In a flash – I’m back

Sometimes I’m still there.

Suddenly.

Unexpectedly

Without warning.

A smell, a taste, a song.

Catapulted at the speed of light.

Flick of a switch.

A blink of an eye

A tactile cine film begins.

It’s running inside my head in high definition

I’m suspended in time.

Back in time.

A prism of light of dark of terror.

A different dimension a parallel world.

It will always be there never very far away.

Operating on a different frequency

Like an old valve radio slightly out of tune.

Then that something, anything turns the knob,

Adjusts that channel pulls the two dimensions together

Past and present become one

Jolting me back into the nightmare

Silently I’m screaming but I know that no one can hear me.

Invisible

Lunch time you don’t really see me.

Sitting by the huge school bins.

Hiding with my dog.

Hating being in school.

Listening to the dinner ladies

Spouting the same old monologue.

Angry on the inside

Quiet and shy on the out.

Screaming inside my head.

But unable to let it out.

Scared by all the feelings.

Going on inside my head.

Wanting someone to make it better.

Or wishing I was dead.

My escape is drawing, painting and writing.

Imagining a better life

A world were things are wonderful.

With no one to hurt you

Or school bullies and family strife.

A world where lumps in your throat

Don’t block the words you need to say.

Where families love each other.

In a loving normal way.

But drawing painting dreaming.

Are not going to change this world.

So I will keep this label of a rebel trouble making girl.

Just an hour late

Twenty two years since my mam died. I was 31 I had three young children youngest one Mike was five

I had arranged to go down to see Mam after school to see if she felt up to going to spiritualist church there was a medium she had hoped to see but I’d been busy digging up hedges in our front garden all day. So I thought I’d go back finish cleaning the mess I’d made up then go down to Mam with the kids washed clean ready for church.

The last bush was really stubborn, so I tied a rope onto the back of my car and tried to yank it out but as I’m doing it I can hear my mam tutting at me.

‘You should have been a bloody lad’ she says.

I laugh stop the car dragging the hedge behind.

Odd? She’s not there.

I get out to untie the rope I’m covered in soil and leaves as I get up Mams best friend Francis is pulling up in her car.

I know instantly. ‘Mam she’s gone’. Francis is sitting in the passenger seat her husband is driving tears roll down her cheeks she doesn’t answer she doesn’t have to.

‘Without me there’ I shout voice shaking.

I tell the kids to go inside no one speaks.

I ask a neighbour to babysit. It’s a weird feeling, Shock, sort of like being underwater and everything seems to slow down.

Suddenly it’s like your whole world is in a bubble,surreal.

I get into Francis car she holds my hand.

‘It was your dad’ she’s saying. I flush hot, my head feels like its going to explode.

I don’t cry.

Francis talks on the drive over to Mams, only the other side of the village but I’m impatient to get there.

‘Get your mams trolley’ Francis insists she keeps saying it.

‘She told me to tell you if anything happens get the trolley’.

I still don’t speak.

I walk through the corridors in the sheltered housing into the flat.

There is blood on her carpet. ‘Bicarb’ I hear mam say tutting again. ‘Bicarb will get it out’.

Dad is sitting smoking a roll up in the kitchen.

I stand and look at him.

I don’t know for how long.

Francis pulls at my arm. ‘Get the trolley.’

‘For fucks sake’ I hear myself say. ‘Okay. Okay I’ll get it.’

I look around pictures of my children hang on the walls, Mams cardigan where she had left it on her favourite chair.

Without looking I know there will be a blue inhaler in the pocket and a packet of tissues and a lipstick of bloody awful tangerine she insisted ordering monthly from Avon.

I pick it up and hold it to my face and breath in I can smell her perfume.

I put it over the bloody trolley.

‘Where is she?’ I ask. My voice sounds different. Like its external.

‘I told her she’d go out of here in a bloody box’ Dad says. I want to kill him.

I close my eyes. Slowly breathe in.

‘At the hospital’ says Francis.

‘Come on Joolz you need to identify her.’

We leave the flat and head for the hospital. I’m numb.

How do my legs still know how to walk?

Why are clocks still ticking?

Why is the world still turning? MY MAM IS DEAD.

We get to Whiston Hospital sit in waiting room Francis is smoothing creases that aren’t there from her skirt. I read the information on the wall bereavement support. Victim support. We wait for the police.

A tall young police officer and a smaller female officer walk in I can hear Mam again. telling me ‘Police men are getting bloody younger and look at the state of you she saying you need a good bloody wash. Full of soil!’

‘Are you ready’ the lady police officer asksshe’s got a stain on her jacket and I wonder what it is?

I nod. My mouth has gone dry. I can’t speak.

I’m not ready I will never be ready that big black lump is in my throat. I’m so afraid. It can’t be her not my little Mam and I’m praying this is all a bad dream.

They take me in.

She’s on a metal trolley

She will be cold on there I think.

Her hair is stuck with blood. Drying blood.

I want to fix it.

Her hands are covered she’s not wearing her glasses I put my hands on her face. ‘Oh Mam’ I say

The policewoman puts his hand on my shoulder.

I shrug her off.

I pull the sheet back lift up her left hand. Middle nail cracked it always grown like that.

I hear mam beside me telling me the story of how her sister Eliza trapped it in the front door in Brown street. Where she lived as a childI’ve heard this story a million times but I smile and listen again

‘I know mam’ I hear myself say.

She looks so small. ‘I’m so sorry I was late Mam I was pulling up the hedge in the front you hated those hedges didn’t you. Couldn’t get the last one up. I was coming to fetch you with the kids I’ve made your favourite for tea and Michaels got a new reading book.’

‘That medium is on later at church the one you wanted to see.’ Im almost begging.

My little mam. Doesn’t answer. It really is her. How can I possibly leave her here on her own?

I cover her up. The police woman holds me up. ‘Come on’ she says ‘they will look after her.’

I don’t remember walking back to the car or the drive home.

We sit outside Francis tells me there was a massive row dad was drunk again. She sighs ‘He was always drunk’ I sob.

Mam had said he couldn’t make any more home brew in the flat he was repeating everything she said. Mimicking her

Shooting at her with a toy gun that made a noise.

She was on her nebuliser.

Struggling to breathe

She stood up told him to get out was going to ring me. She didn’t get to the phone.

She has massive heart attack hit her head on coffee table

He might as well have had a real gun.

‘Take me to the flat’ I finally said.

‘You’ve got the trolley Francis said don’t go back ‘she sounded scared.

I ring our Michaels dad Mike.

‘Come and get me I’m at the hospital’

Ten mins later Mams trolley in the boot of Mikes car andI’m going back to the sheltered housing.

‘What the fuck happened?’ Mike asks. I tell him. He doesn’t speak.

‘What are you going to do?’

‘I don’t know.’ I answer. ‘But I’m not scared of him anymore I’m furious.’

We walk down the corridor I count our footsteps. I hear my mam.

‘Go home Julie to the kids’ she says.

‘I will in a minute I say out loud,’ Fab I think I’m talking to my bloody self.

I walk into the flat we’ve been gone two hours tops.

Dad is in the bedroom Mams single bed tipped up on its end drawers tipped everywhere clothes strewn everywhere. I stand looking at him.

There’s a banging noise in my head. It’s my heart.

He’s opening boxes looking in pockets of coats.

There is a new toaster and a kettle still in boxes she was planning to leave him.

It’s as though I’m not here I think.‘Can he see me’?

Mikes got hold of my arm.

Dad looks up.

‘Where is it?’ he shouts at me.

I don’t answer or move I stand in the bedroom doorway.

‘Sovereign rings, money, rings jewellery bank books.?’

‘I don’t know I say?’ And I really don’t.

‘She’s dead Mams dead.’ I shout.

He walks over to me.

‘WHERE IS IT ALL?’ he booms.

I feel the spit and beer breath hit my face.

I don’t move or step back he’s furious.

‘TELL ME NOW.’

He lifts his hand as he’s done so many times.

I still don’t move.

Everything slows down.

Mike jumps between us.

Grabs dads big arm and says

‘You’re never going to put your hand on her again.’

I’m stunned!

I look at dad he suddenly doesn’t look as big or scary.

‘Don’t ever, come near me again’ I hear myself say.

I’m picking up mams best jumper.

I pick up a bag put her clothes and shoes in.

Dad looks confused.

I start to take my children’s photos off the wall.

‘What are you doing?’ he shouts.

‘I’m taking back what’s mine.’

‘You don’t get to look at my kids again.’

‘Do not come to the funeral she didn’t want you there.’

Are you happy now you killed her?

I wish she’d have just left you years ago we’d have all been better off you murdering drunken bastard.’

I hear mam laugh.

He sits down hard on the floor.

‘I’m going to a solicitor ‘he shouts ‘I want what’s mine.’

I look at him lean forward and say quietly almost a whisper.

‘I want my mam my kids want their Nan.’

Mike puts his hand on my arm ‘Come on Joolz he’s not worth it.’

He takes mams clothes I carry the photos and we leave.

Francis is getting out of the car it’s a warm evening and Mam should be getting in my car with me now.

She hugs me.

Don’t forget her trolley.

I won’t.

Raven.

Family?

Like a chess board..

Life…

Family.

May not be perfect

But

Everyone fits into a place.

You know who they are..

You know your relationship to them.

Their Expectations

Mam

Dad

Sister

Aunties

Uncles

Nieces

What if someone takes that board

Throws it high into the air.

You stand watching all of the pieces

Falling.

Landing this way and that.

Upside down.

Back to front.

You remain suspended.

Looking down at them.

Strangers.

Unrecognisable in their new roles.

Chess board no longer your life.

Family.

not yours

You no longer fit.

Totally confused. Head fucked.

another reality? parallel universe.

anxious, angry so very scared.

Floating fuzzy, stand outside your body.

stand and watch the chaos.

No one is who you thought they were.

Like a sick game of musical chairs.

Who are these strangers

Not family anymore

lies and deceit

A charade an elaborate false tapestry

Years to embroider

Minutes to unpick.

Davina McColl your a lier

Long lost families

Happy endings, smiling faces,

Loving mothers

Open doors big family reunions

Happy tears and welcoming arms.

Chess pieces that fall into place.

Not on this board.

Is this rain ever going to stop?

Is this rain ever going to stop?

Its 7,45am the bus is packed making a groaning noise as it climbs up the steep hill into town like a giant dragon spitting out passengers when it stops and taking on more before moving on jerking as I stand holding onto a overhead strap I’m focusing on a pair of pointy black heels wrinkled feet squashed into them. The bus stops by the church the pointy heels are also getting off here I shuffle myself carefully past people staring into space, reading news papers and telling off small children the doors of the bus swing open and the cold December air hits me stinging my face. I’m so glad I had bus fare today it would have been awful walking in this weather. I thank the driver and a small pang of pain niggles at my back as I step onto the wet pavement.

I stand still for a minute close my eyes leaning on the wall of St James Church. Women rush past with small children on their way to school. Snippets of conversations I push my long hair out of my eyes the milk man is pulling crates of school milk of the back of the co op float and pushing open the playground gate leaving the milk by the infants door.

I look at my watch 8.30am don’t want to be late make my way to the playground gate.

‘Alright?’ says the milk man ‘good weather for ducks.’ He laughs rain dripping from his glasses I smile and rush past him pick up the first crate, little bottles blue foil caps and packet of straws clicking of heels behind me and Mrs Smeltser the reception teacher pulls the door open and hold it whilst I carry the crates in.

‘Awful accident on the east lancs road lorry and a motor bike oh I do hope no one was killed, so close to Christmas. ‘She says.

‘Put the kettle on I’m parched and she rushes into the staff room to hang her coat fix her hair and apply her pink lipstick as she does every morning.

I put the kettle on in the small kitchen take out four cups and a jar of Nescafe. There is a hole in one of my shoes my left foot is soaking. I look into the mirror above the sink.

A shy sixteen year old girl damp mousy lank hair scraped back into a pony tail red cheeks, split shoe head full of dreams looks back at me.

Voice behind me makes me jump.

‘Oh you look really flushed are you feeling okay? Half my class were off last week with a bug I hope you haven’t got it?’ Its Mrs Jackson she’s always got a kind word for me dresses in marks and spencer skirts and jumpers large glasses hid her tiny round face I hand her a cup of coffee.

Half my class were off last week with a bug I hope you haven’t got it?’ Its Mrs Jackson she’s always got a kind word for me dresses in marks and spencer skirts and jumpers large glasses hid her tiny round face I hand her a cup of coffee.

‘I okay’ I reassure her. ‘Just cold’ I follow her into the staff room she chats about her weekend and asks about mine. I like her I’m working with her today. She tells me again how she thinks I’m going to make a wonderful nursery nurse and how the two years at college will fly by.

She tells me again how she thinks I’m going to make a wonderful nursery nurse and how the two years at college will fly by.

She loves my art work I smile I wish she could be right but I know she’s not.

I find it so very hard to fit in the weeks that I’m in college but the six weeks blocks that I’m here at St James church school are so different.

It’s a different world but one I know I can only dream of being a part of.

Women who work have a career a car nice clothes more than one pair of shoes. Friends they meet up with out side of work. Its like a parallels universe `completely different world

Its like a parallels universe `completely different world to mine.

I’ve not been here long I’m shy awkward and quiet but they always include me. I wish I knew what to say how to be more like them confidant and funny.

Iris year three teacher asked me to her party last week. Pre Christmas party she laughed it was at her home on a canal bank in Warrington huge house three floors brightly coloured tiles in the kitchen hot mulled wine and nibbles music and a huge garden.

I wish I knew what to say how to be more like them confidant and funny.

Iris year three teacher asked me to her party last week. Pre Christmas party she laughed it was at her home on a canal bank in Warrington huge house three floors brightly coloured tiles in the kitchen hot mulled wine and nibbles music and a huge garden.

Id wished I knew how to ‘be’ but I’m a fish out of water so different from the sprawling council estate drunken violent father and his home brew bottles that lived in every room of our house. But dispite feeling like this I was glad to be there. In their world away from the chaos of mine for just a little while.

But dispite feeling like this I was glad to be there. In their world away from the chaos of mine for just a little while.

I was trying hard day by day to be more like the joolz I imagined could fit could be a nursery nurse have a life like Iris and her hippy dresses with friends and hot mulled wine people laughing no one fighting or arguing I wished really hard, maybe one day.

Dad had took some persuading to let me start college. Id begged he was furious. ‘Bloody college who do you think you bloody are? Walter bloody mitty gunner do this want to do that.’ He had ranted pouring another bottle of home brew into a cracked pint glass. Id wished it had cut of his tongue.

‘Get a job and pay your bloody way.’

Careers office had told me I could go to college to do my NNEB, as part of a government scheme twenty three pounds and fifty pence a week. To cover bus fares and the rest I would have to give to Dad for my ‘keep’.

I promised Dad I would take a bar job too to bring in more money and eventually he had agreed but only until a better job came up.’ No one in this bloody family goes to bloody college.’ he had said.

So I had took a bar job at weekends in the cross hotel so that I would have bus fare and money for dinner but some weeks Dad took that too. So I would set my alarm for six and I walk for two hours in all weathers I was determined to keep this job I loved it. The kids the way I was treated but most of all I loved the escape.

It gave me hope.

I was like a sponge in work I would do anything they asked. I loved art work I helped the children to paint we made a huge tree from printed painted tiny hands, decorated Easter eggs, painted with potato’s, made pape Mache pigs, cut out Christmas decorations with plastic scissors, made coffee for staff who were now friends read stories to wide eyed children supervised playtimes, put plasters on knees I was blossoming relaxing I was genuinely happy and I was begging to ‘fit’.

That old stone wall around the school and church yard was my fortress I felt safe and different there.

Today was going to be busy the children were attending the church service, the church and the playground were separated by a small iron gate. I was going to stay behind to finish putting up the nativity scene we had been working on.

Mary Joseph and the three kings. Five six year olds had been drawn around carefully cut out then with the help of lots of PVA glue cut up material and tissue paper we had the main characters ready to staple on the main wall of the assembly hall along with a manger made from the used milk straws and some borrowed straw from the guinea pigs cage! I stood holding the big foil star that would lead the wise men to Jesus as the children lined up in pairs holding hands ready to leave for the church.

The radio played Christmas songs and I hummed along balancing on a small ladder positioning each character carefully before stapling onto the wall. Star up there Mary and Joseph two shepherds and a wise man.

Ouch the pain came again it had been niggling me all morning but it was worse now both my sides hurt I felt hot and dizzy.

I went over to the kitchen got a glass of water another pain.

It’s raining again I can hear the cars splashing through the puddles outside the kitchen window it’s starting to go dark.

Water runs down my leg like the rain down the windows but it’s warm.

I grip my belly and water runs down my cheeks. ‘No I beg please no not here.’

A hundred thoughts run through my head what ifs? I’m so scared the pain is so much worse I can’t stop it my body feels out of control I push open the stock room door there is a pile of cut up clothes and shelves of paper pens PVA glue boxes of staples.

I take off my wet knickers and crouch it was all over so quickly much quicker than last time.

Tiny not much bigger than my hand eyes fused shut, skin almost translucent. Smaller than the rabbits dad makes me skin when he’s been shooting. Hand the size of the tip of my little finger. Lifeless and still. Perfect baby boy I kiss his tiny head.’ I am sorry I whisper’’

I sit on the tiled floor take off my cardigan and wrap him in it, Noah I whisper because of the rain. I place him gently in a box placenta still attached. My legs are shaking smeared with blood. I take some of the cut up fabric and wipe up the floor. Push the box gently under the bottom shelf in the stock room.

No crib for a bed.

I place him gently in a box placenta still attached. My legs are shaking smeared with blood. I take some of the cut up fabric and wipe up the floor. Push the box gently under the bottom shelf in the stock room.

No crib for a bed.

I pick up my wet knickers look for a tea towel in the kitchen to use as a sanitary towel.

I wash my face brush my hair, children will be back soon. Im convinced there is some kind of sign above my head and everyone will know.

Dad will kill me if they find out. I’m beyond scared things like this don’t happen in their world.

The door swings open gust of cold air and the chatter of exited children.

‘You did it, it looks lovely miss you’re so clever’ a little boy with huge blue eyes bright blonde hair chatters. I smile and wonder what colour Noahs would have been if he had lived.

‘You look terrible I’m betting you’re getting that bug’ Mrs Jackson fusses into the staff room now she says no arguing sit down have nice hot cup of tea.

I’ve got the last two kings to go onto the wall. I protest.

Well the kings can wait she smiles clicking the kettle on and squeezing my hand. A tear runs down my cheek I catch it as she chatters on making tea.

You’ll feel much better after tea and a rest she says handing me a mug.

Somehow I don’t think I will.

Where do you live Mrs Smeltzer is asking? I wince not wanting to tell her.

Im sure I go past your estate on my way home she continues I’ll give you a lift the weather is awful and Mrs Smeltzer is insistent you’re not going home on two buses so you can tell me on the way home.

Before I know it every one is ready to leave, Mrs Jackson hand me my coat and we walk to the door I pick up my bag panicking. ‘My cardigan.’ I say as she turns off the light to close the door.

‘I’ve left it in the stock room’. I take my bag with me pull-out the box and gently pick up my tiny baby and place him in my bag. ‘I’m sorry’ I say again ‘but we have to go home to Dad’

I sit in the car next to mrs smeltzer clutching my bag. She’s chatting about visiting her father in Dorset and her husband’s new car, she asks where to turn as we approach the traffic lights near the estate.

I direct her past the shops my old primary school and the pub here my Dad drinks it’s still raining we get to the church at the top of our avenue and I ask her to stop.

‘Which one is it?’ she asks I point at the nice house with the roses painted on a name plate which reads mardale house in the garden with a black painted gate.

‘See you tomorrow’ she says ‘early night hope you feel better if not ring tomorrow day off won’t hurt.’

‘We don’t have a phone’ I want to say but I thank her and nod.

Her little red car drives away and I walk away from the nice house with the door plaque.

Slowly walk further down to our house the lights are out I walk around the back and into the kitchen Dad is sat by the fire I start to cry hand him my bag.

He looks at me and I see the temper flash why didn’t you come home he barks at me. I don’t get a chance to answer. The slap hits hard.

Get to bed.

Is this rain ever going to stop?

Please make it stop..

Raven Wordsmith 🖤

You taught me well

You taught me well.
By example.
Of exactly what not to be
A racist, violent alcoholic
Oh Dad you taught me well you see
You taught me to have work ethic.
By staying in the pub.
You made our lives so miserable
Just because you could.
Oh yes you taught me well.

I watched you get arrested for fighting in the street.
You’d throw your dinner up the wall.
Too pissed to even eat.
I watched you steal from mammy’s purse.
She’d cleaned houses so we could live
But you’d go off drinking down the pub.
And somehow she would forgive.
Not me.
You taught me well.

Going to school step over you asleep on the floor.
Choking coughing on vomit.
I’d prop your head in a washing up bowl
Go to school wondering if you’d die.
Not knowing if you’d be there when I got home I’d stand and wave you goodbye.
Oh yes dad you taught me well.

You cared about things not people.
Beer, homebrew, pubs, the bookies and guns
Your word was law or I’d regret it.
I’d tell you I hate you then run.
Oh yes you taught me well.

There were two sides to you.
The monster who could reduce me to a frightened mess.
I could count on my fingers the good times.
When you’d swear you’d give up the ale.
And although I wanted to believe I never quite did, I have to confess
You see you taught me well.

I wasn’t like the other kids.
I never really fit.
Hair you’d cut all shapes with pinking shears.
Coat that didn’t fit.
Your dad’s just a piss head.
Yes I knew they were right.
Normal I thought so I’d seen this time and time

Sit alone on the bus and in the playground
Avoid another fight.
Yes you taught me well.

My mammy should have left you.
But instead she stayed.
Maybe too tired, sick or worn out.
Our had she grown used to your alcoholic ways?
I’d go sitting in a friend’s house,
But you’d come and look for me.
Shouting swearing until I came home.
No chance of escape for me.
Yes you taught me well.

So I’d sit and hide in libraries.
Found a way to escape.
Terry Pratchett and Lewis Carroll
Helped me to my thoughts reshape.
Took me to other worlds
Far far away from home.
Where you couldn’t reach me.
And in these stories I would roam.
The stories they taught me well.

You tortured my poor mammy.
Until her dying day.
Massive heart attack took her from me.
As you’d argued pissed as every other day.
I walked away from you that day.
With anger in my heart.
I couldn’t help but wish you’d had the courage to live apart.
The damage that you caused
like Holocaustic ripples on the water.
But I’m stronger – a good mammy, friend and wife,
I’m not just an alcoholic’s daughter.

Dad you taught me well