Sick of listening to it, she flicks off the television with the movements of practiced boredom and stands up. Works over until tomorrow, so she is alone until tomorrow, when the shouting will begin again and she must grit her teeth and try to work through it. As she clears the plates away, she thinks about it, wondering how to avoid the betrayals and the backstabbing for another day. She smiles at herself in the mirror, noting the start of the lines, and the faint dimple in her cheek that brings back memories.|
She is two, and toddles towards her father smiling happily. "Daddy look what I can do!" He picks her up to swing her, looking at her face and studying it slightly. As the corner of the table strikes into her cheek and she wails, he tells her that "Girls should have dimples."
She doesn't remember the incident, only the pain, though she learned the story later as her mother joked about it with her friends. A family anecdote that she was told to laugh about, although she never did. Sitting at the table, enjoying the quiet, she begins to write, mechanically going through the bills to sort out payment, knowing that as always there is little left for her to live on.
"Look I got two A's!" She is sixteen, and her A-level results are clutched in her hand. He takes it from her, not carefully and looks at it. As she waits, he lashes out, knocking her to the floor. He crumples the paper, dropping it. "and a B".
Never enough, never good enough, she learned that young, and she has never forgotten. As she finishes the bills, and stabs the last one on the spike, she pushes the letters into a pile and puts on her coat. No point leaving them for tomorrow, when she will forget. Picking up the letters, she locks the house and walks to the postbox in the cold.
She is twenty-five and looking for work. A sheaf of letters falls into the box, landing with an echo. With a degree and a masters the world should be her oyster, or so she was told. Instead she's sent over five hundred applications in the last six months and heard nothing. She wonders if she can bring herself to go back to the job centre, join the ranks of the hopeless and the frauds.
Walking back, she slumps into the chair and grimaces. She spent childhood longing to move out, but life just doesn't seem to get easier. Her pay will scarcely cover the bills she has received, far less let her pay off the mounting loans that let her earn her useless degrees. It hardly seems worth working for.
She is seventeen, at her first board meeting and excited. She has dressed as suggested, skirt, blouse, and faces the word with a smile. Her manager grins back at her across the table, and is nudged by his colleague who mutters to him. Turning aside, they talk in lowered voices. The Managing Director walks in, and holds out a hand to her. As she takes it and smiles, overwhelmed, he looks her up and down, smiling back. "Why don't you lie on the table?" He says "And let us all have a turn?"
Even the years afterwards have done nothing to temper the sickness that came with the memory. That evening she had binned her make-up, and from then on worn browns and greys, ignoring her manager's obvious displeasure. She sighs, wondering why her past cannot leave her alone, why she can't forget. As a child she thought her parents would be her death, now she no longer cares. She can hear the sounds of clubbers coming past her window, and wonders about joining them.
She is twenty-one. Its her birthday and her friends have arranged the surprise. The club is great, the music loud and her head is turned. She puts her drink back on the bar, saying it tastes off. Melanie takes it, saying its fine, and they swap drinks. It is half an hour later and Melanie has collapsed. As the barman crouches, administering first aid, she realises he does not think Melanie will survive for the ambulance. A thin trickle of blood runs from Mel's mouth, and he stands up, looking tired and old. The ecstacy they found in the drink was meant for her. Instead she let her best friend die.
She could go out, but the clubs are closing, and when open they have little to offer. Sitting at the writing desk, she writes a letter to her parents, and to her brother. "I'm coming home." it says. "Do you remember me?" She wishes she knew where it all started to go wrong. She waits for a while, looking out of the window, before she slams her head forward on the spike. Before the darkness, there is pain. She tries to scream, but her mouth doesn't work. As it ends she can hear his voice from years before. "Girls should have dimples."
© copyright A.Whetton 2001.