The Storyteller

The storyteller was sitting at the end of my childhood bed, his large hands waved wildly about as he planted the tiny seed of a story in my mind. He looked like a Disney grandfather with his light hair, papery skin and peep-over glasses. He was a caricature: he was Giuseppe, Kris Kringle, Dumbledore.

‘And then?’ I asked. ‘And then?’ As if each new heroic feat or twist in the story wasn’t an ending, but a stepping-stone to other more dangerous adventures.

The storyteller smiled and taking my cue continued to weave twist after twist into the story. ‘And then…’ the storyteller said, kissing my forehead and turning out the light, ‘it’s the end.’

‘But it can’t be?’ I struggled to free myself from the constraints of my blankets.

‘It’s not really,’ he said. Standing in the doorway his silhouette made him look like a giant. ‘It’s just a pause until tomorrow. I’ll see you in the morning.’

I took his words as a promise and settled back into bed. ‘Just a pause,’ I nodded solemnly. ‘Goodnight, Dad.’

I was ten years old.

‘Goodnight, Dad’ was probably the last thing I ever said to my father. Not goodbye, not I love you. The End didn’t feature in our story, only the promise of another meeting. Perhaps if I had known then what I know now I would have begged him to stay. I would have made him tell me how the story ends. But I didn’t. I closed my eyes and I went to sleep.
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Newmarket Station

Dear Sick Mara,

The express train slowed as it approached the station but not by much. I stood at the very end of the platform, the quiet bit that’s usually scattered with pigeons. Today, though, there were no pigeons. I was completely alone.

My eyes were glued to the platform’s edge. It was barely three steps away from me. The tracks below were sprouting weeds and faded chip packets.

A strange buzzing sensation grew in my legs, just above my knees and took hold of my thighs within micro-seconds. It was a warm sensation. Hot even. Flooding every cell of my body now. I could feel my legs urging the rest of my body forward.

Go on, they cooed. Do it. It’s so close. Just three little steps…

Three steps…

I watched, as though from outside my own body, my foot rising from the cement and moving forward. There would be no guilt after this. No remorse. No more bingeing and purging. No more chocolate, or eviction notices, or stealing, or feeling so fucking worthless all the time.

Two steps…

The buzzing was like warm honey oozing through my veins now. God, it felt so deliciously right and yet so very, very wrong at the same time.

One step…
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Tipping point

Dear Sick Mara,

We’ve been given the ultimatum. This is it. The tipping point.

I still have my mother’s diary. And everyday I take it out from my bedside table, turn it over in my hands and I look at it. I don’t want to read it. Truly. But most days I sneak in a page or two. I’m not very far in, which I think on some level is a good thing, but I know I shouldn’t be reading it at all. I shouldn’t have it at all.

But as it turns out, Mum is a good writer. A tight writer—using very few words to convey so much meaning. A bit like Mum in real life I suppose.

Today I found a quote she had written down from the French novelist, Anatole France:

All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy, for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter into another.’

It’s on repeat in my head. Over and over I hear the words. We must die to one life before we can enter into another.
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No experience

Dear Tom,

Let’s talk about sex.

Fact: I haven’t had sex in nearly three years. At least not with another person. (Yes, Internet, I did just openly admit to masturbation. Guess what? Girls do it too. Deal with it.)

Embarrassingly, my experience in the sack can basically be summed up by too many vodkas, an unmade bed, underwear around my ankles and my boyfriend at the time huffing an puffing on top of me until he groaned and collapsed on my chest. I never really enjoyed it—not like those screaming girls on the internet seem to—but I figured that’s just what happened in relationships. Sex happened whether you were into it or not. ‘Cos a relationship without sex is just a friendship, right?

And, as if to highlight just how inexperienced I am when it comes to sex, I’ve gotten into the immature habit of calling it sassy-time. How’s that for grown up?

Fact: Tom, you look as if you’ve had many a sassy-time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not calling you a slut, just that you have this air of confidence about you and it screams experience. That, and the fact that you’re eyes are so annoyingly piercing I bet you could just wink at girl and she’d spread her legs. I’m sorry but it’s true.

Fact: I have imagined you naked. But girls imagine guys naked probably as much as guys imagine girls naked.

Fact: I may have possibly had a sassy-dream about you as well…

And in regards to your letter…

Fact: I did ignore your pleas to stop including you in my blog.

Fact: As predicted, I did post your letter to my blog.

But, fact: I didn’t ignore you. I was so non-ignoring you that I even took your advice…
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Bullet points

Dear Mara,

You can’t just up and quit being my tutor without giving me notice because a.) it’s not professional, b.) it’s not you, and c.) it kills me to admit this, but I need you more than you think. And it seems that writing you a letter is the only way to get this message across. But knowing you, as I feel I do now, you’ll probably ignore this request—and my appeal for you to stop writing about me in your blog—and instead post this for all the world to see, and give me the silent treatment.

Girl with a heart balloon, date unknown, Banksy (UK, birth date unknown). Location: South London, UK. (Photo credit:

Girl with a heart balloon, date unknown, Banksy (UK, birth date unknown). Location: South London, UK. (Photo credit:

I know you’re going to over-analyse this letter, but please try not to. Most people don’t think about every single word they choose, and I know I’ve probably chosen the wrong ones already. I’m writing from a good place. I hope that comes across. I’ve never written a letter before, so sorry about my shitty hand writing.

Seeing as though you taught me to use bullet points when drafting essay points (as ridiculous as that sounds) I’m going to use them in this letter.

Here goes nothing…
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Broken wanderer

Dear Tom,

Can you please stop being the only conversation in my life? That was what I’d been trying to ESP you from my couch last Friday night. You didn’t ESP me back.

‘What did you do to my best mate?’

I looked up from my book, from being scrunched into the corner of the couch, to the bird-egg blue eyes of my brother. I hadn’t realised the front door was even unlocked and yet there he was, standing just inside my flat. He had a bottle of wine in a brown paper bag. ‘Tom?’ I asked. ‘I didn’t think he was your best friend.’

‘Not best friend in the way you girls have best friends. But, yeah, he’s one of my oldest friends, and you broke him.’

‘What are you talking about?’

Rory shut the door behind him and walked the bottle of wine over to me. Even though he knew where the glasses and corkscrew were he still gave the job to me. I would have minded more if he wasn’t being so generous by bringing me wine. ‘He’s gone,’ Rory said.

Wanderer above the Sea of Fog, 1818, Caspar David Friedrich (Germany 1774–1840). Kunsthalle Hamburg. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wanderer above the Sea of Fog, 1818, Caspar David Friedrich (Germany 1774–1840). Kunsthalle Hamburg. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tom had already pulled that  surprise chestnut on me. I wasn’t panicked. Not yet. I’d seen him just this week for tutoring and we’d already planned what assignment we were working on next week. ‘He doesn’t leave for Brissy for months,’ I said.

‘I didn’t say Brisbane. I just said he’s gone. And I don’t know where—a best mate tends to know these things. So I can only assume he didn’t tell me because it has something to do with you.’

I got two glasses from the cupboard.

‘Don’t think I don’t know what you two losers are up to,’ Rory said.

‘Yeah, we’ve been studying, moron. This may surprise you, but I’m professional when I’m working, and Tom can keep it in his pants. Unlike some.’ I narrowed my eyes at my too-good-looking-for-his-own-good brother.

Why’d he have to go and steal all the beautiful genes in our family. My brother belonged on a Burberry billboard. While I, on the other hand, needed to be shelved in a Strawberry Shortcake book—the acne years. Continue reading

Sandwich squares

Dear Rob,

You asked if we could start again.

You asked if we could be civil to each other.

You asked for my permission to marry my mother.

‘Aren’t you meant to ask before doing it?’ I said. I shoved my hands into the front pocket of my apron. We were standing just inside the door of the cafe. I was working, covered in whisked egg and coffee grinds. It was four o’clock on Sunday afternoon. I was tired and dirty and sick of pretending that I gave-a-damn.

Your daughter was with you. She looked up at me through a wind-blown fringe—no doubt from running ahead of you through the city streets. Kids run a lot. As though they’ll miss out on something if they can’t run there. Growing up must seem very slow to a child.

‘He always does things in the wrong order,’ she said in a tiny voice.

I stared at her trying to remember her name—I asked Mum every time and every time she answered the name flew straight out of my head again. Rose? Rosie? Rosalie?

You ushered her over to the table in the window. The cafe was empty—I’d been in the process of closing down when you set off the brass bell above the door.

‘I’d love to buy you a coffee?’ you said to me.
‘I’m working,’ I answered, but not unkindly.

As though he’d been listening in, my boss Luca appeared from the kitchen. You and he greeted each other with smiles and laughter, doing the back-slap thing that men do when they don’t quite hug. Your daughter (Rosemary? Roxy?) and I stood there looking lost and awkward.
Luca turned to me, ‘Mara, knock off early.’ Then to everyone, ‘Sit, sit. I’ll bring out coffees.’

And I wondered if you hadn’t planned this whole thing.

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