List the places you liked to hide as a child

Mostly under the covers, an obvious place
Alongside ridiculously oversized cuddlies
They all had names
One was a long flat dog with long flat ears that lay alongside me on my top bunk
Can’t remember what he was called
We did all sorts under the covers, when we were small
Met friends
Told stories
Mostly to scare each other
Discussed what bodies we had
Enrolled in thousands of careers and areas of expertise
Solved the world’s problems
Conspired on how to ignore our grown-ups’ flaws

#45

One year everything
From strange new meats
To whole huge pies
Used to be dead sandwiches
Peanut butter bleeding into bread,
Soapy crusts
Wandering the school grounds
For a hidden spot
Ending up in the deserted maths block loos
Forking unwilling cold fried rice and sausage nubs
Sandwiches in the wardrobe
Turning plastic bags into blue biodomes

Adult now and freedom
To choose to reject
To follow my stomach
Sadly now by chains
Tugging
Trying to hold off labelling its habits
For fear of willing a disability into being

At least no longer Africa is thrust at me
Think of the children.
I have a partner to mop up my remains
And I have read of other cultures
Where my lack of hunger
Would be celebrated

Goodbye clean plates and Little Chef lollipops
I am just in saying no.

‘Three Kisses’: a work in progress

A short story I am having trouble continuing, about three girls who grow to confront their darkest fears. I’d love to hear what you think is going to happen, or what you’d like to happen next…

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In one world, one lifetime, three girls grew up towards three kisses.

 

Alone, they each discovered, over the length of their young lives, their deepest, darkest fears.

 

They thought this was probably quite an important thing to know, as things go; something that might come up.

 

Nira feared big ears, grey hair, short legs and cats, and stayed away from knitting. She never brushed her teeth or bathed, or sat up straight at dinner. Her mother told her these were things that made a girl a woman, and Nira wanted none of that. This little girl was afraid of old age, in all its wrinkly awe. This thing affected everyone, and held their hand till death. What good was womanhood if that was where it went?

 

Fara followed friends around, all morning, day and eve. She jumped up at the crack of dawn and swapped a teddy for a mum. Saying goodbye, to Fara, meant hello again to someone new. You never saw this girl alone, for money, food or sleep. She seemed a happy child to most, chatty and alive. Fara didn’t care for silence, or boredom, or doing things for yourself. Loneliness was the storm cloud hovering near Fara’s heart.

 

Cold was a more complex child. Cold made footnotes of her post-its. She bracketed in birthday cards. She wrote letters at dinner, giving thanks to the host. Her mother just smiled her thanks. Cold made phone calls twice a day to those she’d just seen, to check and double-check they’d heard and understood everything she said. Cold was keeping track of life by making sure they knew how every word and comment she uttered was really intended. The worst thing that could ever happen to her was to be found in the grey place between grateful and expecting, tired and uninterested, or ill and injured. So she still wrote to tell people, even if she was uninterested.

 

One day these three lives merged under one sun; one that was arching its back over sleepy lapping waters that could have been put there just for this.

 

One carpet saw too many greens one night, and one dish smashed too many. One girl was fed up with playing by the rules. Nira ran away from home, and away, and away, and away.

 

One hand got sweaty and sick of holding onto another. One hand pushed, and one belly felt the weight of one hundred worlds falling into one place. Fara decided to find new friends somewhere else.

 

One letter too few came to one room in one house, and one tongue spoke a final full stop. Cold went turkey on her notes and calls and took a vow of silence. Her words weren’t welcome here.

 

Tired feet worked through a day and a night, while tired lips awaited.

 

One head cocked across a clearing, made of sugary, spicy trees, while… nice things… hung about above.

 

Brown eyes stared right into green, and blue eyes joined right in.

 

Nira reached out first and made the bravest steps of all. Nice things moved out of the way, and sugar sprinkled down.

 

Fara sheltered in the spice, aching for that hand.

 

Two minds grazed under that sun, green troubles and brown shared.

 

One heart stood lonely on but watched how tears were left unsaid. Then wandered off for a little while, through icing in silence.

 

Later, later more, Fara was lead by brown-eyed hands. They told her happy things were close, though she could feel that they were really talking to themselves. Green eyes and brown felt the uncertain warmth of another as they looked up through flossy snow to see a low thing sitting.

 

Warts and straggly hair turned to see them, through eyes that knew about slugs and snails and other things from under rocks.

 

Nira gasped. She had never seen anything so terrifying than what sat before her, gripping the ground it sat on as if it might otherwise float away. Fara felt her place was somewhere else right now, and went to find it.

 

“You’re old.”

 

“I am.”

 

The answer seeming to satisfy Nira somewhat, she approached the thing and started pulling at purple ferns growing conveniently close by.

————————

To be continued…

My friend has changed

I waited for you. I watched you. With kindness. With kindness in my eyes, I surely made that obvious. I was always ready to catch you. For you to run into my arms, should you be in trouble. In doubt. I was there, always. You could have used me. You could have been horrible. You weren’t. I was patient enough, though. I was there. The whole time we knew each other. Through your genius, your presence. I was there. I was even there, thinking about you, when we all went our separate ways. For a while. For a while, I was there. And I know it was probably just me. Just me that was watching, and thinking. Only me there. I like that. I like the quiet in that. Nothing can move you there, it’s a staying place. A staying feeling. I wish you could have felt that. I suppose that would have changed it. Not so quiet then.

And after all these years, I find you. You, so different, so un-sarcastic and seemingly deformed from yourself, removed, so unaware and somehow one of them, those you used to mock, those who write on Facebook about how drunk they are, in unashamed length and detail, those who live for all that rubbish, live for the weekend. Those with faces like the one in your ridiculous driving license picture that we all got hours of laughs out of, sipping coffee and smoking in BHS. While it was legal. Legal but not approved of by our parents, so still a bit secret and naughty.

What happened to you, my friend? You were so bright and clever. It breaks my heart to see you now. What a tragic waste of a good brain and soul. My friend, you’ve changed. You’ve gone. I don’t know you anymore. But I did hope for so long that I did. I pretended I still knew you. That you were still there. With me. On that lovely wavelength. Where the world was stupid and we were brilliant. And weekends were dirty and caveman-ish, and a bit of looking down our noses was all we needed. That and aimless wandering through countryside, strolling and running sticks along wall tops, tugging idly at hedges and weeds. All that and putting the world to rights. Figuring everything out. Where did all that go? Maybe, just maybe, as painful as it would be… Maybe I never really knew you at all.