‘Little Thoughts’

Marlene awoke to the hot breath of summer on her face. The flowers on her curtains danced in front of the rising spotlight of the sun, swaying back and forth. She rolled over, rubbing her eyes – the gritty remnants of yesterday’s mascara dragged across her knuckles – and lay blinking up at the ceiling. The alarm clock radio clicked on.
‘Ugh.’
“It’s Seven-Thirty AM and a day for celebration here on Wake up with Wogan! While we have been unable to have the show renamed ‘Arise with Wogan’ in light of the New Year’s honours list, yesterday London was confirmed as the host city for the 2012 Olympic Games. So, to start us off we’ve got the campaign’s wonderful theme song ‘Proud’, by Heather Small.”
Marlene aimed a swipe at Terry Wogan, but caught a bottle of Tesco’s finest Everyday Vodka instead – it exploded as it landed on the floor. She lay static, her eyes closed and her mind drifted back to sleep.
“Not today, Terry,” Marlene said, allowing her flailing arm to rest on her chest. The looming threat of vomit grew with each movement, like a time bomb ticking closer to detonation.
POP. POP. POP.
It sounded like someone jumping on a juice carton full of air.
There was yelling outside.
“Jacob?” She shouted.
Leaping out of bed she approached the window. Crouching, she poked her head through the curtains and peeked out. Outlines formed like an emerging Polaroid. Mrs Tilly was yanking Freddie, her English springer spaniel’s chain. Freddie had stayed with them earlier in the summer whilst Mrs Tilly went on her annual cruise. It convinced her that this was the year they would get their own for Christmas.
Freddie was doing his best to piss on the graffiti covered broadband box. The Dixon sisters dueled each other in the garden behind it, waving their wands at each other as they ran around the swing. Marlene squinted – the sound started again – and then rolled her eyes. Of course. It was Steve next door.
“That fucking car. Piss on it, go on Freddie, piss on it,” she whispered.
Steve waved up at her and she crumpled back behind the flimsy protection the curtain offered.
The door creaked and Marlene watched her son’s button nose poke out as he edged the door open. He stood in his Arsenal academy tracksuit with his foot on a ball, fixing an Alice band over his shoulder-length black hair. Marlene gazed up at him, remembering how he had clung to his first player of the tournament award in the under 6s, trying to take it to bed with him. The way he stood now, nearly ten years later, resembled the trophy.
“Are you giving me a lift to training today? Or-“ Jacob asked.
“Sorry love, you’ll need to get the bus. Mum’s not feeling too well. Give me a minute and I’ll come make you breakfast.”
“It’s fine. I’ve already had it,” he said, “I’ve left you out a bowl.”
“What time is it?” She asked, looking round at her alarm clock.
“And we’re coming up for 8.30…” Terry answered.
Jacob flipped open his mobile phone.
“Oh shit. I’m sorry,” Marlene said.
“It’s fine, I’ll hop on the bus. It’s a nice day anyway,” Jacob answered, not looking up from his phone.
He lingered in the doorway, snorting at a text message he received before looking up from his phone, “Just remember the tournament tomorrow.”
“Of course. July the 8th. I’ll be there.” She said with a smile.
He nodded.
She gave him a thumbs up and stretched her smile wider.
He returned to his phone, pulling the door closed behind him.
“Just leave the door Jacob, I’ll be two minutes,” Marlene said.
It was another ten minutes before she peeled herself from the muggy room and staggered her way towards the kitchen. Jacob was filling his water bottle. He brushed past her before she could enter. The little jobs she used to do for him now reminded her how hopeless she was at the bigger ones.
“That’s me heading off,” he said.
“Be careful,” she replied, half raising her arms for a hug.
“Always am,” he said, opening the door.
“Go score some worldies!” She said.
“Muuuum,” he replied, leaping out of the door.
“Bye love.” She called after him as his outline melted into the light, her hand hovering over her brow as she squinted.
Back in the kitchen, Marlene pulled down the blind, squeezing out the daylight. Her attention turned to the bottle of vodka perched above the biscuit cupboard. She dragged a chair over and leaned her foot on it. Spread across the back of the chair was one of Jacob’s football tops.
“You are killing me, Jacob,” she said, stepping down off the chair and picking up the jersey. She glanced at the vodka again then held the jersey closer – inhaling the scent of lavender – before sighing and returning it to the chair.
She replaced the chair under the table and turned on the TV. Red bled into the screen as the darkness lifted, revealing the words “Breaking News”.
“It’s thought though, that the incident was caused by a collision between two trains, a power cut or a power cable exploding,” the anchor said.
“Liverpool station is of course one of the busiest hubs, especially during rush hour,” his co-anchor added.
“We’ll let you know more as soon as we get it on this developing story.”
The rest of the report was drowned out by the tap water as she filled a kettle to boil. She grabbed her mug from the drier and rubbed her thumb over the worn print which read ‘Mum in a million’. She dumped the instant coffee in with five teaspoons of sugar. One new message flashed on the answering machine, Marlene listened while she waited for the kettle to boil.
“Hi Marlene, it’s Jenna here from the job centre. Just a quick call about your job seekers meeting we had scheduled for yesterday. If you could give me a call back on-“
“Message deleted.”
As she emptied the contents of the kettle into a mug her attention returned to the report.
“If you’re just joining us, terror has come to London,” the announcer said. “We have reports of three explosions on Underground trains.”
The kettle slipped from her hand as her throat tightened, spilling the remains across the counter and crashing into the sink. Her hand shot to her mouth. Her eyes nipped as tears threatened to well, the nauseous lump that had lingered in her chest climbed into her throat. Marlene rushed to the kitchen phone hanging on the wall, the handset slipped in her clammy hands. She dialed Jacob, her throat growing drier with each number pressed.
Engaged.
Marlene thrashed the handset against the dock, leaving it to swing and strain against the wall. She charged off in search of her mobile, ready to erupt. Cushions rained down on last night’s dinner plates, abandoned on the floor, as she attacked the living room couch. She seized her mobile from the void down the side of the couch. Sweat trickled down her back, as she cycled through the numbers, finding the right letters to text.
“I need you home NOW. Phone me”
Marlene returned to the kitchen and replaced the now lifeless hanging handset on the dock.
The steam from her coffee was absent, sitting on the kitchen table. Marlene draped the sleeves of Jacob’s jersey over her shoulders from the back of the chair. Tapping her foot on the floor, grasping her phone, she willed a response. Her phone trembled, vibrations rippling against her tightening grip.
‘Message failed to send: The message to Jacob failed to send.’
She tossed it across the table.
Pulling the ashtray closer, she plucked a charred cigarette from the ashes and sparked her lighter. Her hand quivered as she drew the last sign of life from the remains. Smoke slivered from her nostrils and the cigarette extinguished.
She laid the cigarette to rest and snatched her mobile, resending the text. The same response:
‘Message failed to send: The message to Jacob failed to send.’
Fumbling through her phonebook, she selected Jacob. She dialled. She waited.
“This is Jake. You know the drill.”
An extended beep followed.
***
Marlene awoke wrapped in red Arsenal bed covers, clutching a bottle of Everyday Vodka. Her head pounded. Each swallow felt like dragging bare feet on the old hall carpet they had replaced a couple of years before.
Her spare arm broke free from her cocoon – glancing the breakfast bowl of cigarette butts – and grabbed her phone. The battery was dead. She watched the clock which hung below a match magazine poster of Thierry Henry. The second hand was stuck, unable to pass fifteen.
“I kept telling him to replace those batteries.”
Her stomach gargled on a cocktail of vodka and hunger. Peeling off the covers, she staggered out of bed, kicking over her ‘Mum in a million’ mug as her feet touched the floor. She heard the hiss of rain behind the undrawn curtains.
The rain followed Marlene as she draped the duvet over her shoulders, rattling along the ceiling as she descended the stairs. She lingered for a moment a few steps from the bottom, remembering how she used to tell Jacob off for jumping onto the new carpet. It felt like a routine the two of them had, an activity they could share with each other. He would apologise and she would scold him; she had almost looked forward to doing it again.
Envelopes were gathering at the door to pay their respects; friends, neighbours and well-wishers. She walked past the fifteen voicemails that looked to do the same in the kitchen. Each cupboard was barren. Inside the fridge lay the remains of a tray bake. Mrs Tilly had brought it over with a cluster of white carnations that now lay discarded, still in their packaging and shrivelling on the counter.
Marlene froze at a chap on the door. She pulled the duvet tighter. Another chap. Her head peeked around the corner. The letter box was held open, she hoicked her neck back behind the wall.
“Mrs Ramsey?” The voice asked. “Mrs Ramsey, my name’s David. I’m a volunteer from the Victim Support organisation. I saw you through the kitchen window, do you mind if I come in and have a quick chat?”
She pulled the door as far as the security chain would let her. He produced identification with a smile and she considered closing the door again.
“Just a second,” Marlene replied. She collected the envelopes and placed them on the kitchen counter.
She returned to the door and removed the security chain. She let the draft ease the door open to invite him in.
He followed the trailing duvet into the living room and presented his hand as she sat, “I’m so sorry for your loss,” he said. She dangled her hand out in response and he shook it. He picked up Jacob’s football jersey before placing his satchel on the couch across from her.
“Was this his?” He asked, sitting down.
Marlene nodded as he held it out. She broke free of the duvet and snatched it. The straggling sleeve dragged a half-eaten Tesco cottage pie container from the table which separated them. He cleared his throat.
“We left you several voice messages but I understand this must be a difficult time for you.”
“There’s some tray bake in the kitchen,” she said as her stomach groaned.
“I-I’m fine, thank you. Mrs Rams-“
“Marlene.”
“Right. Sorry.”
He cleared his throat again.
“I came to chat about the support centre we’ve set up in Westminster. It’s at the Royal Horticultural Hall.”
“Do you know when I can bury him?” She asked.
“I-I’m not really privy to that info, but if you come down to Victim Support-“
“I’m not a victim.”
“Mrs Ramsey-“
“MARLENE!”
He bowed his head. Marlene cradled the jersey, weeping as he placed a contact card on the table. His hand lowered towards her shoulder but she dismissed it.
“This… clearly isn’t- I’m sorry, Marlene. We’ll be in touch again, but please, don’t hesitate to contact us. Our details are on that card. Come and visit us. We’re here to help.” He got to his feet. “Goodbye Marlene, please take care,” he said, stepping on the cottage pie container as he left.
She waited for the front door to close before lifting the jersey to her nose, inhaling. The smell of stale smoke slithered into her nostrils – forcing her to pull it away. Sniffing, she laid Jacob’s jersey to rest on the couch.
Tears dripped from her chin onto the container as she collected it – carrying it through to the kitchen – and placing it at the top of the bin, overflowing with flowers and food. Her attention turned to the letters lying above the bin on the counter. The seal of the envelope on top was flimsily clinging to the back, begging her to tear it open. Inside was a condolence card from Jacob’s coach with the new team photo, signed by the rest of the team. Tears trickled onto the photo, she wiped them away with her thumb, resting it over Jacob’s face.
Discarding the card and envelope, she clutched the photo and opened the cleaning cupboard under the sink. Marlene stretched back behind a mountain of cloths and unused Mr Muscle to grab a bottle of Everyday Vodka. She placed the photo on the counter and tried to unscrew the bottle. There was a knock on the door. The lid grated against her palm as she twisted. Another knock at the door, she tightened her grip. The ribbing burned her skin and she sent the bottle crashing across the kitchen. The front door opened as she sunk to the floor, holding her knees and burying her stinging eyes between her legs.
“Marlene?!” It was Steve. “Marlene are you alright?!”
Glass crunched at the kitchen door and she raised her head.
“What happened?” He asked.
She sniffed in response.
He stepped around the debris and sat next to Marlene, wrapping an arm around her. Her tears formed a dark patch on his sleeve. Finally, she raised her head, the tears plugged by her constant sniffs.
“Sorry,” she said, as he removed his arm.
“Don’t worry about it,” he said. “What happened?”
“I was… I was trying to read some of the cards and I just… I don’t deserve this sympathy.”
“Of course you do.”
“But it’s my fault.”
“How can it be your fault?” He asked.
Her eyes followed the creeping sunlight, unfolding across the floor and lingered on the remains of the vodka, “Because.”
“Marlene, I’m not here to preach at you or tell you it’ll get better. I can’t begin to imagine what you’re going through, but you’ve got to give yourself the best chance to get better. Blaming yourself, isn’t the way.”
“That sounded a little preachy, Steve.” She spluttered.
“Fine, but give it a shot. Your neighbours are here for you, whatever you need.”
“I chased a guy from Victim Support ten minutes ago,” she said.
“I know, he came knocking on my door asking me to see you.”
“Oh.”
“Give them a chance. Give us a chance.”
She got to her feet, collecting the team photo, “Can I ask you a favour then?”
“Of course.” He answered, standing.
“Do you mind, getting that awful car of yours and taking me to their centre in Westminster?”
***
Steam rose as the sun baked the road ahead. The exhaust popped and spluttered as Marlene dragged her fingers along her jeans, clawed at her pockets and chewed her fingers nails. She felt a cold sweat emerge across her forehead. They passed a group of boys kicking the ball around in a park. Her attention lingered on the rear view mirror, on the park and the empty back seat it reflected, before resting her head against the window and closing her eyes.

 

 

Critical Analysis
This short story falls into the genre of historiographic fiction, existing on the fringes of history. I was interested in how ‘The Dark Room’ tackled the war and considered how I might be able to do something similar in a more contemporary setting. I chose to expand upon a homework exercise on the London bombings on July 7th 2005 because I felt there was scope to explore something on the periphery of that event.
I transcribed and adapted an intro to the ‘Wake up to Wogan’ radio show from June 2005. Wogan had been named in the New Year’s honours list and the Olympics had been awarded to London the previous day, this gives a hint at the time-frame without being explicit. It also enabled me to insert some foreshadowing into the story. I adopted segments from the actual Sky News broadcast coverage, where the initial incidents had been reported as an electrical fault, a collision or a power failure. This allowed a small window where the reader will likely know what is going to happen, creating some tension as Marlene carries out some simple tasks and reveals a little more about her life which is going to be changed dramatically.
I wanted the initial focus to be on a mother and son whose relationship was straining. Jacob was growing up and becoming more independent, Marlene was slipping deeper into alcoholism and becoming less reliable. Her awareness of this only serves to hasten her decline. When writing Marlene I felt that she would find some hope. It felt unrealistic that she would conquer her alcoholism, and by extension the guilt from her failure to her son by the conclusion. However, I felt she would find the desire to battle those demons in the face of the tragic event.

‘Happy Meal’

FADE IN:

 

EXT. MOTORWAY – NIGHT

Establishing shot of blurry, unfocused vehicle lights on a
busy motorway as they pass under the camera. Rain is
attacking the vehicles. A truck changes lanes as it
approaches the camera. The blue blur of an ambulance blasts
down the outside lane on the left. The truck pulls right
and comes into focus briefly as it slips out of shot onto
an exit ramp which leads to the service station.

 

INT. TRUCK – NIGHT

The driver’s silhouette contrasts with the truck’s lights
illuminating the road outside. The weather is obstructive.
The wind is sweeping and the rain is lashing the
windscreen, the wipers work furiously. Light pushes the
darkness back as the truck emerges at the service station.
Passing a busy public parking bay, the truck approaches its
empty designated area.

 

EXT. SERVICE STATION – NIGHT

On the left is the service station, the right the gas
station. There is a sense of perpetual motion, cars and
trucks are arriving and departing frequently, people are
hurrying to and from their cars. The truck is segregated,
isolated from the normal parking area. ADAM, 30 years old,
with an untidy beard, sits with his forehead leaning
against the top of the steering wheel.

 

INT. TRUCK – NIGHT

ADAM opens his log book, there are ticks next to the last
five days, four more remain without ticks. Written across
the weekend is the word “FREEDOM”. He discards the book
with visible disdain onto the floor. The inside of the
truck is a mess, papers and leaflets litter the cabin. On
the seat next to him is a recruitment agency leaflet and
several job advertisements are circled in a newspaper.
Above the windscreen is a family photo of ADAM, he’s
wearing a novelty hat with ear flaps. His wife SOPHIE and
their son AJ, who is dressed as BUZZ LIGHTYEAR, are also in
the photo. ADAM clicks his phone screen and it reads “10
MISSED CALLS FROM SOPHIE”. He puffs his cheeks and selects
to call her. His head is bowed and he constricts his body,
huddling into himself. We only hear ADAM in this call and a
muffled, almost distorted female voice – SOPHIE’s words are
indistinguishable.

ADAM
Hey Soph, it’s me. How are you?
How’s AJ doing?
(then)
I’m sorry, work hit me hard
yesterday.

ADAM’s left hand grips the steering wheel tightly.

ADAM (CONT’D)
Of course I wouldn’t – you know
how busy it can get.

His hand caresses the horn at first, but as he listens he
enters an almost trance like state and he pushes harder,
setting it off in response.

ADAM (CONT’D)
(Flustered)
What? No! I’m not driving. I just
bumped the stupid horn.
(beat)
It’s only a few more days…

ADAM sighs turning at a steering wheel which is now locked,
trapped in place.

ADAM (CONT’D)
We always manage.
(then)
Is AJ there?
(then)
Sure. I don’t mind. I guess I’ll
call back before I leave.

ADAM (CONT’D)
Yeah. Love you.

He holds his phone in front of the steering wheel. The
light on the phone dims, the background is a picture of
him, clean shaven, and SOPHIE. The phone screen darkens
completely.

ADAM puts on the hat he’s wearing in the family photo and
exits the truck.

INT. SERVICE STATION – NIGHT

ADAM walks through the left side of the service station.
Exiting on the right as he enters is a family of five. ADAM
watches the family as they pass. The husband and wife are
holding hands, the family are a unit and they interact
harmoniously. One of the children, a young girl of no more
than six years of age, with blonde pig tails and a pink
dress points at ADAM.

GIRL
Look Daddy, look at his hat!

ADAM pokes his tongue out at the girl and pulls the ear
flaps. The girl giggles, the father gives a nod of
appreciation and the family pass. They are followed by a
couple, with a man holding his arm around the woman. She’s
leaning in close to him. He looks at his phone background.
Distracting himself.

When he looks up he notices an advertisement. He approaches
it, it reads “IDEAL FAMILY HOLIDAY PACKAGES”. We see ADAM’s
reflection in the plastic covering over the advertisement.
The family in the advertisement look ecstatic, harmonious,
like the family he just passed. His reflection shows his
misery.

He approaches the fast food court but before entering he
stops, noticing some BUZZ LIGHTYEAR’s in a claw crane
vending machine filled with toys. He puts a pound in and
starts playing. The first attempt comes up empty handed.
He’s visibly irritated, shaking his head as though the
machine is the against him. In his next attempt the machine
hooks the head of a BUZZ LIGHTYEAR but the toy falls before
it barely lifts from the floor. ADAM’s short lived joy
transitions to anguish. His third and final turn sees him
clutch a BUZZ LIGHTYEAR’s arm and lift it from the ground.
The claw lifts it towards the exit slot but the arm starts
to slip, the claw loses its grip and the toy slips through
its grasp. ADAM fumes and aggressively hits the machine
with the bottom of his palm. The noise takes him by
surprise and he has a quick look around as he shuffles off
sheepishly into the food court.

 

INT. FAST FOOD COURT – NIGHT

ADAM glares at the customer in front of him on his phone.
He’s boring a hole in the back of the customers head, his
frustration is visible, he strokes and scratches at his
beard, it’s almost tangible,

CUSTOMER
Babe, it was the chicken nuggets
you wanted, right?

ADAM crosses his arms, still staring.

CUSTOMER (CONT’D)
And a strawberry milkshake, my
love?
(then)
I’ll be back out in five minutes.
Love you.

ADAM turns his head away, rolling his eyes and thrusting
his arms out to each side in frustration.

CUSTOMER (CONT’D)
Love ya babe.

Customer hangs up his phone.

CUSTOMER (CONT’D)
Did you get that, yeah? Thank you
so much.

ADAM moves to the front of the queue.

ADAM
I’ll have a Happy Meal with a diet
coke, please.

ADAM (CONT’D)
With extra cheese.

 

INT. – FAST FOOD COURT – NIGHT

ADAM places his tray down at an empty table of four. There
are several families sitting at other tables. They
comfortably outnumber three other men, like ADAM, sitting
at empty tables.

He pauses before he starts to eat his meal, watching the
customer who was ahead of him in the queue rushing out into
the main area of the service station, nearly juggling the
meals and drinks he purchased. He shakes his head and
smiles wryly. ADAM spots a Father and his son at the
machine he was playing outside the food hall. They
celebrate and hug as the Dad produces a BUZZ LIGHTYEAR from
the machine for his son. ADAM takes an emphatic bite out of
his burger.

ADAM puts his burger down and removes the toy from his
Happy Meal, examining it briefly before taking another
bite. He then takes his wedding ring off and holds it up.
It’s as if he’s appraising it’s value. Is this job worth
the cost? He spins it on the table, it wobbles slowly
towards stopping flat on the table, flirting with the end.

Just before it does, he swipes it and puts it back on his
finger.

He holds the toy from the Happy Meal in one hand as he
empties the remains of the meal into a bin and exits the
fast food court. Before leaving the service station he
checks his phone again, lingering on the background of him
and SOPHIE before snapping a photo of the holiday
advertisement and sending it to her.

 

INT – TRUCK – NIGHT

ADAM leaps into his truck and slams the door shut. The rain
has subsided. His breath lingers. He places the toy next to
a row of other, similar, happy meal toys on the dashboard.
He phones SOPHIE again. This time we see and hear her. This
signifies that this conversation will be the beginning of
the end of ADAM’s familial isolation, triggered by the idea
of this holiday. It’s time find another job, to reward
themselves, time to enjoy being a family instead of working
in isolation to exist. The two are communicating. We get a
side-by-side, split screen view of the two.

ADAM
Heya Soph.

Adam is relaxed, he holds the picture of the family in his
left hand.

SOPHIE
What’s this picture you sent me?

Sophie is sitting with AJ on her lap, combing his hair
while he watches an iPad.

ADAM
Budget holidays. I saw the ad’ and
I think we should book one.

SOPHIE
Adam… are you sure we can?

ADAM
We deserve it.

Beat.

SOPHIE
Lets discuss it more when you get
home then.

ADAM
Just think, the three of us on the
beach…

SOPHIE
He’d still make you wear the hat.

They share a laugh.

ADAM
Is he there?

Sophie offers the phone to AJ.

SOPHIE
AJ, Daddy’s on the phone, want to
say hello?

AJ glances at Sophie

AJ
DADDY!

Then returns his attention to the iPad.

SOPHIE
Looks like that’s all you’re
getting.

ADAM
(raising his voice)
I’ll see you at the weekend big
guy!

SOPHIE
Drive safe Adam. Love from us
both.

ADAM
I love you too.

The split screen lingers as they both hang up. SOPHIE
kisses the top of AJ’s head, her eyes widen and she pulls
him in tighter. ADAM returns the photo to its spot above
the windscreen. The split screen is gone. We see his
reflection as he looks at himself with the hat on,
grinning. ADAM picks up the circled job advertisements and
dials a number.

 

END

‘Everything we’ve ever missed’

 

As I watch the opening title scroll,

The memory floods back,

 

He approached us in a flurry,

Where are you? we wonder but I dare not tread,

Into the water. I ask around instead

but no answer drowns my worry.

 

Time drips by neither fast nor slow,

Inevitably the answer we didn’t want to show.

Though you lingered, in the shallow blue;

they said no pain, nor fear had troubled you.

 

Robbed of a future by fickle fate.

You had the Heart to run,

But Here it stopped, in the sun.

The idyllic lake, I need to hate.

 

I wonder who will run the shop,

Before I tell myself to stop.

What about your younger brother?

A situation like no other.

 

One final moment left to share,

I will those eyes to open and stare.

 

The credits close and no loophole,

No final scene and no comeback.

‘Bright Eyes’

Anna parked outside her home. The Sun left a red trail behind as it slumped down the sky and into cover behind the trees which cocooned the cottage. She adjusted the rear view mirror, taking a wipe to remove any make-up that remained, pulling at the bags under her eyes. She ran her fingers through her hair a couple of times and revealed a necklace from underneath her jumper before nodding in the mirror.

“Can’t believe I’m wearing this thing.” She said.

The wind battered the car door as she battled to leave. The trees around the house brawled with one another unable to hold onto their faded façade of green and brown, soon there would be nothing left to hide their shame.

She stood at the head of the path which the surrounding grass smothered as it hissed at her approach.

The porch welcomed her with a reluctant creek. She paused at the doorbell before pulling a key from her pocket, the keyring missing its photo, and unlocked the door.

Barging past three suitcases she ignored the stairs as she entered the house, instead heading into the living room. The windows howled as she entered, clouds were confronting the sunset. Framed memories of smiles and hugs judged her every step.

She approached the mantelpiece and examined a vase which held captive some drooping flowers, drained of colour. She rubbed the stock between two fingers which prompted petals to drip into the embers of the fireplace below.

Anna looked at the mirror which hung from the wall. Her grip tightened around the vase as she caught sight of a picture of Mark and David which hung on the opposite side and she launched it across the room crashing into the wall. The picture remained, defiant, as pieces of glass clung to the wall. She stared at the picture as the trickles down her cheeks grew into streams.

“This isn’t my fault, it isn’t!” She said.

“Mum?” Asked a face half hidden by the doorway.

“Oh David, I’m so happy to see you!” She said.

David recoiled as Anna approached but she snatched him up, clutching him close at her shoulder.

“I’m sorry Mum.“ He said, trying to separate from her.

“It’s okay, David.” She said, pulling him in for a hug.

“Are you going to leave?”

“Leave?” She asked, yet to release him.

“Dad packed your clothes up.”

“Your Dad’s just a bit confused, David. It’ll be fine. Mum’s here now.”

As she separated from David, Anna looked past him into the mirror hanging on the wall. A sliver of smoke rose from the fire below, the last of the petals had been consumed.

“Put him down.”

“Mark, I-“

“Put him down, Anna.”

“Right, yes.” Anna replied, freeing David.

He scuttled across to Mark’s side, facing Anna and revealing a dark circle which consumed his eye before hiding behind Mark’s leg.

“David, why don’t you head up to your room while Mum and Dad talk?” He said, ruffling David’s hair.

David fled the room and Mark entered, leaving the door open.

“Mark, I’m sorry.” She said.

“David doesn’t know that. He still thinks he did something to deserve it.”

“I’ll make it up to you both, I promise.”

“This isn’t like missing a school play! You can’t click your fingers and make things fall back into place!”

Pieces of glass slipped from the wall and onto the floor.

“God damn it Anna! You can’t even control yourself around a fucking vase! How are you supposed to be a parent?!”

“I’m not a good parent but I want to be.” She said, moving closer to Mark who stood arms folded.

“And you thought by turning up here and what, smashing a vase and trying to smash a picture would show that? You’re crazy.”

“Give me a chance, one more chance. Help me get past this, we can get through it.”

Anna placed her hand on his wrist.

“I don’t believe you.” He said, swiping her hand away.

“I can be better, I don’t want to lose David.”

“You lost him the moment you lay a hand on him like that.”

“I’m sorry. I know it’s my fault, what else do you want me to say? To do?”

Mark slammed the living room door and it rebounded open.

“There’s nothing you can do. It’s not safe to have you around him.”

“Mum? Dad? What’s going on?!” David asked.

“Nothing, Anna’s leaving now.” Mark said.

He grabbed hold of her wrist now and dragged her out of the living room.

“Let me go you piece of shit!”

Mark opened the door. By now it was raining heavily. He threw two of the suitcases outside before opening another and throwing the contents to the whipping winds outside which littered the garden with garments. Anna crashed into him as she raced outside, trying to collect each piece of clothing.

Lightning split the warring clouds for a moment’s truce as the sky roared. David sat at the bottom of the stairs, unmoved, wrapping his arms around his knees as he watched.