This Prison We Share

“Can we carry this love that we share
Into the open air?” (x)

As Anna’s fury began to drain away, like the puddles after thunderstorms, she was left with emptiness, no feeling but the throb of her cheekbone. The silent rooms around her yawned out, the music that Cally loved so much silenced. That was all her fault. She’s destroyed the music, and laughed as she did so; and the expression on her face would be something Anna remembered forever.

Oh gods, what had she done? She hadn’t meant to push the girl so hard, to cut her so deeply. Months of being cooped up on house arrest were driving her wild, but Cally was sweet and vulnerable. Snapping on her was like taking a magnifying glass to ants and watching them burn, for a lack of more interesting things to do.

Anna slipped out of the doorway, treading past the evidence of their fight; Cally’s broken records, lying smashed on the stone floor. Never again would their music fill the rooms, removing their grim reality and replacing it with hope. Now the walls pressed in, a reminder of the prisoners they were.

Anna slipped inside the room, moving to the end of the bed. In the gloom, Cally’s form was a dark island in the white seas of sheets. Even asleep, her forehead was tied up in unhappiness, and the moonlight illuminated silver tears trails staining her cheeks. She looked broken, tiny in the expanse of the room. The girl was so coiled up within herself, it seemed like a desperate attempt to hide; to make herself less of a target. Anna looked at her, and the dam inside her broke.

“Oh, gods.” Her voice, riddled with guilt, shattered the words. Lifting up the sheets the girl slid in, pressing herself to Cally’s back, wrapping her arms around her protectively. The girl stirred.

“I’m so sorry,” Anna whispered, again and again. “I’m sorry, Cally.” She was trying to heal wounds with words, perfectly well knowing nothing she said would be enough. “Cally, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.” The girl in her arms turned to face her, her hair dark in the moonlight. Cally’s fingers brushed against her girlfriend’s cheek, where the bruise was already swelling. She said nothing. Burying her face in Anna’s shoulder, her thin fingers dug in and clung, and she drifted off to sleep.

Anna stayed awake. The fragile body in her arms, so tiny and easy to miss, was infinitely precious. She kissed her cool forehead, wishing she could smooth out the worries that lingered there. How long will the two of them remain like this, locked up in this tiny cage? With Anna as the feral beast and Cally a mouse of a girl, there can surely be only one ending to this story. Anna shiverd, holding the girl close, and wished things were different.

Helicopter

High above, it prowls
Circling and scanning
Body thudding with a gruesome heartbeat
The propellers shred the skies
Compressing, squeezing, ripping up the clear night sky
Throwing down the heavens to cram into our eardrums
Children listen, wide-eyed, and yank their covers up to their chins
The noise becoming the backdrop of their nightmares
Parents wake to the throbbing sound and the scared whisper of their child
Above the city, the black fly buzzes
Restlessly circling, haunting, hovering.

The Girl Raised Wrong

This is the childhood fear
Of a sweet little girl raised wrong
To wake screaming from nightmares of sirens
And shudder away from men in uniform
To hide under the stairs at a knock on the door.
Now, as a grown woman
She walks the city streets with frozen eyes
Deep inside the child still sobs
And fear as ancient as god himself
Still tears her joy from lips that dared,
Just once, to smile.

Tonight Let’s

Tonight, let’s stay indoors and watch old movies
Let’s curl up together and spill burnt popcorn down the sofa
It doesn’t matter what we watch
I just need the time alone with you

I’ve been feeling so lost lately
Tonight, let’s do something pointless
I need you to remind me who I am
Please bring me back to life

Watchful Moon

“Mama, I can’t sleep.”

I sit on the edge of the bed. Sophie’s feverish little hand sneaks into mine, all sticky with sweat. Her forehead gleams and her eyes are too bright, too shiny, and I can’t let her see how exhausted and scared I am.

With a weary smile I stand, drawing her curtains to let the moonlight flood into the room. Her walls are painted painting with silver and it feels like we’re underwater. Outside, it’s a clear night. The stars look like pinpricks in black cloth, letting light through tiny holes – perhaps the light comes from heaven.

“Can you see the moon?” I ask Sophie. She notes mutely, hands folded on her stomach.

“He’s there to watch over you,” I tell her softly, watching her face as she watches the moon. “He’s a kind old man that shines at night to show you that nothing is too dark for you to handle.”

Sophie’s chapped lips curve into a tiny smile, and my heart aches. I continue my story, choosing each word with care. “But sometimes we can’t see the moon. On some nights it’s too cloudy and everything looks dark.”

The last couple of months have been the darkest of my life, and I’m sure Sophie’s known that too. She knows that she’s not getting any better; she’s just not asking questions. I brush back hair that has stuck to her clammy forehead, and her eyes flick to me. “But remember, Sophie: even though everything is scary and you can’t see where you’re going, the dark is never too much for you to handle.”

She blinks, and I pray that I’ve got through to her. “Do you understand, Sophie?” Her chin dips with a nod.

“The moon is behind the clouds,” she says, unprompted. “When it’s dark, he’s not gone, just hiding.” I smile, so relieved – and the feeling of my heart tearing in two. My eyes prickle with tears.

“That’s right,” I say thickly, bending to kiss her skin. She’s like fire under my lips, her skin burning up. “You’re such a good girl. I love you very much.”

“I love you too, Mama,” she whispers, and I have to go. Fleeing from the room that has become her hospital, I fly down the corridors. I make sure I’m well out of earshot before I start weeping, great gasping sobs that want to tear me apart. Once I’ve begun I don’t think I can stop. And all the way through, the only thought in my head is ‘oh, god, please – I can’t lose her too’.

Safe

When I look after my children, I must make them feel safe.
Oliver yanks my sleeve, jabbering about assassins, and Ella presses into my side with warm sticky fingers.
“What’s an assassin?”
I lie. “They are not real. They only exist in books. Besides, they would never come here – our town is too small.”
Oliver says that people will break into the house, and his little sister shivers against me.
“The doors are locked,” I respond. “The windows are bolted. And the lights are all on – burglars never break into a house if they think the people inside are awake.”
Oliver brings up fires, and I have had enough.
“There are fire alarms on every floor. Come on, Ollie; time for bed.” He’s scaring his sister.
He trots off to his own room. I smooth the hair from Ella’s head, kiss her hot skin and pad to the doorway.
Her quiet whisper calls me back. “Mommy? Can you leave the lights on?”
The fear in her voice; her wide eyes; the way her covers are yanked right up to her chin… children shouldn’t have to be afraid. It makes me feel so cold, so weary, so achingly sad. I want my children to be carefree and innocent of the dangers. It isn’t their job to worry.
“Of course,” I reassure her. “I’ll keep them all on.” I close the door softly behind her and tread downstairs.
When I look after my children, I must make them feel safe.
But I wish that I didn’t need to. I wish that this world was safe.

Wings of Freedom

“The plane is now cruising at 30,000 feet. You are free to move about the cabin.”

As soon as the announcement came over the tannoy system, I was fumbling for my seatbelt, fingers shaking so badly that it took several attempts before I was free. I tumbled from the seat, fleeing down the aisle. A blur of faces rushed past and a hundred eyes dug into my flushed skin. I ducked into the tiny airplane bathroom, bolted the door and vomited.

My stomach lurched agonisingly, chucking up the contents of my last meal at home. I held back my hair and sobbed. The acid burned my throat, and I coughed and spat until there was nothing left.

I wiped my mouth, looking up at the mirror. The girl staring back was miserable, her skin swollen and blotchy and eyes bloodshot.

Another sob ripped from my chest, and I dissolved into fresh tears. A quiet knock at the door made me scowl, thinking that it was my brother come to drag me back.

“Go away, Ivan!” I choked out, a disgusting bitter tang in the back of my throat.

The voice that answered me was concerned and female. “Are you okay?”

Surprised, I stared at the door. “Who’s that?”

“I’m Margaret,” she tells me. “What’s your name?”

“Jamie.” I hiccuped, pushing hair away from my damp cheeks.

“Could you open the door for me, Jamie?”

I slide the bolt back and Margret smiles at me kindly. She wears the uniform of an air hostess; a short red dress and cap, with a shining name badge perched on her collarbone. Her make-up is so flawless that I feel filthy and gross in comparison.

Seeing her perfection makes my eyes brim with fresh tears. I’m nothing, I’m just scum to her. I scrub them away angrily, but Margret touches my arm. “Come with me,” she coaxes, and leads me to a small kitchen. A sign on the door states boldly that this is a staff-only area, but the lady invites me inside. My curiosity gets the better of me and I follow her inside.

Row upon row of shelves line the walls, each neatly labelled. On a countertop sits a blender and a coffee machine, and hidden into the corner is a fridge full of glass bottles and cans of drink.Taking down a glass from a high shelf, she fills it with water for me. I sip gratefully, the sour tang of vomit washing away.

When I’m done, she refills the glass with a small smile. I decide that I like Margret. She leans back against the counter, acting as though I am a fellow employee instead of a worthless economy passenger. I sip the water and relax a little.

“Thank you,” I tell her.

“You’re very welcome,” she says warmly, hand searching on one of the many shelves. “Aha!” Margret grins, pulling out two cereal bars, and offers one to me. My stomach is still shaky, but I take it and watch her as she devours hers.

“Why did you help me?” I ask, feeling even smaller than ever. Margret covers her mouth as she replies.

“When you ran down the gangway you looked so upset, I knew something was up. There’s nowhere to go on an airplane, so I thought I’d take you to my hiding hole.” She swallowed, her expression sympathetic. “There’s more room in here than one of those poky toilet cubicles.”

I nod slowly, staring down at the cereal bar in my hands. The truth comes out very haltingly. “I don’t want to be on this plane,” I mumble in a low voice. My vision swims.

“Where would you rather be?” Margret’s voice is neutral and calm.

“Home. But we’re not welcome there anymore.”

Margret doesn’t poke or pry, just comes over and takes my hand. Despite her flawless appearance, I can feel tough callouses beneath her skin.

“After the court case, Dad got full custody of us. Mum didn’t even put up a fight. She doesn’t care, she was glad to see the backs of us! Packed us onto the first flight out-” I don’t realise I’m shaking until she hugs me, her still body against my weak, trembling form. I sob into her shoulder unashamedly, her hand pressing circles into my back.

Margret stokes my hair, waiting until my crying has quietened. “You know what this is?” She whispers. I sniff, my face screwed up. “A new start. A new life. When this plane lands you don’t need to be the same person you were when it took of. Reinvent yourself.”

“How?” I breathe, a sudden vision of being the girl everyone wants to be, striding down school corridors like a queen.

“It’s about you,” Margret tells me, her hands on my shoulders. She looks directly into my eyes, her passion filling me up with fire. “It’s about how you present yourself. Stand like a giant and you’ll feel like one. Be kind but not stupid; respect but don’t follow the crowd blindly. If you have an opinion, offer it.”

I manage a watery smile and she squeezes my shoulder. “I can do that,” I whisper.

“One more thing!” Margret says. “And this is the most important.” I nod, gazing up at her in respect.

“You are the only one that can control your happiness. You decide how you feel. Don’t let other people put you down; and don’t ever put someone else down.”

I smile so widely my jaw aches, a swell of happiness bubbling in my chest. Standing on my tip-toes, a dart a kiss onto her cheek. “Thank you so much, Margret!” I say earnestly, turning to leave.

“Give them hell!” She encourages with a sweet laugh.

“I will,” I vow. Still clutching the cereal bar in my fist, I stride back up the plane with determined strides, back to my brother and to the life ahead.

I Am a Stranger

I wake up in the ocean of a stranger’s bed
The walls show bands and films I am utterly indifferent towards;
The wardrobe full of clothes I have no memory of buying.
I dress, and it has the feel of putting on a disguise
The fabric smells wrong, like an intrusion – her perfume, her skin, her sweat
The person in the mirror is just a body – not my own
Downstairs, there are people waiting
They care about this body so I pretend
When I interact with them, I’m reading from an internal script
I say what I am expected to and smile at the appropriate moments
I do not love my parents
I do not love myself
I am a stranger.

Girl Meets Boy

He catches her eye across the bar

Smiles so beautifully, buys her a drink

Charming – polite – attentive

Together they talk, laugh, joke, and he’s so kind

She loses track of time

At the end of an evening she has enjoyed so much

That it has flown by in minutes,

He tells her she is beautiful

Her heart is touched

She melts into putty in his hands

Together they go to his house

And it’s grand, it’s impressive

For her this is a fairytale unfolding

And he showers her with praise until she is drunk on it

Untill she is simply clay for him to mould

Everything is golden, and warm

And nothing is wrong.

She allows him to do what he wants with her body

They fuck, he takes her home, they kiss goodnight.

 

Next morning in the bleak light of day

The magic of his compliments has worn off

She is left alone and shit-scared

And when the texts start coming in,

The questions that ask so much from her,

She feels robbed.

Something has been stolen from her

Vulnerability becomes her middle name

Which she hates – and she longs for the protection of him

And for the drug of his love

 

But with that one mistake she is lost

Scattered on the floor, owned, prisoner

He stole her from herself and she belongs to him

No longer her own person; without control

 

And now that this man owns her

Who’s to say he won’t take her again?

The Monster Within

Her first words:
“You seem happy,”
My first thoughts:
-It’s working. I’m believable. They can’t see the monster inside-
I smile, thank her, excuse myself with extreme politeness and etiquette
With many apologies, carefully make my way through the crowd
-this party makes me want to claw someone’s eyes out, if I stay here another second I’ll end up slaughtering all these ignorant pigs-
A stiletto heel stabs my into foot, pierces the skin
A flash of pain is instantly followed by a surge of fury
From my feet, through my bones, washing through my crotch and tightening my stomach, sending my heart racing in delicious anticipation Bloodlust, tactical and systematic
Bloodlust, craving and desire
How can I cause the most pain with what I have?
And even as the woman – large breasted, champagne glass in hand, – spouts her slurred sorrys, I can only see the blood in her neck
Her blood, pumping, her pain
Her voice screaming
I breathe quickly, my chest rising and falling, oxygen straight to my sharp head
-make her suffer, make her shriek, stab her eyes out with those excruciating shoes of hers-
My foot throbs with my heartbeat, I can feel the blood swell up and roll down the side of my foot
I breathe with flared nostrils
The foolish woman leans forward, her breasts swelling and threatening to explode from her dress
-I’m going to kill this woman-
I breathe, I stare at her, her mouth still forming those stupid words
-I need to go-
In the dank bathroom there’s no-one to suspect
The crack in the mirror cuts me in half
I stare at the girl I don’t understand
A hatred that must’ve come from somewhere
A darkness that someone must’ve dug into my heart
A violence that sickens… and delights me. I want it, I want them dead, I want to kill my parents and my lovers and my children-
But-
Who am I?
Monster. Human.
Terrified Girl. Terrible beast.
Torturously Cruel. Trying to be kind.
I am at war with myself and the victories are occurring less and less.
One day soon I know it will break free
I’ll be free
She’ll be free and we’ll all be dead.