All Of A Sudden

By Cath Staincliffe

Cath Staincliffe

It wasn’t planned.
It came unbidden.
Rage, a huge roaring wave.
Heat in her head.
Blow after blow.

Then it was done, the tide draining away. Leaving Amy beached, sick and trembling.

She went upstairs, away from the mess and sat on her bed. Mind scattered. Shying away from memory and images, lighting instead on the anaglypta paper, a weave of crosshatched lines. On the curtains, printed polyester, brown and orange cubes.
Indestructible. She used to count them. Counting away the minutes.

Twenty-three years.
Ugly all of it.

She shivered though the room was warm. Smelled of dust baking in the heat, of sleep-filled sheets, of blood.
Her eyes fell on the bare patch in the corner, where the paper had been picked away. The taste of it. Slamming the lid on that, she lay back and watched the sunbeams pierce the gap at the top of the curtains, making rainbows on the ceiling.

Amy curled up and slept heavily, like a tired dog.
In her dreams she wasn’t hungry, or in pain, wasn’t stretched with tension tight as a drum, didn’t ache with misery.

Waking to such disappointment.

Early morning.
Outside, the streetlights glare at the terraced row, at the dozing cars and the broken pavements.
Mam calls up, shrill, angry. Always angry. Bile in her heart, in the marrow of her bones.
That can’t be right. Mam calling.
Amy turns her hands this way and that. Clean. And no blood stains on her clothes.

She pulls an extra jumper from the cupboard. Ignoring the stale smell of cooking fat and cigarettes and sweat. The smell that set her apart at school, earned her nasty names and punches and hair pulling. Worse when she started her periods. Paper towels in her knickers.
Before that, aged nine, she’d tried to wash her school sweater (free school uniform, free school dinners) in the bath with washing up liquid. It took days to dry, hung from a bent coat hanger in her room.
She got black marks for going in without full uniform.
Mrs Harris, the classroom assistant, found her a spare in lost property and said she could keep it.

Downstairs Mam, propped up in bed, screws up her mouth and wrinkles her nose.
‘Look at the state of you, something the cat dragged in. Or sicked up. What’ve you got to be so bloody miserable about? You live here scot free, not worked a day in your life, have you? You’ll not manage without me when I’m gone. Get the kettle on then, I’m perished.’

Amy stares at the fire irons, redundant beside the halogen heater on the hearth.
‘You deaf as well as stupid?’

The poker in its place. Exactly like yesterday, except then the sun was high.

‘Carer? You couldn’t care less. What will you do when I’m gone? Bloody useless. What’ll you do, eh?’

This, Amy thinks, as she lifts the poker.
The fury boils.
And this.
And this.

Read more about Cath Staincliffe here

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