Howling at the heart of it:
By Women of Outside Edge Drama Group.
This is a story about a young girl and her search for self acceptance.
….Deep in the woods the sound of a teckno beat is blasting and a young girl dances.
She jibbers frantically at another raver. He’s barely listening, cant hear her voice over the music but she’s telling him anyway.
He looks on lustfully.
“…Perfectly pale, luminous like the moon…”
She has got him transfixed.
“There are occasional pockets and dark spots where my tomboy past has scared my flesh and you can just make out the perfectly round mark on her skin – fag burn from my mum.”
…All this in the hope of free drugs…
“I’ve got a ‘C’ scratched on my ankle.
It’s better than a real tattoo- coz I did it myself despite the pain so actually it means I’m hard, see. Even if Carlos and me weren’t together forever, he would always come back to me coz I’ve gone through the pain of getting a tattoo for him so that makes me special.
Boys at school say I’m ‘fit’
I heard them say it!”
She jibbers on and on at the young boy.
It was a clear, crisp night. The sun had been beating down all day. Heat rose from the ground beneath her and filled up the air, bringing smells and tastes, hot grass and summer flowers, earth and stone. The moon was high in the sky and exposed her face to the world.
“I’m out in the woods. I’m dancing like a lunatic. Dancing like a half starved, half crazed, totally wild lunatic!” She thought.
Actually, I am a fairy, to be precise. A mad fairy. And I’m covering everyone in glitter. I dance for hours to a samba beat, hugging and laughing, closing my eyes and swaying my hips. I can feel freedom in the bass as I stomp my feet. Tribal and organic my feet hit the ground. People everywhere and my friends in the crowd somewhere. Music so wonderful, it pulls and pushes me. Gently nudging my shoulders and bouncing my knees. I feel the same when I’m in a field, breezes flowing over me. I can throw my arms wide open and embrace the world. What it is to be free now. Away from chains that bind me so tight when I’m cold and sober…
“It’s the one place, the only place in the whole wide world that I can honestly say I am happy. How could I not be? I’m off my tits!”
Yellow crystals dissolve in my mouth. Sunshine melting deliciously on my tongue. Not sweet and pleasant, oh no, but I can taste the sunshine. Soothes my soul, make it all better. Like spices in an exotic market somewhere far away. Rich colours and smells. Bringing spice to the curry pot. Warm beams slowly dying, rises. M.D.M.A. I am buzzing!
I laugh so much I wee myself! It’s the funniest thing I have ever seen! This one policeman turns up at the rave. Just one, on his own. And he starts chasing someone. Think they’re smoking a spliff or something. He is chasing them round the forest. He is running and pushing through the crowds and someone must have cut his pants because suddenly his trousers fall down and he trips over, splat on his face. Everyone sees. They are all laughing. The spliff suspect escapes. People take pictures of it on their camera phones, and the copper is shouting at them telling them they are breaking the law and going to be arrested, which makes people laugh even more, seeing him getting all stressed. Poor copper is so embarrassed. He phones through on his radio and by now some of his colleagues arrive but even they are trying hard not to laugh.
“They shut the party down. I try to find Carlos. I need to find Carlos. Carlos and his dark eyes, dark eyes that I’m gonna loose myself in.”
Carlos grew up on a farm in Spain, or so he tells me. The smell of lemons always reminds him of home. He used to pick lemons from the trees in the fruit groves on the farm. He left home age 17 and travelled to England with his best friend Rodrigo. They ended up working as acrobats at a travelling circus. Didn’t know any circus skills till then! The man is so talented! Destined for greatness.
He carries a small pine cone that he brought with him from the farm. It reminds him of lazy summer days as a child, climbing trees with his brothers and sisters. Memories that sound so free and happy. And he brought with him a small metal box which had belonged to his grandmother, who he loved very dearly and passed away when he was fourteen. Makes me wish I’d known my Gran.
Carlos and Rodrigo travelled around many different towns with the circus and he met many amazing people. At one site where they were parked up next to Gypsies he met a very beautiful girl and fell n love with her. She told his fortune one night and it was love. It was me…
This is the story Carlos tells me. I love listening to Carlos and it doesn’t occur to me that he does not know the first thing about me.
“I search for Carlos for what feels like hours, he’s got to be here somewhere. Showing off, doing his mad tricks. The music has stopped and people are wondering, milling around, like they all know each other. Ghost faces gaunt, laughing coming through the forest at me. Gurning, wide eyed in the dark. I cant find him cant find him anywhere I…”
“I feel all alone.
I am alone.
Eyes… just watch me.”
Alone Sophie stands in the forest. Clinging to a tree. Something emerges in the bushes. Eyes burning emerald green. A creature emerges.
I’m a creature. My heart glows in my chest, I walk proudly with it on show. My shoulders back and my back straight. My long slim ears are covered in a beautiful fur, as are my arms, back and legs. My coat is shiny and healthy but the hair that falls from my head is tangled and wild. It sticks in clumps with clumps of sticks and every spring a bird makes a hairy home atop my head. Though my heart glows hot I am in fact cold blooded and my fingers are blue and slim. My hands are beautiful, delicate and creative, so soft are my hands I can fix a birds wing and hold a single snowflake on my finger without it ever melting. Where I tread wild flowers grow, or sometimes moss or ferns. My legs are long and strong and I’m so sure footed I have never slipped. Yet I tread so lightly it is not possible for me to ever harm a creature or plant with my footsteps. I am beautiful, truly a sight to behold. My magic is powerful and mystical, like all magic but I am especially good at it. I could change the seasons if I wanted to, right now I could cover these woods in frost and freeze your bottoms where you sit.
I want to smell her, touch her, know her. I want to swallow her whole. I can see her heart beating through her chest. Beating hard. Treasure. She is afraid now.
The sun slips through the canopy to kiss the forest floor, warming last year’s leaves which carpet the earth. I crouch watch her from behind a tree, breath still and silent. I don’t want her to see me yet. My body aches. I can feel her want to taste her. My mouth leaks wet with dew, it drips to the forest floor. I’m salivating. Breathing heavy.
Sophie, thinks on Carlos and all his dreams and promises and romantic visions and for the first time she feels something strange occurring as she recalls how she actually met Carlos.
It’s a few weeks before my 15th birthday. I am at the Rose and Crown, my local pub, with my mates. Even though we are all under age we always get served. I don’t know if it’s because we all look older or if it’s because the pub owners just aren’t that bothered and wanted the extra custom. Anyway, this boy Danny is there that night. He is in the year above me at school. He is gorgeous and I have fancied him for over a year. I am hoping that tonight is the night I finally get off with him. I have always been too shy to make a move before but now I’m on my fifth pint I’m feeling a little more confident.
“Right. I’m going to go and dance with Danny.” I tell my mate. “I just need to take a piss first.”
As I am walking back from the toilet I look around for Danny and finally spotted him in the corner snogging my mate. That fucking bitch! She knows how much I fancy him! I run outside, choking back the tears.
“Cheer up love.” I look around and see an older lad of about twenty. Dark eyes, dark hair. We get chatting. He is fit actually. He has a car and big muscles. He offers me a spliff. I have a few puffs. And then it happens, my first ever kiss. He hugs me and kisses me gently on the lips, it feels really nice. But then he shoved his tongue into my mouth. It tastes disgusting! – Like not just of beer and fags but bitter also. I felt like I am choking. I try to pull away but he grabs me and pushes me up against the car.
“What’s the matter?” He asks.
“Get off me. Just leave me alone!”
“It’s OK.” He said. “Your beautiful.”
I feel the bitter taste disappear as the warmth rushes over me. I get home late that night. I throw up badly.
They are packing up the party now. It’s over. It’s cold. The police have shut it down.
Sophie is still alone. She sits on the log of a fallen tree. Crouching, hugging her knees for warmth, refusing to cry. She wishes she could find Carlos. The drugs are wearing thin and she’s almost sober.
The creature creeps out from behind the tree. Aching to touch her it creeps across the forest floor. It reaches out to touch her and Boom! Sophie is stone cold sober and lost in memories.
It was precious to me.
As a child, he’s precious to me, even though he looks rough. He is made out of rabbit skin and is softer than silk. Over the years he had become almost 2D and his back had to be replaced by an old towel, like a teddy skin graft, I did it myself! I am always losing him. Again and again just lost but he always returns, no matter what happens or how many times we move house he is always there. Pengu.
It was precious to me.
My favourite teddy. When I am all alone he comforts me. He gives me hugs when no one else will. My trusted companion, sailing away together to magical lands, to escape harsh reality. My first love. The one thing, the only thing I know I could count on. Little fluffy, furry thing. Lost for years now.
The creature creeps closer still, wrapping it’s arms around Sophie…
Long slender tentacle arms like whips of an ivy branch.
It slips it’s tentacles into her mind, provoking memories. Sophie fights to resist. Not wanting to think about anything. Trying to refuse to remember…
She looks to the moon and…
The moon looks like a Terries chocolate orange. Reminds me of childhood. It’s mum’s favourite chocolate. If she has one me and my sister sneak into her room and nick a piece. It’s was a luxury. I eat the pieces slowly so I could savour every bite.
Memories of Sophie’s mum come flooding. Memories that Sophie has kept buried deep for years.
She doesn’t remember much about her mum but she does recall her telling her this:
“The first boy I ever kissed was Mark Longhurst.” She tells me “I was thirteen and I’d kissed boys before but not ‘properly’- not French kissing. I’d heard about it from my friends- (Suzie Warburton had snogged Gary Hill twice) but I didn’t have a boyfriend so I’d never tried it out myself. I’d seen people French-kissing in the movies, glued together like two fish, but I wasn’t sure what exactly was going on inside their bulging mouths- it seemed as though some highly technical movement was involved. Anyway, I really wanted to try it out for myself.
All the girls liked Mark Longhurst. He played the main part in most of the shows we did at the local children’s amateur drama company and was good-looking and confident. I thought he had never noticed me so I was very surprised when on the last night of our performance he came up to me during the cast party- we were still on stage- and stuck his tongue into my mouth. It was like an eel darting around-quite pleasant and tingly but I wasn’t sure how to respond and was vaguely aware that my own rudimentary flounderings paled in comparison to the precision of his expert tongue. “So this is French kissing,’ I mused “ It’s no big deal but maybe I should learn to do it properly.’ I felt my mouth filling with saliva which I was unsure what to do with, but at that moment, as swiftly as he had inserted his tongue, he withdrew it and walked away. He crossed the stage, went up to another star-struck girl and stuck his tongue in her mouth too!
I was slightly surprised but flattered that he had kissed me at all since I wasn’t aware that he had ever registered my presence other than in rehearsals. Now I could tell my friends that I too had French-kissed a boy and was ready to join them on the journey from childhood to adulthood. And it wasn’t just any boy-it was Mark Longhurst, the most popular of them all!” My mum, telling me stories like this…
At School Sophie would tell herself:
I am the best
The best with an ‘S’ on my chest…
Don’t try and mess!
Ask anyone in school- I am invincible!
No-one can touch me- even the boys- they think I am king! King of Kingsmead….
I rule the playground…play football with the boys till I’m green all over with plastered knees.
The road home from school is long, and sticky in the summer heat.
Each step feels heavier with the thought of home- I shrink as I walk.
The real king sat there swaying, waiting. Or should I say queen.
Letting us be ruled in yet another man’s kingdom.
Sophie leaps to her feet, suddenly, trying to pull away from the creature’s touch.
“I cant handle this. I cant handle this.” She murmurs. “Please help me!” But no one hears her.
“Carlos! Where the fuck are you? I need a drink!”
The morning sun rising cold and blue now. Like a giants yawn it casts the forest blue and purple. Sophie catches the light on a flickering leaf and
“Mum’s favourite colour was purple.” The creature whispers circles, entices and kisses.
It blows her a glimpse into her mother’s mind…
Pause before you think of purple
Pregnant mountains of South Wales
Bracken slashed across the landscape
Reddish scars on dark
Music pulses through the city…
Little time for sleep tonight…
Take me back to distant landscapes
Of my childhood rites.
And another insight blown:
I wish I was an astronaut
A tuba made of bread
I wish I was a rock star
But prefer to stay in bed.
I’d love to be a painter
I wish that I could sing
I wish my mother loved me
And bought me pretty things.
I want to be a prophet
With words liquid gold.
I’d like to do a thousand things
Before I grow too old.
I wish that you would hold me
But you’re deep in your own world.
I wish my hair was raven-black
Or red and lightly curled!
I wish I was a child again
Sprawled out on the grass.
Perhaps if I wish hard enough
It still might come to pass.
Sophie realises she never knew the first thing about her mum.
Sophie’s mum has been dead now for a long time but when she was alive they never spoke, not really, not had a proper ‘conversation.’
Sophie’s gut filled with rage.
“I fucking hate her!” Sophie thought. I hate the very ground she walks on – everything about her! How pathetic she is and miserable and let men walk all over her – let men beat her and treat her like shit. Pathetic. Sophie had vowed, long ago, way back when she was six years old that she would never, ever be anything like her mum – not ever.
… All this weird fucking poetry. Where is it coming from?
Another glimpse into her mother’s mind hits her:
Other Peoples’ Mothers’ Cooking.
Other peoples’ mothers’ cooking,
Sliming in the ovens’ depths
Aubergine or Melanzane
Fagiollini, bright courgettes.
Wound around a knotting needle,
Sundays ragout and Polpetti
What’s left over?
Make a stew.
Other peoples’ mothers’ cooking
Whilst we lie in ash-pocked beds
Hunger gone and senses stilted,
Clammy bodies, clogged-up heads.
Other peoples’ mothers’ cooking
Wafting up the flights of stairs.
Someone else’ choice of TV.
Idle chat and Sunday prayers.
Pasticierra if you’re lucky!
Vomited upon the pavement.
Such a shame-
It was home-made!
Other peoples’ mothers’ cooking
On the road for all to see.
Globs of pizza, strings of pasta
Drenched with an acid glaze of tea!
Sophie, no matter how hard she tries she cant seem to move. The creature has her in it’s grips.
“’Vomiting up on the pavement.’ That sounds like my mum.” She thinks as memories come flooding.
I am a young girl and I love these parties. All the adults are silly and loud, more like children. My mum always lets me stay up late. I’m given chocolate or change from the grown up pockets. They clumsily plonk twenty pence pieces and even pound coins into my hand and roar with laughter as they make some joke about not spending it all at once. Every party is the same, noise and smoke and drink. I have learned to take myself to bed before the end of the night to miss the rows and fighting when mum and her boyfriend were finally alone and the dawn brakes.
The characters are always the same, mum and whatever boyfriend she has at the time; Ade who sleeps rough on a bench on the common; Debbie, from the pub, laughs like a broke engine; Stand up Dave. He the joker of the group and is always followed around by his tiny, mousey wife Tina. Tina never says a word, she just sits in the corner with a fag that never seems to end hanging out her mouth and a drum of bourbon that never seems to empty. Then there is whoever comes along after closing time, of course. So many names and faces but none of them stick.
It’s another Friday night gathering at the house when I find myself alone with Dave. His cheeks are red and his nose is swollen, it looks like the surface of a strange planet. He is telling me about being a grown up, how it is so bloody difficult and how I am fucking lucky to do whatever I want when I want to. He breathes out through his nose and a bubble of toxic gas blurts out of his mouth like a tiny explosion. He asks me how old I am. He seems surprised when I tell him I am just12…
Sophie blocks the memory, trying to push the creature off…
She thinks of Carlos and how great he is. He is romantic. He is great.
It is like being kissed by an angel! God knows how he found me! I feel his soft lips press against mine. His hands caress my neck so gently it’s as though he is holding the head of a delicate flower. As if he is feeling me. My arms rest by my side like wings. I want to touch him but I am too lost, too completely lost in this magic. Magic all around us, in us, out of us and for a moment I cant tell what is inside or outside anymore. This flesh, this forest, the police and people all now gone. Did they even exist? Do you even exist Carlos?
We stand, lips pressed together. Tonight making love I don’t even know if there is a world at all. I raise my hands to touch him. Silence. Who is he? Who am I? What…
All her memories of Carlos are becoming muddled and confused. Punctuated by actual memories. All muddled together – memories of her mum and him cascading, falling through her mind.
She cant contain the denial anymore.
She lets herself think on actual events of that night.
Sat alone in the forest,
Clutching an empty bottle for hours…
…A Tesco size bottle of cider.
‘You think we should’ve got the Smirnoff Ice?’
My mate Claire is half pissed already and dancing animatedly to some kind of weird dub step that one of the boys is playing- not really my thing. I’m hid behind the cider. It was practically big enough. I feel small and insignificant and the drink doesn’t seem to be helping.
I gulp it down and stare at the boys, willing the magic to happen- ‘come on……. Just hurry up and make me amazing, come on’…….
Suddenly a hand grabs the bottle causing the massive neck to crumple and spilling cheap cider all down me
‘What’s this shit?’
And Carlos is stood there right in front of me, grinning and pouring brandy into a plastic cup- he passes it over,
“Ere, this’ll get you warmed up girl ha ha ha” (what a gentleman?)
An awkward silence (I’m definitely not pissed enough yet)
Carlos leans over suddenly and licks cider from my cheek. He laughs at my blush, ‘second thoughts, let’s get you dancing an all’ he grabs my plastic cup and pops a pill in it,
Got some wicked bits and pieces in tonight, he says, emptying two bumps of powder from different bags on my hand- I daren’t ask what it is, I might look a bit dumb.
‘In case you’re wonderin, it is K but with a bit of C in there too, just to keep you lively, don’t say I don’t look after ya’….
His laugh merges with the beat, and his grin seems like some kind of magic….
I’m not sure if it was just before or after the fight when I realise Claire isn’t there but I’m sure it’s before the police arrive… I think. I am in a K-hole and hanging onto a tree- but loving it, when a guy gets shoved backwards into me….
It’s a rude awakening to my hazy state- only trouble is, I can’t snap out of it- I just know there is something very wrong- people are shouting in that threatening way like guys do when they’re fighting and being held back and there was some scuffling-others were joining in two, getting involved, but it just sounds like angry echoes to me , and I’m getting knocked about, in the chaos….it is madness!
A girl next to me shouting ‘Lee! Lee’ or was it ‘Leave Me!!’ I don’t understand, and trees have ears and wandering branches, like, like hands?? And her voice…… she’s doing my head in!!
Lee! Leave me!
And the sounds all merge in my head and the branches of the trees are everywhere…
Round my neck, my arms pulling at my clothes….my waist, touching my face
Everywhere- they’re everywhere….
And I realise its not trees….its Carlos- he’s all over me, wired and with a nasty grin- hot sticky brandy breath letching at me forcing his hands up my clothes- I’m pinned to a tree with his knee and the girl nearby is Claire- with one of his friends.
I punched him so hard he shouted, and paused, shocked grabbing his cheek. This freed me up and now I’m running, running for my life, running over leaves and shit and stumbling with the gear in my blood but adrenaline racing- Coz I know them big boys. When he catches me he’s gonna fucking kill me. I’m running running, panting hard now.
Who am I really? Who am I without the parties, the brandy, the Carlos’s, and the shame?
I’ve got no idea……
Sophie is distraught.
Worms and dirt churning through holes and rot.
Everything must live to die and die to live now
Joy, anger and passion coiled together. Screaming until your voice is raw.
Things eat away at rotting flesh to reveal, expose it…
None of it makes any sense anymore.
She feels like the forest itself might eat her up.
Her heart beating so fast now.
“I cant do this any more.”
I am homeless. I live on the streets. I am addicted to heroin. I used to have morals. I don’t believe in dishonesty but… So… Now… I prostitute myself to survive.
Stood out on the street waiting for clients. A black BMW approaching. A punter. The car pulls up and I get in.
I need to get my heroin.
Wake up in a shopping trolly.
Silence. Be silent.
Still be stone.
A flash of hot pain.
Earth swallow me up.
Sophie is crying, crying her heart out now, screaming for her mother, screaming in anger and in wanting.
The creature consoles her, softly, stroking her head.
Through the breeze comes a whisper, softly, her mum’s voice.
“I am trapped.
But you don’t have to be.
Hunting for memories has it’s risks.
But if you are strong enough to take it…”
“….Mum?” Sophie whispers.
Boyfriend does not love me.
Treats me like shit.
I want to escape.
I want to be happy.
No love anymore, not here.
I need freedom.
Look around, you’ve fallen….”
“Fire glitters… Fire burning….
Memories….” her mum whispers.
“Mum, please don’t let me remember.”
“Asbestos can kill. Especially when it’s burning….”
Sophie cant take it. She kicks the tree. Kicking and punching.
“I’m a piece of shit, mum!” Screams Sophie. “Do you really think I want to remember?”
The creature is all over her now. Coiled around her tight like a snake. Squeezing, squeezing
“For fucks sake mum!” Her fists are bleeding.
Sophie looks in disgust at the bottle of cider she’s been clutching.
“it’s sick! The whole lot of it!” And she chucks it into the forest as hard as she can. It smacks a tree as she watches warm, wet frothy remain spill on the floor.
She lets herself remember.
She lets herself…
“I cant run any longer.”
I remember heat. Heat and smoke. The sounds, I remember the noise of it burning…
Fuck the noise is awful. It cracks and pops, a thundering deafening roar that sounds like its in your head. I’ve only popped out for a few minutes. I come back to….she is asleep. I thought I could just pop out. They’d left us for hours, mum and the wanker, I mean, so I thought I could just pop out. I’d left the candle, stupid bitch, I left it burning right next to her! The electric key had run out and she wanted to hear a story. She fell asleep and I only left for a few minutes. I stand staring for what feels like hours, days, forever. I fucking stand there, just watching. Then I smell it, the stench of burning plastic and wood filling my nostrils and hitting my eyes…
Lucy is in there! Inside that house! That inferno, those white hot flames spitting into the pure black sky. I did try and help. I run, screaming her name and run straight into hell to find my sister. I fling myself through the door I feel the heat pour onto me like thick broiling treacle. My throat contracts and my eyes refused to open. I crawl my way through the hallway to the back of living room where I’d left her. Then the thought slams my head. Lucy’s dead. I’ve killed her and she’s dead because of me. I can’t breathe any more, my mind is blank and it feels as though the floor has given out from under me. I open my mouth to scream, or breath or something but I just gorp like a fish. The window. I remember now I see the window above me and I know. I know I have to get air or I will die and I never find Lucy. I fling myself toward the window and grab the handle. Searing pain shoots through my and hand and wrist. I’ve cut myself badly. A big gash of a wound, billows with blood.
The window opens, smoke flows out like a river and for a split moment I can breathe again. I gather my thoughts and desperately grasp for a plan. Where has she gone? I hear a cough or a whimper, some sound from the cupboard under the stairs. I drag myself away from the window to lay with my belly to the carpet and I army crawl like a wounded sniper towards the cracked wooden door. I am saying Lucy’s name in my head over and over like a mantra, praying, bargaining, begging that she will be in that cupboard, that she is alive. I pull the door and see Lucy’s body crumpled on the floor like a little animal. She is heavier than I had expected when I try to lift her up. She is completely limp and I couldn’t get the thought out of my head that I’m carrying a body, not my sister but a corpse of the girl I had murdered. As I maniacally pull on her lifeless arm to try and get to the front door a beam of light poked through the thick smoke. A huge figure looms above us and plucks us from the floor like we were no more than dolls. People rush around us. I catch a glimpse of my sister just for a moment as a man ran with her in his arms towards an ambulance with its lights still flashing in the night. My mum is there but she turns her back, hiding her face in the wanker’s jumper.
It looked like someone had cut Lucy’s clothes off right down the middle but instead of pink, peachy flesh, angry reds and whites. Her hair burnt to the skin around her ear and forehead and her left eye is completely undistinguishable.
Eventually me and my mother climb into the ambulance. The ambulance man bandages my cut wrist. My mum, screaming at me, calling me a stupid fucking whore and yanking at my ear. She is right, of course. Is Lucy alive or dead? I still don’t know, but as I sit under those florescent lights I know I am terrible. I can feel it now, the sickening realisation that you’re a disgusting person and no amount of rights will fix this wrong. Lucy is scarred for life. Like big mottled scars across her face and her body like bubble wrap and it’s all my fault.
The forest falls silent.
And then…. Sophie hears a whisper in her ear. Faint, familiar, almost animal like:
“But you saved her. You risked your own life to save hers. You possessed more courage and love in your heart then most do in their little finger.”
Sophie remembers the reality of home life:
No one’s listening.
They are all here in my house.
They won’t listen.
Why are they here if they won’t listen to me?
I think to myself: “If I just stay quiet and play like this they wont notice…”
It looks like they’re having fun drinking but I know.
“I’m not shouting mum…. Please, I’m not shouting.”
How can she be telling me off? I haven’t done anything.
“Jesus what’s wrong with you mum!?
Lucy is hurt, she is in hospital,
I didn’t know… I didn’t meant to!”
The creature covers Sophie in kisses, holding her softly.
“It’s OK.” Says the creature.
“I can take it… Lets be angry.”
As the creature breathes and kisses Sophie screamed and cries louder and louder – longer than the
The creature just holds her.
Eventually, after some time passes – a year and a day to be exact, Sophie lifts her heavy head and looked at the creature with new, fresh eyes, like eyes washed clean from a summer rain. There is a softness that she’d never seen before.
“Your mum was hurting too.” Says the creature.
And Sophie can see it now. Sophie can see the creature emerging.
Sophie looks deep into it’s eyes she sees figures dancing in the shimmering depths, female figures. They are dressed in gowns and dresses and flowing…Women. Countless women. Through the ages, all the women, reaching back through history, crawling out from the depths of the earth to rise up stronger.
Sophie hears their cries and whispers.
And there was Sophie’s mother.
The creature raises it’s hand, inhales and her mother says:
“I don’t remember all the details- it could have been my birthday or maybe the day before- a typical English summer’s evening-cool enough to need a jacket but with the alcohol inside me I felt pleasantly warm. I do remember what I was wearing though-the bottom half anyway; white cut-off jeans and black translucent tights of the sort I would never contemplate wearing now but at the time had seemed cool.
I had parked up hard on the kerb near the college-it was late now and mine was the only car left. It seemed strangely out of place, stranded on the pavement against the backdrop of ancient buildings in a street now empty of tourists.
Two figures emerged out of the gloom into the pool of yellow streetlight. ‘Where are you going lass?’ ‘Give us a lift will you? We’ve missed the last bus home!’
Show kindness to others..Help people in difficulty..
‘You need a lift?’
‘We can show you the route..it’s not far..we’re stationed at the barracks just out of town..’
‘The last bus left an hour ago..we were going to have to walk home..You can stop by for a coffee if you want!’
‘No thanks but I can drop you on my way!’
One mile out of town..I don’t know this route..this is not the road I usually take..two miles…maybe more..’
People are friendly in the countryside. They just want to get home.
‘Is it much further?’
‘Not so far now-how about that coffee?’
Too far to turn back..maybe my instincts are wrong..I don’t want to think the worst..can they sense my panic?
No more sense of time..two against one..maybe I’ll be OK..keep calm..don’t show your fear..’
‘You can stop here-it’s just across the field-are you sure you don’t want that coffee?’
I bring the car to a halt. No other traffic on this lonely country road..perhaps some grasshoppers in the hedgerow. No one gets out of the car. The guy next to me repeats the word “coffee’ this time with an ironic laugh. He turns towards me, breath thick with alcohol, hand on his zip.
The inevitable is about to happen. Better get it over with quickly, that way there’ll be less pain..
I struggle out of my shorts and slowly peel off my stockings, my hands moving mechanically as if controlled remotely. He swings heavily onto me, forcing himself inside. My head slams against the door and remains there, wedged awkwardly at an angle. The gearstick is jammed uncomfortably into my side.
‘This is what you wanted isn’t it? Picking up two strangers!’
I keep up the presence for a while, then my body goes limp, passive under his weight. He shakes my body angrily:
at’s wrong with you? Aren’t you enjoying it?’
I become aware of the other guy wanking on the back seat. He has inched forward, his cock close to my face. A sickly acid smell fills my nostrils. I close my eyes even tighter. My head is banging interminably against the damn door. He leans over..
‘My turn now!’
Something stirs me from my stupor and I feel an uncontrollable rage rising within me. Somehow my voice returns in the form of a high-pitched screaming volley of expletives:
‘Get off me! Get off me! Get out of my car! You’re fucking mad! Both of you! Get away from me!’
I push the first guy off me..he offers no resistance..manage to open the car door, start to run.. but my glasses have gone, clattering somewhere in the roadside..I can’t see.. I don’t care..I must get away.. but I can’t see..
The order of events that followed was not clear but they are out of the car and I’m back in the driving seat trying desperately to start the engine, tears streaking my cheeks, still blind..
The second guy appears at my window with my glasses. I remember thinking ‘Why is he trying to help me after what they’ve done? It doesn’t make sense! I grab my glasses, manage to start the engine and pull away with an accelerated roar, sobbing loudly now.
They are already far behind me in the country lane. Tears blur my vision but I try to concentrate on the road-not much further to go.
Identity parade at the local military barracks..
One after another they file past, expressionless behind a glass wall..All the faces blend into one..
“Can you pick them out?’
“Can you be sure that this man was one of them?’
No I can’t…I can’t be sure..they all seem the same….all men are my enemy.
Lights on..lights off.
A courtroom..the high court.
My clothes are produced in a plastic bag as if fresh from the laundry, but soiled and stained, my black knickers displayed on top for all to see.
‘Can you identify these items of clothing?’
‘Would you say that the witness was provocatively dressed?’
A hammer, real or imagined, comes down…
‘Thirteen years..eleven years, no bail.’
But my relief was to be short-lived. My address was mistakenly disclosed by the prosecution in court and noted down by the soldiers’ brothers. That night they came to the house where I was staying and singed the rubber on the tires of the cars outside; not enough for them to burst immediately but for the’ accident’ to happen away from the scene of the crime to avoid arousing suspicion. However, vigilant neighbors caught them in the act and they scarpered.
Other friends of mine who had come down from Manchester to support me during the trial were not so lucky. The tires on their car burst on their way home, when they were driving full speed in heavy rain along the Snake Pass, a dangerous, winding road prone to accidents. Luckily no one was injured and a kindly fellow stopped to help them change the tyre but the calculated malice with which these two incidents had been planned and executed, during the very process of the trial, left me feeling cold and vulnerable.
Since then I have never really trusted the public bodies or institutions that are supposed to protect us and my birthday is not something I choose to celebrate..
“I don’t listen to music anymore.” She heard her mother say.
Sophie’s eyes well wide and open.
“I’m so sorry mum.”
So much has been endured by so many for too, too long.
She couldn’t hate her mother. No matter what, she couldn’t hate her.
Sophie’s mum whispers:
“I was looking for the thing that cant be found, wild, elusive daydream, flying further each day. Where can it be? In the sky or the sea? Roaming many miles from home where is my love? I am all alone, wondering, wondering…”
The creature lifts a hand to wipe away Sophie’s tears…
Sophie and the creature.
I lift my own hand up to meet the creatures. I touch my scar to the creature. The same scar I got in the fire from smashing the window. Scar on scar we touch. The creature has the same scar. But it’s glistens purple and blue and orange and pink, effervescent. Palm to palm we touch, finger to finger. I feel my blood pumping around my body, I feel a rush around me, I blow out hard through my cheeks. We look into to each other’s eyes and I suddenly realise that I love this creature. This familiar creature that I recognise and know so well. A gentle smile spreads across its lips as I begin to realise. I know this creature, I’ve always known it, just too close for me to see. My heart is its heart, my pain it’s pain, my joy and fear, sorrow and grief, all there reflected back at me.
I let out a burst of laughter and beam from cheek to cheek. I stand with the sunlight pushing through the trees as the creature takes my hand and we begin to dance. Together swaying slowly, mirroring each other’s movements, music filling our ears which only we can hear. Not loud banging teckno or ‘avin-it’ drum and bass but an altogether different music. As if from a different world. Wild somehow.
Deep love fills my soul and I know it fills hers too. The creature so wild and she is beautiful. The creature swings me round in twirls and spins, guiding me in rhythms of a silent beat. We stomp and duck and throw our hands into the air. I am dancing. I am dancing, for every woman all over the world who has not been able to dance. We fling our arms high in the air.
“I’m doing this for you mum!” I scream. “I’m doing this for you and for your mum and her mum and all the mum’s and silent women before me that didn’t feel able to dance – where you want, when you want, and with whom you want – or just alone or just because!”
Faster and faster we move until in the frantic dancing of the beast I realise I am just one figure dancing. I am one whole and voluptuous and quite mad. I stand, panting in the dappled sun. I laugh. I laugh and I lift my head towards the sky. For the first time ever I feel entirely Sophie.
Although Sophie’s mum passed away some time ago Sophie knows somehow, in some way, things are shifting changing.
Sophie whispers: “I love you mum.”
Softly, on the breeze she hears her mum’s voice on the breeze, speaking words that Sophie faintly recognises:
Mother: Purple was a painful colour
Bruising through my teenage days
Pulsing through my teenage language
Sullen as my teenage ways.
Mother: Purple is a poignant colour
Heather on the mountainside
Irises a quiet reminder
Sophie: Long long after you had died.
Mother: Purple was a vibrant colour
Punctuating dull routine
Purple is a yearning
Sophie: For something still unseen
Mother: Purple was my secret passion
Swollen landscapes, swelling seas.
Sophie: Purple are your promises,
Mother: A purple that will ease.
Mother: Purple is the summer,
Sophie: Purple is content
Mother: (with love)
Sophie: A wish
… for life well spent.
They spoke. They actually spoke to each other! – Sophie and her mother – like for the first time ever! Sophie felt her mum with her through the whispers, right there inside her. Comforted by this Sophie starts to feel she can face anything – ANYTHING! No need to be afraid any more or settle for second best… She realises she does no need drink or drugs any more to face life. She promises:
“I’m not going to live some half life mum. I’m not going to live a life of ducking and diving and drinking and using hiding in forests from madness and crazy nasty Carlos men. I’m not going to do that any more. I’m going to do things differently.”
And magically, having made that decision – a decision that she now makes at the start of ever day – she faces life a day at a time. Like looks it straight in the eye ball and…
In the coming weeks Sophie stays sober. Visiting the forest every day. She cant stay away, it’s so peaceful and quiet. On one such day she is out walking with a friend. Sunlight sparkles, birds tweet in full chorus and a kingfisher swoops down low in a glorious red and blue flash of colour.
Sophie excitedly chats to her friend.
“I laughed so much I almost weed myself last week. Somehow I always end up smiling. It can be quite inappropriate, on the bus or the tube I get cross glares because I erupt into uncontrollable cackles. What a thing it is to laugh, so beautiful when out it comes from deep within you. A laugh can mean so much, it can be an apology accepted, it can be a child’s first smile and an old man’s memory. Have you ever caught laughter? If I think about it it’s actually quite magic. Someone begins to laugh, you have no idea why, but after a while their joy is overflowing and the amusement tickles your lips, you laugh too and suddenly you’re laughing together. Yes, to me that is magic. What it is to throw your head back with another human and cry till your face aches. What it is to make someone laugh. How powerful a memory of laughter is, to be with someone and share the same laughter you found ten years before, hiding in your mind, ready to pounce. Laughter does not grow weak, it comes to you and tears flow from older eyes. Tears… Crying with laughter…
Her friend laughs with her.
When I look in my eyes
I see years of confusion
Wondering searching: Who am I?
Who am I?
Who am I supposed to be?
All those years lost in the wilderness…
I look in the mirror.
Deep into my eyes I look and…
My mum loved my eyes
…I remember her saying so.
“Your eyes as brilliant as mine” she said.
My first Holy Communion.
I was so little.
Feeling like a bride and a princess in white satin shoes with ankle straps,
(oh how I loved those ankle straps)
And little flowers in my hair….
I look into the mirror.
I see myself in my eyes,
I am beautiful,