Forty-five

Adam gets into his camp bed. It creaks. Then it stops.

I remember him sucking my breast. It wasn’t long ago. We were in this room, both in my bed, and I held him in the crook of my arm and he nestled against me and I felt like his mother.

He promised he’d come to the edge. I made him promise. But I didn’t know he’d lie next to me at night like a good boy scout. I didn’t know it would hurt to be touched, that he’d be too scared to hold my hand.

 

He should be out in the night with some girl with lovely curves and breath like oranges.

 

Instructions for Adam

Look after no one except yourself. Go to university and make lots of friends and get drunk. Forget your door keys. Laugh. Eat pot-noodles for breakfast. Miss lectures. Be irresponsible.

 

Adam says, ‘Goodnight, Tessa.’

Goodnight, Adam.

 

‘I phoned the nurse. She says we should top up the morphine with Oramorph.’

‘Won’t anyone come out?’

‘We can manage.’

‘She was calling for her mum again when you were on the phone.’

 

I keep thinking of fires of smoke rising of the crazed jangle of bells and the surprised faces of a crowd as if something has been snatched from them

 

‘I’ll sit with her if you like, Adam. Go down and watch TV, or catch up on some sleep.’

‘I said I wouldn’t leave her.’

 

It’s like turning off the lights one by one.

 

rain drizzles gently onto sand and bare legs as Dad puts the finishing touches to the castle and even though it’s raining me and Cal collect sea water in a bucket for the moat and later when the sun comes out we put flags on each tower so they flutter and we get ice cream from the hut at the top of the dunes and later still Dad sits with us as the tide comes in and together we try and push all that water back out so the people in the castle don’t drown

 

‘Go on, Adam. None of us will be any good to her if we’re exhausted.’

‘No, I’m not leaving.’

 

when I was four I almost fell down the shaft of a tin mine and when I was five the car rolled over on the motorway and when I was seven we went on holiday and the gas ring blew out in the caravan and nobody noticed

 

I’ve been dying all my life

 

‘She’s more peaceful now.’

‘Hmm.’

 

I hear only the fraction of things. Words fall down crevices, get lost for hours, then fly back up and land on my chest.

 

‘I’m grateful to you.’

‘For what?’

‘For not backing off. Most lads would’ve run a mile by now.’

‘I love her.’

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