‘Be safe! Be seen!’
It was the badge she focused on, glinting in a shaft of sunlight. He’d got it at school last week. A glow-in-the-dark border, spooky when his Mum had turned off the lights and it had shone out from his blazer left on the floor.
It was pressed against her windscreen.
She tried not to think what was forcing it up against the glass.
The radio played a jolly jingle, solar panels or double glazing.
She hadn’t seen the smile on his face as he walked or Bernard veer towards her. Wobbling but intent.
The scream ceased after sixty-seven seconds. The memory of it went on forever for all those that heard it.
The precise moment it began her life ended. As she watched her only child rise up into the air. Like the weightless astronaut he dreamt of being.
Those dreams ended then with the dull thud that shattered the windscreen. The thud they all relived over and over. If only she hadn’t shouted for him to hurry up. If just once she’d let him be late. Then her thoughts turned to sobs and she crumpled in a heap on the pavement.
Bernard’s wife waited until the door clicked shut and her shoulders relaxed. She enjoyed the house to herself, it was just too quiet with him in it.
She put some music on. Sashayed around the kitchen a little. Looking forward to her day. She had a whole life that didn’t involve him. She contented herself with the fact that if he truly loved her she wouldn’t have been able to build this other life. Wouldn’t have needed to.
She was out when the police came to break the news.
Laughing too loudly to hear her phone when a neighbour called.
Bernard shouted I love you as he reached out to open the door at 7.28.
He didn’t think about what it meant, he didn’t show any signs of it being true. But it was something he said as he clipped his trouser leg in and left for work.
In twenty five years he’d only missed two working days of shouting this up the stairs; when his wife was in hospital having their sons.
He didn’t leave at weekends.
Went straight into the loft to arrange his model village and train set.
None of them would miss him when he died.
She was gentle. Like lilac blossoms dancing in the breeze on a summer afternoon. She sat on a cushion to drive and was never far from her cardie.
She’d drunk the wine deeply. Picked the glass up and drained it in a single trip to her mouth. It was the same for every glass she’d had. I’m telling you this to help the story along but of course in reality, at that time in the morning, there was no one there to watch her.
Although she was three times over the drink drive limit.
Was not her fault.
The blackened bones of skeletal trees have been painted with a thin brush on a Wedgewood blue sky. Orange wisped clouds puff across an empty carpark from the incinerator’s belch.
Notice of demolition pinned and flapping in the breeze.
The door has been shut but is unlocked.
The interspace between our worlds is ill defined. It’s easy to get lost.
Trapped one side with no means of return.
A narrow corridor.
Locked doors lining its walls.
A small window.
That won’t fully open.
Closing in on you.
Desperation to leave embraces you.
Even I suppose possesses.
See? It’s me there in the bed.
Not relaxed. Not sinking into a downy nest. Not pulling over a comforting cover.
My nerves jangle. Nervous for the unknown. Terror at the sound of a key turning in the lock.
The restraints were broken. I tell myself that. Attempting to comfort.
But not knowing when.
What they’d managed to do before I escaped.
That was what scared me as I lay in the bed.
Leather straps chafing at ankles.
Pinched skin against my wrists.
Twisting flesh as they held me tight. An embrace of restraint rather than one of delight.
Urban explorers came in tweed to photograph. Positioned dolls. Prams. Anything to make the decay seem more macabre. Although nothing could match the horrors of its past.
The spiralling of a staircase we weren’t allowed to climb. Skeletal exposed springs of a mattressless bed propped against a door. Padded. To soften our blow.
The focus on three words.
Words we thought but could never say.
Words we’d write if allowed pens.
Written in 1989 by a boy here to kiss a girl in the desertion.
Written in black.
Meant as a joke.
But rarely was there laughter here.
He held a clip board. Like they did.
Made scratching notes with a little frown.
Sealing the fates of others in a scurry of ink over charts and plans.
We watched him. Not hard to spot in his fluorescent vest. Currently in the incinerator that hadn’t felt heat for decades. We wondered if he was foe as his boots crunched over fallen plaster in the corridor. Assessing. Deciding our future. We listened to them talking. Hearing the plans. Knowing we may have to intervene and halt them.
The building gave us strength. Without it we would all be lost again.
The building stood dark against the skyline.
The sloping grounds vibrating from the traffic as the city made its way home. And beneath the grass. The long forgotten passages only a few had known about.
A white tiled room.
A flickering light.
Illuminating barely enough.
Broken restraints on a rusted bed. Dusty equipment in an open drawer. A shiver then for what might’ve been. An inkling of what went on. The screams of the last patient still dripping from the wipe clean walls.
A catch of breath at the creak.
Like the somnambulant soles of a nurses shoe
The radio beeped. She’d missed her train.
She couldn’t find it. But she always put it in the same place. She retraced her steps from last night. Went through where she’d been, what she’d worn. Tipped her bag out for a third time.
It wasn’t in the house. She’d used it last night but where was it now?
She gave up then. Went to turn the radio off and stopped dead. A train derailment. More news as it happens.
She left the house in a daze.
And as she shut the door. Saw it there in the keyhole.
She’d slept with the light on. It was pink. A metallic glittered hue. It sparkled from across the room.
A girls dream come true. A scooter. The one that chalked as you rode. Painting a rainbow behind you in the city streets.
Pom-poms from the handlebars shed glitter on her floor next to a discarded shoe.
Mum calling from downstairs broke the morning silence.
“I don’t know what time you got in last night my girl. Or what drunken state you were in. But you’re gunna be late for work. And you need to take that fucking scooter back.”