SHE picked up a pair of sunglasses from the path. Mummy wouldn’t let go of her other hand so she had to pull them both down there. The sunglasses were red and made of plastic, reflecting the winter sun twice over. They were child’s sunglasses: just her size. She put them on. “Leave them, they’ll be filthy,” her mother said, but it was too late.
The world she walked through now was the colour of storms. The glasses were the most glamorous thing she had ever owned. Her brown coat itched and itched.
SHE picked up the rolling milk-bottles. Her friends, or at least the group she walked in the wake of, turned and laughed at her. “Leave them!” But she couldn’t leave them. They were somebody’s milk-bottles that had been on somebody’s high doorstep, waiting for the milkman to collect. Without appearing to speed up, they left her behind. She heard their laughter in the distance. They were taking about her. The streetlight was orange, reflecting in the puddles.
SHE picked up the college prospectus, recalling that glorious smell of new ink and shiny paper. It had slid off the bed and onto the floor as her father railed at her. “I could cut the ground from underneath your feet,” he shouted. She went to college in the end, but that was immaterial. It was what he had said to her and the venom with which he had said it.
“I could cut… …the ground… from underneath… …your feet.”
SHE picked up her handbag from the consulting room floor. Why had she brought such a heavy one? How could she need all this stuff? “There’s always adoption,” the specialist said, but there wasn’t. It had already been discussed.
“I don’t want some other man’s brat,” he had said. “It might be a serial killer.”
SHE picked up her mother’s walking stick from the supermarket floor, wondering what germs might have come up with it. Her mother was jabbering, as usual, and standing right in front of the cereal display. “Sorry,” she said, to the man trying to reach round them for a packet of Weetabix, “She’s getting in your way.”
“You’re both getting in my way,” said the man.
SHE felt around with her left hand for her spectacles, but met with grit and broken glass. “Oh, leave that, leave that dearie, you’ll cut yourself.” She was on a damp pavement, surrounded by very tall people. She tried to get up, but they pushed her down again. Gently, by the shoulders. “Try to keep still, dearie,” said the same woman’s voice, “Ambulance is on its way.”
How far down she was, from the voice, as if on the forest floor, and high trees, and no light getting through.
“Am I going to die?” she sobbed.
“Am I going to die?”