Chapter Fifty Five: Pas de deux


The invitations for the Christmas Party have arrived.  Which party? The one Fergus and I were meant to be organising together, the one we planned and speculated about together, the one thing, in fact, that we agreed on all last year that we would do.

  Fliss picked up the mail from the doormat last week, as she does every morning, and I heard her feet on the stairs, light and fast, as though she was excited about something.  “It’s from Fergus,” she announced as she dumped a pile of bills, and a letter, in front of me.  She plonked herself down opposite me at the table, and began to tear open her own letter.  I gingerly opened the envelope, I had forgotten all about the party, then…

  Fliss was reading her invitation aloud, “Miss Felicity Jayne Keale, plus guest, is cordially invited…” she broke off, “What does cordially mean?”

  “Warmly,” my mind was on my own letter, underneath the invitation, he had written something extra, a personal message to me.

“I did it for you,” it read, “I wish you could have been here to help, that’s my fault as well as yours.  I hope you’ll be at the party, it wouldn’t’ be the same without you.  I still love you, I was an idiot to ever think otherwise.”

  I laid the invitation down on the table.  My heart was beating too fast, and I could feel my face growing warm.  Fortunately, Fliss was oblivious.

  “Look!” she cried, “It’s a film theme, who are we going to go as? We could do ‘I Capture The Castle’, and I could go as Cassandra and you could go as Rose, we could get Flora to make us matching white suits…” she trailed off as her eyes lit up with a spark of remembrance, “Or…” she began.

  I shook my head irritably, “No, Fliss…” my mind was still dwelling, very much, on other things, “I don’t know if I want to go or not.”  I confessed.

  “Oh, but you must!” she exclaimed, jumping up from the table and spilling her tea all over her toast in the process, “It was your thing, you and Fergus, you can’t let him down, you have to go!”

  I have brooded for a week now, but today I made my decision: I am going to the party.  I have less than a week in which to sort my costume out, for the party is on Friday, and today is Monday, but I will go.


Went into Manchester in-between shifts yesterday and hared off to Afflecks Palace in pursuit of Flora.  As I climbed the brightly coloured stairs up to the second floor, I heard the distant notes of a strangled guitar. It grew louder as I climbed, but was drowned out in turn by hip hop, sixties pop, and, finally, Radio 2 as I made my way through the vividly coloured, multi varied, always fascinating shops and corridors of the second floor.  At last, I reached Flora’s domain.

  Over the past year and a half, Flora’s shop has come into its own.  When she first installed herself at Afflecks, she had only the stark partitions and a bit of battered carpet to provide an ambience for the racks of clothes, now, the walls are flocked with wallpaper and the floor properly carpeted, and there are clothes and accessories wherever you turn.  “I was going for a thirties drawing room comedy kind of feel,” she told ‘City Life’ a few weeks ago.

  I think a lot of people must be going to Flora for their party costumes, as she was spread-eagled on the floor amidst some heavily sequinned fabric, with pins in her mouth, when I arrived, and Debbie, Flora’s star shop assistant, was perched at the till, looking wearily on.  Somewhere in the background, Ella Fitzgerald was insisting that she was ‘Always True To You Darling In My Fashion.’  It was about half nine, so there weren’t any customers yet.

  “I can’t make a Givenchy knock off for Friday,” she stated firmly as we tucked into coffee and cakes in the café upstairs, “I’ll be pushed to get all my other commissions done, what with all the party outfits I’m doing…”

  I nodded gloomily as I surveyed the décor, there is a kind of bright, sparkling, fresh ambience to that café, it seems to be part nineteen fifties tea room, part college canteen, and it has an atmosphere that so many eateries lack, “Isn’t this like you imagine The Primula or one of those espresso bars in ‘Here Be Dragons’?” I wondered aloud. Flora had been the one to introduce me to that book, so she would know what I meant.

  Flora looked up from her coffee with bleary eyes, “Hey, if you want to give up working at The Platinum Hotel and come to work here for the atmosphere, that’s fine with me.  Talking of fifties,” she frowned, “if you go to Top Shop, they’ve got an Audrey Hepburn dress in the sale there, just like the one she wore in ‘Roman Holiday’.” 

  “No,” I shook my head adamantly, “it has to be ‘Breakfast At Tiffanys.’”

  Flora shrugged, “Sorry.”

  I was starting to feel desperate.  If Flora couldn’t provide me with what I needed, then there was very little chance of getting it via other means and, if I couldn’t get that outfit, then I wouldn’t be able to go.  “All I need is a black dress!” I protested urgently, “a long, black, sleeveless dress.”

  Flora sighed wearily, “Come back tomorrow then, after work.  I won’t have time to make you anything, but I’ll ask around today and, if I get the chance, I could maybe adapt something similar.”

  I exhaled, “Thanks.”

  “Just don’t get your hopes up, that’s all.”

  But she had come up with the goods when I stopped by this evening, “It’s not identical!” she yelled over the sea of heads, “But it’ll do! You need to get a pearl choker though! Or make one! Four rows, try upstairs, by the café!”

  Yelling my thanks, I made for the stairs once more.  The girls at the bead shop were just packing up when I arrived, and they didn’t sell pearl chokers.  Still, the younger of the two, who I knew through Fliss, gave me some wire, a fastener, and some plastic pearls.  I handed over my cash, and with the prettily patterned paper bag in my hand, ran back down the two flights of stairs to the second floor, and to Flora’s increasingly frantic thirties drawing room.

  She threw me over the dress, and I took a good look at it as she packed up.  It was strappy rather than sleeveless, and the thin spaghetti straps crossed over at the back.  It would reveal far more skin than I had originally planned, but it would have to do.

  “Do you need gloves?” enquired Flora after I’d paid her. 

  I shook my head.

  “Cigarette holder?”

  “No, I’m doing without… I have the sunglasses though, and my hair’s long enough to pin up, even if it is the wrong colour.”

  “You could always dye it,” suggested Debbie.

  I shook my head.

  “But he wouldn’t recognise her then!” said Flora, scandalised.  I could feel myself blushing as they exchanged a knowing look.

  Flora’s joie de vivre seemed to evaporate as we carried boxes of stock down to her car.  The vegetable market by the corner of Church Street and Oldham Street were packing up too, and I scrounged some supplies for Fliss and I as Flora talked, “I’m relieved to be so busy here, to tell the truth” she confessed, “it keeps me out of Katy’s way, keeps me occupied, stops me thinking about things.”

  “Is she as unbearable at home as she is at gigs and practices?” I asked incredulously as I packed my supplies away into my bag.

  We walked back to where she had left her car, and she said, “I’m thinking of moving out, to tell the truth, I’ve been looking into places in Hulme or Whalley Range… Hulme would be good; I’d be nearer to work then.”

  Now that her stock was safely packed away, we said our goodbyes.  “See you Friday!” she called after me as I made my way around a dim corner and back onto the Santa illuminated bustle of Oldham Street.

  “See you Friday!” I called back.  But still, I wonder, can I go through with it?


Is it only five days since I wrote those words? It feels like a lifetime.  It is Sunday now, the Sunday after the party, and there is so much to write… I must go slowly though.  Slow and detailed, because I don’t want to miss out a single bit, not one…

  Even on Friday evening, I was reluctant to go to the party.  Despite the touring I’ve done with Titanium Rose these last three or four months, I’m still wary of crowds.  I can sense people staring at me, hear them saying things, laughing… and it makes me nervous, and I have to leave, I can’t stay.

  I tried to explain this to Fliss as she got ready for the party that night, but she didn’t understand, “How can you be frightened of crowds?” she demanded impatiently, her hands on her hips, making her white strapless silk effect ballgown rise up a few inches to reveal black Doc Martens, “You were alright on tour, and you were fine when we went to Juvenile Hell last month…”

  “It’s different!” I protested.

  Fliss was almost ready, she had to do her hair and make-up, and fix her tiara, but that was it.  “Why are you doing this?” she threw up her white satin-gloved hands in exasperation.

  “Because I’m scared!”

  There was silence.

  “It’s O.K to be scared,” she said at last, her eyes puzzled, “everyone’s scared.”

  “I can’t do this!”

  “Yes you can!” the doorbell rang, we glared at each other, “Well,” she relented, “at least answer that if you won’t get changed.”

  I didn’t move, “It’ll be Emily, for you.”

  “I’m well aware of that,” she sighed in a world weary voice, seeming at once older and younger than her nineteen years, “I shall be getting ready.”

  Emily frowned as I ushered her up the stairs, I saw her look me up and down, but she didn’t say anything.  “I’m not going,” I said at last.


  We had reached the top of the stairs, and I ushered her into the living room, “Fliss is still getting ready.”

  Emily nodded, and sat down on the sofa.  She was wearing a pale green cotton dress, with a greyish green cardigan and a pale blue cloche hat, her mousy hair was just visible below it.  I scrutinised her as closely as she had scrutinised me, and I saw her face glow pinkly beneath her hat as she stared at the floor.  “Romola Garai as Cassandra Mortmain in ‘I Capture The Castle’.” I pronounced with certainty, “Fliss loves that film, I prefer the book though.”

  Emily nodded shyly, and the atmosphere in the room became thicker and more claustrophobic with our mutual awkwardness.  Just when things were about to become unbearable, Fliss made her entrance, “Ta da!” she sang out, twirling so that the skirt of her dress caught the air and filled out, displaying her boots once more.

  I raised an eyebrow, and enquired coldly, “And you are?”

  “Princess Amelia Mignonette Grimaldi Thermopolis Renaldo of Genovia” protested Fliss forlornly, “I told you…” She threw herself down on the sofa next to Emily, and her eyes lit up as she looked her up and down, “Cassandra!”

  As I waited in the kitchen for the kettle to boil, I stared out at the night sky and brooded.  I was still in two minds as to whether to go or not.  After a few minutes, I heard footsteps on the lino behind me, and turned around.  It was Emily.  She had removed her hat, and was awkwardly clutching it with both hands as she tried not to look at me.  The kettle had boiled, and I was pouring the water into the cups when she finally spoke.  “You should come with us tonight,” she said in her thin, quiet voice, “he’d want you to be there.”

  I shook my head, “I can’t.”

  “Being scared isn’t an excuse, Maggie,” her voice took on a determined edge, “I didn’t want to come, yet here I am.”

  “Why didn’t you want to come?”

  “I don’t like crowds,”

  I nodded.

  “But… I have to deal with it, if I’m ever going to be a sound engineer.”

  “I don’t mind gigs,” I protested, “the audience are at the front of the stage, I’m at the back… they can’t see me half the time, and I can’t really see them, it’s…”

  “Walking through crowds, being part of a crowd?”


  “If you want,” she began nervously, “I’ll stick with you tonight, get you through it…”

  “It’s not that…” I sighed.

  “Then what is it Maggie?”

  “It’s… being there, for this, for this particular party.”

  “Oh.”  There was an awkward silence, before she said, “You’re scared of Fergus.”

  “Of messing up,” I corrected her softly.

  “If you don’t go,” she maintained, “you have messed up.”

  “And if I go, and it all goes wrong?”

  “Worry about it when it happens.”

  I nodded, “I know you’re right, deep down.  I’ve been telling myself that all week.”

  She glanced at her watch, “We’ve still got time, why don’t you go and get changed? I’ll take the drinks through.”

  I nodded, and then made my way back along the corridor towards my room.  My hands were shaking as I slipped the dress over my head; the fabric slithered over my shoulders and breasts, and hung, loosely, yet not too loosely, on me.  I didn’t pause to check myself in the mirror; I thought I’d better fix my hair and make-up before my hands were shaking too badly to manage.  I picked up my brush, only to see it fall from my hand moments later.  “Shit,” I muttered as I got down on my hands and knees to pick it up.  Other hands were already there: Fliss and Emily.  They smiled up at me with impish charm, and one pair of brown eyes and one pair of blue glinted in amusement.

  Fliss marched me over to my bed, “Sit,” she commanded.

  I obediently did so.

  She fixed my hair as Emily slid long, black elbow length gloves over my trembling arms.  When that was done, Fliss carefully applied fresh foundation and powder before carefully painting my lips a neutral pink, not too pale, not too dark.  As she finished, Emily fastened the pearl choker, and I slid my feet into the pair of black kitten heels that were waiting.  Emily took my left hand, Fliss my right and I stumbled as they pulled me to my feet.

   “Come on,” Fliss led me out of the room and along the corridor, back into the living room.  “Coat!” Emily held out my long, black wool coat for me to put on, “Handbag!” Emily produced it, and handed it to me, “Keys!” Emily jangled them.  “Right, let’s go!” and, somehow, I found myself being hustled from the room and down the stairs.  I was at the bus stop before I realised what had happened.

  But in the cloakroom above the party, my nervousness returned.  I can’t do this. I thought as women and girls brushed past me, fighting for room at the mirror.  I had hidden myself by the coats, and was trying, without success, to disappear into the wall.  The air was thick with powder, hairspray, and the scent of a thousand different perfumes; the noise deafening from what felt like as many conversations.  Flora appeared, wearing a white beret with a smartly tailored skirt and coat, and I nodded gravely as she waved at me, Faye Dunaway, Bonnie Parker, Bonnie And Clyde, I noted.  She was eclipsed somewhat by the entrance of Nat, clad in a slinky, twenties style evening dress, her face daubed with pale foundation, scarlet lipstick, and blue eyeshadow, her hair newly cut and hanging to her shoulders in loose waves, “Tallulah Bankhead!” roared someone from the doorway.  Nat and I turned as one, and saw… “Sally Bowles!” exclaimed Nat as Violet slunk into the room, “My God, darling, aren’t you cold in those suspenders?” as she bore Violet off to a private corner, I observed a sultry looking girl, with dark sleepy eyes, her long black hair hung across her face.  Tight bootcut jeans, a maroon coloured leather jacket worn over a tight, garishly patterned shirt, and a peaked cap completed the vision.  So this is Shanti Nair, I thought as she slunk after Violet, a fierce scowl on her face.

  Fliss interrupted my thoughts; “Ready?” she and Emily were waiting.  I nodded, and we got up to leave.

  The cloakrooms were on entry level, that is, ground level, but the party was downstairs in the basement.  My heart sank as I saw the party below, and the staircase spiralling down, right into the centre of the room, that we would have to descend in order to get there.  “I’ll go first,” said Fliss, kindly, as she began to descend.  Emily soon followed her, and I watched her reach the floor and wait, expectantly, with Fliss as I began to descend.

  I tried to keep my eye on them as I moved, mechanically, down the stairs.  They gazed up at me like two hopeful, trusting angels, guiding me.  I could hear the clatter of shoes on the stairs behind me, “Knew someone would come as Audrey Hepburn,” said a woman’s voice with knowing complacency.  “She’s all wrong for it,” interjected someone else, “she’s too tall, her hair’s the wrong colour, and you can see her shoulder blades from here; that’s not gamine, that’s emaciated, and what the hell is that thing on her back…” “A tiger, I think,” said the first voice.  I tried to pay attention to what my feet were doing, and to keep my eyes on Fliss and Emily, but the dress was long, and in moving to the next step, I tripped and stumbled into the rail.  My eyes left Fliss and Emily, and in trying to find them again in the crowd, I saw him instead.  He was watching me, and I began to blush in embarrassment.  What little self control was left bolted as I looked away, and I heard the woman behind me snort like a horse as I ran past her, and back up the stairs, seeing nothing but the possibility of my escape.

  I slammed through the cloakroom door, and threw myself back down on the bench beneath the coats.  I pulled my knees up to my chest, and lowered my head onto them as I tried to make myself as small and invisible as possible.  I didn’t notice Fliss’ presence until she spoke, “You have to come back down,” she murmured, quietly but firmly, “you have to try again.”

  “No!” it was muffled, but she heard me.


  “No,” I sobbed, “I’m going home, I should never have come, they’re all laughing at me, I heard them, they’re all…”

  “Please, Maggie.”


  There was an awkward pause, and then she said, “I can’t leave you here in this state.”

  “I’ll call a taxi, I’ll go home.”

  “I still don’t like leaving…”

  “You should go.”

  “I still think…”

  “Go, Fliss, please,” I pleaded, “enjoy yourself, you can tell me all about it when you get home.”

  She didn’t reply, but I heard footsteps, and the door closed as someone left the room.  Slowly, but surely, I uncurled myself and took in my surroundings.  The cloakroom wasn’t as crowded as it had been earlier, but there were enough people around to make an audience.  Some of the faces were sympathetic, but many more were staring at me like I was an animal at the zoo, an expression I’ve become all too familiar with over the past year.  Perhaps the most considerate were those who were busying themselves with hair and make-up, who had either missed my outburst, or were simply pretending that they had.  I wasn’t ready to go home yet, I realised, but I couldn’t stay in that cloakroom either.  I decided to go for a walk.

  As I walked back towards the city centre, past The Gates, where bands were already loading equipment back into vans and cars, I began to relax a little.  The air was chilly, but the lighting was so good along Piccadilly that it barely felt dark at all.  The fountains had been switched off for the day, but I sat down beside them anyway, and stared through them, into the distance, not really seeing anything.  I began to wish that I had a cigarette, or a coffee… something to occupy my hands.  As the hours passed, I grew more relaxed, my shoulders un-knotted themselves, and I was able to breathe normally again as my heartbeat slowed down to its normal speed.  I began to think about Fergus as I watched the clear silvery moon shining in the deep blue, chilly sky.  I knew that I had blown it now, that this had been my last chance to prove to him that I was normal and capable of… what exactly? I wasn’t quite sure.  Being normal, I suppose, I thought gloomily.  My hands were still itching for something to do, so I walked over to Spar and bought a pack of ten, some matches, and a coffee.  I smoked the cigarettes, one after another, almost without noticing, as I continued to think.  When they were gone, I drank the cold, bitter, black coffee.

  I should go back, I decided, this is my last chance with him; I can’t give up now.  The decision made, I got to my feet, and began to walk back the way I’d come.  My pace was slower this time, steadier, and more careful.  I could sense blisters forming on my heels as I walked.  Those shoes weren’t designed for distance walking, but I had to keep moving.  I had to go back.

  The cloakroom was empty when I returned, and I slipped into one of the toilet cubicles unnoticed.  I was about to emerge when the cloakroom was invaded… there really is no other word for it… by hordes of women and girls, several the worse for wear, and all looking for their coats.  My heart sank as I sat down on the floor; the party was over, what was I thinking? I was too late.  But I knew that there was no point in leaving yet, not after my oh-so-very-public exit earlier, it would involve all sorts of explanations, explanations that I couldn’t give.  Eventually, the last woman tottered out of the door, and the lights were switched off, leaving me alone in the darkness.

  It was dark in the corridor outside, but I could see the lights glowing in the basement, illuminating the darkness upstairs.  I leant over the balcony; from there I could see the dancefloor, which looked very different now that the lights were on, and I saw him… he had removed his jacket and the sleeves of his crisp white shirt were now rolled up to his elbows.  He was sweeping up the debris left behind after the evening’s entertainment, and quietly whistling.  As I descended the staircase for the second time that evening, I recognised the tune that he was whistling; it was Rodgers and Hart’s ‘My Funny Valentine’.  My heels clicked against the metal steps as I, cautiously, made my way down.  He looked up, and our eyes met.  In the surprise at seeing me there, he let go of the handle, and the brush fell to the floor with a clatter.

  I walked across the floor to him, and stopped just in front of him.  I couldn’t make the final step though, couldn’t reach out to him, or touch him.  After what felt like an agonisingly long silence, I reached down to the floor and picked up the forgotten brush.  I handed it to him, and he took it from me, then, before he could say, or do, anything, I walked over to the tables that ringed the dancefloor, picked up a bin bag, and began to clear the rubbish from the tables.

  When the tidying was complete, he took me by the hand and said, kindly, “Come on, I’ll give you a lift home.”

  We were waiting at the traffic lights; about halfway through our journey, when I asked, “Will you take me to yours?”

  I saw him blink in surprise, “What?”

  The nervousness increased as I whispered, “Will you take me to your house?”

  Our eyes locked for a few moments before he said, “Yes, alright.”

  We drove the rest of the way to Heaton Chapel in silence.

  I perched, nervously, on the edge of the sofa, and waited.  Before too long, he re-emerged from the kitchen, carrying two mugs of tea.  I took the mug he passed me in my gloved hands, and set it down on the table in front of me as he joined me on the sofa.  He took hold of my left hand and, very slowly and carefully, began to remove the glove, and then… he stopped, and I knew that he had seen the cuts and scars along my arm and around my wrist.  He didn’t speak, but his face said everything; he looked as though he was about to cry, but he didn’t let go of my arm.  The glove was off now, but he still didn’t let go; with one hand he held my hand in a loose clasp whilst with the other he traced every scar, every cut on my arm and wrist with his fingers.  Once this was done, he removed my other glove, without saying a word.

  When I had drunk my drink, I sagged against him a little and rested my head on his shoulder.  He put his arm around my shoulders, and asked in a quiet voice that was thick with tension, “Why did you want to come home with me?”

  “I wanted to be with you,” I murmured.

  We kissed, slowly and hesitantly at first, then for longer, and longer as our nervousness slowly disappeared.

  When we paused next, I asked, “Why did you cry?”

  “When?” his voice was low and sleepy, like my own.

  “Before, when you took my gloves off, you were nearly crying.”

  To my surprise, the same strained and upset expression returned to his face, and he moved away from me slightly before he said, very quietly, very tensely, “Because it reminded me of you at your worst.  I always try to think of you at your best.”  There was a pause before he continued, “For a few moments, I was remembering that night, remembering you screaming at me, you pulling your clothes off, and… I think the worst thing was not being able to touch you, not being able to reach you, to pull you out of it.  It was like there was a barrier there, preventing me…” He took hold of my left hand, and caressed it absently as he continued to speak, “I never stopped loving you, not then; not even afterwards when I was seeing other women, never stopped loving you.”

  I rested my head against his shoulder again, and he put his arms around me once more.  In the silence, he asked, “Do you love me?”


  “And you’ll stay?” there was a hopefulness in his voice.


   Our kisses grew longer and more passionate as evening became morning, and I lay in his arms at 4am, my dress on the floor, forgotten.  His shirt hung loose and unfastened, half on, half off.  “Do you have…?” I began.

  “Yes, in my room.”

  I rested my head against his chest, and breathed “that’s alright then.”

  When the time came to leave the sofa, my nervousness returned.  I could sense an awkwardness on his part too as we walked through to his room.  He squeezed my hand with a clammy palm, and I sensed tension, an awkwardness that was reflected in me; But it’ll be O.K, I told myself, It has to be O.K

  As we lay on his bed together, he touched my hair, now loose and hanging down my back, spilling across my shoulders and my face.  I stroked his face, cautiously and softly, and he kissed me, so softly, so hesitantly.  When the time came, he was very careful with me, very gentle, like he was afraid of damaging me, or breaking me.

  Afterwards, I lay in his arms, listening to his heartbeat, feeling his chest rise and fall with every breath, until I fell asleep.

  When I woke up, it was daylight, and the sun was shining on my face.  I felt very tired as I sleepily rolled over, off Fergus, and towards his bedside cabinet, where his clock radio sat.  Twelve twenty seven said the display.  My pills, I thought, sleepily, as I groped along the top of the cabinet for a packet and a bottle that I would never locate.  Panic overwhelmed my sleepiness as I hauled myself up and out of bed.  My clothes, where were my clothes… feeling distracted, I began to shake Fergus in an increasingly frantic manner “Huh?” he mumbled eventually, his eyes still shut, “What? Whaizzit?”

  “I have to go home, I have to take my pills, and I can’t find my clothes, and I should have taken my pills about four hours ago, and…”

  He took hold of my arm, and held me until I was still.  “Wait,” with a good deal of wincing and groaning, he hauled himself up into a sitting position, “Start again.”

  He heard me out as I explained about my medication, and the importance of taking it every day, and at the right time.  “But I don’t see why you should rush off home,” he said as he reached for his mobile, “I’ll text Fliss, get her to bring them over.”

  “But…” I protested.

  “No buts,” he said firmly, “after last night, I’m not letting you leave, or not just yet anyway.  Relax, lie back down again, you’re making me nervous…”

  And so I lay down once more, and he texted Fliss with one hand, whilst stroking my hair in a supremely soothing manner with the other.  “Don’t worry,” he murmured, “it’s all going to be fine.”

  Fliss was already waiting in the living room by the time I had got out of bed and scrambled into Fergus’ old bathrobe.  It was too big for me, and I had to wrap it around me, and then wrap the belt around twice before it was secure enough not to flap open; it was short too, hanging several inches above my knees.  I think that Fliss had sized up the situation long before I walked into the room; she turned from Fergus, naked from the waist up, to me in the ill fitting bathrobe, and smiled shrewdly as she handed me a carrier bag.  “I put the pills on top,” she explained as I took it from her.  As I was seeing her out, she paused in the doorway, and asked, “When will you be home?”

  “Sunday night.” I promised.

  She kissed me on the cheek, and said in a maternal tone, “Be careful.”

  “Yes mother,” I sighed.  She and I smiled like conspirators.

  At the gate, she turned to wave, and I waved back.

  As I sat down once again on the sofa, with my pills and a glass of water, Fergus asked, “What kind of pills are they?”

  “That small white oval one is an antidepressant,” I pointed it out to him, “and the big yellow, capsule shaped pill is a multivitamin.”  He watched in engrossed silence as I swallowed both pills.

  “That’s it?” he asked.

  I nodded, “That’s it.”

  One day soon, we were going to have to have a talk about this, I realised; about medication, about depression and self harm, one day, but not that day.

  As he kissed me, my eyes strayed to Fliss’ carrier bag.  She had put two changes of clothes in it, which was a bit of a waste really, given that I didn’t need any clothes until Sunday night.

  So, now it’s Sunday night, and I am back in my own room, on my own bed, writing down my story.

  Fergus dropped me off in the car at about eight.  We sat outside for a while, with the motor turned off, holding hands in silence.  He kissed me, and I kissed him back, for a long, long time.  As I got out of the car, he told me that he would call me tomorrow evening after work.  I nodded.  As I walked around the car, he wound down the window on his side, and we kissed goodbye once more.  I waved to him from the kerb opposite as he drove away, then unlocked the front door and stepped over the threshold.  The door slammed as I let the handle slip through my fingers, I leant back against it with a sigh, my eyes closed… remembering.

  When I opened my eyes, I saw Fliss.  She was standing at the top of the stairs, watching me, with amusement in her eyes and a smile upon her face, “Welcome home, Juliet,” she said.


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