Aneurysm -Short Edit

A scarred branch digs into my belly. Sunlight passes in streaks through gaps in the leaves. Lime green, grass green, stripes and splatters hide me.

Beneath me, you’re writing, and I need to see. Are you writing about me? This need consumes me all summer. I look for the book in your room.  I follow you after you have written, but you elude me.

I’ve been here since I ran from the dinner table, her voice screaming after me.

I’m too high. I know that the moment you open the book, pull out your fountain pen. The blackbird-song from the orchard battles with your scratch. Can’t see him, can’t see me. I can’t see. One move, I’m no bird, a twig will crack, leaves will betray me.

I can be cat, brown dapples in the green, unseen enemy of small fur and feathers, slide, slip along. The scrape on my legs tells me I’m making progress.

How close must I be? The bough dips, I’m lower still. Can I see my name in there, or hers? You’re scribbling, black scrawl indecipherable.

I lean. Twigs claw my face, tug on my shirt buttons. I put my hands out, grasp the leaves, then I’m flying like the blackbird, and the text is getting nearer, and you look up.

Blackbird wings beat in my head. There’s grass between my teeth, ink on my skin. A torrent of anger in your voice pours over me.

I sort my limbs from yours, as the script scores tracks through my mind.

I can hear her screaming as she thuds down the lawn, … I’m too old for this … you come here now … what will your mother think … I’m not letting you out of my sight again!

Nothing matters, now. I’ve read the words.


Room – First Draft

Women have always done it, unrecognised, hidden. And even once allowed, we deny it, because being allowed in itself takes something away. Who offers the permit, and do I want it anyway? I may continue to write in secret. No-one will know, either way.

it’s warm and dark red and the woosh-thump-woosh-thump’s always there, and I’m on my own/never alone safe warm nourished part of you and that’s all I want and ever need

jerked screaming, fighting every push and brutal squeeze, too bright, too hard, can’t go back, let me back let me back, let me in … skin touch soft warm fill me keep me safe together

I have a room where I go and close the door so no-one can reach me. It seems like I’ve had it forever, but there must have been a first time that I discovered it. Everything has a beginning …

rewind until I can hear her screaming at me, until she’s grasping my wrist, and I’ve done something wrong and I don’t know what still don’t know, and her breath smells and I look up into her eyes and know that I’ll never be right so I need to vanish. I stand still, her bone-witch fingers surrounding my wrist, and as she shouts down at me I can’t move. Tell me it will be okay, but there’s no-one else but me and her and brick by brightly coloured brick I build until I vanish. I’m gone where she can’t touch me anymore and that’s when I find my room.

Ten years on, my room has materialised. I learned to read and a door opened into somewhere I never knew existed. I can retreat until I don’t hear the screaming anymore. And when I’m all wrong, don’t fit it, don’t get the joke, can’t play with us, my room’s still there, where I can’t be touched. John Peel’s on the radio, though, and I believe that somewhere there’s a way out.

In time, I discover that I was right, and I pretend the room’s gone. I watch as the sky fades, blue, green gold, to darkness, setting sun, silhouetted trees and chimneys. I’m in the attic, real room of my own. Mismatch thrift shop furniture and peeling wallpaper spell freedom. Rent paid, I can enter and leave when I want. I lie on the worn grey carpet and reward myself for each page I write, each sunset I paint.

At night we drink and smoke and dance and the music’s louder than my heartbeat, until the sky lightens from navy to turquoise again. Milk fresh on the doorstep, we stumble back indoors. And later when I’m heaving the night into the toilet, my t-shirt clings against my skin, and I go to my room, but I’m not telling anyone. I creep in, furtive, would never tell, never share, can’t admit that the room’s still there.

I’m spent, another night, red wine in jugs you can’t tell how much you drink and we were laughing so hard my throat’s sore and my ears are ringing and now it’s all stopped, and I’m chilled, skin clammy, but inside my head is quiet and I’m not dangling on the edge of madness, won’t see a counsellor, see her, won’t see her again.

Another ten. I’d get up if I could but the gap in my symphysis pubis is too large, and the baby stretches my belly, I’m seventeen stone at my biggest, and my mind has slowed like my steps. The sun shines in, cats rolling on the golden carpet. My world has titrated down to one room, can’t diminish any further, but it’s not the room I was thinking of.

I’m never alone, and it’s eating me and I want to be one, own, me, gone, and the drugs take the edge off and gradually I claw back a tiny place that’s my room. I can sit still, feed the baby, watch birds in the garden and think. There’s something new, though, and it glows green as I realise I’m not allowed to be alone.

Maybe the end should have been when I delivered the baby, but I’ve found that’s not an end. And now, behind a barrier of books, I am rebuilding my room, stealing back moments to write. My desk is tall, broad, blue-stained, grain of the wood still visible, family photos backdrop my thoughts. Does time need to be scarce so I write every word?

Mum, mum, I need a drink, did you get more eggs, can you wipe my bottom, can you drop the car at the garage, what’s for tea, I’m going to be late, can you help me with my homework, you never told me it was parents’ evening, where’s my socks, I need a lift, is there more cake, he’s got all the socks in his drawer, that’s mine, I want it, it’s not fair, I want, it’s not fair, I want, I want, I want …

Aneurysm (2nd EDIT)


Stumps from a scarred branch dig into my belly as I lie here, but you can’t see me. Sunlight in streaks passes through gaps in the leaves. Lime green, grass green stripes and splatters hide me.

Down there, you’re writing, and I need to see. This need consumes me all summer. Are you writing about me? I try finding the book in your room.  I follow you after you have written, hunting your secret, but you detect me, elude me, two years more in the world enough to give you every advantage.

So I’ve been here since I ran from the dinner table, her voice calling after me. This time I was the one who eluded capture. I wore green today, I planned this as I pulled on a pair of your old shorts. She raised an eyebrow, said nothing at breakfast, nothing at lunch. She looked, though, and there’ll be plenty to say when I get back.

I’m too high. I know that the moment you open the book, when you pull out your fountain pen. The blackbird in the neighbour’s orchard competes with your scratch. Can’t see him, can’t see me. I can’t see, your script too tiny from my vantage point. I lie, branches burning into my belly. I am only invisible as long as I stay still. One move, I’m no bird, a twig will crack, leaves will betray me.

I think like our cat, brown dapples in the green, unseen enemy of small fur and feathers. I can be cat, slide, glide, slip along the branch. I know from the scrape and burn on my legs that I’m making progress.

I pause. How close must I be? The branch dips, I’m lower, lower still. Can I see my name in there? Or hers? You’re scribbling still, black scrawl indecipherable.

I stop, lean, peer. The branch scrapes at my stomach, tugs on shirt buttons as if I’m moving. Twigs claw my face and I put my hands out, clasp the leaves, then I’m flying like the blackbird, and the text is getting nearer, and you look up and   I   can   read   …   every   ///   word  …



Let me entertain you drives through her head as she focusses on the blood. It’s important to make the grey of the blade more silvery, to make the blood stand out, the red more crimson, oldword for #DC143C, for #E30022, and she shudders at the imprecision. How can she replicate the experience, seen onbrain across the ‘verse, if there’s no exactitude? She needs the feed as the music swells in her mind. Little Bo Peep has lost his sheep, He popped a pill and fell asleep. She shifts, cold metal bar pressing against her thighs. Grand-mère said that they used to have cushioned seats, adjustable seats, seats to make sitting at the computer for hours more comfortable. She remembers the sentence, but the meaning twists. Computer, a stand-alone box of circuits, heavy, clumsy. Apparatus. Apart. Sitting at the computer, like you could leave it. A tremor runs through her at the thought of not being connected.

She swipes in the air to heighten the #ED2939, increase the shadows of the giant dovetech’s incisor as it carves through the skin to make the glint of the metal that little bit brighter, pulls at the code so that man’s guts spill out towards her, zooms in on his screaming face until you can tell when he last shaved. It’s going to be the full VR experience, for everyone, onbrain.

She steps back to view the scene better. It enlarges anyway, no need to step back, and the soft wall reminds her of this. One day she won’t need her body, her cell, one day everyone will be in total VR, no need for this futile human dance.

Maybe in the next box, maybe thousands of miles away, someone else is enhancing the sound, the smell, and as soon as they are done, as soon as the scream reaches the right intensity, as soon as it balances the clash of the dovetechs, the thud of their mechanised limbs, and as soon as the rust-metal smell of blood and oil is embedded, this episode will feed. She fizzes at the thought that her #DC143C, her #808080 will be viewed in everyone’s minds tonight. Perfect entertainment.

She pulls her hands apart, zooms in so she can see what no-one will notice. She scans the background and somewhere there’s a blackbird singing. Shouldn’t be there. Has to be erased. A twitch, pain sparks from her neck, shoulder, arm, hand, forefinger and she’s found the small black shape, zoom in. Onbrain, there’s a spark, she twitches again, and tremors shoot down her spine. Maybe it’s the bird where it shouldn’t be. They’re nearly all gone now. A vicious jab in the air with her shaking hand and the birdchant stops. The sparks stop too and she leans back against the padding, sweating as she slides down the wall.

The song loops back to the start, pounding bass, screaming vocals blacking out the pain. Hell is gone and heaven’s here, and she can see the redbrown stains, dried #c4302b on #d7000 and a faded #A81C07. One hand flickers, and if she could, if this was VR, she#d heighten the #A81C07, soften the rough beige cotton that lines her cell, /// erase all trace of her blood, #erase the walls, wipe out this cell and the next and the next,/// and take away the bloodstains on the soil and #paint the world #3DF500.

Shades of green machine, lime, and grass shoot through her head. She lolls to the side, spring green, Persian, olive, Kombu, Granny Smith, jungle, laurel, rifle green speed towards her face, three dimensial VR, onbrain gone wild as she smells, she tastes, the blood, the oil, the earth.



I can read the words now.

Blackbird wings beat in my head, ants scurry along the lines. There’s grass and mud between my teeth, bruise on my cheek, ink on my skin, and a torrent of anger in your voice pouring over me.

I try to sort my limbs from yours, but the script still scores tracks through my mind.

I can hear her screaming as she thuds down the lawn,

… I’m too old for this … you come here right now … what will your mother think … she left me in charge … I’m too old for this … you’ll give me a heart attack … I’m not letting you out of my sight again!

Nothing matters, now. I’ve read the words.

Perfect (FIRST EDIT)

It’s perfect, she says, as she stands outside, keys in hand. The house has classic proportions, a pillar either side of the front door, well groomed box trees, a semi-circular drive. It is perfect, or very nearly perfect, she thinks as she notices the leaves on the lawn, swirling in the first autumn winds. She walks closer, raises her hand to insert the key. The door is perfect, anyway, a matt grey finish, framed in white, exactly as she’d specified. No chips. No scratches. She looks at the edge of the brushed chrome lock more closely.  She can see a scratch where someone else has put their key in, a clumsy, hurried builder perhaps. That can go on the snagging list that extends to three pages. Inside the rectangular hall, the smell of new paint reassures her. She is careful to wipe her feet, it would be a shame to get dirt on the ethically sourced coir mat, but more of a shame to damage the perfect lines of the oak floor. She slips off her shoes and pushes one French-manicured finger against the shoe rack door. That fits perfectly, works perfectly, as the soft touch open and close mechanism glides, offering her a pair of soft cream leather pumps. Indoor shoes. Everyone should have indoor shoes and she wonders for a moment whether she should get a set in every size, in case of visitors. Because there will be people coming inside, and she shivers. Perfect. This house is perfect, with large reception rooms, plenty of spare bedrooms, perfect for visitors yet still she doesn’t want anyone else here.  Perhaps another few days and she can think about … She shivers again. She should slip her coat off now, coming into the house that’s what you do, but the house is cold, she’s cold, so she goes to the kitchen. It is easy to turn the heating on, harder to fill the kettle because that makes splashes, and she has to wipe them up, and the counters show where she’s wiped so she polishes them again while the kettle boiled, soft pink microfiber cloth, only for polishing the counters. And it’s easy to get into the rhythm of polishing, following the long lines of the black marble counters, and she startles when the kettle clicks off. Earl grey, lemon, no milk. She wipes the cup before she pours, wipes the square chrome tea caddy, wipes the teapot, wipes the kettle. Perfect again. The aroma is nothing like the stink of the tea from that machine, at that place, or the cup the nurses brewed for you, it’s from the staff room, love, they mean to be kind. She sits at the glass table, and runs a nail along the scratch. She should have replaced it really, nothing to remind her of … She doesn’t know why she kept it, everything else is new. She puts her cup on the place where the scratch is deepest. It’s a good thing it’s glass, so easy to clean. Really hot water, some bleach, and you can’t tell that there was blood. Maybe she needs one of those ultraviolet lights, like on the crime show, so she could see if the blood really is gone. She looks at the walls. Matt White. They’d stripped everything out. She stayed in a hotel near the hospital while the builders were in, making choices, visiting every day, without getting too close. Even in hard hat and overalls she had to shower when she left, shower before she made her other daily visit. She felt dirty after that too, but in a different way.  Wash your hands, it says on the way in, and she wonders whether the visitors would object if she offered hand sanitiser in her own hall. Stop the spread of infection. A shudder. Thousands, no millions of tiny germs spread on her skin, his skin, on the kind-meaning hand of the nurse, of the doctor, and did gloves really act as a barrier, how did you know if the gloves were clean too? She sips the tea. This mug is clean. Bone china. She always soaks the dishes, and when it is just her it is easy.  It will be better now she can sleep at the house again. It will be better as long as there are no visitors. It will be better until he comes home. Bile rises in her mouth and she tried to settle herself with another sip. He will come home and she wants him to, and she can’t bear to imagine him here again. They talk about it, with him, without him. First, a visit. They will see how he reacts. Then maybe a weekend. Then every weekend, and she digs her nails in as she thinks about his presence. Perhaps if she takes him clean clothes, ones that haven’t been in the hospital for months, ones that haven’t gone through some communal laundry with everyone else’s, ones that she has washed herself. She thinks of the soft grey joggers and cream cashmere jumper still hanging in his wardrobe. She didn’t ask them to redecorate the bedroom, but she had cleaned it, cleaned it until she was sore, and the mirrors shone, and every item had been dry cleaned, and it was all in bags. He won’t find anything amiss when he comes back, when he goes upstairs, their room is just the same, because it happened down here, and she thinks again of the ultraviolet light. Were there any traces of blood still, even after the walls have been re-plastered, the floors re-laid? Will he be able to tell? She had explained to him about the new kitchen, but she doesn’t know if he took it in. He just sat there, but that was at the start.  He is better now, he responds when she speaks, but she hadn’t mentioned the kitchen again, nor the lounge. She stood up and put her cup in the sink, ran the tap until the water was scalding, added bleach. It could soak. She thinks about sitting in the lounge, reading a magazine, until it is time to visit.  The new Elle thumped through the door this morning and it is sitting on the new wooden coffee table, perfectly aligned to the table edge, which is perfectly aligned to the rug that sits square in the centre of the big, light room. She stands at the door to the lounge, grips the white door frame, but she can’t go in, can’t sit there, hasn’t sat there since, since he … He’d started in the kitchen, taken a knife to his arms, sat at the table, stabbing, slashing, but that wasn’t enough and he’d walked, run, stumbled into the lounge, and at some point he’d fallen onto the coffee table, knife still in hand, and she couldn’t get rid of the image, blood crimson on the cream carpet. Redecorating should have solved that, the new carpet is beige, not cream, the table wood not glass, but she can still see the giant shard of glass penetrating his gut, as blood streams from his arms, and she turns away. Standing at the hall window she looks out on the lawn, stretching out until it reaches their woodland, trees thinning until they become farmed fields. The gardener would be coming later, restoring perfection to the soft green lawn. It’s everything, this house, she has everything that money can buy now. And he’ll grow to appreciate that again, won’t he? The clock chimes in the hall. In another hour she can climb into the BMW, set the satnav for the hospital, and visit him.  She doesn’t want to go, knows she should. He’s not allowed out, not yet, and she should bring in something from outside. But she stays at the window because she can’t face the florist, because she’d have to speak to them, and if they ask, ‘Is it a gift?’, she’ll feel like they know, and what does she bring him anyway, when he’s shown that he thinks the life they had together, however perfect, is worth nothing, when he says it’s not how he thought life would be, that no amount of luxury and leisure can replace the tiredness that comes from graft, and that no amount of money, no possessions can replace, for him, a messy family home, bursting with the children she can’t have. She breathes in deeply, and runs her fingers down the hand woven damask curtains, dyed to match the rugs on the beautiful oak floor. She keeps on looking out at the fields, and for a moment she wonders why she’s still wearing the coral cashmere angora mix coat, and she isn’t crying, because how can you cry when everything is perfect?