• Vol. 03
  • Chapter 05
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It was soft and safe. The big poster of a lion or something similar that smiled at me from my bedroom wall. It had always been there and I never asked questions about what it was or whether it was alive or dead like the ones in the museum. I think I didn’t really want to know. Then there were my cuddly animals, a frog and a fish and a turtle and a crab – things that should have been scaly or hard but were so soft and plushy. I would lie in a heap of them and hear them moaning at me and smile, thinking, just a minute more of snugness and I’ll let you all breathe. Outside the grass was soft, too, dotted with white apple blossom. I would sprawl and listen to music or a story tape.

Then there was you. You were soft. Ish. You liked old clothes, dresses with full skirts, delicate ruffles. Your hair was always in some elaborate scrunchie dotted with silk roses or threaded with beads. You never looked anything but a picture. We spent most of our time in my room, with that big furry face smiling at us. I would smile back, you would reach up and stroke it. Him. You called him Harvey. I didn’t want to name him, or her.

I remember when it changed, the day of the fortune teller. You cut the square, so effortlessly, and folded it into that perfect fortune teller shape. When I tried, it always went wrong or looked naff. You made it open and shut on your fingers, like a lotus. It was as if you really were working magic. “Pick a number.”




“Pick a colour.”


“Pick a city.”

This was new. “Let me see the cities.”

London. Paris. Cannes. Rome. Florence. Venice. Madrid. Prague.

“Can’t we have here on there?”

“This excuse for a town?”

“Why not?”

You sighed and looked at me. Just looked. And it was as if suddenly you knew everything in the world, had seen so much, and I had seen nothing.

And I felt like a child. I felt stupid.

“Rome then.”

I only knew Rome because it sometimes came up at school in RE. The Romans were horrible to Jesus.

“OK. You are going to go on a great journey. Your life will change and you will never be able to go back.” You finished with a dramatic flourish. I looked out of the window at all the blossom, thick like a bubbly bath. I spoke without really speaking.

“OK. Give it to me. I’ll do you.”

I listened to you and moved the thing and my hands felt like a ghost was moving them, or an angel. The furry smile was there but his softness looked out of place now; everything in my room was hard and sharp, and the fortune teller so pointy. It was like a mouth, the new mouth in my life, and it wasn’t smiling.