promising heat against her body as Amelia swept the material aside – eager to let the day begin. The rattle of milk bottles against each other and the thud of a newspaper on the mat was followed by boys’  laughter fading down the garden path and the rattle of the gate as it shut. Amelia watched their progress down the street.

A first, hesitant cry told her that her babies were waking. She shrugged on a dressing-gown, collar soft against her throat, swept her hair into a band and moved leisurely towards the other room. As she passed by the bed, a hand caught hers – warm and strong.

Laughing with the deep resonance that Muhammad always said he adored, Amelia allowed herself to be pulled down to the bed. She came to rest on the mounded duvet above his body and bent her lips to his.

The call from the other room doubled, then a third joined the chorus. Reluctantly Amelia pulled herself away from the warm promise of Muhammad’s arms and, with a smile, kissed her fingertips and drew them down his cheek.

“Shush, shush, shush – Mommy’s here.”

Their mouths fell silent at the sound of her familiar voice. Gazing down at their chubby faces, Amelia felt a wave of love wash through her and then into their bodies – so helpless and yet so perfect – so full of promise. Her life was complete. She has everything she had ever wished for when growing up in the quiet suburban neighbourhood she still lived in.

So why did sadness watch her from the shadows of her mind?

An hour later, nappies changed, babies fed, Muhammad waved away into another day at the office, Amelia leant back into the embrace of the armchair and watched her brood. Crawling in their comical way, sucking anything they could fit into their mouths, burbling happily – it was another lovely day at the zoo.

Lulled by the comfort of the cushions and the sun, friendly against her face, Amelia closed her eyes for a moment. Just one single moment.

When she opened them, the silence registered first.

(concludes with Amelia (conclusion))

Let Her Stay (penultimate draft)

Let Her Stay

Baby Love

Losing a child is hell. The ache doesn’t go no matter what you do. The only escape was in sleep. When she could. But when Emma woke up, her baby still wasn’t there, and the pain would hit like a blunt chisel at her chest.

Emma remembered when Sarah used to wake her by launching herself upon her. Peter had taught her that – how to sneak and then how to shriek when her small body landed. As her husband would look on, breakfast tray in hand, smile on his face, Emma would hold Sarah’s giggling body off, half feeling, half feigning irritation. Ah, but to get that back, even for a moment. She’d pay anything. Any price.

But still, she’d preferred it when Sarah was a baby – when she used to call to her mother from next door.

Emma would hear Sarah’s mewls and they would pull at threads that had mysteriously become twined through her heart. Emma would always seem to come awake just before the first, hesitant sounds escaped from her child’s mouth. She would just know. It felt like chocolate melting in a pan.

When Sarah had begun to sicken, they thought it was just a cold. She’d had a bit of a fever and a sniffy nose, but don’t all kids get that? Just a bug going round, she told herself. Just a something that’ll pass. But a week later she was tossing in the bed like it was burning her skin.

Five years old and she’d been boiled down to nothing; fried until she was just skin on bone. Couldn’t even raise her own head to take a spoon of soup. Didn’t even know there was a spoon most of the time.

They wished, prayed, that it could have been medicine on that spoon, but there wasn’t the money. Even if they had pawned everything they had left, it still wouldn’t have been enough.

The nurse … yeah, a bloody nurse – they couldn’t even get near a doctor; the nurse said they needed the latest antibiotic, the one they developed north of the fence. Said that what she had wasn’t treatable by the old drugs anymore. Even had the cheek to say that they were lucky they couldn’t afford to take her into hospital as weak as she was. The bugs there would have stripped her bones.

Two days later, Sarah was taken from them anyway.

They’d been slapped, punched and kicked to the ground by a regime that could give them so much, but chose not to – a society that had rejected them; but this was the last piece – the final humiliation. They wouldn’t allow those people to get away with it. It was time to show them what pain was. Time to teach them about loss.

Where have all the Contrails Gone? Long Time Passing

Months later – planning done and time come, Emma locked revenge away for a time and gazed into and beyond a sky that seemed washed of all cloud and sense. This was the kind of sky she used to paint at school when she’d mixed blue with more and more white and then just painted across and across, getting lighter and whiter towards the line where the ground began. She’d done it just like Miss Fletcher had told her to.

Strange to think that she should get her idea of what the sky should look like from a woman whose hair came from a bottle, body mass index from McDonald’s and memories from a time long before all the clouds disappeared.

A dark speck against the blue. She tried to follow and lost it. Probably just another piece of dust in her eye. She was getting more of those as she got older and her eyes became more like dried riverbeds. As the land had parched under the relentless sun it had taken to the air, her hair, her eyes.

No – there it was again – definitely a bird. She marvelled for a moment, thinking herself back home, then remembered where she was. Remembered that she was in the North. Birds were more common here. And not just the ones that fed on flesh. On carrion.

She followed its motion as it coasted in the wind-lanes. Probably searching for lunch. Insects? Small animal? Or something worse. As she thought of food, she felt, rather than heard, the trail of gas rise in her stomach and was disgusted by her body’s reaction. Roadkill and hunger were not natural companions for her. Not as natural as they had become for some of her friends, and even her own family.

As the bird swooped downwards, she lost it among the trees, some of which were still in their green overcoats, as they’d been all winter. Others were just rising from sleep and still getting dressed. The warmth of the day was encouraging and they had already put on their filmy underclothes in various shades of green.

She searched the boughs for nests, but couldn’t find any. But they wouldn’t risk nesting here surely. Too close to man the hunter – still close to the top of the food-chain, but for how long? A wry smile.

Her eyes climbed through the nearest tree. Down along the branches until they met the trunk, and then clambered down the bark until they met the ground. Dry earth. Too dry for spring. No promise for the grass gathered there with the moss. Green now, but like a vehicle without fuel, it just wasn’t going to go far. More’s the pity that it was even trying. She felt obscurely sad for the grass. It had no idea what was coming.

It was a bright day. A good day to be alive. A day to celebrate and dance. And yet her thoughts turned again to destruction, darkness and death. That anchor still on her heart. That weight taking her down. She shook her head and raised her eyes back to the sky. Still blue. Still empty. Stilled, like her heart.

Why do you Build Me Up Buttercup, just to Let Me Down?

As she looked up, a building over the river caught her eye. It was constructed in a style that her mind still insisted on calling futuristic, even though nano-architecture had been around for at least two decades. It was just more economical to let this technology construct these self-repairing structures that seemed to defy the pull of the ground.

This one looked just like a mushroom – if such things could be eight-hundred metres tall and blue. She knew that semblance to be an illusion. The walls, invisible at this distance, were actually made of polarised nano-glass that absorbed and reused solar energy, storing it for use in the night. It was, in fact, a greenhouse, not accommodation. She could see the residential blocks further off – blighting the skyline like mould creeping up a wall.

Between the trees, the mock-Tudor mansion, its white walls framed with timber, drew her eye. What the heck was that doing there? It must cost a fortune to keep it in shape. The bug-buildings, as they’d come to be known, cost virtually nothing to upkeep, but this thing would need cleaning and painting every year.

As she watched, the double-doors opened and a river of red and gold began to flow out. She could hear them from where she stood – a chatter of voices and laughter. She didn’t need to look closely to know that this was a Chinese wedding party.

Like hawks aloft the camera drones captured every angle. Intelligent and virtually silent, these devices synched with the party as it emerged. They would cover everything with pinpoint precision and stream it to whoever chose to register for the private feeds, but Emma still noticed several of the guests taking out their own devices to supplement the already ample audio-visual feast.

Well, that explains why that building’s still standing, then. Weddings, particularly involving the growing Chinese community, were big business. With the biggest economy in the world, the tiger wasn’t just roaring – it was starting to feed.

She calculated her own angles and coverage as she watched the Chinese party spread themselves around the gardens. Some of the more adventurous were straying into dangerous territory but most of them would get away unharmed.

Her eyes closed and she thought of home. She thought of the arid wastes. The ruined land. A country that was once so fertile, now reduced to a near-desert. The soil – salted and spoiled. Scorching heat turning temperate areas to an unliveable inferno. What choice did they have? The dispossessed – starving and shunned by the thriving northern nations. Old grudges used as excuses for immoral behaviour.

But they would not get away with it. There would be a price to pay. Emma’s lips cracked as they curved into a smile, but this didn’t dampen her anticipation.

People, People Everywhere and not a Blooming Heart to Spare

She felt the eyes of the gift-shop assistant on her back. He had watched her carefully as she’d entered the foyer of the museum, his blue-ribbed jumper giving him the look of a security guard. She knew that was just for show. He was not armed.

Despite the thudding of her heart, she had ignored him, walking slowly past copies of the museum’s exhibits on sale. Plastic had given way to items crafted from more sophisticated materials, but it was still faux. Still fake. Nothing was real anymore – not the consumer driven rubbish, nor the hearts of those in power.

She had gone straight to the window that gave the clearest view of the museum gardens and had been stood there for the past half hour – barely moving except to ease her posture and the ache in her legs. She watched. She waited.

As the morning went on, the spaces outside had begun to fill up, as she’d known they would. Tourists mostly, but also locals on a break from work – they strolled aimlessly, or took up position on benches in shady corners.

That guy in the casual suit reminded her of someone she’d seen on the internet the previous week. He’d been ranting about the latest cutbacks in hospital budgets. What a loser, she’d thought as she’d clicked on another link. Hospitals are for those who want to be sick. Give people a quick ending and they’d be no need for a health service. Even the name was a joke. It should be called the sick service.

She followed him with her eyes until he walked out of sight, still munching on the apple he’d taken from his bag. He must be pretty well off to afford an apple. Maybe it was his birthday. Huh – some celebration.

A young girl in a flowery dress made her heart bump as she ran into view. She could have been Sarah – her daughter. Grief rose from her chest like a gloved claw and dragged at her mind, pulling her down.

Her eyes blurred as the girl ran up to a man and was swept into his arms. He held her above his head then swung her around, easily able to bear her slim form with his well-fed frame. Easy and free to celebrate their health and vitality.

She sniffed noisily and looked away. A couple caught her attention. Dark skinned with sunglasses, their gait marked them out as visitors. Probably from deeper Africa. This was a rare sight. Money had dried up as the Sahara had swept southward, eating trees and livelihoods with a voracious appetite. The people had flooded south, pursued by the sands. Taking what they could with them, and whatever they could find as they arrived.

A man walked into the centre of the garden, stopped and faced the museum. Her eyes went to his instantly, and Peter’s locked on hers.

At last. It begins.

Not Everyone Wants to Stay

When Sarah was taken from them, it could have torn the tissue of their marriage. But instead of flying apart, they found something to bind them: the monster under the bridge – the eater of small children – for what is a troll other than that? Revenge became the meaning of their lives. And everyone knows that lightning frightens trolls away.

‘But where are we going to get explosives?’

It was a mute conversation. Written in notebooks. Destroyed soon after by fire.

‘We’ll make them. Darknet cookbooks.’

‘Risky?’

‘Yes, but what to lose?’

‘Nothing. We have nothing.’

‘They need to pay.’

‘Yes.’

They made love that night with a passion that startled her. He was ardent and she felt the response in her body and through her mind – like rain washing the streets clean after a powerful thunderstorm.

Even getting everything North, through the fence had been easy. The cookbook knew ways. Sure, they had to have tracking-nano inserted into their bloodstream, but that didn’t matter. They just wanted to make a point, and then … then, they didn’t care what happened. The world would listen. The world would have no choice.

She slipped between elation and despair on an hourly basis.

One morning, she woke with the dawn to find a mist hanging over the garden. Trees, still drowsy with sleep, morose and shadowy, swayed with a life of their own. She stood, t-shirt grey against her body, watching the grey curtain holding down the grey grass and wondered how the branches could move and yet the fog stay still.

After several minutes? hours? of this, her husband’s hands – warm and solid, grasped her shoulders and her body came to the rest that she’d not realised she didn’t have.

Breakfast filled her with such energy that she emptied everything out from every cupboard and scrubbed every shelf. She washed every plate, pan and can, then set about packing them back. She got less than half way through before she collapsed into a chair, head on the table, where she remained until lunchtime. Raising her head, she surveyed the objects before her wearily.

The only time Emma didn’t miss her little girl was when sleeping. She longed to dream of Sarah, but couldn’t find her beneath the layers of self-pity that controlled her like a heavy blanket and yet even this couldn’t stop her from tripping on rocks that jerked her from sleep into terrified wakefulness.

Beware of pity, her husband told her. It will be the downfall of your heart. She wanted to ask him what he meant but was afraid of what he would say, so she waited in silence for the day when everything would be ready.

And soon, it was done. The substances were packed, messages primed, fees paid, paperwork complete, transport arranged and the knives in their minds sharpened to a finely honed edge.

Such sweet pain.

Let’s Get It On

She stood in the museum. Looking through the dusty glass. Looking at Peter’s eyes locked on hers. So much love. So much pain.

She blinks.

Twice.

Then he does it.

In the first moment, no-one reacts. She sees them, out on the edge of her vision. They seem to freeze, as if playing statues. As if someone had turned around, trying to catch them in a guilty act.

They react after a moment. Spin towards the sound like actors in a puppet show. Heads and bodies swivel towards Peter’s tall figure. Eyebrows raise. Mouths open. Arms arrange themselves in case they had to fight. Legs make ready to flee. If need be.

She thought that they would scream.

No-one screams.

She had been a spotty English teenager when the Scots had turned down their chance to leave the UK and she remembered thinking at the time what cowards they were. They’d fought battles, a war even, to try to wriggle out of the yoke of Sassenach Rule.

She knew that. She’d seen Braveheart.

Weaklings.

Two years after that, she had been old enough to add her voice to those eager to leave the EU. Old enough, and proud to do it. She’d show those damned Scots how to live. How to stand on their own two feet.

A small minority warned that it would make the UK into a pariah. A hated race. The kind that turned their back on a friend in need. But most didn’t care. They reassured themselves with the thought that the country was strong and united – England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales – big and strong enough to take on the world.

They were wrong.

The second Scottish Referendum ripped the country’s head off, and the sudden collapse of the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet punched an isolated England in the guts. She never recovered.

England, along with all the Southern European nations, was tossed into the sea – her lands salted and made barren. And what was not drowned was burned by pitiless sun. The worst of the scientist’s predictions came true and, like a dying phoenix – global warming came home to stay. The only safe haven in the UK became Scotland. And they didn’t want any dirty Southern economic refugees within their borders, taking their resources, using their new-found prosperity.

They put up a fence just to drive their point home.

‘Give Scotland back to the English!’

She heard him roar the slogan. Felt pride sing through her body at the sound of his good, strong English voice. A voice to rally to.

Someone giggled nervously. Damn them.

She watched Peter take a knife from his sleeve and slash once over his cheek. As the blood began to flow, he smeared it once across his face. As more spilled out, a vertical stripe completed the red cross. That was her idea. Sod William Wallace and his crappy woad – this said something real – something vital.

This was a real man. Standing tall and strong, a good blade in his hand, shouting for his country. Taking a stance for his family. For Sarah. It was Scotland’s independence, their refusal to help that had killed their baby!

‘Give Scotland back to the English!’

He roared his defiance, over and again, his wife exulting silently as she watched. You are my God. I love you. I love you so damned much. A fierce craving to crush him in her arms. Yet still, she stood. Watching. Waiting.

It wasn’t long before the police arrived.

Police Don’t Stand so Close to Me

Peter continued to shout out his defiant message in a voice filled with passion. Ah, such a beautiful man.

The blood from his cheek ran down his neck and began to soak into his white shirt. Red and white. England the Brave!

Emma was overcome with that delight you find when an age of worry comes to an end and things unfold exactly as you saw them. When all you have to do is watch the screen as the movie you recorded yesterday is played out before you today.

Emma had been taken to see a ballet as a child. It had been a magical experience. She was enthralled once again, today, by the feats of strength, agility and grace she saw before her now. The way her husband moved. How he dodged and mocked the blue uniforms that buzzed around him like wasps on honey.

They were a danger, but Peter spurned his advantage by stabbing the blade down into the earth and leaving it there. Emma gave an affirming nod.

As he stepped aside from it, towards the spectators gathering – they too drawn to the honey of his performance, she allowed a slight smile to gather the corners of her eyes. As he clenched his fist and shouted a challenge to all comers, the beat of her heart sounded in her ears and seemed to fill the museum.

She knew that adrenalin would be ripping through his body now. His bursts of speed as he dodged and ran inside the closing circle of watchers, evading the desperate attempts of the police to catch him, lent him the air of a gladiator.

Despite the bulk inside his clothing, carefully strapped and hidden, he vaulted over one man, ran around another, and still had the energy to bellow out their message. Loud and strong.

‘Give Scotland back to the English!’

By now the drone mounted cameras were following his every move. Some unknown controller had diverted them away from the wedding to the far more entertaining spectacle here.

But, like all good things, it couldn’t last forever.

One misjudged turn and they almost had him. He wrenched his arm free, but he was thrown off-balance, his momentum lost – a giant falling slowly to earth.

A club lashed out towards him and caught him on the shoulder, then another on his leg. He stumbled, caught himself and almost got free. But by now there was nowhere to go. The mass of blue-clad bodies was too much.

Clinging on to his limbs, they brought him down. An antelope under the weight of a lion. Proud freedom taken down by feral beast.

As the blows rained down on his body, still struggling, still crying out defiantly, Sarah began to move. The crowd gathered to watch this unequal struggle had swelled as more and more people had entered the park. To one side, the Chinese party continued to talk and laugh loudly as if nothing unusual was happening. Good for them.

As one mass the gathering mob jostled forward, just watching on as if this was some kind of blood-sport.

Perhaps that’s all that it was to them.

Not one of the onlookers raised a hand to help this man. Not one called out for the brutality to stop.

But it was now time to call a halt.

As she stepped out from the museum and began to walk towards the crowd, she whispered a name.

‘Sarah, we’re coming, my dear. We’re coming.’

This Is What We Came For

Slowly. Step by step. Savouring each breath, feeling the sun on her skin, a stray breeze raising the tips of her hair and caressing her cheek like a lover. She walked with all the love she could muster, arms swinging. At ease with herself. At peace with the world.

A screech of brakes outside the gardens and an image flashed into her mind. Monkeys. It suddenly seemed important to remember the name of the kind that took beatings from bullies, but didn’t fight back. Instead they waited – five minutes, an hour, a day – it didn’t matter. Sooner or later, they would lash out at a weaker relative of the bully – right there in front of them.

Macaque monkeys – that was it. As she remembered, she realised why it was important – revenge isn’t something evil. It’s built into nature. It’s the way creatures organise their society.

Today she was to be such a creature.

She headed for the thickest part of the gathering – just one more body in a crowd – pushing to get a better view. As she broke into the clear space around the still moving mass of blue uniforms, her husband’s face appeared in a gap between bodies.

Bloodied, beaten, and yet still defiant, Peter’s grin broadened as he spotted her and he relaxed so suddenly that those holding him stumbled.

And then they noticed her.

Like a many-headed mythical beast, turning to meet a challenge, the pack turned towards Emma. She felt their eyes. As she strolled closer, hands in pockets, she felt and smelt their fear.

A hush. Closer now – daring them to respond. Daring them to stop her.

As if on a signal, they parted. She was surprised, and yet pleased. To touch him just one more time. Maybe to hold him.

She crouched. Stretched out a single arm. Touched his face.

‘I love you, Peter.’

‘I love you, Emma.’

‘Now?’

He nodded slightly, love flowing and joining. A trifling Eden – but enough for them both.

Her finger. A slow release of pressure, and she knew only light.

Let Her Stay (full)

These are the episodes of Let Her Stay, a post-apocalyptic, dystopian look at Europe after the collapse of the ice-shelf and the warming of the globe. One couple from south of the fence decide that the government is not going to get away with the death of their child and so take matters into their own hands.

Let Her Stay

Hypothetically Speaking

aaa

If’n I was sitting in my living room and you were creeping downstairs in your favourite perfume, pinched from the dressing table where you used to sit, before you … went away, before you beat me bloody, before they dragged you off – kicking and cursing, before … all of those things.

If’n I heard your footsteps on the stairs, coming closer and closer to the bottom where you’d just need to turn slightly to the left, and then to the right in order to see me sat here in my shirt and pants – the same ones you brought me for Christmas the year before it all went wrong.

If’n I imagined that you were wearing that dress – the one you always used to wear when you wanted something from me, when you were in a persuading mood rather in a taking and mocking mood, and that you were carrying the same bat you used to break my body once before.

If”n I was to hear you and, more than that, see you coming around that corner and into the room where I were sat, waiting patiently for my chance to move you and remove you from my life forever, like you were ketchup on my favourite shirt or blood underneath my nails.

If’n there was my kid, the one that was our kid, but is now, in my mind, my kid alone, to think about and the think I was to think about him was him growing up without fear that you could turn up at any time without announcing yourself, without taking any notice of the restraining order.

If’n I’d just heard that you’d escaped from the secure mental facility and had killed a guard as you went and had left another one with so little blood in her body that even though they kept pumping it in as fast as they could it was coming out even faster from the slashes you left in her.

If’n I were to raise my hand, the one with the hard lump of metal in it, the one with the finger on the trigger and, point this thing in your direction with barely a shiver in my arm or a quiver in my voice as I told you to leave this place and never come back unless you wanted to be cold, cold, cold.

If”n I were hear and see and know and do all of these things, would it change one little part of your plan or would you still do the same thing that you’d always done, which is to bluff and bluster your way closer and closer, seeing the tears coming out from my eyes as you crept onward.

If”n I’d had enough of this.

If’n I could do it right.

If”n I were strong …