The third excerpt will be posted on the 26th April so stay tuned!
Dad pulls my bag out of the boot and walks towards
the house, whistling, keys in hand. Mum and Amy get
out of the car, then turn back when I don’t follow.
‘Come along, Kyla.’ Mum’s voice is impatient.
I push at the door, hard and then harder, but
nothing happens. I look up at Mum, my stomach
beginning to twist as the look on her face matches her tone.
Then Amy opens the door from the outside. ‘You
pull this handle down, on the inside of the door, and
then push it open. All right?’
She shuts the door again, and I grasp the handle
and do as she says. The door swings open and step
out, glad to straighten my legs and stretch after so
long in the car. One hour had turned to three due to
traffic delays and diversions, and had Mum getting
more annoyed as each one passed.
Mum grabs my wrist. ‘Look. 4.4 just because she can’t work out a door. God, this is going to be hard
And I want to object, say that is unfair and it isn’t
the door but how you are being about it. But I don’t
know what I should or shouldn’t say. Instead I say
nothing and bite the inside of my cheek, hard.
Amy slips an arm across my shoulders as Mum
follows Dad inside. ‘She doesn’t mean it; she’s just
cranky that your first dinner is going to be late.
Anyhow, you haven’t been in a car before, have you?
How should you know?’
She pauses and I don’t know what to say, again, but
this time it is because she is being nice. So I try a smile, a small one, but it is for real this time.
Amy smiles back and hers is wider. ‘Have a look
around before we go in?’ she says.
Where the car is parked to the right of the house is
all small stones that crunch and move underfoot as we walk. A square of green grass covers the front garden, a massive tree – oak? – to the left. Its leaves are a mix of yellow, orange and red, some spilling messily underneath. Leaves fall in autumn I remind myself, and what is it now? The 13th of September. There are a few red and pink straggly flowers either side of the front door, petals dropping on the ground. And, all around me, so much space. So quiet after the hospital, and London. I stand on the grass and breathe the cool air in deep. It tastes damp and full of life and the ending of life, like those fallen leaves.
‘Come in?’ Amy says, and I follow her through the
front door into the hall. Leading off it is a room with
sofas and lamps, tables. A huge flat black screen
dominates one wall. A TV? It is much bigger than the one they had in recreation at the hospital, not that they let me near it after the first time. Watching made my nightmares worse.
This room leads to another: there are long work
surfaces, with cupboards above and below. And a
massive oven that Mum is bending over just now,
putting a pan inside.
‘Go to your room and unpack before dinner, Kyla,’
Mum says, and I jump.
Amy takes my hand. ‘This way,’ she says, and pulls
me back to the hall. I follow her up the stairs, to
another hall with three doors and more stairs going up.
‘We’re on this floor, Mum and Dad upstairs. See,
this is my door.’ She points to the right. ‘That one at
the end is the bathroom, we’ll share. They have their own one upstairs. And this is your room.’ She points left.
I look at Amy.
The door is part open; I push it and go in.
Much bigger than my hospital room. My bag is
already on the floor where Dad must have put it. There is a dressing table with drawers and a mirror above it, a wardrobe next. No sink. A big wide window that looks out over the front of the house.
Amy comes in and sits on one of them. ‘We thought we’d put two in here to start with; I can stay with you at night if you want me to. The nurse said it might be a good idea, until you get settled.’
She doesn’t say the rest but I can tell. They must
have told them. In case I have nightmares. I often do and if no one is there fast enough when I wake, I drop too low and my Levo knocks me out.
I sit on the other bed. There is something round, black and furry on it; I reach out a hand, then stop.
‘Go on. That is Sebastian, our cat. He is very
I touch his fur lightly with a fingertip. Warm, and soft.
He stirs, and the ball unwinds as he stretches out his paws, puts his head back and yawns.
I have seen pictures of cats before, of course. But
this is different. He is so much more than a flat image: living and breathing fishy breath, silky fur rippling as he stretches, big yellow-green eyes staring back into mine.
‘Meow,’ he says and I jump.
Amy gets up, leans across.
‘Stroke him, like this,’ she says, and runs a hand
along his fur from his head down to his tail. I copy her, and he makes a sound, a deep rumbling that vibrates from his throat through his body.
‘What is that?’
‘He’s purring. It means he likes you.’
Later it is dark out the window, and Amy is asleep
across the room. Sebastian still purrs faintly beside me when I stroke him. The door is part open for the cat, and sounds drift up the stairs. Clattering kitchen noises. Voices.
‘She’s a quiet little thing, isn’t she.’ Dad.
‘You can say that again. Nothing like Amy was: she
wouldn’t stop giggling and talking from the first day
she came through the door, would she?’
‘Still won’t,’ he says, and laughs.
‘She is a different girl, all right. A bit odd if you ask
me; those great green eyes just stare and stare.’
‘Oh, she is quite sweet. Give her a chance to get
‘It is her last chance, isn’t it.’
And a door shuts downstairs and I hear no more.
Just a faint murmur.
I hadn’t wanted to leave the hospital. Not that I
wanted to stay there forever, but within those walls, I knew where I was. How I fit, what was expected.
Here all is unknown.
But it isn’t as scary as I thought. Already I can see
Amy is lovely. Dad seems all right. I’m guessing
Sebastian will be better than chocolate to pull me back from the edge if I get low. And the food is much better.
My first Sunday roast dinner. We do this every week, Amy said.
Dinner and, not a shower, but a bath – a whole hot
tub to soak in – had me at nearly 7 by bedtime.
Mum thinks I am odd. I must remember not to stare at her so much.
Sleep settles around me and her words drift through my brain.
Have I had other chances?
Waves claw at the sand under my feet as I force one foot
to pound after the other, again and again. Ragged breath
sucked in and out until my lungs might burst, and still I run.
Golden sand gives way under my feet and stretches on and on
as far as my eyes can see, and still I scrabble up and slip down
Terror snaps at my heels.
It’s getting closer.
I could turn and face it, see what it is.
‘Ssssh, I’ve got you.’
I struggle then realise it is Amy whose arms are around me.
The door opens and light streams in from the hall.
‘What is going on?’ Mum says.
Amy answers. ‘Just a bad dream, but you’re all
right, now. Aren’t you, Kyla?’
My heart rate is slowing; vision, clearing. I push her away.
‘Yes. I’m fine.’
I say the words, but part of me is still running.