• Vol. 04
  • Chapter 02
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Pieces of glass

When she sees her chance she leaves. She doesn’t take her shoes, or the coral lipstick she insists on wearing, although she’s seen the care-worker’s pitying looks, as though they are thinking, What’s the point, at her age? She picks up the scarf one of her daughters gave her, ties it round her waist. She’s not sure if that’s where it’s meant to go, but hopes it will keep her warm.

The girls with fat bottoms and long, cow’s lashes and plastic nails are outside smoking cigarettes and laughing. She walks out of her room with its neat bed and thick, swirled carpet, through the hall and out of the front door, which she closes quietly behind her. She knows where she is going, but isn’t sure she remembers the way.

She makes her way past cars parked on the gravel, and through the village. Everything is dark, apart from the yellow glow of light from windows. Her bare feet are like ice; stones and dirt press into her skin. She climbs down the steps towards the beach. She wants to see it one last time; the place she used to come with him. They’d lie under the giant rock shaped like a man’s face, with beaked nose and protruding forehead. She’d worry that a piece of rock might fall off and land on them, but he’d say, Silly bird, and kiss her nose. She can still remember the heft of him, the sea-salt smell of his skin.

She climbs onto a rock. Her mind might not be what it once was – sometimes she forgets words, or where she is, or who she is – but her body is still agile. The women in her family have always been thin as birds, and strong. She stands staring at the starlit sky, the ink-black sea. She imagines holding her baby son up to the stars, the way a lion did once in a cartoon, then laughs as she remembers he’d be forty-five now. She’d written to him once, and received a polite letter in return. I wish you all the best, he’d said. But I won’t be coming to meet you.


Pieces of glass

She’d not coped well after they had taken him away. She remembers the keening, animal cry she’d made, how she’d walked the streets for hours. And as for him, well, he stopped speaking to her when she’d told him. His family wouldn’t allow him to marry her. Perhaps he’d moved away. She hasn’t seen him since. She’s tried to forget, but can’t. The two of them are lodged in her heart like pieces of glass.

She hears footsteps crunching over pebbles and sand, voices shouting her name. The sky seems lighter. All this fuss, she thinks, for one old woman. Perhaps she’ll tell her daughters about their brother now, before it’s too late. Perhaps the words will no longer get stuck in her throat. She turns, and is blinded by torchlight.