Bad Blood, Nicola Moriarty

19th May 2007

This isn’t what I thought I’d be doing for my 21st birthday. But then I guess there were no plans to fuck up anyway. I don’t have friends. But that’s okay, I’ll wear that, I know that’s my deal. Still though, a visit to the hospital? Fuck. I’ve never liked hospitals. It’s a combination of things I suppose. It’s the smell. It’s the atmosphere – the lighting, the muted colours, the obnoxiously shiny floor.

Dad’s driving. Mum’s navigating. Vicki is sitting next to me – right next to me, because the other seat is taken up by Dad’s skis, poking through the folded down seat from the boot. They’ve been in the car now for three months – he keeps meaning to take them into Rebel Sport to have the bindings fixed. He never will. Vicki is pinching me. Continuously. Viciously.

It’s because she’s mad with me. I kissed her boyfriend last night. That’s why I don’t have any friends by the way. I’ve kissed a lot of other people’s boyfriends over the years. It’s not intentional. Kidding. Of course it’s intentional. I do it for a laugh. I do it because it turns me on. I do it because I can. It’s all in the eyes you know. If a man sees that you have fuck-me eyes, you can make him hard with just one look. And I have fuck-me eyes.

But does she have to pinch me so fucking hard? I’m going to have bruises all up and down my left arm. And a few on my thigh. And every time she does it, I want to slap her.

We’re going to visit my other sister Nicki by the way. My name is Ricki. Short for Richelle. But no one ever calls me Richelle. I could have been Erica for all my parents cared. Just as long as I rhymed with my sisters. According to Urban Dictionary, Ricki is ‘an overweight white girl who wears too much eye liner, puts too much product in her hair and sleeps with black men.’

I’m pretty curvy in case you were wondering. But I never used to wear too much eyeliner. Or use too much hair product. Not until I read about myself on Urban Dictionary. I guess you could call it a self-fulfilling prophecy. I looked myself up and there it was. My life laid out on the page. So then I started overusing eyeliner and hair spray. I had already slept with black men.

We’re visiting Nicki because she just had a baby girl. Mum asked her if she would continue the rhyming names tradition. Nicki just giggled.

Here’s what Nicki doesn’t know. I slept with her husband two months ago. I’m wondering if I’ll whisper the truth to her while I’m nursing her new baby girl. Just for a laugh.


19th May 2007

This isn’t what I thought I’d be doing for my 21st birthday. But then I guess there were no plans to fuck up anyway. I have two best friends – but they’re both overseas just now. They did invite me, but they’re an item. A holiday as the third wheel? How fucking depressing! I’m like Harry Potter to their Hermione fucking Granger and Ron fucking Weasley. One day I might screw Ron Weasley, just to see what it does to Hermione. I’m twisted like that.

Still though, a visit to the hospital. Fuck. I’ve never liked hospitals. It’s a combination of things I suppose. It’s the smell. It’s the atmosphere – the lighting, the garish colours, the grating squeak of sandshoes on linoleum.

Dad’s driving. Mum’s crying. Vicki is sitting next to me – right next to me, because the other seat is taken up by Dad’s skis. They’ve been in the car now for three months. He put them in there when they were supposed to take that trip to Canada in February. The tickets were booked. The bags were packed. They were supposed to drive to the airport at five in the morning. But then the call came through.

Nicki is sick. Nicki needs treatment. Nicki will be in and out of hospital. Nicki might not get better. Nicki is going to need her family.

They couldn’t get a refund on their plane tickets. Dad keeps meaning to take the skis back into the house.

He never will.

Vicki is pinching me. Continuously. Viciously. I kissed her boyfriend last night. I did it because it turns me on. I did it because I hate myself.

I’m glad that she’s pinching me hard though. The bruises will ease the pain. I sort of want to hug her. Bullshit. I don’t.

We’re going to visit Nicki. She’s taken a turn for the worst. I know that I should care – but guess what I’m thinking about? I’m thinking about the fact that no one’s even realised that today is my birthday. And it’s an important one isn’t it? My 21st – that’s fucking special. My sister is dying but all I care about is that no one sang happy birthday to me or gave me some new eyeliner and hairspray. I seem awful to you, don’t I? At least I own it. At least I know who I am.

I did have love once you know. For Harry, my pet rabbit. I used to sit for hours in the backyard with Harry on my lap, stroking his white fur. But then one day Harry squeezed under the fence into the neighbour’s backyard. The neighbour had a dog. I cried for two days straight.

Vicki, Nicki and Ricki. Hilarious. Ricki is short for Erica by the way. Boring. Last night Mum asked us if we would continue the rhyming names tradition when we had kids. She was all teary, so Vicki told her yes, of course we would. I laughed in her face and said she’s got to be fucking kidding. Then I went out to meet up with Vicki’s boyfriend.

Vicki knew because her boyfriend confessed straight after. Here’s what Nicki doesn’t know though. I slept with her fiancé two months ago. I’m wondering if I’ll whisper the truth to her while she sleeps. Just for a laugh.


19th May 2007

This isn’t what I thought I’d be doing for my 21st birthday. But then I guess there were no plans to fuck up anyway. I have a great group of friends. And I know they would have wanted to organise something. Maybe a big party. Maybe dinner at the Italian place on Carrington Road. Maybe drinks at the pub. I’ve never really been sure why I have so many friends. Deep down, I’m not the nicest person. But I guess they don’t know that. They don’t know that I often fantasise about sleeping with their boyfriends or their dads. They don’t know how close I’ve come to acting on those fantasies.

Once, when I was fifteen, I almost screwed my best friend’s dad at a sleepover. I crept into his bedroom while he slept. I stood by the bed and I stared at him until he opened his eyes and stared back at me. He knew what I wanted. And he wanted it too. I started to touch myself in front of him and I saw him get hard under the sheets.

Something made me stop though. And I turned around and crept back down the hallway and climbed into my sleeping bag. Sometimes I feel like there is a different person inside of me. A different person that’s screaming to get out.

I’ve always hated hospitals. It’s a combination of things I suppose. It’s the smell. It’s the atmosphere. Bullshit. It’s none of that. It’s what happens to me when I go there. It’s where we’re going now.

Dad’s driving. Mum’s dead. Vicki is sitting in the front. She’s in charge of navigating. Today it’s a new hospital. A new treatment. A new hope. Isn’t that the name of some fucked up movie as part of some fucked up movie franchise? Star Wars? Or Twilight?

Next to me are Dad’s skis. They’ve been in the car now for three months. You would think he would want to get rid of them. Who would want that? A constant reminder every time you hop in the car to drive somewhere. A constant reminder of how your wife died.

They went to Canada in the summer. Our summer. Canada’s winter. Mum died in a skiing accident. How glamorous of her. The holiday was supposed to be a break. A break from me. Nicki called one of those commercial radio stations and fed them our sob story. My sister’s sick. My sister’s dying. My parents have been carting her to and from appointments for years and it’s only delaying the inevitable. We can’t afford a holiday because of the medical bills. The radio announcers gushed over my family. Nicki was a hero for calling. Mum and Dad were heroes because they’d taken care of me for so long.

Fuck off. What about me? I’m the one who’s sick. They’re my parents; they’re supposed to look after me, that’s their job. I would never say that out loud.

Anyway, it backfired. Mum skied into a tree. Came home in a box. The radio station distanced themselves from us after that. Took down the smiling photographs of Mum and Dad standing at the airport with their skis. Big cheesy smiles. Holding a sign that said ‘Thank you Chance FM!’

Dad keeps meaning to take the skis back into the house.

He never will.

Vicki is ignoring me. I told her I didn’t like her boyfriend last night. I did it because I can’t handle having him round the house anymore. I did it because if he keeps coming round I’ll end up kissing him and I know he’ll kiss me back.

Sometimes I hate myself. I hate the person I think I could be. I hate the person I think I would be, if it weren’t for this disease. This disease that holds me back.

Nicki’s going to meet us at the hospital. She’s bringing cake. I know that I should appreciate that – but do you know what I’m thinking about? I’m thinking about the fact that I’m spending my birthday in hospital. And it’s an important one isn’t it? My 21st – that’s fucking special. I’m dying but all I care about is that they’ll be singing happy birthday to me in a hospital room. That I’ll unwrap my new eyeliner and hairspray while I’m sitting cross-legged on a trundle bed.

Do you want to know what I want to be when I grow up? I want to be a vet. I like the idea of wearing the white coat. Of looking into an animal’s eyes as I care for it. I don’t care that it means sticking my fingers up an animal’s bum or getting scratched to pieces by a cat. But I guess I’m never going to grow up, am I?

Ricki is short for Frederique by the way. Fancy. Last night Nicki called to ask if we would continue the rhyming names tradition when we had kids. A way to honour Mum. Vicki told her yes, of course we would. I was shitty though. It’s not like I’ll ever get the chance to have children, will I?

Here’s what Nicki doesn’t know though. I’ve been toying with the idea of sleeping with her boyfriend for two months now. I’m wondering if I’ll tell her this while the medication is being pumped into my veins. Just for a laugh. Just because I can. Just because I need to do something.


19th May 2007

This isn’t what I thought I’d be doing for my 21st birthday. But then I guess there were no plans to fuck up anyway. My friends are all dead. No. Not really. They may as well be though – they all hate me. But that’s okay, I’ll wear that, I know that’s my deal. I slept with half the people in our group. Broke up couples. Made girls cry. Made things messy.

Still though, a visit to the hospital. Fuck. I’ve never liked hospitals. It’s a combination of things I suppose. It’s the smell. It makes bile creep up my throat. It’s the atmosphere – the soft colours, the sticky floor. It’s the fact that we’ve been in and out of hospitals since I was little. Since Mum was diagnosed.

Dad’s driving. Mum’s sleeping. At least I think she’s asleep. Could be she’s dead and no one’s noticed. I lean forward and pinch her arm, just to check. Her shoulders jump and Vicki slaps me. ‘What? I was just checking.’ Vicki is sitting next to me – right next to me, because the other seat is taken up by Dad’s skis. They’ve been in the car now for three years. He put them in there when they were supposed to take that trip to Canada. Mum was supposedly ‘in remission.’ The tickets were booked. The bags were packed. And then the doctor called.

Dad refuses to take the skis back into the house. He says they’ll still take that trip one day. One day when mum is better again.

They never will.

If Vicki knew what I’d done last night with her boyfriend, she would have slapped me harder. I’ll probably tell her later. That I sucked him off. Why would I tell her? Because that’s what I do. I always tell. I always kiss and tell. Or suck and tell.

I do it because I hate myself. I’ve always hated myself. Always. But I’ve never been able to change. And I doubt I ever will.

We’re taking Mum into the hospital for a long-term stay. Nicki switched wards so that she can be one of the nurses looking after Mum. Such a sweet, perfect daughter. It’s not likely that Mum will ever come back home. And I know that I should care – but do you know what I’m thinking about? I’m thinking about the fact that today is my birthday. And it’s an important one isn’t it? My 21st – that’s fucking special. My Mum is dying but all I care about is the fact that when they sang happy birthday to me this morning, Mum was so out of breath that she had to sit down half way through and then Vicki’s voice faltered and Dad rushed to Mum’s side. Not very upbeat. At least Vicki gave me some new eyeliner and hairspray.

Lately I’ve been thinking about something. It’s this memory I have, from when I was really little. I think I’d forgotten about it, and to be honest I don’t know what it is that’s brought it back… but I guess something triggered it and now I keep getting flashes. Flashes of my uncle and me, in a bedroom together. Pictures of him… doing things. But there’s another memory there too. It’s the memory of me telling Mum about it. Of her not believing me. Of her face reflected in the mirror behind me, her mouth twisted as she chewed on her bottom lip, her hands moving quickly as she wound the scrunchie around my pony-tail.

My mother never did trust me.

Ricki is short for America by the way. Ridiculous. Last night Mum asked us if we would continue the rhyming names tradition when we had kids. She was all gaunt and weepy, so Vicki told her yes, of course we would. I laughed in her face and said she’s got to be fucking kidding. It’s not that I don’t love her. It’s just who I am. I’m rotten inside.

And then I went out to meet up with Vicki’s boyfriend.

Here’s what Nicki doesn’t know though. I slept with her ex-boyfriend two months ago. She doesn’t know that’s why they split. I’m wondering if I’ll tell her the truth while she tucks Mum into her new bed. Just for a laugh.

Sometimes I think about what could have been. This disease is passed down through the women in our family. Passed on through our bloodlines. Grandma had it before Mum. And our Great-Grandmother before her. But it’s completely hit and miss. You never know who’s going to get it. It could have leap-frogged over Mum and hit one of us. It could have hit all three of us. Vicki, Nicki and Ricki, all lined up in hospital beds. Three headstones in a row. And if any of us have daughters, they’d be at risk too. Or we could have all been okay. Mum, me, my sisters. We could have all been fine. Healthy.

And I wonder if things had been different, would it have changed me?


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Pieces Apart, Shannon Baker

The photograph sat in a wooden frame on the foyer table. It showed my family, standing in a park by the beach. Even then Alice appeared fragile, like she could blow away in the wind. Mum smiles, content and relaxed in loose white linen pants and a kaftan. I’m wearing a short white dress, squinting at the camera, wrapped under dad’s arm. Dad’s white shirt is pressed against his chest by the wind. His smile is friendly and his eyes reflect the sea. His other arm is wrapped around Mum; he towers over her small figure. My sister Alice is standing separate from us, hunching her shoulders away from the camera. She gives the camera a small smile. We look like sisters; we’re both tall and blue eyed. We almost look like twins in that photo, except her hair is strawberry blonde while mine is stubbornly mouse brown. It was taken a few months before she was admitted to hospital. Mum’s free arm is reaching out as if to pull Alice closer to her, but there is a clear gap between the three of us and her.

I turned from the photo and I took a deep breath, looking at my reflection in the foyer mirror. I walked down the hallway and into our kitchen, where my Mum was bobbing a tea bag in a mug. I quickly said goodbye to her and grabbed my school bag.

‘Ellie, why don’t you invite a friend around on the weekend?’

I shrugged in a non-committal way. I didn’t want to explain to my friends why my sister wasn’t at home, or why I didn’t feel like going to parties or outings.

‘Remember tomorrow we have to be up early to get Alice from the airport.’

‘Yep I know,’ I said over my shoulder as I headed for the door.

At school, the courtyard was packed with my old friends. I smiled at a girl in my Maths class. She raised an eyebrow at me and turned back to her group of friends. They burst into giggles. I retreated into the shade of the gym and sat down, leaning back onto the cold brick wall. I closed my eyes against the glare of the sun and tried to pretend I was somewhere else. My old friends were giggling again; I kept my eyes firmly closed, in case they were looking my way. Suddenly, I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder. Will sat down next to me.

‘Hey. How are things?’ He smiled his casual smile. Will was tall, slim and strong. He had brown hair flecked with blonde. I caught his eye and he winked. His eyes were a startling green. After four years of friendship, I was still struck by those eyes. His shoulder brushed mine and I felt a warm shiver down my back.

‘Fine. Yeah okay. Alice is coming back from Melbourne soon.’ I replied.

‘I hope she’s doing well.’ He said, looking down at the concrete.

Two years ago when Alice spent weeks in hospital, attached to metal poles by drips and feeding tubes, Will was the only one I would talk to. I remember the late nights; Mum and Dad taking shifts trudging to and from the hospital, carrying overnight bags with clean clothes and memories from home. I would stay awake watching the television flicker in the dark. When it was turned up all the way, so that the noise echoed throughout our big house, I could relax. When I was alone the house seemed eerie and I would toss and turn, unable to sleep. I would call Will, and we would talk for hours and watch the same shows. The rumble of his deep voice over the phone was always comforting.

The shrill ring of the bell interrupted my thoughts. Will jumped up and grabbed my hand, helping me up. The rest of the school day was a blur. Will was the only person who spoke to me. I was almost grateful to be left alone with my thoughts.

The next day I set my alarm for six; I was anxious to see my sister after months apart.  Mum chatted all the way to the airport, more nervous and excited than I was. The airport was crowded with families, couples and friends. Air hostesses’ heels clicked on the tiled floor. A few people dashed past us towards a gate, their suitcases rolling behind them. A pleasant voice made an announcement over the PA system. We walked towards the gate where Alice would be arriving. Mum kept looking at her watch.

A few minutes later I saw Alice’s strawberry blonde hair amongst the arrivals. As she got closer a coldness washed over me. She was wearing a long dark trench coat that flapped around her knees. The collar was pulled up against her neck as though to ward off the wind, though it was a warm October day. Her clothes swamped her; under the mass of fabric her tiny frame was still painfully apparent. Her fringe was swept low over her eyebrows. Her skin was the colour of skimmed milk. Shadows gathered under her eyes. Her cheeks sunk steeply into thin lips. She looked like she did the last time. She stood awkwardly a few feet away from us, fumbling with the sleeves of her coat.

I could almost feel my mother’s heart break. Her whole face seemed to fall, sagging into itself. She slumped under the crook of my dad’s arm.

Dad’s smile was faltering. ‘Let’s get your bags then.’

These were the only words spoken between us while we left the airport. During the car ride home, I sat in the back seat gripping the door handle. Alice stared resolutely out the window, as cool and still as china. Mum hummed a little too loudly, trying to fill the awkward silence. Dad busied himself with the GPS system, though there was only one road home.

That night I watched Alice stare at her lap while her dinner turned cold and congealed. I looked at my mother closely and noticed for the first time the tiny creases etched into the corners of her mouth. Her eyes were glassy, threatening to spill over with tears at any moment. Dad’s cheeks turned red with the effort of remaining calm. Alice tossed a few peas around her plate.

When Dad spoke his voice was low. ‘We know you haven’t been eating. You’ve probably eaten the bare minimum all the time you were in Melbourne. We’re not stupid Alice. That was our one condition. You go to Melbourne only if you maintain your weight.’

Mum put her hand on Dad’s arm.

‘I’m fine,’ Alice’s said adamantly.

‘You are not fine,’ he said, clattering his knife and fork down on the table. I studied the wall tiles on the other side of the kitchen. Mum gave a small choking sound, almost like a sob. She shot Dad a desperate look, imploring him to stay quiet.

‘She is fine. Just very stressed. With the internship, staying somewhere unfamiliar and having to make new friends,’ Mum said.

‘Yes that’s right. I really had no time to prepare meals when I was over there,’ Alice replied carefully. ‘But now I’m back home it will be much easier. I’ll be back in my own place with my old routine. Don’t worry Dad, it’s not like before.’

That night, hours after I heard Alice’s car drive away, I could still hear the murmurs of my parent’s conversation downstairs. Mum was speaking in a hushed, earnest tone, overcoming Dad’s intermitted injections. I heard him say, ‘I know, I know,’ and ‘yes’, before going quiet. I didn’t understand how either of them could have believed her. I felt like she was slipping away again.

Two weeks later, I caught the bus to Alice’s apartment. She had been avoiding our calls, leaving short text messages saying she was really busy at work. I wanted to surprise her, and to see that she was doing well like she said she was. It was a small block, four apartments all with narrow balconies bordered with glass walls.  Alice’s door was closed but unlocked. I walked in and called her name. I walked down the hallway, passing her bedroom, and a pokey laundry room. I remember hearing a strange humming noise that grew louder as I continued down the hall. It was a soft mechanical whirr. A withering pot plant sat scrunched in the corner. It was then that I found the source of the noise. Squeezed in between the couch and the television was a treadmill. The treadmill belt was racing and rolling, and whirring to itself. Alice was crumpled between the treadmill and the wall, her legs squashed awkwardly beneath her. One white limb was caught on the treadmill belt, flopping uselessly. Her arm was blazing red and grazed. I couldn’t see her face; her cheekbone was pressed into the carpet. I quickly turned the machine off. I bent over her and moved her arm away from the belt.


A towel had fallen from the treadmill, and was slightly tangled around her.

‘Alice wake up,’ I shook her a little.

Her eyelids fluttered for a moment and she shifted her weight. It was then that the towel came off her.

Her bones were stretching and straining against her skin. I could see every ridge in her body, every dip and rivet. She tried to move again and I could see bone scrape against bone. Her skin was like paper, red raw in places from the treadmill belt and so pale. Her fingers were tinted blue. Through her sports bra, her shoulder blades protruded from her back, as though straining against the confines of her skin.

I don’t remember leaving the apartment, but I remember crying to a woman on the street, ‘please help my sister’, wondering how anyone could help someone so intent on hurting themselves.

She was taken straight to hospital; the nurses told my mother she would have to stay there for some time. I took four days off school, ignoring Will’s calls. I spent the days wrapped up in a blanket, watching mindless television shows. On Friday I decided I couldn’t avoid school any longer. I had walked half-way through the car park before I saw him; he was leaning casually against the wall of the gym. He rushed towards me looking relieved.

‘Alice is back in hospital.’ I said.

We started walking slowly towards our first class.

‘I’m sorry.’ His voice was low and his eyes stayed locked on mine.

‘I feel a bit guilty…that she has to be there while I’m-’ I searched for the word ‘healthy.’

He nodded.

‘I’m visiting her this afternoon,’ I continued.

He grabbed my hand and I felt safe, like I was anchored to something steady.

That afternoon I drove to the hospital with my parents. Mum gave me a reassuring smile as I left them in the waiting room and walked down the linoleum hall to Alice’s room.  I hesitated by the door before knocking lightly, as though I was visiting a stranger.


I walked slowly into the room. Alice had a private room. The walls were painted a relentless oatmeal colour. A small window looked out onto a park that bordered the hospital. Alice was curled up under a white cotton blanket. I tried to not look at the tubes that connected her to the IV pole that sat like a permanent resident in the corner.

She was facing away from me, looking out the window. Her hair was limp and lank. I reached out and tentatively brushed a strand from her face. She recoiled from my touch like she had been burned. She looked up at me with fierce hollow eyes, before turning and facing the window again. I backed out of the room, dashed down the hallway. There were people congregated around the elevator so I headed for the stairs, racing down two at a time. A few minutes later I walked quickly from the stairs to the main exit, dodging wheelchairs and visitors. Outside the automatic doors I took a deep breath of fresh air. I pushed down a familiar sense of rising panic. I wasn’t going to let myself fall to pieces.  A few minutes had passed before I saw him. Will was leaning against a tree near the entrance to the car park. People weaved in and out around him.  I walked to him and he wrapped me in his arms.

‘You don’t have to stay here,’ he said. I felt his voice vibrate against his chest. His hand stroked my head, and my tears started flowing. I pulled back and looked up at him.

‘Yeah. We can go now.’ I gave him a wobbly smile.

He laced his fingers through mine and we walked up through the car park.

Later I opened the front door and stepped through the threshold, with him following close behind. I walked into the kitchen and saw Mum standing in the kitchen. She turned when she heard our footsteps. Her smile reached her eyes.

‘Alice told me you’d left. I’ve been talking with your father. I’m going to be home more for you this time’. She said.

I walked towards her and engulfed her in a hug.

‘We’ll be fine,’ she whispered into my hair.

I pulled back and nodded. I walked over and sank into the couch. Will wrapped his arm around me.

‘You can come and stay with me for a while, if you want.’ His voice was soft. I looked into his eyes and was tempted.

‘I think I’ll stay. I want to go back to the hospital again, maybe not tomorrow but soon. I’ll just sit with her. Even if she hates me, I’ll just sit for a while.’

I knew I would still visit her, even if she flinched when I touched her. Alice was caught up in the circle of her own hateful thoughts about herself. My thoughts were clear. I couldn’t stop her from hurting herself, but I could be there if she needed. I knew that I would be fine, that despite the damage done, I would be strong enough to piece together the gaps.


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Burdens, Olivia Whenman


Constable Derrin was standing behind me whilst I was on the phone. In high school we used to call him Herc the Lurk.

‘I love you baby. Please! I won’t do anything like this again. Please baby. Don’t hang up! Don’t hang up!’

But she hung up. I turned around in defeat. I was face-to face with Herc. It reminded me of when we were forced to partner up in self-defence class. He kicked my arse. Ugh, in high school he was a loser. Actually, he’s still a loser. The only difference is the school blazer’s now a badly pressed uniform and its emblem a poorly shined badge.

‘Who was that?’ Herc asked.

‘Mara,’ I said.

“She like princesses or something?”


‘Come with me mate,’ he said.

His mother was Greek. Called him Hercules or some shit after a Greek god who fought monsters. I don’t know. I don’t care. There’s not even anything particularly godly about Herc. I bet the only monsters he ever gets to fight are underage offenders. They aren’t even monsters, they’re just bored.

‘Check out ya face,’ he said.

He opened the bathroom door and let me in. Water had leaked underneath the mirror leaving a mass of black ooze in the corner. My face was blue under the light. On the side of my face there was a stain and on my cheek a splodge. Mara. Black eyeliner and pink lip-gloss. Her signature. I didn’t wipe them off. I left them there for company. I missed her already.

‘You like being a princess?’ Herc said.

‘Yeah, maybe you can be my Knight in Shining Armour and save me? Wait, aren’t you a god or some shit?’ I asked.

‘Yeah real funny wise guy. I won’t be saving your arse until I know it wasn’t you. So until then I can’t let you go.’

‘What does that mean? Is there going to be a line-up?’

‘Yeah mate, there’s going to be a line-up.’

The cell bed sagged in the middle where various arses had been before. I’d been lying there for at least an hour.

There’s a photo stuck above my bed. It’s a school photo of Mara. It was taken in Year 11 a couple of months before we started dating. Her hair was blonde and long, and her lips tinted with pink lip-gloss. Sometimes I’d see sticky residue on the collars of other boys in my year. But then we started going out. After that the lip-gloss smears disappeared.

In Year 12 I used to smoke every afternoon at the train station. I’d smoke one, two, three cigarettes. Commuters would stare. I’d fight with Mara at the station because she wouldn’t kiss me. She said my mouth tasted like shit. Then she said second-hand smoke was even worse than the real thing. She said that it caused cancer and if I kept it up I’d be dead by the age of 30. Than my brother Levi died. So I stopped.

The year after we finished school Mara decided she was going to move away and go to university. She ended up staying. I’m pretty sure she stayed for me. I was glad because I didn’t really care about anyone else in our shithole of a hometown. Mara’s best friend Larnie moved away though. I could tell Mara missed her. But she had me. She still has me.

‘Mate you awake?’ Herc asked.

‘Ugh yeah,’ I said.

‘It’s time.’

I stood against a white backdrop with seven random guys. Actors? Picked off the street? Other cops? I don’t know.

‘Is there anywhere in particular you want to stand?’ Herc asked.

‘Nah not really,’ I said.

Honestly, I just wanted it to be over and done with. Through the observation window I could see the witness’s hair in some sort of bun. There was a vein bulging on the left side of her temple. Frustration? Anger? Exhaustion? I’d seen her three times before. She worked at the jewellers.

She pointed straight at me. Her lips tight.

‘It was that one. He broke into the jewellery store… again.’

Herc took me by the right arm. He gripped it tightly as he walked me back to the holding cell, told me that in the morning they were going to take me to a corrections centre, a new fancy fucking way to say ‘jail’.  I was a repeat offender. Breaking and entering as well as theft was my specialty. This wasn’t the first time I’d stolen something from that store. But it was the first time I’d stolen an engagement ring.

Herc leant against the cell wall, hands in his pockets. He was chewing gum that squelched around inside his mouth.

‘You wanna know something?’ Herc asked.

‘Ok,’ I said.

‘So you and Mara started like dating in year 11 or something, right?’

‘Yeah. What of it?’

‘Nothing mate. It’s just she’s a huge bitch.’

‘Fuck you! You talkin’ shit about my girlfriend? I’d fuckin’ kill for her.’

‘Are you fucking serious? Mate you gotta draw the line somewhere. She’s a bitch. That ring you stole was for her wasn’t it?’


‘Yeah thought so. Just like all that shit you took last time? You know what your fault is mate? You’re massive idiot,’ he said as he shut the door.

Yeah I thought. I am a massive idiot. But I love her.



Joel Hilton hit me because I said his dog was stupid.

‘Cats are better than dogs. Dogs can’t even look after themselves. You have to clean dogs. You don’t have to clean cats.’

‘Yeah well dogs are better than cats. Dogs can play fetch! Cats don’t do anything, they just sleep all day. Borrrrring.’

‘No they don’t! I play games with my cat all the time. He likes to play games with this stick thing. It’s got a string on the end and you like wave it around and he chases it and tries to eat it.’

‘That sounds boring Gabby. Your cat sounds stupid. He’s trying to eat string. Cats can’t eat string.’

‘He’s not stupid! Your dog is stupid.’

‘Nuh-uh, my dog’s smart. He can play dead and everything.’

‘Yeah well he’s probably so stupid he should be dead.’

We both have time out tomorrow at lunchtime because Mrs Burrell says so. She says it doesn’t matter if cats or dogs are better. She says I shouldn’t have said what I said. But I don’t think she understands. Cats are better. They just are.

I hit Gabby Wright because she said my dog was stupid. But he’s the smartest dog I know. He’s smarter than Gabby. She’s so stupid. Mrs Burrell says I shouldn’t have hit her. So I’ve got time out tomorrow at lunchtime. Anyway dogs are better than cats. It’s not my fault Gabby doesn’t understand.

It’s lunchtime and everyone else is outside in the playground. It sucks I’m stuck inside on time out. I asked my Mum if cats are better than dogs. She said yes. She said cats are better than dogs because cats are independent. I think she means that cats can go and catch birds and eat them if they’re hungry.

I’m in time out. My brother told me I shouldn’t worry about it. He used to get put on time out all the time. He also said that that dogs are better than cats because dogs can help blind people. All my friends are outside playing. Gabby and her cat suck.

Did you know in ancient Egypt the mummies loved cats? They made statues and pictures of them and stuff.

Did you know one of the first animals in space was a dog? I wish I could go to space with my dog.

Cats always land on their feet.

Dogs are used by the police to find things.

Garfield is a famous cat.

Snoopy is a famous dog.

Cats are better than dogs.

Dogs are better than cats.

Cats are better than dogs.

Dogs are better than cats.

‘Have you two learnt your lesson?’ Mrs Burrell asked.



 It was the 17th of January 1963 when the Bray family came to town. Fourteen children + one mother + one father + one uncle + one aunt + one grandmother = nineteen unwelcome Brays.  Their clothes, tacky with tropical dampness, had dirtied in the dust as they set up their makeshift homes. Now they were all brown. George Wright watched through his bedroom window. His mother Patricia shouted from her sewing room, ‘You stay away from them, you hear? They’re filthy people.’ But George ignored her. She never let him do anything. At church he’d often pictured God’s arm crashing through the ceiling and grabbing his mother from the pulpit and taking her away like King Kong did to Ann Darrow.

Pa Keith was the only interesting grown-up he knew. He was 86 but George liked the fact that the wrinkles on his face were so deep he could stick a half-penny in there and it would stay. He also took George to see King Kong at the movies and let him have a whole bottle of Coke. Pa Keith told him it was their little secret. George’s Mum never let him have Coke. She said it would ruin his teeth. She never trusted anyone with bad teeth.

By late afternoon, the vacant lot had been transformed into ‘Brays’ Land’. Their six horses ate the fresh, green grass beside their four caravans placed in a line like peculiar storefronts. Each wooden body had been decorated with patterns and pictures. The doors were round.

There were five girls and nine boys in the Bray family. George counted them on the morning of the 18th of January as they ran around the oval giggling and yelling. His mum said he had to stay inside because of his allergies. George knew she was lying but his dad was home so he couldn’t argue.

George’s dad had really white teeth. George’s dad wore suits and only suits. His pyjamas were even ironed to have the same starchy stiffness as the business suit he sported every day over his body like a second skin. But it was a Sunday and Malcolm Wright was in his home office making telephone calls because ‘A banker never rests son. One day you’ll understand. Now what’s one + five + nine + two?’



At 11:00am Patricia Wright left for one of her ‘Women’s Meetings’. She took Pa Keith with her and dropped him off at the RSL to play bowls with his friends James and John. George left the house at 11:15am and walked to the oval with his lunchbox, packed with a sandwich just in case he got hungry.

‘Who’s that?’ the oldest Bray asked when he saw George walking towards the cluster of children sitting underneath the only tree on the vacant lot.

‘Oi, who are you?’ he asked George.

‘George Wright. Who are you?’ George asked.

‘Gary…  Ain’t you been told to stay away?’

‘Mum said to stay away yesterday. I thought we could play or something…’ George smiled.

‘Nah it’s alright. We gotta enough kids to play with already. Whatcha got in that lunchbox?’

‘A sandwich.’

‘Can I have it?’

‘It’s turkey. But can I play with you?’

‘Yeah but only if ya give me ya lunchbox.’


George played tips with the Brays until their legs were too tired to run anymore. Then George helped them feed the horses. His favourite was called Onyx. His favourite Bray girl was called Maggie. She gave George a kiss on the cheek. Her teeth were yellowed and gritty. She smelt like ants and melted sugar cubes.

‘You’re nice,’ she smiled and then walked away.

George blushed.

‘George William Wright!’ Patricia Wright screamed.

‘I need to go home,’ George said.

‘Don’t you want to stay for supper?’ one of the Brays asked.

‘I can’t.’

George saw his Mum crossing the vacant lot. Her blue dress threatened to lift and expose her underwear.

‘What did I tell you? What did I tell you about going near these filthy people?’ she said.

‘I was just…’

‘You never listen to me George! Why is that? Why are you disobedient? And why does that boy have your lunchbox?’ she pointed to Gary Bray.

George Wright knew what would happen if he told her the truth. A bar of soap in the mouth, a few smacks with the belt and no dinner.

‘I was having lunch in the park and he stole it so I came over here to get it back.’

‘Gary didn’t steal nothin’! That’s a lie!’ Maggie said.

‘Shut up you filthy little liar! Shut up!’ Patricia Wright said.

On the morning of the 19th of January the revelation that a Bray child had stolen George Wright’s lunchbox was the talk of the town.

‘You can’t trust anyone these days,’ Pa Keith said.

‘Yeah, you can’t trust anyone,’ George said as he sipped some Coke.

The police said they couldn’t do anything so a group of men including Malcolm Wright went to the vacant lot. George heard that Mr Bray had some of his teeth knocked out by a cricket bat. They cracked and splintered. Little white dots like breadcrumbs thrown for the birds on the green grass. The Bray family packed up their things and left.



How’s the train ride going? J

I’ve got some bogan sitting next to me. He smells like that Lynx chocolate spray all the guys used to spray on themselves after P.E.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA it smells so bad! Sucks to be you!

Fuck you. I’ll buy you some for your birthday. P

Ok. All the boys will want me cause I’ll smell so good!

You wish bitch.

LOL. I’ve gotta go. Talk later. xx


My skirt is riding up my leg again.

The guy sitting next to me on the train looks like such a pervert. Shit, he’s looking at me.

Great so I picked the carriage with the seedy looking guy. His red windbreaker reminds me of James Dean in ‘Rebel Without a Cause.’ But he isn’t James Dean. A curly orange mullet cascades down the back of his freckled neck. He has a suitcase. His nose is inflamed and crusted around the nostrils. Wait. Crust around the nostrils. Cocaine? OMG you are such a prude Martina. He keeps twitching. Fidgeting. There’s sweat on his upper lip. Why can’t he keep still? I get my book out of my bag. Sense and Sensibility. I’m just going to ignore him. He’ll eventually get off.

‘Hey is it alright if I leave this here?’ I hear someone say.

‘Ummm yeah. Yeah that’s fine… Wait, what?’ I reply.

I look up and no one’s there. I look backwards down the aisle and I see the guy with the red windbreaker already moving in the space between carriages. Where’s he going? Why’d he leave his suitcase?

I read the tag. It says his name is Sam Bray. I go back to reading my book.

40 minutes later and that guy hasn’t come back. I’m trapped. Trapped forever in an endless sea of green seats and beige plastic walls. I just want to know if he’s coming back. I just want to know why he left his bag because like, is it even normal to leave your bag with a stranger?

It’s been over an hour now. I remember reading a sign once at the station that said you should report unattended baggage. I’m not overreacting am I? Wait, is this even unattended? He sort of implied I watch it, right?

Fuck. Maybe he’s somewhere doing drugs? Maybe he’s hiding in the bathroom snorting more cocaine? OMG what if he’s left me with his stash of drugs? What if the cops come on and do a random bag search? I’m not a drug mule!

Some guy left his bag with me and disappeared. He’s been gone for like an hr. Wat do I do?

IDK. Move to a different carriage? xx


I put my book in my bag and stood up to leave.  I walked past an elderly couple sleeping in a huddled mass. The woman was snoring like a pig. The thump of footsteps stopped behind me.

‘Hey! What are you doing? I asked you to watch my fucking bag!’

‘I was! You were gone for like an hour!’

‘Yeah so. Just let someone steal my fucking bag instead yeah?’

‘But you were gone for ages.’

‘Yeah and? I was on the phone to my Mum OK. Is that a crime?’


‘Fuckin’ bitch.’


Download a pdf of ‘Burdens’

Outburst, Charlotte Marsh

As I sit in Doctor Malone’s office I start to laugh. She doesn’t really appreciate my jokes but silence always has a way of making me really tense. It’s all textbook to her; I make jokes in order to avoid confrontation. To be fair I’m only half kidding. I do genuinely feel bad for Malone, she could have been kicking it back at the beach and instead she’s sitting here with me. She looks even more tired than usual and I’m hardly surprised. Our meeting was definitely not on her itinerary.

‘Bree, are you listening?’ Malone’s voice bounces off the coat tails of my nervous laughter and springs me back to the room.

‘Y-yes,’ my words fumble out before I can catch myself.

Malone frowns. ‘I asked you about your medication, how is it going?’

‘As medicated as ever,’ I say, and she inhales forty-five years worth of air and sighs.

‘I know you haven’t been taking them Bree.’

Gee, nothing gets past her does it? ‘Have you been spying on me again Doctor?’

‘It’s been six months since I gave you a script and it was only for three months of medication.’

To be fair it’s really her fault for not keeping track of my scripts and it’s not as if I’m going to remind her. ‘Urghhh, that stuff makes me sick and it takes forever to kick in.’

‘You’re supposed to take it with food, please tell me you’ve been-’

‘Yes, I’ve been eating. Come on, Doc, at least try to earn your fee.’ I start pinching my nose; I just hate all of this.

Any other person would have probably smacked me by now, but Malone is pretty cool – instead, she just turns away into her papers.

‘Always the comedian…so last night.’

‘Whoa there Doc, let’s not spoil the ending before we’ve even finished the opening credits.’ I figured I might as well try to stall. Malone removes her glasses and gives me the ‘I’m disappointed’ face.

‘Bree.’ It’s all she needs to say.


‘Bree, did you do an entry today?’

I was barely seated at the dinner table before Mum began her questioning. I could always count on my parents to step in whenever Malone wasn’t around. I had to credit them for that at least; an A+ for badgering their daughter constantly.

‘Yes.’ But I hadn’t and she knew that perfectly well.

‘You know I’m going to check after dinner, right?’ She didn’t though, she always forgot.

I rolled my eyes so far back into my head that I my veins threatened to break apart from my sockets.

‘Mum, I did the entry, I did the absolute hell out of it; it’s just positively oozing with my most deep and dark thoughts.’

Mum just frowned at me. Geez, tough crowd…


‘Good to know I’m not the only one you lie to,’ Malone cuts in.

I’m kinda expected to do these ‘mood logs’ as part of my agreement with Malone; I could stop weekly visits and in return I write down whatever I’m feeling, if anything, every day for the next few weeks. Who seriously writes in a diary anymore? That’s something an old lady who doesn’t have the internet would do. It kinda sucks because I have to do them and I’m slightly unnerved about the idea of jotting everything down. If there was something the Doc couldn’t get out of me, what makes them think I’ll put it in writing? Of course that’s all gone to shit now. I’ll be lucky if they ever trust me again.


Mum continued back to her steak. Her knife ground against the surface making tiny brown grains crumble on the top. It baffled me that she hadn’t yet realised that she’d grabbed a butter knife by mistake. But she continued to grind away hoping for the cooked, rippling surface to break through. I sat there with my parents in total silence for a while.  That’s how most of our dinners played out, Mum asked about my entry and then nothing. Before I came back from observation all their dinner discussions were most likely about me. I mean, what else could they talk about? Now that the topic was staring at them right in the face it suddenly wasn’t so interesting. I was only there for a freaking week and somehow I’d completely killed all conversation between my parents.

‘Something interesting happened to me today.’ Dad’s voice broke out. Mum lifted her brow but her eyes were firmly planted on the steak. Man she really is something.

‘On the bus today a young boy tried to get on without any money,’ he went on.

‘Sounds riveting Dad, truly, I am honored that you chose to tell us this tale.’ I stopped as Dad began to eye me.

‘Well, did he get on in the end?’ I asked.


‘Not that this isn’t interesting, Bree, but let’s not go into every detail ok?’

I hate it when people cut you off – even if the story doesn’t interest you it’s polite to humor them. I notice my back is aching from my hunch so I straighten up and try to shrug off Malone’s intrusion.

‘Right. Well…it didn’t matter anyway. Dad didn’t even remember if the kid got on or not, can you believe that?’ Malone gives a small grunt; she just wants me to get to the point. ‘So then Dad asks what I’m doing after dinner-’

‘Why do you think he would ask that?’

I hate it when therapists ask those stupid ‘how does that make you feel’ type questions. It makes me miss observation; or rather I miss the solitude. Like, people were watching me but they didn’t really speak to me or anything. I guess they were waiting for me to say something but I never did. I don’t even really remember what I did during that week but I certainly didn’t talk to anyone. They wouldn’t have let me come home if I had done anything strange, unlike the other kids there. Lucky for my parents I’m not the outburst kind.


‘Fortunately for you guys I’ll be staying in.’ I say after Mum asked what I was doing after dinner.

‘You don’t want to see anyone?’ to which I wondered what invisible people she had envisioned for me to see. But I guess all mothers are under the delusion that their children are socially apt enough for friends, despite how obvious the reality is.

‘Nope, I am a child of considerable predictability.’ I started to squish my peas onto the plate with my knife. ‘It’s one of the joys of being the second off the chopping block.’

‘I don’t follow,’ Mum said and I rolled my eyes again.

‘When the first kid drops parents are all set to get their mistakes out of way. If it doesn’t die they’re all good for a second.’


‘Where was your sister at the time?’ Malone asks.

I don’t say anything for a while, partially because I genuinely don’t remember, but also because I’m a little scared to remember.

‘She came to dinner a bit late, but she wasn’t there yet.’ Even though my eyes are in my lap I can tell Malone is checking me, weighing up what words to say.

‘How about we skip to when she arrives, ok?’ She speaks with a certain care, as if I were stupid enough to not know what she wants, but the longer I can put it off the better.


‘Get out of my seat.’ Olivia barely looked at me when she came in; she had it stuck in her head that we had a special seating arrangement in the house. Dad at the head, Mum to his left with her to the right. I was put next to Olivia but personally I was not fond of such rules. She jabbed her finger in my side, it was like getting a sharp stab with a blunt knife. It was enough to get me hunched over so that she could lightly push me from the chair and take her rightful place at Dad’s side. No one said anything as I stumbled to the next chair. Of course no one said anything. Olivia placed her hands carefully across the table; her fingers looked just like Mum’s, really long and slender, it’s the only thing about her I like.  Dad’s fingers are tough and fat like overcooked sausages, which makes him look like the kind of Dad who fixes stuff around the house. Everyone in my family has hands that tell lies.

‘Bree, how about you answer my question huh?’ Olivia’s voice completely ripped me out of focus. ‘I asked if you were glad to be home, not that you look it.’

I could always count on my dear sister to leave every sugary statement with a twist of lemon in my mouth. I dignified her question with a one shouldered shrug; not worth the involvement of both. She just rolled her eyes to our parents and gave a ‘can you believe this girl?’ look.


I look up at Malone and her eyes are glued to me. She says nothing but her gaze has an intensity to it that begs me continue. Even when it’s about me, it’s always about her, naturally.


‘Wow must be so hard to sit around all day with no school or parents. Maybe I should become crazy too,’ she laughed to Mum and Dad. They said nothing again. She went on about some friend of hers who she hates and it was like I wasn’t even there anymore.

‘What would you know about hard?’ I mostly said it to myself but I figured it was equally relevant for Olivia.

‘Excuse me?’ I hated how she always talked to me like I was stupid kid and she was this super mature adult. She tossed her knife and fork down and turned toward me. ‘Please go on about how super difficult your life is.’

My cheeks began to give me away and I wasn’t so cool anymore; all of a sudden I had nothing. No cool quips to throw back, nothing, and so I just sat there looking at my dinner like it was the most interesting thing ever.


‘Having an older sibling can be tough.’ Malone speaks like I’m only hearing this stuff for the first time. What a stupid cliché.


I really wanted to say something to shut her up, but I just kept staring down at my plate, rolling my fork between my fingers. Olivia snapped her head back to her plate and resumed her dinner, ‘It’s not the ‘Bree Show’ you know, we all have our issues and you don’t see me going off for a holiday.’ My grip tightened a little.

‘Stop it, you two,’ Dad says, but what he really meant was stop it Olivia and it always had to go unsaid, because that would just be too mean. No matter how much I scrunched my face; it wasn’t enough to send a signal to Olivia’s brain to tell her to shut up.


‘So that’s when you-’


Malone jumps and I realise I need to breathe, ‘No…that happened…later.’ I really want to stop; surely it’s been an hour by now.


‘Whatever, it’s not my problem that Bree wants to act like everything’s about her.’

Every word she spoke made my jaw really hurt and I could feel my nails pressing against my palm as I gripped my fork.

‘You let her get away with so much; this is why she’s so wound up in herself. I would have never been allowed when I was her age.’

Mum and Dad pretended to not hear and I pretended like I didn’t exist. My hand began sweating a little; the fork was so warm from holding it.

‘I don’t know why you even bothered sending her there.’

Despite not having eaten I felt the constant need to swallow, hard and smooth like a marble that kept getting bigger and just wouldn’t go down.

‘She’s not even saying anything, because she knows I’m right. See? She’s not even-‘


Malone’s pen stops, there’s no real need to continue. She knows the rest.


It’s kind of a haze or at least that was my excuse. There was screen of silence the second I slammed my fork into the back of Olivia’s hand. Before I even had time to think, it completely shattered and I was drowning in her shrieking and the groaning of our wooden chairs as they ground against the floor. It’s me who stood up first, Olivia sobbed over her hand like a needy mother clutching her baby. I can still see the mark I left; four little red squares on the back of her perfect hand. Branded forever with four perfect squares as if there’s one for each of us; Dad, Mum, Olivia and me. Olivia shook as she turned her way up to me. I was almost scared she was gonna hit me or something until I saw her face.

Complete fear. Not only for herself, but for me, fear for the hatred I held for her and what it had turned me into.

Either Dad pulled her away to the next room or I looked away, I don’t remember. It doesn’t really matter; her eyes are still with me. I can’t stop seeing them.

I grabbed my face, pulled on it like I wanted to tear it off.  My jaw screamed for me to open so that I could let out some kind of sound but I just couldn’t. Not in front of Mum.

I was wrong, so wrong; turns out I was the outburst kind after all.

Mum choked out something but I don’t really remember. It wasn’t until she tried to pull my hands away from my face that I started.

‘You let her say that to me,’ I mumbled like a stupid kid. ‘You never say anything…not a goddamn thing,’


‘No every time! Every fucking time you don’t do a goddamn thing about it.’ At that point I couldn’t even tell where I was facing anymore; I couldn’t see anything. Olivia cried while Dad consoled, I cried while Mum made the call.


‘It’s so weird when you hear your parents trying not to cry.’ Malone doesn’t respond. ‘I can’t stop hating her.’


They left me alone in the dining room. Olivia had stopped crying and it was quiet again. I looked around the broken room of unfinished dinner, scattered chairs and the small beads of Olivia’s blood. I hate her, but I hate myself more for hating her.


Malone just gets up and says something but I don’t retain it. I realise that I’m tracing my fingers over the back of my hand when she tries to hand me another script. She asks me to come back next week and suddenly I’m no longer in her office. I meet Mum in the car, she tries to say something but it’s all muffled and I’m just really tired.


Download a pdf of Outburst, C. Marsh

Flowers and Tea, Grace Mitchell

‘You useless woman.’

The voice resounded through the café and rang through her brain, opening up the doors to the memories she had long ago tried to forget.

The small ornate tables and the talking customers disappeared as the café was overtaken by grass, leaving Samantha standing confused and bewildered in a field. Hearing the voice, she turned around, only to see her father and mother on top of a nearby tall, grassy hill. They seemed to be both smiling and waving down at her. Dazed, she found herself smiling and waving back. The smiles on their faces seemed to glitch for a second into the look of anger on her father’s face and fear on her mother’s. They instantly turned back into smiles as though nothing had really happened. Just as children would, her father pushed her mother down the hill and her mother joyfully rolled down the grassy knoll. With a large smile upon her face, she rolled down to where Samantha was standing. There she landed, though not as a bundle of joy like a child who was playing, but as a messy heap with her arm at an angle that an arm shouldn’t naturally be in.

Looking into the fearful and weeping eyes of her mother, Samantha felt her gaze rising to see her father. There he stood menacingly above her, on the top of what was no longer a grassy hill but an old splintery wooden staircase. He stared at her for a moment before walking away, leaving her bruised and battered mother to find help by herself. Samantha wanted to pick up her mother and help her, but she looked at her hands only to find they were too small to ever help move an adult. In fact, her whole body was too small to help her mother; she was just too young. So she did the only thing she could do and sought a way out of this horror. There to the right she saw a darkened door; it didn’t seem to fit with the old house. So she ran to it and pushed it open with all the strength that her five year old self had. Stumbling on to the other side of the doorway, she found herself out of the memory and back to her twenty year old body. Not only that but when she looked around, she found herself in an ancient wooden corridor that was lined with dark wooden doors.

Tree roots showed through the floorboards and the more she looked, it felt like she could feel her mind tear and warp just like the wooden planks. The corridor before her looked like it went on forever, with all the tree roots and grass growing out of the wood, or maybe it really was because it did truly go on forever. Feeling drawn to one of the dark wooden doors down the corridor, she felt her feet start to move, like they had different ideas about the door than her mind did. Walking across the unsteady flooring, she saw the wooden ground under her feet start to crumble and break. Suddenly at the door, she didn’t have a moment to think about the dangers of her surroundings. Instead her hand shot out, and she let herself into another world.

Another world being her old kitchen. There was the old dirty sink filled with plates, and the fridge displaying a pathetic drawing from her six year old self. Then, of course, there was dear old Dad sitting at the table, right next to the gathering pile of bottles. Except…this time, the pile wasn’t as big. This time, half of the pile was smashed all over the floor, along with a smear of blood. It was now that Samantha suddenly realised which memory she was in. It was the night he had thrown the glass bottles at her mother, the night when…

There was her mother in the kitchen doorway, with a shotgun in her hands. The same weapon that was her right to bear. The same gun she had to protect herself from intruders, but this time it was her husband who was the trespasser. A trickle of blood came down her forehead as she stood glaring at her husband, with fire in her eyes that even devils would be scared of.

‘Harold,’ she said, announcing herself to the poor excuse of a man before her.

Samantha’s father turned around and his face instantly turned into shock, and then anger. His hand grabbed a bottle, as if to punish her insolence. ‘What are you going to do, you useless woman?’

A loud sound echoed through the kitchen as if to answer his question.

A golden flower flew out of the shotgun’s barrel and slowly careened over to Harold’s chest, where it hit in a sudden shock and then, there were petals everywhere. The petals escaped from his chest as he slowly fell to the ground. Samantha turned from her father, who looked like he had just robbed a flower shop, and then to her mother. Samantha, in shock, looked down at herself to see a petal on her dress.

She quickly turned and ran for the door, without looking back at her parents. She didn’t want to see her mother give a giant sigh of relief before finally saying the words, ‘I’m not useless.’ She didn’t want to see her father’s body give its last heave. She didn’t want to see, she didn’t want to remember.

Instead she found herself back in the hallway, which now looked like the floor was crumbling beneath her feet. Nevertheless she kept running to the next door way, which was all she could see. Back in the hallway, the part of her dress that the petal had fallen onto was now stained with the dark red of her nightmares. She needed to keep running to get away; she needed to get away in case reality wanted to make its presence known.

Swinging open the door before her, Samantha ran into a room that was dimly lit. The first thing that really that hit her though was the noise. The noise of screeches and roars. She cringed at the noise of fists pumping and hands slamming. Slowly and unsurely she walked into the dim lit room. As her eyes adjusted, she was shocked to see that the room was filled with metal cages. Cage after cage, they seemed to go on forever or at least as far as she could see. The screeches of birds and howling of monkeys were louder now she was inside, and she found her hands scrunching up the edges of her shirt. In the cage nearest to her was a big gorilla thumping his chest, making sure all that saw him knew that he was the boss here. There next to him, in her own separate cage, was the meek form of her mother.

Hands clenched tightly around the edges of her brightly coloured shirt. She seemed so pale against the bright orange that hung off her small and thin body. A small taut smile came to her face as she saw her daughter come closer to her.

‘How is school, honey?’

Samantha didn’t know how to answer. Not only was the question too ordinary for a situation that was so bizarre, she was pretty sure the last time she checked, she had graduated from high school.


‘Yes, what is it Samantha?’ Her mother said with the same kind eyes she had always had. They looked like total strangers to the rest of her body now.

‘I…I miss yo-’

A sudden barking from the next cage over made Samantha jump. Her mother’s neighbour wanted to be heard and feared, especially by little girlies like her. Samantha looked at the terrifying muscular black dog, and then back to her mum, whose eyes looked at the floor. Slowly fading into the background, only the orange suit stood out. Not wanting to see her mother disappear, Samantha felt herself running down the lines of overbearing cages. It was there at the end of the cages, she found the same familiar door waiting for her.

Grabbing the door’s handle, she pulled it open and rushed through, only to find herself in midst of a puzzle of the few pieces of mossy timbered floor left. Looking around wildly, she knew she had to get out of here. She had to get out before the whole place around her broke apart and she fell to the abyss below.

Then she saw the golden wooden door. The door that had a cute etching of a teapot on the front. Her safe place, her haven. Without a second thought, she jumped from piece to piece of the ancient wooden floor, without ever looking down or thinking about what would happen if she missed, until she was at the door that smelt of roses and tea, the smell of home.

Looking back, she found the once full of life hallway and the many doors had all disappeared around, leaving only her and this final gateway left. She didn’t care though; she only wanted to go forward anyway. Grabbing the handle, she pushed and welcomed the world before her.

The first thing she saw, of course, was the alligator. It wasn’t acting like most alligators would, as it was not only sitting cross legged on a garden chair but it also was holding a cup of tea (luckily it was an alligator, because if it was a crocodile it would surely have not liked tea, since it is made with fresh water and not salt water). It had its pinkie extended; after all, he did have manners. He did look remarkably like the soft toy she had once owned, which had stolen her heart as a child with its big toothy grin.

‘Hello Samantha, my dear,’ the alligator said politely, as he looked at his new company. ‘Please do come and take a seat.’

Samantha walked over to the garden table and chairs and sat down with a large smile upon her face. ‘It is so good to see you again Sir Reginald.’

She calmly took the spare tea cup and poured herself a cup of tea. Then she leaned back, letting the tea cool down as she took in the little garden she had walked into. There were rose bushes everywhere that scented the place so wonderfully, and the white garden seating that consisted of two seats and a small table, just seemed to come out of a Home and Gardens magazine. Then there was, of course, Sir Reginald sipping his tea slowly, looking dashing in his top hat. Samantha gave a large sigh as she relaxed in her chair. She needn’t run here.

‘So how has work been?’ Sir Reginald politely inquired.

‘Quite terrible, the other day this couple came in and-’

The teapot crashed, shattering into pieces of ceramic as the tea escaped on to the café’s floor. Samantha’s gaze had been slowly following it as it had fallen out of her hands, and then suddenly, with that loud sound, she was back to her job at the small café by the train station. Back to her reality, back to here and now. Quickly kneeling to the floor, she started to pick up the pieces of the teapot.

‘I’m so sorry.’ She said as the customers peered in to see what the large crashing sound was.

‘Why do you always make a mess of things?!’ A man’s voice broadcasted himself from halfway across the room.

Samantha looked up to see a large man harshly pulling a woman by her arm out of the café. For a second she swore she saw her father’s face but with another look, she could see it wasn’t. So she stopped, with the ceramic pieces limp in her hand for a moment, as she watched the couple walk out. It was only when they were out of sight that she went back to cleaning up the mess she had made.

After all, she had learnt a broken teapot can easily be cleaned up.


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