Flashbacks

It’s about eight thirty on a Monday morning, the fourth Monday in June as it happens. The Birthday of Henry ‘the Fonz’ Winkler and on this day in 1957, the day strawberry Blamange was first introduced into the UK. I’m smoking my second cigarette and feeling like crap, a strange acid type feeling that starts in the second half of your lower bowel and steadily rises until it reaches a crescendo affect at the back of your throat. Last nights party is ebbing into my consciousness, flickers of bad food mixed with equally bad company. I’m awake, hung over, starving and sore, and I don’t know why. I also don’t know why the bile rising from my stomach has a taste of honey, not that cheap squeezy stuff but the clear kind sold in glass bevelled jars with handmade labels saying made by a 60yr old farmer’s wife from Dorset and her two thousand hand reared bees. It was everything the morning after the night before should be.

My apartment is on the third floor of a converted paper mill, four stories high, made of bluestone and brick. It runs parallel to the old canal route and at certain times of day I swear I can hear horses strolling along the tow path. A New York style loft space, so the particulars said, a city must have for anyone young, talented and most definitely overpaid. High roofed, low lighted and wood floored, with ceiling high windows and exposed brick walls. The bedroom is the whole width of the apartment. A blaze of art house white wallpaper swirled with black glossed sunflowers. Swathes of Egyptian cotton voile draping the 8ft high windows, not only filling the room with an amazing amount of light but fantastic for people watching. This morning it’s the power walkers mingled with the school shoes, the brief cases with the shopping trolleys. There’s a child in a red woollen hat, not more than five or six and I’m spellbound as I watch her hop her way past the coffee shop on the corner. Then laugh as her mother, power dressed in a sapphire blue trouser suit tugs at the child’s arm then misses her footing and drops to her knees as if in prayer.

All is calm, except for the orchestra playing in my head. The wind section vying for power against the percussionists, with the symbols winning.  Then it hits me. The sickening realisation I’m not alone. A shapeless mound buried nearby starts to stir. I drop the cigarette into the empty bottle of Chablis on the floor and quickly yank at the duvet. A vision of toned masculinity, tanned to perfection, comes into frighteningly full view. For a second all I can focus on is the large morning glory that seems to be winking at me from across a well honed thigh. “Shit, who the hell is he”? I internally scream, “How much did I bloody drink”? Scrambling to the floor, self-consciously clinging to the duvet, I scramble to the floor, grab the mobile and start dialling.

Another patch of city, another patch of time :          

“Surrounded by an alleyway of tall red brick; weather beaten window frames precariously clung to shattered remnants of glass.  Scattered rubbish littered the cobbled pathway.  At that hour; the damaged street lamps only shed small specks of light along the track. The stench of overflowing bins, both extreme and pungent, hit her nose with a ferocity she had never before experienced. Paranoia crept into the edges of her thoughts, it kept telling her to check again. She didn’t dare, denial was the easier option. She quickened her pace…..

 

   There it was again… the footstep. It chilled her to the bone; there was no mistaking it that time. Quickly turning, a knee jerk reaction, she felt his hot breath skim her cheek. Almost tasting it, rancid, heavy and frighteningly familiar. His face spread into a wide hideous smile that stretched across the expanse. His eyes like pools of evil, flickered with malice in the absence of light. His arms stretched high above his head, held something hidden by the shadows.         “No please…Please no…Please!” she whimpered and lost her footing as she fell back against the red brick.

Then darkness.”

Locking myself in the bathroom, waiting for reinforcements, I see myself in the heavy rectangular mirror standing loose against the wall. I bought it from the Antique market in town. Held every third Sunday except in March when it’s replaced by the stench of three hundred Friesian cows at the farmer’s auction. The chap who sold me the mirror was about 4ft tall and looked at least 105, with small deep set eyes and a faint American accent. He said it once belonged to a tragic Hollywood starlet, embroiled in a passionate and secretive fling with her leading man, and who was I to doubt him? Although the gilded frame was fairly  tarnished and a few age spots had appeared in the bottom left hand corner, it quickly filled my senses with a heady scent of glamour and I’d loved it ever since. Unfortunately it wasn’t always forgiving and as I scan the remnants of last night’s mascara I can’t help but stare at the features facing back at me.  Where have I gone?, I don’t recognise the face staring back, but today maybe that was a good thing, today of all days I really don’t want to be who I was, what happened to Sarah Green? Life, opportunity and money happened to Sarah Green I ponder as I hear Jenny, my ever obliging, hardly ever at home Flat-mate swiftly and forcefully removing last nights night cap into a waiting cab.  “God, what did I do last night” well actually it was more like “who, did I do”?  but at 10am on a Monday morning I wasn’t ready for self analysis, neither was I ready for Work, “Shit” better get in the shower.

 

 Another patch of city, another patch of time :

       She opened her eyes to the bleak light and muted sounds coming from nearby. Every inch of her screamed with torment. Raising a weak arm to her head she instantly felt the large open wound pulsating across her brow. Blurred images were smudged against the insides of her eyelids. Dirt and blood congealed like random ink blots on carbon paper, covered the remnants of her blouse.  Slowly raising herself up against the redbrick she reached for her missing right shoe, the strap torn in two and the heel bent back on itself. She had to get out of there.

            A particularly vivid flashback hurled itself upon her fragile brain, forcing a wave of bile to surge up from her stomach, causing her to heave. The acid stung at her lungs and ravaged her tender torso. She wiped away the vomit as best she could and again forced herself upright. Clawing at the wall for support she felt her way out of the darkness and into the open. Desperately scouring the anonymous faces, her pace quickened into a sprint, her exhausted body straining to hold on.

Then darkness……….

 

Out of the shower I head for the living room. The air is heavy with last nights smoke and the unmistakable smell of cold Chinese food. The oversized sofas are minus cushions, and the limited edition sculpture that usually lives on the pedestal stand in the corner is somehow upside down in the wicker basket. I reach for the coffee Jenny has left on the breakfast bar. My morning elixir, “God” I can’t function without my fix, ‘Arabica coffee beans cultivated by Colombian pheasants’, or so the label said but could just as easily been three middle aged women in hair nets and industrial weillies working on a production line in Glasgow. I’m so damn late this morning I gulp at the coffee and unceremoniously try to manoeuvre my left leg into a pair of tights. Swearing like a fish wife as a small snag rises to a three rung aluminium loft ladder running from my ankle to my thigh.

Putting the coffee back down on the granite I attempt to salvage what’s left of my dignity and reach for another pair of tights. Jenny walks past sliding her hand across the empty pedestal stand as she comes to the breakfast bar. I always think of her as an unfinished painting, her green tinged eyes and beaded lashes hidden by an out of control mop of jet coloured curls, her loose bargain buy sweater hides a perfect figure. I can see her scanning the remains of my latest one nighter, and feel myself tensing. That feeling you get when you’ve just been caught putting a chocolate lime in your mouth at the pick and pix, or when you lie about having no change for a collection tin outside Sainsbury’s. There was silence. I look at Jenny. Jenny looks at me. She’s looking thoughtful as she polishes the counter, sighs, leans down on her elbows and hesitantly asks “Want to talk” .

My heart is racing, my palms are clammy and I don’t think it’s because of last night’s three bottles of wine or half -finished Chinese. “No, I’m fine” I shoot back, then quickly add “but thanks”.  I already know today will be hard. After all, pressures a drug and I was an addict. An addict for fine wine, fine men and chocolate cake it had to be said. So why do I feel so unsure, so frightened? Frightened is new for me, and I don’t like it. I’m always in control, I know exactly what I’m doing and why. Well, maybe not last night but “hey” there’s always an exception. I pick up my car keys, files, phone, “shit, where’s my bloody phone” and race for the door. “Good luck”, shouts Jenny.

Another patch of city, another patch of time :

     Her heavy eye lids lifted to the scent of antiseptic tinged with stale drink and urine. A sense of loathing coursed through her veins. A strange cold sensation was seeping beneath her skin. The more she strained her memory, the less she knew. Exposing herself to self-hatred, yet not knowing if she deserved it. She wasn’t sure where she was, or how she had got there, she remembered the flash of blue and the paramedics that had swathed her in a blanket, but nothing more. The nurse drew back the curtain, the crispness of her clean blue uniform heightened by the florescent lighting that flickered overhead. She caught sight of the police officer sat in the corner, she saw him writing in a small notebook and as he looked up she was sure she caught a look of sympathy wash over his face. She couldn’t shake the voices swirling in her brain, the sound of laughter, a taunting familiar laughter.

Then darkness…………

 

 The Court building, a large grey box, three stories high and well past its prime is in the centre of town, thankfully just a twenty minute car ride from home. From out of nowhere the heavens open, small rivulets of water are already running down the side of the road splashing knee high off the pavement and I don’t have a brolly, buried somewhere amongst the debris on the back seat of the car along with two pairs of trainers, an unopened Brie and Pesto baguette and collection of Starbuck’s cafe latte cups. I climb the steps two at a time, not dignified I know; but I was running late and grateful for that extra twenty miles I’d punished myself with on the treadmill. I caught site of Detective Ryan as I tumble through the doors. As I walk towards the group his expressionless eyes are probing my frame. He says nothing. I’m sure I catch him glancing at my tits as I bend to open my case. I’m muttering “creep”, as I fumble for my papers. I then head straight for my client; she’s sat on the wooden bench opposite.

Louise Jones is small; I’d say an eight, with short waif like hair that seems to emphasis the hollows in her cheeks. She stands with her side to me, bent forward a little, looking down at the floor. She doesn’t move or change position an inch, her breath a delicate whisper. Her mother, bottle dyed and time worn, wearing last year’s Primark collection is stroking her hand. A sort of automatic gesture that instantly seems a bit too contrived, or am I over evaluating? Hazard of the job I suppose. Louise had dressed down; she was wearing a black trouser suit, a pale green blouse and black patent boots.  She looks younger, somehow more vulnerable and I’m glad. Then kick myself for thinking that, after all, what she’s wearing shouldn’t have any bearing on the case. She looks at me and smiles, was that hope I could see in her eyes, it was hope I had in mine. Hope, that she couldn’t tell I was nervous. My mouth was dry and my tongue felt like gravel as I mentally forced myself to smile, a confident Boots No 7 blemished pink glazed smile.

                                                                            

Another patch of city, another patch of time :

    The older couple were physically shaken when they entered the room. Bill Jones tightened his grip around his wife’s waist as he mustered what little self control he had left, he forcibly guided her towards the bed. The police officer sensing their despair quickly stood and after placing a compassionate hand on Bills shoulder, left them alone. Questions and more importantly answers would come later, now was a time for tears, for comfort, not recriminations. She opened her eyes and felt the salt laden tears burn at her face, she felt her body shudder and convulse as she released the fear and pain stabbing at her chest. “Why, why” she mouthed as she sobbed uncontrollably into her mothers arms. Then darkness…………..

 

“Local Man Charged with Date Rape”

A local man has been charged with rape in connection with an incident in Sanford.

Paul Snape, 28, from Alamein Road, Sanford, appeared at Linton Magistrates Court yesterday. The case was committed to Swinfield Crown Court (pictured).

The charge relates to an incident on April 25, 2008.

 

The case has been heavy going. The defence lawyer, 6’3, mid thirties, strikingly handsome and impeccable in both his dress and argument is summing up. One hand rests on the mahogany hand rail in front of the jury the other confidently skims against the waistline of his trousers; a Paul Smith suit, black with a faint silver wisp in the pinstripe. He continually gestures towards his client, as if to emphasis the upstanding character and integrity of the accused, yet I can’t help but remember the time I caught this impeccable lawyer in the back of Judge Brown’s chambers, infragranti with the court registrar. His beautifully starched pinstripe trousers gingerly edged around his knees, it’s a vision that often amuses me, especially considering the court registrar is a bloke called Steve.

I need a bit of light relief; I’m finding it hard to judge the jury’s mood. Number six is a lady mid 60’s, thick rimmed glasses, once a week wash a set brigade, idolises her grandson and can’t remember if she fed the cat this morning. Number eight is heavy set, I’d say late forties with a distinguished silver streak in his hair, plays squash twice a week and shags the bar maid from the golf club while his wife’s at advanced yoga. Plus ten other equally random strangers. The evidence seems clear, Louise had faltered a bit on the stand but surely that wouldn’t count against her.

As I listen to the end of his closing statement, which I have to say is good, too good. His character assassination of Louise has been brutal, a good time girl who drank heavily and flirted her way up the office ladder.   A tease who had a grudge against a colleague and all the while I could see Louise shrinking back against the chair, her character been torn apart in front of twelve nameless strangers, not to mention her parents sat in the gallery beyond. She’s sitting hunched over, as if no one can see her, her hands writhing in her lap. She keeps her eyes down too terrified to face her attacker. His genial smile camouflaging a monster. The defence lawyer finishes and I slowly stand, fastening the buttons on my tightly tailored Zara two piece as I do. I give myself those last few seconds to prepare and then I begin “Members of the Jury” ….

Another patch of city, another patch of time :

    When her boss’s son had been sentenced the other local papers had gone to town. Paul Snape (Senior) was a highly respected Editor and local Councillor, chairman of the Golf club and recently appointed Justice of the Peace. The press had had a field day. Louise had never fully returned to work, although she had tried. Tried to ignore the silences as she entered a room, to ignore the disdain that spread across their faces whenever she walked past. Everything gone in a night, taken away in an instant. Her life had changed beyond recognition, she had moved back home away from the glare of prying eyes. She had slowly regained some sort of acceptance of the past, the mental anguish under lock and key. Occasionally let out in the darkness of her bedroom, the ticking of the alarm clock in time with her heartbeat as she retraces that walk along the cobbled pathway.

Then darkness………..

 

As for me, well it’s about eight thirty on a Monday morning, the fourth Monday in January as it happens. The Birthday of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and on this day in 1953, the day Hugh Heffner gave the world that great litery classic, Playboy. I’m wearing my Marks and Sparks’s pink pj’s, the kind with a hundred anorexic looking sheep thundering over fences. There’s a well worn nicotine patch secreted to my fore arm and I feel great. Moving out of the city had been the best thing I ever did. The house, on the edge of the village is an old weaver’s cottage; lime rendered brickwork with a beautiful garden and a trickling brook. And as I lay looking out of my window, I see the view tinged with early morning frost like thin threads of crystal shimmering in the sunlight or a hundred tiny spiders’ webs sewn together, and I can’t help but smile…..

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