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A Bad Decision

She was upstairs hanging up some washing when the phone rang. She ran down, two steps at a time, and went into the dining room. Late afternoon sun streamed through the windows, and she watched the dust motes catch the light as he spoke. He said his name was Brett. They’d met at the cricket club; did she remember him? She didn’t but said yes anyway so as not to appear rude. He said he’d like to take her for a drink. She was flattered to be asked and so, without hesitation, said yes. He said he’d pick her up the following day at four. She put the phone back in its cradle and reflected on what had just happened. Odd, she thought, and then felt pleased that he had a car. None of her friends were yet seventeen so she rarely got to go anywhere that wasn’t on a bus. This could be fun. She struggled to choose what to wear but, in the end decided upon her tight black t-shirt and her baggy, faded jeans. She looked at herself critically in the mirror but was pleased with what she saw. She appeared confident. She was going out for a drink with an older man, in his car. She felt attractive and daring. It was a good job her parents were away because they would never approve. As four approached she felt increasingly nervous. What was she doing? She didn’t even know this guy. She tried to sit down and watch tv but found herself constantly flitting between the lounge and the dining room. Anxiously looking out for his car. He turned up when he said he would and beeped his horn. She took a deep breath, left the house, opened the car door, and climbed into the passenger seat. She tried to decide whether she recognised him and concluded, regretfully, that she didn’t. He told her she looked nice, that he was pleased she’d agreed to go for a drink with him. She tried to sound equally enthusiastic in her responses. He took her to a pub about half an hour’s drive from her home. It occurred to her that if she wanted to get home under her own steam she would struggle. She pushed it to the back of her mind and tried to concentrate on what he was saying. As they entered the pub he looked swiftly around, as if checking for something, and then quickly suggested they sit outside. What did she want to drink? A vodka and orange. He brought her a double. They sat outside in the sunshine and chatted. He told her things that made her feel sexy; grown up. He’d noticed her when she played pool. Thought her provocative as she leaned over the table to take a shot. She felt vaguely intimidated but tried to ignore it. Another drink? A vodka and orange. He brought her a triple. She tried to concentrate on his words, but her head felt fuzzy. The sun was hot against her skin. She wished she hadn’t worn black. She felt out of control. Her heart fluttered in her chest. Perhaps saying yes to him was a bad decision. He suggested that they go and sit in the field behind the pub. He had some champagne in his car. She tried to say no, that she’d had enough to drink but he was pursuasive. One more won’t hurt, just relax, enjoy yourself. She reluctantly agreed. He told her to drink the champagne straight from the bottle. She told him she was fine; she didn’t want any, but he insisted. She was no longer feeling confident enough to argue. The hot sun was beating down on her face, she closed her eyes against the brightness and lay down on the grass. Just for a moment she told herself. She felt so sleepy. She woke up when he undid her jeans. Lift, he commanded. She woozily did as she was told and then closed her eyes again. Drifting back into the darkness gratefully. The next time she came to he was thrusting into her, grunting. She tried to summon her voice. Just say it she told herself. It came out thickly, as if her tongue were too big for her mouth. Stop. He ignored her. Carried on thrusting and grunting. She suddenly started to sober up. She decided to change tack. Could he use a condom? He told her not to worry. He wouldn’t come inside her. She wondered what would happen if she screamed. Would anyone hear her? She didn’t try. Eventually it was over. He looked through her briefly, held his cock, and came jerkily over her bare stomach. The sun beat down on her skin. She could feel beads of sweat on her forehead. Her armpits felt sticky. He suddenly got a lot nicer. The gruff, forcefulness of his tone changed. He sounded needy. Embarrassed. He got a tissue from his car and gave it to her so she could clean herself up. Was she ready to go home? She said she was. They stopped off at the off licence. He replaced the bottle of champagne she had been encouraged to drink and bought her forty cigarettes. Momentarily she was grateful but then it occurred to her; it was payment. She concluded that it was a very bad decision after all.

“Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.”
Bernice Johnson Reagon

These are the stories that made me.

The Clinic

They told their parents they needed to go to London for school project and left early to catch a train. They kept their conversation light; a boy her friend fancied, the party they were planning to go to at the weekend, their recently started A-Levels. She clutched the address in her hand, preoccupied more by the confidentially surrounding the location than what she was going to do there, what was about to happen. They eventually found the street. A wide, tree lined road of imposing Victorian villas, small front gardens overflowing with flowers. The air was heavy with the scent of late summer though the sky was overcast. Fitting, she thought. They hesitated at the gate and then approached the heavy front door and rang the doorbell. There was no indication on the outside, of the business contained within its walls. She confirmed her name over the intercom and told them the password she had been told to remember. They entered a waiting room; heavy, old fashioned armchairs in muted velvets lined the walls. A neat pile of magazines sat on the glass coffee table. They were the only ones there. They exchanged a nervous glance, raised their eyebrows, but didn’t speak. Eventually a woman came in and called her name and they said goodbye. She resisted the temptation to run out after her friend. To pretend once again that this wasn’t happening to her. They took her to a small office and she sat opposite them, across a desk. They explained to her the process, the details, the consequences. Did she understand what she was agreeing to do? She nodded mutely. Not enough. They needed verbal confirmation that she still wanted to go ahead with this. She said she did. They took her to another room, this one more like a ward; high ceilings, four beds. They asked her to change into a gown and put her clothes and bag into the locker by the bed. Her tummy rumbled. She tried not to shake. She lay in the bed, waiting; trying not to think. They brought her a pill and some water. “Here’s some Valium, to help you to relax”. She swallowed it gratefully. She waited. Eventually they came back and asked her to get into a wheelchair. “It’s ok, I can walk”, she said. “No, it’s better that you sit”. They wheeled her into the corridor, into the lift and into a sterile, white room, medical implements on the worktop. The doctor greeted her kindly and told her he was going to give her an injection. He told her that she should count backwards from ten. She looked away as the needle peirced her skin. “10, 9, 8, 7...” When she came to she felt as if she was lying at the bottom of the ocean. Sounds and sensations were muffled and far away. Someone was sobbing. She checked her thoughts carefully. Trying to work out how she felt. A nurse came and said her name. She would have to open her eyes. They felt heavy, weighed down by more than the remnants of the general anaesthetic seeping through her system. How did she feel? She felt overwhelming relief. She hadn’t died on the operating table. It was over. No one else need ever know.

“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”
Dr Suess

These are the stories that made me.

An erotic moment

They met at the esso garage one summer. She was sixteen, he nineteen. He worked the late shift. He wasn’t like the boys she knew at school. He was smart, and funny, and slightly dangerous. He lived in a two bedroomed flat in town with his Mum. He didn’t seem to be governed by the same discipline as her school friends. One night she bumped into him in Cinderellas. She had gone with a friend; taking advantage of the fact that her parents had gone away for the weekend. When ‘Tainted Love’ came on at the end of the night, and she watched him dance with an abandon not demonstrated by the other boys, she decided to invite him and his friend back to her parents’ house. On arriving home, they made some food and then sat down in the lounge. She turned the lights off and they started to watch a film. They sat. As she fizzed with the anticipation of what might happen, he took her hand. Very gently he started to trace around her fingers with his. Stroking, caressing, teasing. The film; their friends; faded into the background. Her entire body tensed. All her focus was on her hand. Nothing could penetrate. She shivered. She felt both hot and cold. Every time he touched, she tingled. She could have remained in that bubble forever. Revelling in the anticipation. The promise. The film ended in time. The lights went on and they went upstairs to bed and made love. She doesn't like to remember what happened in the weeks that followed. Particularly the crushing disappointment she felt when she encountered him holding hands with another girl, after avoiding her phonecalls for days. She does like to remember the magic of his touch. On her hand. In the dark.

“Sometimes to be seen, is the same as being saved.”
Mary Rakow

These are the stories that made me.

The Look

She kept her eyes pressed tightly shut and tried to assimilate to being awake; the threads of her dreams still lingering. She’d dreamt of him again. A quiet presence off to the side; present but not participating. She wondered if she felt comforted by it, or whether it saddened her. A tug on the duvet brought her into the present moment and she glanced quickly to the other pillow. The pillow was empty. Relieved, she switched her attention to her daughter, shifting along and lifting the duvet so she could clamber in and nestle in the crook of her arm. As usual her daughter launched into a conversation that had seemingly started moments or even days before, leaving her to fill in the missing blanks and try and fathom what she was talking about before she could formulate a response. “So, can I have Zoe, Amelie, Lucy, and Libby Mummy? And can we have party food at the stables? And games?” Of course, the birthday party. Her birthday still over a month away, her daughter always started planning well in advance and the friends she decided to invite seemed to change daily depending upon who she’d played with and what they’d said about inviting her to their own parties. It was exhausting trying to keep up with the ins and outs of her daughter’s friendships and being terrible with names didn’t help. “We can have a horse party, can’t we? I’ve told Zoe and Amelie and Lucy said she’d definitely be able to come. Can we get the invites today after school?” She sighed. No doubt giving in to their daughter’s own demands about a party would be considered indulgent. She’d have to try and think of a way of raising it that made it sound like it had been her idea, or better still his. She’d think about it at work and try and bring it up later, after he’d had a glass of wine. “I don’t know honey; I’ll talk to Daddy later.” Her daughter nodded, seemingly satisfied with that, and snuggled into her chest, hugging her tightly. Still and quiet it gave her a moment back to find her earlier thoughts. She felt comforted she decided; like she was being cared for from a distance. She felt that if she’d needed him, he’d have made his presence felt. She didn’t need him. Her daughter wriggled next to her, and she forced herself to leave him and think about the day ahead. Her husband was in the shower. She’d need a shower too, but she’d better get downstairs and get breakfast for the children first. She’d been too tired last night to make the sandwiches, so she ought to do that. The thought of slicing the bread and making up some tuna mayonnaise seemed like a huge and horrible task. Perhaps she could ‘forget’ and they would have to have school dinners instead. She’d paid for a set number of meals so she wouldn’t have to worry about adding more on until the end of the month. She realised suddenly how uncomfortable she felt. Her hips ached and her tummy was crampy, probably due to the laxative she’d taken in desperation last night. She ached to stretch and rub her tummy, to bring her knees up to her chest, pull over the covers and sink back into sleep. Perhaps she could find him there again. But her daughter was quiet beside her, if she stayed still she may have a few more minutes with her own thoughts. “Mummy, I’m hungry.” “Okay sweetie let’s get up and get you some breakfast. Cereal?” “I don’t like cereal.” “Okay then. How about toast and chocolate spread?” “I don’t like toast.” She sighed. How could someone so small and sweet be so stubborn and contrary? She liked cereal and toast yesterday. “What do you want for breakfast?” “Pancakes.” She pondered for a moment. If she opted for school dinners and used the dry shampoo instead of showering, she’d probably have time to make the pancakes. She had had vague notions last night of waking early and cooking breakfast for all of them together. She’d thought that would stop her from thinking she wasn’t hungry and then limiting herself to staying that way or having to buy a chocolate bar at work for her own breakfast. She knew she ought to try and eat more healthily if she wanted a chance of slimming down her belly a bit. Her husband had made a number of comments recently about the tightness of dresses she had chosen for work, and she knew he was right. It did make her look like she was pregnant again. Not that that would be a bad thing. She’d love another baby; to have a new bundle of neediness to give her focus. You don’t have time to question anything when there’s a baby demanding all your time and attention. You do and then you sleep. Still, it was pointless thinking about it. Her husband had declared their family complete after her daughter was born and had insisted she sort out proper birth control. They had one of each. The fact that she’d wanted a third was of no consequence. “Mummy, I’m hungry.” Right, pancakes. She nudged her daughter to the edge of the bed and pushed her upright. “Okay, go and ask your brother if he wants some too.” She pulled herself up with more energy than she thought she could muster, grabbed her pyjama bottoms and nightie from the chair and went into the bathroom for a wee. A quick glance in the mirror showed her that she’d tossed and turned in the night. Her hair knotted into a clump to one side and her face blotchy and creased. No wonder he doesn’t fancy me. What was it he’d said last Sunday? He’d looked at her intensely while they were watching tv. The words echoed and stung again as she replayed them, ‘Can’t you do something about your chin? There must be some exercises that would tighten it up. You’d look much better.’ She shuddered. And allowed herself to remember a different kind of look.

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