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the church hall? Or Friday film night? She doesn’t go every Friday, your mum, just when your dad is away at an event or training camp or something. Or at the fête committee meeting, didn’t you see her there? Or at one of the other local events that your mum goes to on her own, that keep her so busy when your dad’s training and competing?Put like that, you can’t really blame your mum. But everyone knows what’s going on; that’s what so cringey and embarrassing. Everyone knows. Not that they say anything, but it’s the way they look at you, and the snidey little remarks at school. No one could have a secret round here. Did they really think they could?‘I’d like to think that we could be friends.’That’s it. You can’t keep your feet up any longer. You’ve failed, your core just isn’t strong enough.‘Emma? Cloth ears! I was just saying...’ ‘You’re screwing my mum, aren’t you?’ ‘What?’You can’t be bothered to listen to what hesays next. You turn away and look out of the window at the newly-flailed hedges and the darkening sky.He turns the pick-up into your lane.‘You can let me out here if you want,’ you say.His face is red and blotchy. He’s totally ancient and pathetic. What does your mum see in him?You open the door and set off as soonas he stops the car. You’d like to run but your bag’s heavy and you can’t run because you’re too fat, and it’s really hard in wellies anyway. He doesn’t try to follow you. Your skanky old bike is still in the back of his car. Good. One of them will have to give you a lift in the morning, like normal parents do when they’ve made their kids live out in the sticks.Your mum’s in the kitchen; you won’t be able to get upstairs without being interrogated. She’s making a cake or something.‘How was school? What did you do? Do you want some cake? I’ve made lemon drizzle.’You’re so breathless, you can barely speak. ‘Where’s your bike?’‘Don’t know. Nicked.’‘How did you get home?’‘That man gave me a lift. Your friend.’ ‘What friend?’‘The old pervy one. Alan.’You wait a split second, your foot overthe first step. Nothing. No reaction. What’s wrong with them all? Are they all brain- dead?‘Alan. You know. The fat pervy bloke you’re having an affair with.’Your Mum drops the metal spoon and creamy cake mix spatters over the slate floor. ‘Can I lick the bowl when you’ve finished?’Your mum looks at you like she doesn’t like you very much.‘What? What now?’‘Dinner’s at half six!’ she shouts upstairs. You lie on your bed. You should startyour maths homework, but you do nothing at all. You wait for the sound of a siren, or a flashing light, or someone knocking on the door but nothing happens. Nothing at all.Downstairs, your mum carries on baking like she always does, making chocolatecakes and lemon drizzle and sticky toffee puddings: all for you, to make everything alright; except you don’t really want them and it isn’t alright. She makes separate dinners for your dad: low-fat, high-carb, high-protein. The perfect mother. The perfect wife.Your dad bought you a heart rate monitor for your birthday last week. Your mum baked a stupid big cake and asked you if you wanted any friends to come round for tea. You couldn’t tell her that you don’t haveany friends at school, because they all think you’re fat and clever and not from round here. And they’re right.You’re still lying on your bed wrapped up in your favourite old Teletubbies duvet when you hear your dad come indoors, and then raised voices. He comes up to your room and he doesn’t knock but barges straight in.‘Emma, there’s been an accident. We’re just ringing for an ambulance. Don’t worry, alright? I passed the car on the way back from my run. Stay here, by the phone, in case the ambulance rings back. OK?‘Emma! Do you understand? We’re going back with blankets. We’re just on the corner of the lane OK?‘For God’s sake Emma, are you listening!’ You don’t ask who it is, or if it’s serious. Before, when you opened the door of theMitsubishi and set off towards home, you wanted to run but your bag was heavy and you can’t run in wellies anyway. You started walking away from the car towards home, and then you heard a car skidding and the dull thud of metal on wood. You half-ran half-walked, as fast as you could, up the lane towards your house; and when you arrived you were so out of breath you could barely speak.You opened the kitchen door and you wanted to just run to your mum and tell her what had happened. But she didn’t even look up at you when you arrived. She carriedon mixing whatever it was that she was mixing, and then came the usual barrage of questions: ‘How was school? What did you do? Do you want some cake? I’ve made lemon drizzle’.And there was still time then, time totell her; and you wanted to tell her, but you had just one chance, one split second to say it. It was just a split second, and you didn’t say anything, and then it was too late. It was too late to say, ‘Oh by the way, I think there’s been an accident. I think Alan’s crashed his car. You know, your friend, Alan.’Now you’re lying on your bed and the ambulance is coming. Doppler-shifted, you can hear its rising siren sound. It’s your fault. You know what a terrible person you are. And whatever happens, whether Alan lives or dies, whether he’s absolutely fine or crippled for life, it will be your fault. It doesn’tmatter that you didn’t make him crash; you provoked him, he crashed his car, and you didn’t raise the alarm. You are as guilty as sin, and you know it.If you just keep your feet off the floor, then everything will be OK.You turn on your laptop, go straight to the pages you’ve looked at before. Everything is here, all the instructions, step-by-step.While they’re loading Alan into the ambulance, you’re arranging everything you need. While the ambulance pulls away, you’re positioning your dressing-table stool just where you need it.You never get to know that he’s only got concussion and bruises. After the ambulance leaves, you don’t hear them come back to the house and put on the kettle. You don’t hear your dad say, ‘I’ll just go and check on Emma’. You don’t hear him knock on your bedroom door. You don’t hear him come in.You planned this a long time ago; you just didn’t know it was going to be tonight. You know that your mum and your dad will be better off without you; they can go their separate ways and do their own thing, and no more pretending.You tighten your abdominals, squeeze your glutes, engage your core. If you just keep your feet off the floor, then everything will be OK.JACKIE TAYLOR lives in Cornwall, holding down a position as an online company partner and running a holiday letting business. Describing herself as a ‘binge writer’, she finds solitude, fresh air and a deadlinehelp focus her. Her work has appeared in anthologies and magazines, won the Polperro Festival Short Story competition (2014) and was joint-winner of the STERTS Theatre One-Act Play competition (2015).showcasemslexia Mar/Apr/May 2017 25

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