Chapter Sixty Six: This Is The End

So now it’s official: No more Titanium Rose.  I can’t pretend that I don’t regret the end of the band, of this phase of my life, because I do, but that regret is tinged with a huge sense of relief, which quite frequently outweighs the regret.

  Jenny celebrated her newfound freedom by embarking on a weeklong bender with Liberty Belle.  I saw them sleeping it off on the big, flat, wooden benches by the yet-to-be-switched-on fountains in Piccadilly one morning.  Nat says she saw them at Juvenile Hell a few times, but she had to evict them in the end because they had invented a particularly reckless slam dance/stagger, and too many people were getting hurt.  “They went off to the village after that, apparently, where they performed a spirited but not particularly accurate rendition of ‘I Know What Boys Like’ at a karaoke bar, before staggering around Canal Street for several hours, roaring ‘I Am The Fly’ and ‘Totally Wired’ by turns,” she shook her head in mock sadness, “It’s always the quiet ones you have to watch…” I didn’t see Jenny properly until the week after, when Flora and I met her for dinner at Afflecks Palace.  She was clutching a mug of coffee and shivering, even though it’s not even September yet, and was wearing jeans, a ‘Keep It Peel’ t-shirt, and a hoodie with the hood up.  Tangled magenta hair stuck out at angles from inside the hood, and her eyes were so bloodshot they were almost red: She looked very poorly.

  Flora was on her dinner hour when we met Jenny that day.  After the band split, she went home to Scotland for a few weeks to stay with her mum and dad, leaving Debbie in charge of the shop; and the break seems to have done her good.  She is drinking less, and the shop is busier than ever now.

  “What will you do now?” asked Jenny when we left that day.

  “I don’t know,” I admitted.

  Since Fliss left, I’ve been staying with Fergus, thinking about my life, and worrying.  I am twenty-three, and all I have to show for my life are a couple of CD’s, I haven’t even got a job anymore, my last waitressing job having dried up.  All I can do is wander around this dark, deserted house, thinking and brooding, worrying and waiting for Fergus to come home from work each night.  I don’t like this feeling, this sense of being on the edge of misery, feeling hopeless and tearful, I have no control over my life, or my feelings; I am useless.

  Fergus works late a lot, there are a lot of bands recording at Twilight at the moment, and the studio are one engineer short, so he often doesn’t get home until nine or ten.  He leaves food out for me to cook, simple things that he’s prepared beforehand, that I just have to put in to heat.  When he is there, he lavishes attention on me, holding me, and kissing me, making love to me…  It isn’t anything to do with sex that makes me miserable, I’m over that now, or am getting over it, I trust him implicitly, and I know he would never hurt me.  We talk for hours, and I know he senses there is something wrong, that I am keeping things from him, but if I am, it’s because I love him.  I don’t want to hurt him again.

  I spent a long time yesterday gazing at my arms, at those faint white scars.  I wasn’t tempted to cut myself, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it all the same; all those scars… do drug addicts feel like that when they look at the needle tracks on their arms?

  He asked me last night what was wrong, and I said, “Nothing.”  I don’t know what’s wrong; I just know that there is something wrong, and that it will only get worse.

  I was happy a few weeks ago when Fliss phoned.  She is with Adrienne in France, and has no definite plans, but I know she is happy now, and I would rather see her smile again than still be in Titanium Rose.

  I am writing this entry whilst sitting on the edge of Fergus’ bed.  When I moved my right foot just now, I stubbed my toes on something just under the bed.  I am going to stop and take a look, see what’s under there.

  (Later)

I feel a kind of numb detachment as regards what I have just read; both nothingness and despair, anger and embarrassment, fear and apprehension… so many things at once, second by second, something different, so that it feels as if I feel nothing at all.  Too many things to process, and now I’m afraid; because I know… I realise the truth at last.

  Underneath the bed was a small cardboard box, full of books and scribbled notes in Fergus’ handwriting.  Two Mind books were on top, ‘The Complete Guide To Mental Health: The comprehensive guide to choosing therapy, counselling and psychiatric care’ and ‘The Complete Guide To Psychiatric Drugs: A layman’s guide to anti-depressants, tranquillisers and other prescription drugs.’  He had flagged up the sections on anxiety, depression, manic depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, seasonal affective disorder, and self-harm in the first book.  Certain words or phrases were underlined, and further notes had been made on anti-depressants and tranquillisers, and from the third book in the pile, ‘Essential Psychopharmacology of Depression and Bi Polar Disorder.’  There were articles about self-harm, and about eating disorders, along with phone numbers for MIND, the Samaritans, the Eating Disorders Association, 42nd Street, stuff from internet sites… Part of me was amazed that he had had time to research the area so thoroughly, but most of me was appalled.  What worried me most of all was a scrap of paper with a series of questions on it:

  1.) How do I talk to her about her illness?

2.) How can I stop her from hurting herself?

3.) Can post-traumatic stress disorder have a sexual cause?

4.) Could I bring myself to seek treatment for her without her knowledge or consent?

It was the last one that hurt the most, in fact, it didn’t just hurt, it scared me, for I knew what lay behind it, not just pills and counselling, but the full weight of the Mental Health Act, and the power to section those who are deemed to be at risk to themselves, or to those around them.

  I have sat quietly for over an hour now, just thinking.  The books and their notes are back in their box now, and are hidden under the bed once more, but they are far from being out of sight, out of mind.  I have been thinking, and I have made a decision.  I realise that it will always be like this, I will always be angry and unhappy, I will always be afraid, and I will always feel powerless in this constant struggle, trying to understand how and why I feel this way, and always failing, always letting people down.  Letting him down, and I know, I know, that he deserves better.  Despite my chronic indecisiveness, for once I have made a decision.  I know what I must do.

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Chapter Sixty Three: Jenny Takes Charge

Things appear to be, ostensibly, more or less back to normal in London today, as far as I can tell.  I felt nervous and hollow as I walked with Fliss, Jenny and Flora to Goodge Street today, only to find that we still couldn’t travel from there, and would have to walk it to Tottenham Court Road to get the Central line.  This was no hardship, as we walked much further yesterday, and at least most of the tube is back on.  You may wonder how I can seem so calm about using the tube after yesterday, but I don’t feel afraid at all.  It’s not so much that I don’t live here, and that we’ll be going home next week, it’s more a combination of defiance and nihilism that I find hard to explain or articulate.

  Jenny’s friend, Tara, met us outside Bethnal Green tube, and she and Jenny talked in subdued, low voices as we walked through the streets to her flat.  The recording session was sparse and intimate, mainly just Fliss and her guitar, with occasional percussion from Flora, Jenny, Tara and me.  The ‘home studio’ was really just an eight track, but it was what was needed for Fliss’ sparse, simple songs, and the relaxed atmosphere of the flat was less intimidating than a conventional studio is to her, so she was able to relax into the songs and, as a result, the finished session was very strong and pure.

  I could tell that Tara had been utterly disarmed by Fliss and her songs, “You are planning to go shopping for a publishing deal with this CD, aren’t you?” she said to Jenny as we paused for dinner.  Jenny didn’t say anything, but she had a wicked smile on her face.

  “But I already have a publishing deal,” said Fliss, puzzled.

  “For anything you write as Titanium Rose,” explained Jenny, “not for anything else.”  Her eyes held a look of steely determination as she explained, “What I’d like to do, before we go home on Monday, is to have got you a publishing deal of your own, for the songs you’re writing now, or at least have tried to get you a deal.”

  “Oh, you won’t have any trouble I don’t think,” said Tara confidently, “not with those songs, not with those looks either.”

  Fliss shyly looked away, self conscious and embarrassed.

  We left feeling very optimistic, and with a complete demo.  “We could do with some photos to go with it,” mused Jenny, “I’ll have to take some tonight, or over the weekend.”  It was dusty and humid on the tube as we travelled back to the West End, and at Tottenham Court Road a friendly American girl gave Fliss some chocolate as we waited for a train back to Goodge Street.  Through the gaps on the opposite platform, I heard a woman apologising to one of the London Underground staff about all the people who’d been horrible to him the day before.

Chapter Sixty Two: Heart Of The City

We left Carr Saunders at nine o’clock this morning, Fliss and Jenny up ahead, Flora and me trailing behind, a little sleepy in the summer breeze as we headed down Tottenham Court Road to Goodge Street tube station.  Fliss had her guitar case slung over her back, and her blonde hair trailed over it in soft waves, moving in the breeze.  She was wearing her blue and white checked dress, and looked very young and fresh.

  They were just shutting the station when we arrived.  Not many people were around, it seemed, and there were temporary signs propped up in the station itself: ‘No Service From This Station.’  Jenny sighed in slight irritation as we paused by the gates, unsure as to what to do.  “Well,” she said, slowly, “we’re only travelling to Tottenham Court Road on the Northern Line, let’s walk it, we can pick up a train there instead.”

  Tottenham Court Road was busy with the morning’s commuters, sharply dressed, but harassed.  As we walked past a mural painted on the wall of a café opposite Heals, I heard a woman grumble that a power failure the morning after the Olympic decision was “typical.”  Somehow, we ended up at Warren Street instead of Tottenham Court Road, having read the map wrong and walked in the wrong direction, it was there that we discovered that the whole network was out, due to a power surge, and that we’d have to get a bus if we wanted to get to Bethnal Green.  We hesitated outside the station as the crowds surged past us, pushing us back to the edge of the pavement.  We were travelling to Bethnal Green in order to lay down some recordings of Fliss’ songs, as Jenny knows someone there who has a home studio that we could borrow, so our journey was important, but not as crucial as that of those who were struggling to get to work.  I shiver to think of it now, but in the busy disruption this morning, my thoughts were simple and uncomplicated, so it was with this common sense that I said, “We don’t really know where we’re going, let’s walk down to Tottenham Court Road and see if the Central line’s likely to be back on soon, if we get a bus, we’ll get lost.”

  The others exchanged glances, then nodded in agreement, and we set off back the way we’d just come.  The wide pavements of Tottenham Court Road were still heaving with people as we walked, but everyone seemed to be walking briskly, with a sort of pent up aggression, the strain showed a little on their faces as they contemplated hours docked from pay, and as shoes unsuited to distance walking began to pinch and rub.  There was no new news when we reached Tottenham Court Road, and not knowing how long the network was likely to be down, we headed for Oxford Circus, in search of a souvenir shop that Fliss wanted to find that sold ‘Mind The Gap’ mugs and London tube map shirts.  She was intent on finding a pair of London tube map boxer shorts for Kylie to wear on stage.  It seems strange now to recall how quickly our minds switched from travel to shopping, how calm we were, how everything felt like a big, exciting, bright and vivid summer adventure, but it would be a lie to say I sensed a wrongness in the air at that point, because I didn’t.

  We stopped for a travel update at Oxford Circus and, as we waited, patiently and placidly, in the queue of commuters a dazed looking man in a suit, carrying a briefcase was overheard to say that he’d been on a train earlier where there’d been some kind of explosion, different lines and destinations were bandied around as people tried to find out how to reach previously simple destinations.  A man in a London Underground uniform listened to a voice on a receiver, interrupting another’s bus stop directions as the news came through that all the buses across London had just been withdrawn.  A surge of apprehension, dread, and sheer nervous adrenalin began to work its way through my body as I began to suspect that something bigger than a simple electrical fault had happened.

  As we walked back along Oxford Circus towards Tottenham Court Road, police cars and ambulances roared past us, sirens at full, jarring, blare, and when I looked up, I could see helicopters in the sky.  The commuters and tourists on Tottenham Court Road seemed dazed and weary then, still moving with purpose past the shops, along the crowded pavement.  Further along the road, I saw an unusually motionless crowd, so big that it was blocking the wide pavement and spilling out into the road.  As we drew closer, I heard Jem’s ‘They’ blaring out of some open shop doorway, and as we reached the crowd, we became a part of their uneasy stillness and silence.  They were gathered around a shop window, in which there was a television showing Sky News.  Unusually, the volume had been turned up, meaning that we could hear as well as see the headlines: ‘EXPLOSIONS IN CENTRAL LONDON’ against the footage of ambulances and stretchers outside underground stations.  And as we stood in the silent crowd, with sirens screaming past us, people walking round us, confirmation came through of an explosion on a bus.

  STOP

  Don’t try to think.

  Don’t process, don’t analyse.

  Just stand still and wait.

  Wait.

  Wait.

I could feel the sense of nervousness, of tiredness, climbing as I watched the images and personal testimonies as they rolled across the screen.  At last, my mind cleared a little, and I was able to view the footage rather more subjectively, not just as someone in central London, failing to match the terror on screen with the surreal calm around me, but as a Manchester girl, as someone with loved ones who wouldn’t have the advantage of what, I suppose, was the reaction at street level.  My first thought was of Fergus, hearing something in passing at work, and not knowing if I was safe.  My second, rapid, thought was of my mother turning on the television and seeing the same footage that I was seeing; Ambulances and stretchers, the mangled remains of a London bus, strangely calm survivors, with blood on their clothes and faces, relating things that they should never be asked to relate, debris and dazed faces…  I knew that Fliss was next to me, even though I hadn’t looked to check, and I found myself speaking in an odd, tight voice that didn’t feel as though it belonged to me, “I need to borrow your mobile.”

  She handed it to me in silence and, barely taking her eyes off the screen, gave me wordless instructions as to how to use it.  Fergus’ mobile was switched to ansaphone, so I left a brief message, telling him we were all fine and not to worry, I’d phone him later.  Thomas answered when I phoned home, and I exhaled in relief as I heard his voice, “Maggie? To what do I owe the pleasure?” his voice was jocular and slightly amused.

  My hands had been shaking ever since I had taken Fliss’ mobile from her, I realised, but there was no time to worry about that now “Is my mum around?” I asked; a slight tremor in my voice as I tried to stay calm.

  “She’s still in bed, but she’s awake, if you want me to fetch her…” he trailed off as though ready to put the receiver down and go into the bedroom to fetch her.

  “No,” I said, quickly, “I need to tell you, then you can tell her… There’s been some explosions in London, but I’m O.K, we’re all O.K.  It looks worse on T.V, I think, so, try to stop her from watching the news today, if you can.”

  “I’ll do my best,” he promised, and I sensed that the tone had changed now: he knew it was serious.  There was an awkward pause, “Are you sure you’re O.K?”

  A siren wailed in my ear, bringing me back to the immediate situation as I replied, “Yes, I’m fine… I have to go.” The amount of police cars, police vans, ambulances and helicopters had increased as I wrapped up the call and handed the phone back to Fliss.  A man pushing a woman in a wheelchair was trying to fight his way through the crowd, and as we stepped aside, reluctantly, to let them through, I knew that we had heard and seen everything on the screen that could be useful to us at that point: It was time to go back to the hall.  Helicopters, police vans, and ambulances accompanied us as we headed back down Tottenham Court Road, parting from us as we turned off down Goodge Street and they continued in the direction of Warren Street.  I didn’t realise until much, much later just where they were heading, or how many people they would take away.

  We hadn’t long arrived back at Carr Saunders when a fax arrived at Reception, advising everyone to stay exactly where they were for the moment.  With little else to do, we joined the crowd of guests in the T.V lounge and watched the latest news.  Unlike the crowd on Tottenham Court Road, the lounge was noisy with conversation, making what little news there was hard to understand.  It sounded like six tube bombs and a bus bomb, but no one seemed that sure, and after a while, we retreated to our rooms.  Across the corridor, I could hear Fliss playing chords on her guitar as Flora slept and I read Dodie Smith’s ‘The Town In Bloom.’  Hours passed in still, uneasy, silence.

In the afternoon, I heard what sounded like air gun shots, and it was only later tonight, when watching the T.V once more, that I realised that what I’d been hearing was controlled explosions being carried out.

    In the early evening, Flora woke up and stretched.  She got to her feet, and began, restlessly, to pace the room, “I can’t stand this,” she snapped, “I need to know what’s happening!”

  Without moving from the bed, or putting down my book, I reminded her of the advice we’d been given to stay put. 

  “I don’t care,” she snapped, “I need to go out!”

  I put my book down with a sigh, “To get drunk?” I asked.  She glared at me.  “Well, today’s a perfect day to drown your sorrows I suppose,” I murmured, almost to myself.

  She glared at me for a few minutes in barely contained fury, then her bottom lip began to tremble, her eyes began to blink, and she collapsed onto her bed in floods of tears.  I felt like joining in, but I was too tired to cry, and I felt as though enough tears had been cried already.  There were four bombs and, so far, thirty-seven people are dead, hundreds more are injured.

Chapter Sixty One: How Bands Fall Apart (in London)

We arrived in London yesterday, and as we meandered through the warm city streets on the coach, I marked off each district we passed through on our way to Victoria Coach Station.  It was sunny outside, and slightly humid on the coach; the city monuments seemed very large and white, very shiny, and slightly intimidating to me.  I watched from the window of the National Express as we passed a forty something punk with an orange mohican sitting on the pavement in Golders Green Bus Station; his face was tanned and lined, and he was wearing dishevelled denim.  I remember wondering if he’d ever posed for a ‘Greetings From London’ postcard in his youth; it seemed likely.

  I found myself feeling strangely queasy as I surveyed the wealth of the West End from the coach window, particularly as we crawled past Selfridges and I saw immaculately dressed women staggering along the pavement, trailing huge, bulging, boutique bags bearing the name of the store.  Everything had the appearance of being so affluent as to be obscene, but I suspect that this response has, at least in part, been generated by Live 8 and G8, which both took place over the weekend: Fliss and I have been watching programmes about poverty all week.

  Carr Saunders Hall, where we’re staying, is on the same street as Saatchi & Saatchi but, despite being in the West End, is reassuringly modest.  Jenny told me a few weeks back that she was booking us into student accommodation for this trip, mainly, she said, because she didn’t want Flora to have access to a hotel bar. I happened to notice as we checked in that there’s a bar directly opposite, so Jenny’s plans to keep Flora off the booze seem doomed to failure.

  There was an element of expectation in the air as we set out for the RMC International offices this morning, “Isn’t the Olympic bid decision announced today?” mused Jenny as we walked along Tottenham Court Road to Goodge Street tube station in the early morning sunshine.

  I shrugged, “Who cares?”

  Fliss and I recalled watching the opening ceremony to the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games on the little T.V above the bar upstairs at Retro Bar whilst waiting for X-Offender to start downstairs.  We could see the planes performing their display on T.V, and would probably have been able to see and hear them live, had we got up from the snug, sofa like seating and stepped outside, but we couldn’t be bothered.

  This story, and related stories, lasted us until we had to change at the Embankment, then we shut up as we negotiated the crowds of commuters on our way to the Circle line.

  Katy had already arrived by the time we were shown into the startlingly white meeting room up on the fourth floor of the RMC offices.  She was talking to Angel Smith as we entered, and her crisp, black, cropped sleeved shirt and black jeans clashed with our altogether more ragged and random ensembles.  Jenny and Fliss had made an effort, but Flora and I had opted for comfort over style.  I saw a sneer flicker across Angel’s face as she looked at us, ‘Yokels’ it seemed to say, or ‘Paupers’.  It had felt safe to jeer at her back in Manchester, because we had been on our own turf, but now we were on her turf, and the tables were turned.  Also present at the meeting was some Australian guy from RMC, called Nathan, who may have been an accountant for all I know, as it was obvious from the start that music wasn’t his strong suit, and Andrew Ryans, from our publishing company, Say, who was interested in negotiating a new contract.

  “But the old contract’s fine,” said Jenny, puzzled, “we went over it six months ago…”

  Katy cleared her throat, and I saw her exchange a look with him.

  Aha, so that’s it… I thought, and as Andrew began to outline what could only be Katy’s proposals, I knew.

  On the way out, Flora had a screaming row with Jenny, “HOW COULD YOU LET THAT BITCH HAVE 75% OF OUR PUBLISHING?”

  “BECAUSE I DIDN’T KNOW!”

  “SOME FUCKING MANAGER!” jeered Flora as she stormed off.

  I saw Jenny sigh.  There were bags under her eyes, and her expression was one of surprise, as though she had just been slapped.

  It hadn’t just been that our share of the royalties had dropped, though that was bad enough; it was the knowledge that Katy had our label and our publisher firmly under her thumb that really stung.  As Fliss said to Jenny on the tube as we travelled back to the West End, “It’s bad enough that she’s had the press under her thumb for the past eighteen months.”

  Jenny laughed, bitterly, “No one has the press under their thumb, believe me…”

  An air of gloom had settled over us, one that contrasted sharply with a London that had just won the bid to host the 2012 Olympics.  Well, at least someone was happy.

  Earlier tonight, I helped Jenny to arrange pre packed salads onto plastic plates in the communal kitchen as Fliss played her guitar alone in a room some way down the corridor.  When we had finished, I made Jenny creep along the corridor towards her and Fliss’ room.  Our floor is mainly home to a group of American economics students, who Jenny immediately sized up and dubbed the “Young Americans.”  We passed a number of them as we tiptoed along the corridor, and they watched our stealthy movements with broadly hostile eyes.  Fliss was playing clear, simple chords slowly and starkly and, as we drew closer, we could hear her pure, girlish voice soar as she sang:

My sins lie like tears on your skin

I want to touch you

But you’re too far away

I have heard Fliss play this song a lot lately, and it’s become one of my favourites.  Jenny stood still as she listened, an intent expression on her face.  Halfway through, Fliss stopped, there was a brief pause, then she began to play again, a different tune this time, with an almost eerie, repetitive series of chords that made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck, she played it several times before she began to sing and, when she did, it was self conscious and stilted, as though she was trying it out, seeing if it worked.  I drew Jenny back to the kitchen, saying quietly once we were out of earshot, “Can we really let a song like that go?”

  Jenny shook her head sadly, “No,” she sighed, “and if we can’t get Katy to leave, or to start using Fliss’ songs again, I’m afraid I may have to talk Fliss into pursuing a solo career, I can’t afford to let her languish in this Cinderella situation any longer.”

    It was about an hour ago when I was woken up by Flora banging on the door; she was swearing thoroughly, if not entirely distinctly, “Bloody bollocking swipe cards,” she mumbled as she staggered into the room behind me.  I could smell the alcohol as she collapsed onto her bed, the white key card that had proved so tricky to operate slid from her unresisting fingers to the floor as she closed her eyes.  With a shake of the head, I walked back over to the door and locked it once more.  “Is this what you wanted, Flora?” I spat, bitterly, as I walked back over to my own bed, “is this what all the years of band practice and gigs were leading up to? Was it worth all the hard graft?”  A snore emerged from her prone form and in a fit of temper I hit her with my pillow before getting back into bed and trying to get to sleep.

Chapter Fifty Nine: How Bands Fall Apart (in Manchester)

We’ve put off confronting Katy a number of times now; twice because she stalled us with promises to meet up, only to fail to show at the pre-arranged meeting point, and three times because neither Flora nor Katy turned up.  Fliss still refuses to have anything to do with it and, all things considered, we aren’t expecting her to change her mind anytime soon.  “I’m not taking any chances this time,” announced Jenny as we walked along Oxford Road in the late morning sunshine, “If Flora thinks she can get out of it by staying at home, she’s another thing coming.”  The heat was rising as we walked, making the air warm and slightly humid despite the glaring whiteness of the sky.

  Flora and Debbie’s flat was stark and shabby, with an early seventies nostalgic feel, which I can only presume was accidental.  Debbie steered us across the orangey brown carpet to the worn lino of the kitchen, where she made us drinks, and we talked as we waited for Sleeping Beauty to emerge.  “I don’t want to be rude,” began Debbie, hesitantly, after we had been exchanging small talk for over an hour, “But Flora got drunk again last night, and I’ve noticed she only does that when she’s under pressure about the band.”

  “She’s been drunk other times too,” said Jenny, “she got drunk when we last went out, and that was purely social.”

  Debbie shuffled uncomfortably, I could tell that she wanted to disagree, but that she thought it was best not to for the moment.  “I’m only mentioning it because her hangovers cut into work time, and we’ve had a lot of commissions and deadlines lately.  I can deal with the shop side, and the business side of things, but I’m not as good as she is at the creative side of things, so I can’t take much of it off her hands.”  Jenny began to drum her fingers, impatiently, on the top of the table; I could tell that she wanted to get Flora, and get going, before Katy did a flit.  “Jenny,” said Debbie imploringly, “Listen to me… You could get another bassist, I’m sure you could, I don’t want you to sack her, but…”

  She trailed off as Jenny got to her feet, flicking her bright hair out of her eyes as she said, “I can’t wait any longer; I’m going to get her.”

  As we walked up the grimy brown and orange stair carpet, I heard Debbie’s footsteps behind me.

  In Flora’s bedroom, the paint on the walls was peeling, and boxes surrounded the bed.  Knickers and bras had been left all over the floor, and there were empty bottles teetering on the boxes.  A hi-fi, somewhere, was blaring out Marianne Faithful’s ‘The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan’ as Flora lay, spread-eagled, across the unmade bed, her hair unwashed and un-brushed, still wearing her clothes, and groaning loudly as Jenny shook her.  It was strangely reminiscent of Tracey Emin’s ‘My Bed’.  Debbie slipped past me as I stood gawping, and between the two of them, they managed to drag her into an upright position, although her eyes were screwed tight shut against the glare of the daylight.  “Why have you done this?” snapped Jenny, shaking her for emphasis.

  Flora winced as she moaned, “I thought you might leave me alone and not make me go!” the last word emerged as a disgruntled whine.  Her face was distinctly greenish, and her eyes, when she eventually opened them, were bloodshot and slightly unfocused.  “Where are my sunglasses?” she whimpered as she closed her eyes once more.  She would no doubt have flopped back down onto the bed, and gone back to sleep, but Debbie and Jenny held her fast.  Debbie found the sunglasses and propped them up against Flora’s pale, sensitive nose, then she and Jenny hauled her to my feet and dragged her over to a chair.

  “Leave me alone with her for a few minutes,” said Debbie quietly, and we did.

  Outside the bedroom door, Jenny lit a cigarette and inhaled gratefully, “I’ll be glad when this is over,” she muttered.

  The humidity had increased whilst we were inside, and the white sky was glaringly bright as we walked through Hulme, then back down Oxford Road.  Despite the humidity, Flora was shivering.  She made a strange picture in her coat and sunglasses, and her face was a terrible colour. “Fliss thinks we should give Katy the elbow,” I told them both as we walked.

  “I’m all for it,” muttered Flora.

  But Jenny shook her head, “It would mean a long court case over who gets to use the name if you do, and I can’t see Katy giving up without a fight.”

  The Northern Quarter always looks best in summer, the sun makes the streets seem less grey, and the colours seem brighter, the shops fresher, shoppers more cheerful.  The recently built glass and steel apartment block became more and more imposing as we drew nearer, and Flora shivered.

  “I told you I don’t want to talk,” snapped Katy when she, at last, opened the door to us.

  “I know,” said Jenny as she shoved past her and into the flat.

  I found myself comparing the open plan glass and steel of Katy’s apartment to the shabbily carpeted, peeling paint and cramped rooms of Flora’s flat.  Like Flora, Katy shares her flat, but it was easy to see that Katy had a palace, Flora a hovel.

  We didn’t see much of the palace, however, for Katy blocked our path once more.  She stood directly in front of us with her arms folded, defensively, across her chest as she scowled.  Jenny was wavering, I could tell, “All we want to do is talk about the band,” she insisted.

  “You’ve no jurisdiction over me anymore, Jenny,” growled Katy, handing her a letter.  “You’re not my manager anymore.”

  I watched as Jenny read the letter, and I saw her turn pale with rage.  There was a long, long, silence before she said, in tones of purest ice, “I still represent the interests of Maggie, Flora, and Fliss.”

  “I won’t discuss anything without my manager being present,” maintained Katy in that same icy voice.

  “Fine,” said Jenny, “let’s arrange a date.”

  Katy started to close the door on us, “I’ll get my manager to phone the label and arrange a meeting at the London offices.”  The London offices meant RCM International.

  “Fine,” snapped Jenny, her foot in the door, “if I haven’t heard anything by the end of the week, I’ll be talking to your manager to find out why.”

  “Fine,” Katy slammed the door, and Jenny removed her foot just in time.

  We put Flora in a taxi at Piccadilly, and it was as we watched the car disappear along the road that Jenny asked, dryly, “Would it hurt you a lot if Titanium Rose split up?” 

  I shook my head, “No.”

  She shook her head in seeming sadness, “I was afraid you’d say that.”  She turned to face me, and took me by the arm, “Come with me, please,” we walked back towards Oldham Street.

  The Twilight seemed tired in the glare of the afternoon sun.  At night, the dust and grime, the darkness and red velour can be charming, but in daylight it just seems old, and tired, and sad.  The young gothic barmaid served us with a histrionic sigh, and rolled her eyes in boredom as she got our drinks, all the while slouching across the floor, her black lacquered nails raking her red, teased hair as though she’d rather be somewhere else.

  Once we were ensconced at one of the dark wooden tables, sticky with years of spilt beer, Jenny produced a magazine from her bag.  It was bright, thick and glossy, and it looked very new, very different to the usual rock mag fare.  There was a picture of The Girls From Mars on the cover.  Jenny flicked through the pages until she was near the centre before passing the magazine across to me.  There was a feature on new, up and coming, girl bands, including Lolita Complex, Clinch, The Flirts, Rachel Halo And The Princesses, and three bands I hadn’t heard of: The Heimlich Manoeuvre, Kitsune, and the wonderfully named Mad Girls In The Attic.  Lolita Complex are from Chorlton, and are friends of Yan from the Razorblades, Clinch are from Bolton, and Meelan is a friend, The Flirts are based in London, though are from Bolton originally, Rachel Halo And The Princesses are from Leicester, The Heimlich Manoeuvre are from Glasgow, Kitsune are a London band, and Mad Girls In The Attic are from Leeds.

  “Should be Howarth really,” said Jenny, as she read over my shoulder, “and they should wear petticoats on stage…”

  “They sound great,” I grinned.

  Jenny pointed to each band in turn, “Have you noticed the common theme yet?”

  “Um, they’re all girls?” I ventured.

  “They all list Titanium Rose as one of their influences, Mad Girls In The Attic and Rachel Halo And The Princesses especially, and look, Meelan mentions you specifically in the piece on Clinch.”

  “That’s because we’re friends,” I said dismissively.

  “Two of them, the two I’ve already mentioned, cite you as the reason they got together,” Downstairs, we could hear the distant sounds of a band rehearsing, I recognised some of the songs, and realised that it was Angel and the Razorblades practising.  “Another band that owe a lot to Titanium Rose,” said Jenny when I pointed it out.  “What does all of this tell you?” she gazed at me meaningfully.

  I shrugged carelessly, “That the future’s in good hands,” I replied, flippantly.

  It was only as I returned home, and I heard Fliss playing her guitar, and singing her new songs, that I began to really think about what she had been saying, and I began to ask myself, would I miss Titanium Rose if we split up? Then, I thought about the other question she’d raised, I had told her that I believed the future to be in good hands, but I find myself wondering now if Fliss and I are a part of that future or not.

Chapter Forty Nine: Awakening

“I’m not here to judge you,” said Jenny from her vantage point on the sofa, “I’m here to try and help you.”  Her tone was quiet, and her eyes were full of kind concern, but I could sense her caution and unease as she watched me through wary eyes.

  “You sound like a fucking therapist,” I muttered truculently.  Like everyone these days, she was killing me with kindness, and I felt bad enough already.  In my lycra mini skirt and neat black shirt, with my hair brushed and tied back from my face, I felt naked.  The shirt didn’t hide the scars on my arms for one thing, and the skirt didn’t cover the scars on my legs.  I had wanted to appear in control, in neat, tidy, sensible clothing, but I had failed, just as I have in everything lately.  I made myself meet her eyes as I said, “I suppose you want to talk about the band.”

  “Well, yes,” I had evidently caught her off guard, caught her before she was ready, “I mean, if you want to that is, if you’re ready…”

  “I’m ready,” I replied grimly.  I had to get it over with. 

  “Well then,” she shuffled some papers in her lap, and I knew that she wanted to look at them, not at me, “Fliss might have told you about the tour being cancelled, has she?”

  “No.”

  “Well, now it’s been re-arranged.”

  “When?” I asked, dully.  I didn’t really care, but it seemed important to express an interest.

  “A fortnight today; I discussed it with your mum, and your doctor, and neither of them think you’re ready, so…”

  “Have I been sacked, Jenny?” I asked quietly.  I feel indifferent about so many things these days, but that was one thing that I had to know.

  She shook her head, “but we’re borrowing Andrea for the tour.”  I raised my eyebrows in surprise as she continued, “The Girls From Mars are writing at the moment; they aren’t gigging or promoting anything, and since it’s only for one week, Andrea offered to step in.  She knows some of the songs already of course, from playing gigs with you before.”

  I nodded; it made sense, “What about the photo shoot and videos we were scheduled to do?”

  “Well,” she smiled awkwardly, “I’m sorry, but we went ahead without you on those.”

  “I’m not.”

  “No,” she smiled wryly, “I didn’t think you’d mind.”  She gazed at me directly, “What we need to discuss now, if you’re ready that is, is what you want to do in the long term, with the band, or without the band.”

  “I want to stay with Titanium Rose.”  I said immediately.

  “You’re sure?” She asked, doubtfully, “Because I want you to really think about this, it’s not a hobby anymore, it’s a career, you have a lot of potential as a band, but its potential that can be developed without you as well as with you, and I do believe, and Sandra Dee believe, that this is a crucial point.”

  I raised my eyebrows again, “I thought you were meant to be being nice…”

  “Sometimes being honest is better than being nice,” she said briskly, “and you can’t tell me that you weren’t thinking of leaving the band last year; Katy told me.”

  I stiffened in anger, “And what did Katy say?”

  “She said that you wanted to be a dancer instead, and I know from talking to Fliss, and especially to Nat, that you have the talent for that.”

  “If you talked to Nat,” I snapped, “you’ll know that I have no chance of going back…”

  “But you have other routes into dance than ballet school…”

  I shook my head, my brain suddenly full of questions and contradictions, it wasn’t that I hadn’t thought of that, that I hadn’t thought of trying those other routes, but… “Believe me, Jenny,” I said, coldly, “I’ve had plenty of solitary hours lately in which to consider it…”

  “Yes, of course, um…” She blushed fiercely as she shuffled papers.

  “Does Katy want me to come back?” I enquired.

  She froze mid shuffle, and I knew that I had hit a nerve.  Her expression was carefully schooled when she at last looked up, but I could hear the barely suppressed anger in her voice as she said, “Let me deal with Katy, she isn’t your concern right now.”

  I nodded reluctantly, she was right of course, whatever private battles Katy and I have to fight will have to wait.  I changed tack, “Are you glad that Fergus and I split up?”

  “No,” her voice was mildly indignant, “what on earth made you think that?”

  “Well, you never approved of us being together,” I reasoned awkwardly.

  “Doesn’t matter what I think,” she said wryly, “I thought he was too old for you, and I thought it was bad because he had been your label boss, but he seemed to be good for you… I never disliked him…” She turned away to pick up her papers, and began to sort them out and put them into her bag, “until now” I heard her add, under her breath.

  “He told you what happened, didn’t he?” I persisted.

  “Yes,” she said softly, “he did.”

  I could feel a blush creeping up my face as the sense of betrayal washed over me like a wave.  The mortification must have shown on my face, for Jenny walked over to me and sat down next to me on the sofa, “Now listen,” she said, kindly but firmly, “He only told me because I made him tell me, your mum told me the rest, it’s gone no further than me, and it never will…”

  “The ‘NME’, the press…” I murmured, frantically.

  “I don’t work for the ‘NME’ anymore.”

  I jerked my head up in surprise, I could see the anger and regret in her face as I said, “Oh Jenny, I’m so sorry.”

  “I’m not,” I saw her shoulders tense, “they put me in a very difficult position, between people I care about, and I do care about you, no matter what you think, and my career.  I chose the people I care about.”  Her expression became wary once more as she said, tentatively, “Flora seemed to think you’d seen some of the press coverage about your illness,” she paused for my reaction, and when none came, continued, “She said Fliss left some of it lying around.”

   I nodded, grimly, I didn’t want to get Fliss into trouble, but I wasn’t prepared to lie either.  “I had to find out sooner or later,” I said tensely, “what they were saying about me.”

  “I’d rather it had been later, we all had.”

  “Well, its character building I suppose” I said with false cheeriness “being called an anorexic, self-destructive, attention seeking lunatic.”

  “It’s not personal to you,” she tried to explain “it’s what gets written most of the time about musicians with mental illnesses.”

  I nodded tensely, I knew that, but it didn’t make me feel any better about it, “Jenny,” I began cautiously, “I don’t know if I can do this, but, I really don’t want to do interviews anymore,” I sighed, heavily, “they’ll only be interested in writing about me as some woeful caricature, and I’m not into that, besides,” I concluded, “no one ever wanted to interview me before.”

  She nodded, “I’ll get in touch with Sandra Dee about it today: No one will make you do press if you don’t want to.”

  I nodded gratefully, “Thank you.”

  She watched me with that same thoughtful expression, “This has been worrying you, hasn’t it?”

  I nodded again, “You have no idea,” I admitted, with feeling.

  After Jenny had left, I wandered aimlessly from room to room, thinking… Practically the first thing I had seen upon returning to the world had been the press cuttings about me from the music press, which had taught me not only how they viewed me, but how much they loved that I had fallen from anonymity into the spotlight, and could be used as such for vicious gossip.  It was hardly a newsflash, I’d seen it happen innumerable times before with musicians and film stars, but I had never expected it to happen to me.

  Over the weeks, the music press’ sniping has lost impact, mainly because I haven’t been reading the press, but also because re-entering the world has meant catching up on everything that has happened whilst I’ve been away.  I was sedated throughout the ongoing carnage in Iraq, and I slept through government approved scare mongering about obesity and smoking, in the process going through cold turkey for my own nicotine addiction whilst slowly wasting away.  Asylum seekers were turned away, Haitian presidents ousted, and the tenth anniversary of Bill Hicks and Kurt Cobain’s deaths were marked as I slept.  It seems, even now, as though I am still waking up.

  On the 11th of March, I was awake and wretched as Al Quaeda bombed trains in Madrid, killing hundreds of people and injuring still more. I missed at least two deaths in Israel, and came back to the world just in time to mark the chaos caused by the fire at the B.T plant in Manchester.  For a week, silence seemed to reign as phones lay dead and useless, but the chaos felt normal to me.  All around the world, people die because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and I can’t feel anything for them because the pills stop me from feeling; not entirely, but they blur my feelings to such a degree that they no longer feel natural, but instead feel chemical, synthetic, and altogether false.  I no longer cry, but some days I still want to go back to bed, pull the covers over my head, and stay there forever, knowing nothing, feeling nothing.

Chapter Forty Three: December Days

Cold, so cold… no matter how many layers of clothing I wear, I am still icy cold.  My eyes are sore, they flicker constantly, and my head aches so hard, so painfully.  Cold, so cold… the icy winds, the early nights and dark days of winter have driven away the golden sun, and it will rain until May, rain and rain and rain.

  “Once again, from the top” the voice spoke coldly and distantly in my cans as I waited at the drums, and stared bleakly around the cold grey studio.

  “What?” I snapped.

  “Again, from the top,” there was no change in the producers tone at all.

  “Why?”

  “You’re still going too fast”

  I could feel the anger firing through me as I got to my feet, “There was nothing wrong with those takes!” I yelled at the faces behind the glass, “I’m playing at the right speed! Everyone else is playing too bloody slow!”

  As I got closer, I could see them all behind the thick glass, exchanging looks, and I could imagine what they were saying, “She really thinks she’s something, doesn’t she?” “We could have gone home by now if it wasn’t for her”, “We should have sacked her months ago.”  They all had their eyes on me, and were waiting, as though they were watching a recently lit firework.  I kept my eye on them as I walked towards the door.  I didn’t think that anyone would stop me, but I wanted to be sure.

  We’ve been ensconced at Twilight Studios for the best part of a month now, recording our album.  I’d like to say that it’s been a pleasurable experience, but on the whole it hasn’t been.  Katy is co-producing, along with Sean Cooke, who was recommended to us by The Girls From Mars, and, as such, she has a lot more power behind the desk than Fliss, Flora, and I do.  “I hate that man,” seethed Flora at the end of the first week as we prepared to go home, “but,” she conceded, reluctantly, “He does know how to get the best out of you.”  Fliss nodded in glum agreement.  Sean Cooke had been particularly hard on her, I thought.  He frequently told her to stop standing about looking pretty, and he pushed her beyond her natural vocal range on the grounds that it was “good for you.”  He thought I was lazy and incompetent, and he didn’t mince his words in telling me so.

  “Interesting show of temper,” remarked Jenny.  She was standing by the main entrance to the studios, barring my way.

  I shoved her aside, “Tell it to Sean, not me.”

  She grasped hold of my arm, carefully but firmly, and pulled me back inside, “Sit,” she snapped, and gestured to a nearby seat in the lobby.

  I threw myself down onto the cold plastic chair.

  “What the hell is going on?” she snapped as I slouched in sullen silence, “Why are you acting like this?”

  “Like what?” I snapped.

  There was a brief, uncomfortable pause, before she decided to try a different tack, “What’s wrong, Maggie?” she asked in tones of mild exasperation.

  “Nothing”

  “Then why are you biting everyone’s head off?”

  “Look who’s talking.”

  The barb seemed to have pierced her, at least a little bit, and her expression became thoughtful.  “Alright,” she said, at last, “If there’s nothing wrong, why have you been so distracted? Why hasn’t your playing been up to its usually high standard?” Her voice was louder now, and I could see that she was having trouble controlling her temper, “Why is Sean Cooke leaning on Sandra Dee to draft in a session drummer to replace you?”

  “Fine,” I snapped as I got to my feet, “I’ll be off then shall I?”

  She pulled me down again, “You know that Sandra Dee don’t want that, neither do I, neither do the band… we all know how good you are, but you do seem to be distracted lately, and, well, we’re all, well… concerned” She gazed sternly up into my eyes, “Especially me” I looked away as she continued, “I won’t be here next week, so I can’t be here to argue your case for you, you’re going to have to be firing at one hundred per cent, because you’re going to have to prove to him that you’re as good as we know you are.”

  “Yes, well,” I muttered bitterly, “I’ll try to be a good little girl next week.”

  “That wasn’t what I meant,” she was trying to be stern, but I saw the spark of humour in her eyes.

  “It was really” I smiled sheepishly, “You just said it differently.”

  She sighed as she rested her head on her palms, and scrutinised my face with thoughtful eyes, “Of all of you, I feel I know you the least… why is that?”

  I shrugged, “Maybe I like it that way.”

  “You have secrets.”  It wasn’t a question.

  “Everybody has secrets” I stood up, and slowly slipped my arms inside my coat, “Not just me, I have my reasons for being who I am.”  She didn’t try to stop me from leaving.

  As I made my way through the car park, I was reminded of Fergus.  Although we have broken up, I’ve seen him every day since, at work.  We see each other three times a day on average: in the morning, at dinnertime, and at half five when I go home.  We don’t talk; we just nod grimly to each other in passing.  It is awkward, agonising… but that is how it must be.  Or so I thought…

  On Friday the 12th of December, I was late into work because my bus was late.  It had been raining, and I had left the house without my umbrella, the consequence of which was that I was soaked to the skin by the time I reached the studio.  Shivering with cold, I hung my long black coat over the radiator and turned my attention to the switchboard, which was still switched to ansaphone.

  I was about to switch the machine off when I noticed something out of the corner of my eye, and stopped.  There was a polythene cup on my desk, and it was warm to my touch.  I removed the lid: Black coffee.  Next to it was an envelope with my name scrawled on it in handwriting that I knew all too well.

  Inside, he had written:

  Dearest Maggie,

  It is with a certain amount of regret that I must tell you that I am leaving Manchester and returning to Scotland for a time.  Perhaps it will be for the best, as it will give us both time to think.  I am leaving tomorrow morning; firstly for Glasgow to spend Christmas with my family, then in the New Year I will be working for a studio in Stirling for a while.  I will be back on the 12th February.

  Before I leave, I had to tell you that I still love you.  I think I always will.  I want you back, for all it would mean in the present circumstances, I hate this atmosphere there is between us.  Without you, there would be little to return to Manchester for.

  All my love,

  Fergus.

  I felt nothing as I read his words, but I couldn’t let so honest a card go unanswered.  I found a piece of paper and a pen, and I wrote:

  I love you, but we can’t be together, is futile to pretend otherwise.  You should be with someone who makes you happy.

I passed it to him as he walked past my desk on his way back from dinner.

  At half five, the night was black and stormy as I put on my coat.  I wasn’t looking forward to the walk to the bus stop, but it had to be done.  I braced myself, and walked out into the night, straight into Fergus.

  “Did you mean it?” he asked, tightly, “What you wrote?”

  “Yes, I did… I’m sorry,” I continued walking.

  He followed me, “Sorry for what; for loving me or for not being with me?”

  “Either, both…”

  “People who love each other should be together”

  I stopped, and then turned around to face him, “Not you and me.”

  “Why not?”

  I couldn’t answer him.  The wind whipped my hair and the rain lashed my face as I tried not to meet his eyes.  He put his arms around my waist, and I rested my head on his shoulder, “You don’t want this to end, do you?” he murmured.

  “No, but I have to,” I knew that I should move out of his arms, but I didn’t want to.

  “Why?”

 “Because I can’t give you what you want and because what we had wasn’t enough for you”

  “It could be enough,” he said, but I could hear the doubt in his voice.

  “No,” I sighed, “I was stupid to think it could ever be right.  We just don’t live in that kind of a world.”  I raised my head from his shoulder, “I do love you, I…”

  He kissed me, and I let my feelings for him get the better of me as I kissed him back, for a long, long time.  It felt both beautifully sad, and tacky, what with the rain and everything, but I knew that I didn’t want it to end.

  “It’s over,” I whispered when we stopped.

  “No,” his eyes bored into me, “it’s not.”

  I hung my head.  I had run out of things to say.  He pressed a piece of paper into my hand, “Phone numbers,” he explained, “If you would call me…”

  “No.”  I was as firm as I dared to be.

  “Keep them anyway,” he forced the piece of paper, wet by now, into my cold hand, my numb fingers closed around it.  “Let me give you a lift home,” he said as I slipped the paper into one of my pockets.

  “No, I’m fine.”  If he drove me home, I told myself, we would have to say goodbye all over again, and I didn’t think that I could bear it, whatever the weather was like.

  “But it’s pouring down!” he protested.

  “I want to walk,” I maintained stubbornly, “I need to think…” He caught my hand as I made to go.

  “Think about what I said…” he urged.

  I nodded, and he released my hand.  Through the dark and relentless downpour, I could feel him watching me as I walked away.

  Fliss went home to her parents for Christmas, and I had already agreed months ago to spend Christmas with mum.  Tony had taken his family off to Spain, sparing me the annual torture of visiting him.  It was only as I journeyed from Heaton Chapel to Hazel Grove that I remembered that mum and I wouldn’t be alone this Christmas, Thomas, the boyfriend, would also be present.  I sagged a little lower in my seat on the bus, I had forgotten.

  Things began badly: “Good God!” he exclaimed in astonishment, “She looks just like you when you were that age.”  I could tell that he was scrutinising me equally as much as I was scrutinising him.  He was tall and broad, with very dark brown hair, and he was clean-shaven.  His clothes were fairly non-descript; jeans and t-shirt, but I noticed his eyes, which were a muddy green; they were framed by long, luxurious brown eyelashes, unusually long for a man.  He must have been quite a looker when he was younger.

  I didn’t really know what to make of him, or what to say to him.  What do you say on occasions like this? I had met my mother’s boyfriends before, and had usually found something to say to them, but this felt different somehow.  Both of them were waiting expectantly for a response from me, but I was tongue tied still.  Eventually, I managed to say hello, and to shake his hand, but it felt weird.  I was wary, and I wasn’t sure why.

  “Tony’s daughter?” he asked mum.

  She nodded.

  “That would explain the height”

  I was unsure as to whether I was meant to stand there patiently and be dissected, or whether I was meant to give as good as I got.  In the end, I did neither.  I simply left the room.

  I didn’t like him, I decided, as I waited in the kitchen for the kettle to boil.  He made me feel like a stranger in my own home, and, worst of all, she was letting him do it.  Then, I remembered… it wasn’t my home anymore, I had as good as told her so, months ago.  I told her to put him first.  But, as much as I disliked him, I decided to make an effort.  I made drinks for them both as well as for myself.

  “Has Fergus gone home to Glasgow for Christmas?” asked mum as I handed her a drink.  She was next to him on the sofa, holding his hand, so I claimed the armchair.

  “Yes,” I replied, guardedly.

  “And how’s the recording going?” she asked with interest.

  I just shrugged.

  I took the time to take in the room, which had been decorated far better than if simply mum or I had done it.  The tree was magnificent; it had new decorations instead of our old ragged tinsel and scuffed baubles, and had been dusted with fake snow.  The windows had been decorated with fairy lights and more snow, and it all looked extremely picturesque.  I complimented him on his handiwork, and he seemed pleased.

  But it was an uneasy truce.  In my old bedroom later I stood in front of my old full length mirror and stared at my reflection; huge green eyes stared back at me, her eyes, but they were blank and expressionless, surrounded by dark shadows and bagged skin.  The face was as pale as milk, with freckles that stood out in sharp contrast to the pallid skin, and my cheekbones were showing through.  Was it really my face? I could feel the sense of panic rising in my chest as I muttered, “Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? WhoamIwhoamIwhoamIwhoamI… stop it, stop it…” it was getting worse, I could barely breathe.  “Stop…” tears were pouring down my cheeks as I reached for the scissors on the chest of drawers next to me and slashed, wildly, at my arm, eventually drawing blood.  My ragged breathing slowed as I calmed down.  I let go of the scissors.

  Everyone was in bed as I made my way to the bathroom, everywhere was dark, and cold… so cold.  It slowed me down, and I felt frightened… of being alone, of myself perhaps.  I don’t know.  But I’m cold, so cold… I can’t get warm at all, no matter what I do.  So cold.

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