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The Repossession of Genie Magee

The International Writers Magazine: The Secret Door: From our archives

Secret Door
Freya Scott

I have come to the conclusion that nothing much really happened to me between the ages of one and ten, except a few sticky years between three and five when I ran away to the local sweetie shop and split my head open in the same place twice. Neither has affected me greatly, apart from the two scars that splice up my right eyebrow, and even they aren’t that visible anymore.

I suppose that’s why I used to believe everything I imagined. I tell my mum this. She asks me what I am talking about. I ask her if she remembers how I used to drag all my little school friends upstairs before tea and hide in the airing cupboard. She tuts as if remembering all the scrammed up sheets and lost socks of years past. We weren’t hiding, I tell her. Do you remember there was a board up against the wall at the back behind the boiler? She doesn’t remember, but there was, a plywood board, two foot by two foot, just the same size I used to imagine Alice’s rabbit hole would have been. My mum asks me what was so special about this board that I had to drag my friends and their dirty hands across her linen for. The fact was I had convinced myself utterly that it was not just a board in the back of our airing cupboard – it was in fact a doorway.

I don’t know whether I had mixed fact with some vivid dream or other, but I was certain that if I pulled that board away from the side of the wall, it would reveal an opening, big enough only for a child of six to fit through. I knew where it would go as well. It would open into a wood, the kind me and my parents used to walk around when I was young, in my romper suit and baby reins, mostly in autumn when the leaves were turning. I knew I had been there in green gloves and a red and pink coat, and that I had sat on the split branches of a fallen tree, that I had pushed through holly and fallen in mud and leaves, and not once got wet or dirty.

This wood held some sort of magic, I was sure of it, though I couldn’t really tell what sort. I was only certain that I had been there, and that it had felt magic, that everything in it had been alive, and sort of conscious in a way that real trees weren’t. So convinced of this was I that I used to tell my friends about it, in secret, but with real pride, and they listened as if it was the most exciting thing they had ever heard.

I used to suggest that we go and look for this doorway, and together we would push through the flowery, musty smell of the laundry to the big green boiler at the back of the cupboard, and by the small slant of light from the door I would proudly present my piece of plywood, gateway to the unknown.

My poor trusting friend would fix their eyes on the board and watch while I sat on my heels and tentatively pushed my little fingers under the edge.

I don’t know what I really expected to happen when I pulled it backwards towards me. Such a huge part of me wished that a jagged edged hole would be revealed, and beyond it the autumnal colours of turning trees, the watery gold sunlight of late afternoon and the smell of bonfires and overnight rain. Every time I hoped for something, something supernatural – it was a need within me for something extraordinary rather than a desire to impress a friend.

I would pull back the board inch by shadowy inch until, unmistakably, the roughly painted white wall of the cupboard would appear. The friend would emit an indignant noise, while I struggled to settle my rising disappointment. It only works sometimes, I would tell them. You can’t make it be there all the time. This to placate myself as well as my friend.
I don’t think I ever stopped believing it was there. We moved house a few years later. I like to think it’s still there. My mother thinks I’m disturbed.

© Freya Scott November 2008
secret door

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