Chapter Forty Six: My Funny Valentine (Part One)

The only sound in the room was the clinking of knives and forks against our plates as we ate.  I stared at my plate as I shifted the food around absentmindedly and drifted off into my thoughts.  Yesterday was Valentines Day, but I have received no card, no flowers… nothing.  For a few moments I felt sad about it; then anger took over.  It’s over, so why do I expect him to send me flowers?

  “Maggie,” my mother’s voice gently interrupted my thoughts, “you’re not eating; is something wrong?”

  I looked up from my plate as I muttered “I’m not very hungry.”

  “Did you eat before you came out?” she raised her eyebrows as she locked eyes with me.  Her expression said everything.  “At least eat the vegetables.”

  My arm felt hot and sore as I speared my carrots with my fork and mechanically shovelled them into my mouth. I chewed without tasting and then swallowed the greasy mush.  When she stopped watching me, I surreptitiously ran my fingers down the length of my left arm from elbow to wrist.  I could feel the heat from the two-day-old wound, even through the loose cotton of my sleeves.  It made me nervous.

  To take my mind off the small quantities of vegetables I was swallowing, I thought about Titanium Rose.  Our album has gone off to be mixed, and we are shooting two videos next week, plus there will be a photo shoot in Manchester.  I felt tired just thinking about it.

  I didn’t realise just how light-headed I was feeling until I stood up. The sickening dizziness made my head buzz as I swayed and grabbed, blindly, for the edge of the table.  Tired, so tired… somebody caught me as I fell.

  When I came to, I was lying on the sofa.  It was a new sofa I realised as I gazed blearily around me, then, I noticed Thomas; he was sitting in one of the matching armchairs opposite me, “Are you alright?” he asked as I slowly sat up, the dizziness had disappeared but I was so tired my bones ached.  I shivered as I sagged back against the sofa, “Would you like a drink?” I heard him ask as I closed my eyes again.

  “No,” I murmured, “thank you,” it was such a struggle to fight off sleep that, after a while I stopped trying.  I dreamed almost immediately, or so it felt to me, I dreamed that I was watching Titanium Rose perform.  I was in a crowd at a big arena, and the air was heavy with sweat and smoke, the excited screams of the audience rang in my ears, bodies were crammed up against each other, and the stage was metres, not feet, away from the ground.  I saw Fliss, she was wearing a white sequinned mini dress, Katy was in leather, Flora in velvet, but when I turned my attention to the drummer, I didn’t see myself… instead I saw a pale, angular girl, who smiled sardonically at me as she pounded my drum kit with patterns I had written… Amber.  The dream shifted, and this time I was lying on white sheets on a narrow bed, in a narrow, white room, shackled, I turned my head to my left, and saw… Nat, but it wasn’t the Nat I knew, as she moved, I saw the lost look in her dark blue eyes, just as certainly as I saw the toddler on her lap.  I was seeing Dylan’s Nat, I realised, an alternative and disconcerting vision of what might have been if Nat had made different choices.  It was as though I had said it out loud, for the vision lifted the child to the ground and took hold of its hand. It got to its feet, and said, “I made my choice, it’s time to make yours,” and I gazed around me at the white walls… the white, padded, walls, “High security,” reported the voice, “when you lose it, girl, you certainly know how to do it in style.”  I felt the creatures hand on my forehead, cooling my brow, testing my temperature, and I heard my mother saying, quietly, “I wish that she would talk to me.”

  “Maybe it would be easier” said a man’s voice, Thomas, “if I wasn’t here.”

  “No,” I could hear the tiredness in her voice, the weary worry, “I don’t think so; I don’t think it makes a difference anymore.”

  I could sense her eyes on me still as we made tea in the kitchen later, and as I stood by the kettle, waiting for the water to boil, I heard her say, “You’re looking very pale lately,” there was a note of caution in her voice, as though she wasn’t sure how I would respond.

  “I was always pale,” I murmured.

  Her voice grew more confident, “And you’ve been sleeping badly, I can tell.”

  “Yes.”

  An awkward silence descended, and was only broken when the kettle began to boil.  I reached up with both hands to pick three mugs off the shelf that was level with my head, and as I did so, the sleeves of my top slid down my arms, revealing a series of pink and red wounds and scars which contrasted angrily with the white, blue tinged flesh of my arms. I quickly set the mugs down on the counter and hurriedly smoothed my sleeves back into place, but it was too late.

  I felt the pressure of her fingers on my right wrist as she grabbed hold of me, she slid back the sleeve in silence, and I made myself look at her face; then wished I hadn’t.  Her face was a mask of shock and pain as she asked, quietly and tensely, “Is it just your arms?”

  I nodded.

  She let go of my arm, and I re-arranged the sleeve once more, “Explain to me,” she said in a voice tense with anger, “tell me why, why you’re doing this to yourself again”

  “It’s the only thing that works,” I muttered dully.

  “Works” If she had been angry before, she was furious now, “how can you say it works? Have you seen yourself in the mirror lately?”

  It was like a stab to the heart, not because I care what I look like, because I really don’t, but because she was saying that I couldn’t cope.  A kind of nervous energy pushed me on, and I could sense my hands shaking as I snapped defensively, “It works for me! You have no idea what it’s like living with this!”

  “Yes I do,” she said sharply, “and you need help”

  “I’m managing! I’m coping!”

  “No, you’re not,” she was struggling to rein in her temper, “I can tell just by looking at you that you’re not coping; you’re not eating, not sleeping, you’re hurting yourself…”

  “I DON’T HAVE A CHOICE!” I screamed.

  “YOU CAN’T FUNCTION LIKE THIS!” she yelled, “YOU’RE ONLY MAKING THINGS WORSE!”

  I couldn’t stand it any longer, I could feel the pressure mounting up inside me as the pain came flooding back, more, harder, more overwhelming than ever, I stepped outside myself once more, and watched as the stranger that was me stormed out of the back door and strode towards the front of the house, footsteps followed her, speeding up as she increased her pace, and I heard what she couldn’t hear: My mother as she screamed after that tall, retreating form, “I CAN’T DO THIS ANYMORE!” she was screaming, but nothing registered, nothing was heard as the stranger that was me carried on striding forwards, she screamed again, “I CAN’T DO THIS ANYMORE!, D’YOU HEAR ME? I CAN’T DO THIS ANYMORE!”

  I found myself at the bus stop without my coat, my bag, or my money, shivery and nervous in the chilly February air.  Sheer anger and adrenalin appeared to have gotten me that far, but they were rapidly disappearing, leaving only nervous energy and an ever increasing sense of fear. I wasn’t myself, and I could see myself for what I was: frightened, young, and no longer in control of myself, or my actions, I felt my throat close up as I began to hyperventilate, and I clung to the bus shelter until I was able to control my breathing once more.  I wanted to scratch my arms, to re-open some of the angry wounds, or to cut myself afresh, but all I had with me was my bus ticket, my keys, and an eyeliner pencil, all in the pocket of my jeans.  The jeans had been skin-tight when I bought them, about four months ago, now they hung loosely from my hips as I reached into my pocket as the bus approached the stop.

  I felt the tiredness return as I sat down, but the pressure in my head was lessoning at least, my hands were shaking still, I realised, and the anxiety increased as I looked around me, people were openly staring at me, and the realisation made me worse, I tried not to make eye contact with anybody, and concentrated on trying to stop my hands from shaking.  The bus was already travelling through Stockport town centre by the time I achieved this, so I knew that I didn’t have long to decide, “I made my choice, now it’s time to make yours”, all I knew was that I didn’t want to be scared any longer.  I reached into my pocket and withdrew my eyeliner pencil; it was blunt and soft, crayon like in it’s consistency as I wrote on the back of my ticket three simple words:

I NEED YOU

I got off the bus at an earlier stop than usual, and turned down a road that I wouldn’t normally use.  Before too long, I was on a road that I recognised, and outside a house, a door that I knew almost as well as my own.  I knocked, timidly, and then tipped open the letterbox, letting the ticket flutter through the gap to the floor below, like a frail, white moth.  Would he see it? I hoped so.

  I am writing this on the stairs, from here I can see our front door, and I will see him if he comes.  I am very cold, very nervous, what if he doesn’t come? What if he’s met someone else? What if he no longer loves me? What if he despises me? I don’t think I could face that, don’t think I could deal with that, not now, where is he? Where is he? Where is he? Oh, where is he?

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