Page 27 - Demo
P. 27

alto to baritone and he was uncomfortable in his own body, untucking his shirts to cover his uncontrollable crotch. She noticed those kinds of things. They were charming, butnot what she would want from a boyfriend. She didn’t want him as a boyfriend. Shehad had enough of those. If they were like her – bookish and curious – they were old- fashioned when it came to women, looking to settle down and make babies. Not her, not yet at least.After the morning coffee crowd dispersed, Anne was in the kitchen helping Julia with filling the dishwasher. She needed to say something; maybe that would shake him out of her head. ‘I went for a jog along the fields this morning. Looks like they’re building a new school.’‘Yeah, a primary school,’ Julia said. ‘It’ll be good. We need another one. A lot of young families moving in.’‘I suppose.’ Anne tried to sound neutral, but had said the wrong words.‘Oh dear.’ Julia stood with a pile of saucers in her hands. She went on in hushed tones: ‘Is this going to be a problem for you? So close to your home?’Anne glanced through the kitchen hatch. An elderly couple sat near the window, well out of earshot. ‘No, no. I’ll be off licence by then, and I’ll apply to be removed from the register.’ She heard her own words as if from a stranger and her eyes welled up with relief.Julia put down the saucers and gave hera hug: soft and warm, smelling of breadand soap. That made her cry more, but ina sentimental way, remembering what friendships were like. After her arrest, friendsfrom her childhood, her university days, her job, all evaporated like phantoms.The lunch tables cleared, Anne went fora walk as she often did, to breathe some air that didn’t smell of food. Across the road was an old-fashioned sweet shop, busy at that time with children from the local sixth form. She would normally pay them no mind. But that day all the boys looked like Derek; about his height, with hair short at the sides and messy on top. She continued walking away, setting her eyes on the gift shops and the tourists gazing into them.One boy in his school uniform passed her. A whiff of sweet mint filled her nose. As he continued walking, he said to his friend, ‘She said...’ and his voice faded as they walked further away. Who was the ‘she’? A teacher? Mother? Girlfriend? Was he boasting the way pubescent boys do? The way Derek did?At the corner was an estate agent’s. In her mind she heard her probation officer talking about having a clean record – no new offences – perhaps she could even geta mortgage. She saw in the window a few terraced houses similar in size to hers, but on the other side of town. Far from Ethelred Primary School.Julia’s voice came from behind her. ‘Thinking of moving, aren’t you?’Startled at first, Anne felt a tinge of guilt. ‘Well, yeah. Maybe.’‘Don’t blame you. Mo and I were just talking – just among ourselves.’ She went into a whisper. ‘If you’re close to a school,the police could talk about you, casual like, having been on the register in the past. Small town – it could get around.’ She returned toher normal speaking volume: ‘And you know what people are like. It’s the scene fromthe end of Frankenstein, the villagers with torches and the pitchforks.’They both laughed.Then Julia added, ‘Better to play it safe’. ‘Absolutely,’ Anne said. It wasn’t abouther; it was because of them, overreacting strangers, pumped with anger from the tabloid press.‘With your situation changing, it might be a good time for a fresh start.’ Julia looked at the window display, saying something about helping her to find a place.Anne was only half listening. She just said, ‘Thanks’.Her reflection in the estate agent’s window was blurred like an out-of-focus photograph. In that image, she still looked like her younger self. Her head fought between the song – ‘Ch-ch-ch changes’ – and the way children smell of fruit and sweets.PAOLA TRIMARCO is a Cambridgeshire-based Italian-American writer, working on novels and essays. Previously a lecturer in Linguistics and Literature, she supplements any income from writing with academic consultancy work. She was recently published in the 100 Voices Anthology (2016), was shortlisted for the Wasafiri Life Writing Competition (2014) and has had a play performed at the King’s Head Theatre in London. With one novel complete, she is looking for an agent.showcasemslexia Mar/Apr/May 2017 27PHOTO: DUDAREV MIKHAIL / SHUTTERSTOCK

   25   26   27   28   29