"Can you hear me love?"
I can feel the warmth of the sun. So cosy but a dampness too. I know I can't move. I don't try. Stiff but relaxed. My eye opens. I'm in a hedge. The light too bright.
"Stay with me love"
She's nice. I can hear her and want to stay but I can't. I want to tell her about today. I'm so excited. But no, I'm falling asleep. Mum's tucking me in. It's my bed at home. I'm 16 today. No, I'm 10, 8, 3. Mum's there though. Holding me. Stroking my back. Always there.
I'm excited. But dead nervous. I turn to look at him. Then he turns to me and smiles.
I'm happy. Really happy.
It's like I get caught up in a wind then
suddenly I get a whiff
Then a flowery smell.
And a wheel turning.
Turning. My head follows it’s turns as it turns as...
I'm dizzy. Then I'm sinking. Then there's this shock of blue lights. All around. Everywhere. Reflecting off every single surface. Bright. Blinding. All encompassing. Bouncing behind my eyes. Sirens. Voices. Cars slowing. Sirens wailing. Lights. Still piercing sirens. Flashes. Radio voices.
Today's the day.
I'm in my boyfriend's car. Mum says he’s a prick but I don’t listen. Why would I? It's my birthday today. I started seeing him last month, just after he'd passed his test. He was at the same school as me but he's left now. Anyway he's picked me up because I'm sixteen today!
'Sixteen and never been kissed' shouts Dad as we leave. He’s laughing but God! If only he knew. We haven't though. Not yet. But we're on the way to his Nan's house. Not to visit. She's away.
Oh! I'm blushing now aren't I?
Set in a derelict temple, at night you hid from the Goblin Rat in the smallest place you could fit into. By day you used your arsenal of drawing equipment to cover the temple walls with pictures of cats. They animated as you slept to kill the rat and his armies.
Mick knew a guy.
One phone call and Seonjo went straight into a job as he left school. Nezumi became a bestseller and merchandise soon filled shelves across the world making the boy that drew cats a millionaire before he was eighteen. He was never called Tohada* again.
'Avoid large places at night. Keep to the small'
He clasped it tight and kept it forever.
Mick, a producer on the programme decided to nurture Seonjo's ability with computers. Provided an old laptop and trained a movement sensing camera over the desk. After school and through the night Seonjo tapped away at the keys. Camera trained on him not the screen so no one knew what he did. Just saw the family cat curled up in his lap.
When filming ended Mick asked what he did on the computer. Seonjo came alive as he described the game he'd devised.
They didn't even know he could use a computer. An instant hero with his peers the principal took drastic measures and when he was contacted by a TV company to film 'Children gone Bad' he promptly decided to swap Seonjo for the worst pupil that America could offer him.
Life was vastly different to back home but they had a cat so Seonjo soon settled well with his American host family. One evening they had a Chinese takeaway. Seonjo was baffled by the fortune cookies. Wide eyed he unravelled a coil of paper not knowing whether he should eat it.
Seonjo's teachers then took over despairing where his father had left off as he continued to fill all of his days scribbling cats. The children cruelly shouted 'Tohada*' as he passed. But he didn't seem to care or even hear.
After failing all his exams his parents were called in to see the principal. Leaving Seonjo alone in the room with the main school computer. The next day the school was in uproar. The home pages of the school computers were hilarious GIFs of cats. Such insolence was deplorable. But the shock when they discovered it was Seonjo?!
Seonjo was the fourteenth son of farmer parents and as soon as he could toddle was sent out to work on the farm. But they'd find him cuddled contentedly next to a sleeping cat or watching as the other cats stalked & destroyed the old field rats. As he grew older he spent his days scratching pictures of them in the scorched Korean earth around the farm. Tactical tufts of grass incorporated into his masterpieces.
"Milk the goats!" His Father chided and rubbed away his pictures with a frown; exasperated by the boy he decided to send him to school.
"I know you're here, can smell your aftershave you little shit. See your sexy mummy? They love her. We take much more on the nights she works. She's been my gorgeous golden goose for years."
A pause. Blunderbore got nearer. And nearer.
Jack rose. Grabbed him, plunged his struggling body face down into the deep fat fryer. Screams were drowned by the oil. His piss dribbled down a trouser leg and stained his light calfskin shoe. The thumping music stopped abruptly. The sound of people leaving in a rush. Then sirens.
Blunderbore twitched for a final time. It was over.
Even upside down the sight of his mother topless sucker punched the air from Jack's gut. He made towards the next door. Stomach heavy as his anger grew. An empty kitchen. He'd left the knife in Cormoran, he scanned for another weapon. Flashes of his Mum fuelling his rage. Blunderbore’d pay for this.
"Jack you fucker!" a shout from behind him. Punctuated with a pushed over shelf. It was just the two of them.
Jack and Blunderbore.
One wouldn't leave alive.
Blunderbore had the gun. Jack the anger. Jack crouched. Hidden. Heard fine Italian loafers clicking on the tiled floor.
"Cormorans down!" Burst from the walkie talkie along with a screech of static.
Jack frowned up at the camera on the door frame then followed a jumbled cacophony of whoops and music.
Through the fug he saw men. Standing. Watching.
Lascivious looks as three women writhed round the poles. Thongs stuffed with notes. The air thick with desire.
The women turned together, a well practiced routine, grasped the pole between their legs as they dangled. Faced the baying crowd. Familiarity tugged his heart. Then twisted it tight before dropping it leaving young Jack frowning and gasping for air.
He pulled up with a spray of gravel showering from his tyres; approached a revamped building and disappeared under a sign saying 'The Enchanted Castle' in pink neon. Jack cycled home to Google and form a plan.
It was a fortnight later when he returned.
A menacing beast of a man who looked like he could squeeze the life from you with his bare hands blocked the doorway.
"Members only!" He said with a slight Cornish lilt.
Jack nodded, slid the kitchen knife sharply forward and sliced deep through the doorman's padded Puffa and into his pudding of a body.
Jack grew into a fine young man but with every visit from Mr Blunderbore his hatred grew stronger too. Mum was always embarrassed and on edge when he visited. Jack didn't ask why but it was obvious she was no longer just paying off the loan from the pushchair.
For years he dreamt of killing him. Rescuing his Mum from whatever hold he had over her. So, one day, he followed him. Blunderbore drove fast. Badly. Ran lights and edged over the speed limit. They were soon by the canal. Victorian factories with grass growing in the decorative drain pipes.
But as time passed and I rounded more it began to feel quite wrong. I did a little life modelling and cut back even more. Tried to eat well for the sake of the baby but it was hard with no money so I subsisted on tea and value digestives.
My little Jack being born was a life changer.
Years passed, we'd been rehoused in a city centre tower block. I borrowed a bit. From a local man. The only one who'd lend to a no hoper like me. It was just for a pushchair. Jack liked to get out.
The beans gave us excitement for the future. Some optimism. Spring turned to Summer and Jack tended his earth like a worker at Kew. He sat outside for hours just staring at them, seeds of ideas growing in his head.
Jack's sorrow laden screams woke me this morning.
The open front door revealed Jack's plants. Pulled out. Snapped. Roots trodden on. Who could do this? I went out. The washing up bowl below in the carpark.
I clasp Jack close to my chest and see over his shoulder, Mr Blunderbore coming to collect this week's money.
I want to jump.
Jack rubbed them against his face. Smoothing them on his cheek. His shiny precious magic beans. We used the washing up bowl. Took some earth from the play area. Left them to grow outside our front door on the shared balcony next to the clothes airer.
Jack's breathless excitement at the first hint of a green shoot was heart stopping. Every hour he checked them as slowly they grew.
More reported excitedly until there were six.
An unfurling leaf.
The beans filled us both full of hope as they wove their steady way up the clothes horse.
We went to the park every day regardless of the weather. Always saw the same old man walking his dog. He always had something for Jack. A story. A wink. Then, as time went on, little presents. He'd passed Jack a plain brown envelope.
To Jack he said "Open it when you get home." And to me "Help him see the magic."
Too excited, we only waited until we got round the corner. I can't lie. I was hoping for some money or maybe tickets to Alton Towers. But inside were large smooth oval seeds. Mottled black, brown and burgundy.
I remember preparing myself for sale the first time. Scrubbing. Shaving. Sighing in the lukewarm water. As time went on I didn't bother with that, saved the bath for when I got home. I was stood in a layby by the A147 pressed against a Ford Focus thinking that one day my prince might come. Instead, sixth of the night did and I just looked forward to going home and bathing.
But the condom had split.
I was penniless and pregnant. My swollen boobs were good for business at the start, number six just a number and long since gone.
But life's too short isn't it?
So. Fairy Tale ending?
What do you think?
I'm not sure Cinderella ever did what I did. Certainly not in the back of a black cab at 1pm on a Thursday afternoon anyway. But it was a lot of fun and oh did he make me feel like a princess! He had an amazing way of...
Oh God! I've just noticed the time. My hubby's back from his conference tonight. Sorry. I don't want to be late home so the juicy details will have to wait for another lunchbreak.
Are you free next Friday?
The wine inside me shrieked with laughter. If people stared I'd long passed caring.
"Shall I rescue you? Shall we live happily ever after?"
Sometimes you have to grab your Prince by the fairytales when they walk into your life don't you? I did leave with him. I went to the toilets to phone late boy saying I had to go back into work, that I'd catch up with him next week. Then I left, in a rather drunken state, with a complete stranger without telling anyone where I was going or what I was doing.
Judge away. I know.