A snippet from the 30 day workout…

The clock struck two. I lay on my back and counted the girls I’d invite to my 11th birthday party. I wanted to invite the whole class, so as not to hurt anyone’s feelings. But this time mum had capped it at ten.The curtains wavered and a thunder bolt jolted me upright. I waited for the lightning to follow. I eyed the black jacket moving on the back of the door. It was twelve steps to my parents’ room. I considered braving it. But dad was still in hospital and mum would just send me back.

I wriggled down under the bedclothes and hugged my oversized teddy bear. Spot would have been better, but he wasn’t allowed onto our beds. I drifted into a sort of sleep but soon found myself upright again. My heart had stopped beating. It jolted back and pounded against my chest.  Goose flesh prickled my arms and perspiration made my pyjamas unbearably cold. Dad was right beside me, and his body went limp.

“Stop it.  You can’t know,” I told myself.

I pulled the blankets over my head. Every fibre in my body had seized up.  The clock struck three as I tried to curl up. “Pray,” I told myself. “Hail Mary, full of grace…” it was no use. My mind was spinning uncontrollably.

A rooster heralded the break of dawn. I lay and listened to him showing off and wished the morning wouldn’t come. Seven chimes. Sofie brought me breakfast in bed. She’d squeezed orange juice especially. She balanced the tray of toast, eggs and bacon, on my lap. “Thanks. Where’s mum?” She dropped her eyes. “Your dad. He’s…”  She was trying not to look at me, but I could see the tears. The mouthful of bacon and egg made me nauseous.

“Your mum will tell…”

I looked out of the window. A car pulled up and mum was being helped  out of the passenger seat by Mrs Long from the church. More cars pulled up and women traipsed past my room to the kitchen. I ran down into the garden and hid behind the Oak tree. There was a Zephyr rammed right up its trunk. Women milled in the passageway and flowers were delivered. A church woman walked towards me. She poked her head around the trunk. “Would you like a cup of tea?”  I shook my head. I hadn’t even spoken to mum yet and there were about 100 women I’d have to push past to get to her. No one said the words to me…

Dad couldn’t possibly be dead. It was a simple routine check.  Nothing could go wrong. He would never just die like that. I slipped down onto the damp grass and pulled out a chunk. So this was how childhood ended. There was no going back, once you lost your daddy. I’d been catapulted into adulthood. There’d be no one watching my back now. This was the first day of my new life. I crept back into the house and dialled my best friend’s number. “My dad’s dead.”



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