Daylight revels in my misery. My eyes, swollen red and sticky with sleep, peel open and the multi coloured swirl of the bedroom comes into focus. I’m alive, but forgive me for not being grateful.
Naked, I stand before the full length mirror, arms hanging limply at my sides. My eyes trace the jagged contours of the pink scars that rake across my milk white skin. Theses scars, badges of membership, this is what I am, what I have become.
Every day I stand before this mirror, every day the mirror lies. You’re beautiful it whispers...beautiful.
I leave for work promptly at 8.15am. Smartly dressed in my navy blue pinstriped suit, jacket pulled in at the waist, skirt just below the knee. The epitome of professionalism, I’m at the top of my game; and I see her every day.
She follows me in shop windows as I walk down the busy high street. I catch her dark, rippling reflection in freshly formed puddles and turn around quickly, a faint glimmer of hope welling up within. Of course she’s never there; she’s in the same place I left her, five unbearably long years ago. Inside a two foot long box made from white pine. Cold and alone, under the ground.
I’ve aged her in my minds eye. This year she would have been five years old, so that is how she appears to me. Soft, almost white hair, falls over thin shoulders covered with a simple cotton shift that sweeps the ground. Her pale green eyes never leave mine and she never smiles.
My little girl, glimpsed out of the corner of an eye. In shop fronts. In parked car windows.
A sweet whispered voice rings in my ears with crystalline clarity. ‘Mummy.’
I hurry towards the voice through impenetrable darkness. I’ve no idea where I am and it’s so dark that I can’t even tell if I have a body or not. The darkness holds no fear for me, I just need to reach my baby.
The darkness recedes like an evaporating fog and right in front of me is a plain, lightly varnished door. I reach out to turn the handle and the door swings open even before I touch it. Standing in the open doorway the room is always cold, soulless. I feel frightened and alone.
In the corner of the room an ornate fireplace roars into dancing orange life and the room comes alive with gyrating shadows, whirling like acrobats across the terracotta tiled floor and the flock wallpapered walls. My eyes dizzy as they dart in all directions. My head swims as the shadow people put on a show just for me.
‘You are welcome here.’ The shadows tell me in a myriad of voices.
I tell them that I cannot stay, that my daughter needs me and I must go to her. The room grows heavy with a deep sorrow that crushes down on me like a dark wave and I almost fall to the ground.
‘You will always be too late to save her Isodel ,’ my vision darkens for a fleeting moment as the shadows pass by my eyes. ‘This is just the way of things.’
The room dissolves slowly before my eyes and I’m standing at the foot of the stairs. Those pink carpeted steps that always fill me with dread, make my palms sweat so that they slip on the smooth bannister. My legs shake so that each step becomes a Herculean effort, each faulting footfall telling me to go on no Further, to turn around and spare myself the scene that I see repeated, over and over, each time I travel between the waking and dreaming world. Always I climb those twenty four stairs, find myself outside the nursery room door, Kimberleys name spelt out in rainbow coloured letters across the top.
Inside the small room it is always icy cold, just as it had felt that night five years ago when I came home to find the paramedics in her room, frantically trying to revive her. I knew it was already too late. There was no life in that room anymore, there never would be again.
As if playing the leading lady in a stage play for the hundredth time I walk over to the wooden cot, emblazoned with brightly coloured scenes from Winnie the pooh, and push down the bars. With her back to me all I can see is the top of her small head, covered with a fine dusting of downy blonde hair. Bending over, I gently lift her out of the cot still wrapped in her Snowy white sheet. I hold her close but feel no warmth from her tiny body. My heart starts to race as I reach up with a trembling hand and pull the sheet away from her face.
A porcelain mask, eyes lightly closed, looks back at me. A faint blue tinge colours her faded pink lips and I almost start to wipe it away with the corner of the sheet as if it were so much left over food from breakfast.
I press my trembling lips to her cold skin and brush the lightest of kisses across her forehead. Her eyes fly open and I see my own face reflected in two small orbs, black as pitch. Eyes of the dead.
The sheet starts to unfold itself in my hands, unravelling slowly as I look on in confusion. Free of her protective cocoon, she falls from my hands. The sheet flutters to the side as I reach out to catch my baby. I grasp nothing but thin air as, in slow motion she falls to the ground and shatters into a hundred jagged pieces. Amidst the broken shards, shiny and red, writhes a severed, bloodied umbilical cord.
‘Goodnight Mummy.’ Kimberley’s voice fades on the air and again I am alone.
Falling to my knees, I scream out at the top of my lungs but there is only silence, for there is no one to answer.
My arms are stretched to their limit above my head, the muscles around my shoulder blades tort almost to the point of tearing. I’m at my most vulnerable like this, here in the darkness. That’s just how they like me.
The cold iron manacles bite deep into my wrists. He likes the pretty red marks they make on my skin.
I hear him breathing in the distance and my naked skin prickles as I sense, more than see him walk towards me. My nostrils flare and I pull back my head as his putrid breath heats my face.
‘God you’re beautiful, baby,’ he whispers. His calloused hands move up my sides, up under the swell of my breasts. I want to recoil, to spit in his face, rupture his groin, but I can’t. I need him.
He bends his head down to mine and his fat, slimy, tongue slips between my cracked lips and I taste Christmas. I wonder if she’s here, somewhere in the darkness, masturbating at the sight of her husband’s depravity.
He leaves my side, but not for long. When he returns I hear the faint rustle of plastic and my heartbeat starts to quicken. Breath play is one of his favourite kinks.
He pulls the bag down quickly over my head and pulls it tight to my face. At the same time he thrusts two fingers deep inside of me and violently pushes them in and out. Taking pleasure in my pain.
He’s done this many times before and he thinks he’s in control, taking me to the brink and then bringing me back. This time it is me who is in control. The fatal mix of Diazepam and Zopiclone is already at work in my system, slowing down my heart rate and respiration. I’m already nearing death and he’s only just begun.
All the pain seeps away, the agony I’ve felt each day since she left me. As consciousness starts to fade I see a little girl standing in the darkened corner. She smiles and I know everything is going to be alright.
There is no more life in this body, there is only a shell. A battered husk tired of the world. A shell, silent in the darkness.
(c) Darren Smith