Monday, 22 October 2012


Take a colour, Esther says.  Take a colour, take lots of colours, take as many as you like, and fill the paper.  Fill the paper with colours that sum up your mood and how you’re feeling.  Fill lots of paper if you want, just draw how you feel.  Go on.  There’s no right or wrong.  No one’s going to judge what you do.  Just try it and see how it goes.  No right, no wrong.  Play with it.  See what happens.

The others, they set to it.  Fergus holds a stubby red crayon between his thick, hairy fingers and his meaty hand draws loops looping round and round, filling the page with elegant sweeps, his eyes unblinking as though this is some sort of miracle and he mustn’t miss a millisecond.  Laura draws a pink unicorn, trust her, and Billy scrapes back his chair, says this is all bollocks, and stomps off out for a smoke, Esther straggling after him going wait Billy, just give it a try okay, her voice fading out into the corridor.

I don’t wanna ‘play’ with Esther’s stupid crayons.  She thinks she knows how it is, fluttering in here in her shiny new blue car, fresh from her pretty house with its just-so d├ęcor, matching kids and soft-hearted husband, gaggles of giggling friends and a family: a family; people to notice if she ceases to be.

I stare at my page.  What colour is there to capture the flat sterility of my life, the time passing within the bubble of my four walls where nothing happens unless I move, no one speaks unless I turn on the telly or talk out aloud, aimless hours blending into one timeless monotony as I drift through the doldrums of solitude, while a busy world, the ‘normal’ world bustles on around me, without me, and there’s no one to notice I’m not there.

What colour are you thinking of, Gina?  Esther asks, hovering over my shoulder.

What colour is there to capture the fact she’s the first person who’s spoken to me in days; that I walked into Fergus on the way in here on purpose, just to feel another person’s touch; that when we’ve finished this latest session of stupid games I will wander the streets, squandering time until the inevitable happens and I return to my empty home.

Come on Gina, Esther wheedles.  Choose a colour.

I kick the table.  It lands with a crash, crayons and paper scattering across the floor.  Esther blinks, but honestly, what does she expect?  I can’t explain that I can’t explain, and someone like Esther will never understand that she’ll never understand.

Thursday, 18 October 2012


I found her trembling on the kerb outside my house, puffy eyes red from crying, quivering eyelashes sodden with tears and dressed not in the countryside uniform of muddy boots and grubby waterproofs, but in white: an embroidered blouse, crisp tailored shorts and pristine white pumps, matching beads adorning sapling arms so delicate they needed no ornament.  No, she told me, wringing out a soggy handkerchief and winding it round and around her long trembling fingers, she didn’t need my help.  Her brother was coming.  Everything was all right.

A car drew up.  An unsmiling man and unamused woman, their rock-hard faces staring into some unfathomable distance as thought they’d rather be anywhere but here.  The girl got up, all long limbs and coltish legs, young enough to be my daughter.  She clambered into the backseat, crying too hard to speak.

They drove away.  I stood twisting my hands, watching as the car grew smaller and smaller, and disappeared.  And I stood there for some time, wondering who the girl was, how she’d come to be sitting outside my house, and just who exactly had collected her: brother, friend or pimp; the feeling I had just missed the opportunity to do the right thing staying with me, gnawing my conscience for months to come.

                                                Picture of white feather by Stuart Lilley
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