International Writers Magazine
dresses. I had party dresses when I was little. With sashes, rainbow
sashes. And party shoes. Shiny red t-bar shoes that winked at me
as I danced. Oranges and Lemons, Farmers in his Den, Pass
the Parcel, Squeak Piggy Squeak. Squeak, squeak! I loved them all.
Crisps and trifle and cupcakes and jellyn blancmange and twiglets
and sandwiches and sausage rolls and sausages on sticks and cheese
on sticks and six, seven, eight, nine Happy Birthday to youoo and
make a wish and blow the candles out.
I shant blow
the candle out. Not just yet. Soon. But not just yet. I cant quite
get used to this darkness. It seeps into your bones. Switches all the
lights off there. Besides someone may be looking, see the light. Dont
want them to think no ones here.
We stood in the dark holding our breath when Paul came home on his birthday.
Wanted him to think no one was there and then: Surprise! and kisses
and squeals and slaps on the back and havent seen you since and
champagne and forty! and life begins
and ends. Who would have picked
him as one of the first? Paul the just have a quick run before
my low fat, low carb dinner, Paul. Always me that had that extra
glass of wine, never Paul. Not much wine around now.
He was a good Dad too. I think, deep down, I always knew he wouldnt
stay with me, but Ella
she really was the love of his life. Something
about the way he held her in those first precious moments. I understood
that no matter what happened to me shed be ok. Hed be there
Forty candles they squashed onto that cake. Set the smoke
alarm off in the kitchen before they ever brought it out to him. You
dont hear those now either. Alarms. Used to be all the time. Drove
you mad really because you knew theyd never be answered. Wouldnt
mind hearing one now though. Itd be a sign
a sign of something,
perhaps of someone.
So Im making Ella a dress. Or Im trying to. Not that easy
by candlelight. But Ive found my sewing basket and Im cutting
up a red skirt of mine that never suited me and I hardly wore. Itll
suit her so much better with her long blonde hair. Not much of a present
but then its not much of a birthday. Im not even absolutely
sure it is her birthday. Ive done my best to try and keep count.
Nothing else much happens but the sun does keep rising and for as long
as that happens Ill mark off the new day. Countings good.
Counting keeps you busy. Keeps things ordered.
Reckon its been forty days weve been stuck in here now.
Forty days and forty nights. Just like Jesus. Only He chose to starve
in the wilderness. And He always knew his Dad was looking out for Him.
We didnt choose this. Although the bible bashers try to tell us
we did. Make out we brought it on ourselves. But Ella especially didnt
choose this. And her Dads
Why are my fingers all thumbs
now? I used to be quite good at this. Sewing and mending. Always something
to mend. No, theres no Heavenly Father looking out for us. Theres
no one. Full stop.
When people, like Paul, first fell ill I didnt think much of it.
Every winter they predict some kind of super bug thats going to
kill us all and every winter hey ho miraculously we all survive. How
could we have known that this really was different? I dont go
out on the street now. I could, I think. But the silence gets to me
more than at home. Everything is boarded up, nothings working,
no ones there. At home I can pretend Ive chosen to be on
my own, outside I know I am.
Cant do sleeves, so itll have to be a sleeveless one. Dont
reckon thered be enough material anyway. Shes grown so much!
Last year on her fourth birthday we had to buy her an age three dress
she was still so tiny. Not now. Four big candles she had on her Princess
Barbie cake and that naughty Callum blew them out before she could.
Had virtually the whole class round here. Was a real squeeze. Pizzas
she wanted. Not proper party food. Times change. Got tomato sauce all
down her pink dress
theres a photo somewhere of her
I should get this finished before the candle burns out. Then tomorrow
Shell look so lovely in it and Ill comb her blonde hair
and Ill light this last big candle and Ill sing to her:
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday, dear Ella
Happy Birthday to you.
Then I will blow the candle out.
Colvin November 2008
mary at colvinfamily.co.uk
Mary is studying for her Masters in creative writing at the University
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