Posted in Blog, Creative Writing, Writing

It’s A Match

Dearest Diary,

Christmas is over, and there was one gift on my list that I didn’t get. It’s been on my mind for weeks, consuming my every second, reminders screaming at me from the street of the one thing I lack.

Valentine’s Day is coming, but I can’t even think of a candle lit date with a lover. Lovers are ten a Penny. I can find a new plaything in an instant, but there was another craving, something so essential that I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t function, until I had what I needed.

I needed to be a mother.

I’d see them everywhere I went. Happy women with bouncing, blossoming babies. They’d share smiles with their little ones, a kind of love I’d never quite captured, and as I watched them pass me by, I felt empty and alone.

My dolls were no help, staring back at me in silence as I sobbed, until their stares became glares, and that was the moment I realised that they shared my need. The flat was so quiet. We needed a child of our own to be a real family. My dolls dreamt of someone to play with them, and I dreamt of a child of my own to give all the love that soared within me.

It wasn’t easy. Babies are so heavily guarded. Mother’s instinct, I suppose, a protective, possessive power that keeps their infants shielded, so a baby was out of the question. I tried, of course, but I could barely get close. Those witches, selfish and furious, wouldn’t share their blessings with me, so I had no choice but to look elsewhere.

As children get older, it seems their parents care less. They let them play a little further away in the park. They let them walk to school in little groups. They let them go to the corner shop all alone, and that was how I met my daughter.

She left the shop with an armful of sweets, and our eyes met as I sat on the bench across from the door. I waved, her eyes lighting up as she spotted the huge pile of sweets beside me on the bench. It didn’t matter that she already had sweets of her own, every child wants more, and I had plenty to spare.

She ran towards me with a bright smile, and that was when I knew I’d found my little girl. She may have been born to someone else, but she was always meant to find her way to me. She was always meant to be my daughter.

We talked for a while as I watched her, overwhelmed with choice, picking through the sweets. She told me that her name was Chelsea, but I made a note to change it later. It just wasn’t the kind of thing I envisioned for my little Princess, you know?

She was about to go, worried about getting home to do her homework when I asked her if she’d like to have a tea party with my dolls. She was only six years old, after all, and there was plenty of time for homework, so why shouldn’t she have a little fun?

She couldn’t say no, taking my hand and walking back towards the flat with me, her face glowing with the biggest smile I’d ever seen.

I thought she’d be surprised, maybe even a little frightened when she got home and saw my dolls. I’d dressed them up nicely and made them look their best, but they can still be a bit of a shock the first time somebody sees them, especially Marilyn, due to her difficulties since Pumpkin’s fixed her up for me, but Violet wasn’t scared at all.

I decided to call her Violet, because my mother always liked floral names.

When we arrived home, the dolls were sat around the table as Marilyn struggled to fix some sandwiches, her jaw dropped, but no scream audible as the knife went back and forth over her limp wrist. I ran and pulled the knife from her flesh, mopping the blood from the sideboard, and Violet just sat down at the dining table smiling over at me.

Once I’d cleaned Marilyn up and put her to bed, Violet and I shared tea and sandwiches, talking about her favourite books and cartoons. We braided the hair of my dolls with hair long enough and did make up for the rest, and as time went on, I forgot that someone else had stolen so much time with my little girl from me, and I got lost in how happy I was, smiling, just like all the women I’d seen.

As I tucked her in and read her a story, she began to ask about her “Mummy”, and after a little back and forth, we agreed that I was her Mummy and the woman before was just a nasty imposter. She still argued with me about it, even after we agreed, but that’s kids for you, so childish.

It was just a phase. She was up bright and early the next day, pulling at the front door and yelling, probably eager to get to school, but I pulled her back towards the living room, deciding then and there that she needed to be home schooled.

She began to cry sometime around lunch and she didn’t stop until long after sunset. I gave her sweets. I let her pick any doll she wanted to play with. I let her watch television, until she saw herself on a breaking news bulletin and freaked out. I tried everything, but she wouldn’t stop crying, and her crying had begun to become shrieking.

I didn’t want to resort to it, but I had no choice but to call an old friend. Within minutes, Pumpkins had arrived, Marilyn shrinking away in tears as she saw him stride past her in the kitchen. He rounded on Violet, eyeing up the restraints on the bed as she struggled against them, and simply shrugging, deciding that it wasn’t his business.

I didn’t want to do it. I’d have preferred my little girl to remain as she was, rather than becoming another living doll like Marilyn. I already had a living doll! And besides, Violet was my heir, my very own little girl, and I wanted to be able to teach her so many things, but… her screaming was going to attract unwanted attention, so if Pumpkins stealing her light would shut her up, then it was a sacrifice I had to make.

He winced at her weeping but knelt beside the bed, stroking her cheek gently as he kissed her forehead, preparing to snatch her soul, but as his lips lingered and her screams rang out, I realised that something was wrong.

“I don’t have anything for him to take, Mummy.” Violet whispered, her voice still and her sobbing silenced as our eyes met and her own flashed with anger.

Pumpkins backed away, giving me one last look of pity from the small holes in his mask before he ran from the flat without a word. Violet gazed up at me, motioning with her tied hands to the kitchen.

“Bring me some biscuits.” She snarled. “And a new dolly.”

Motherhood isn’t quite what I thought it would be. You see, dearest diary, I’ve finally met my match. I understand why her parents let her out all by herself when she was such a little girl.

She was no such thing. I still don’t know what she is. She has no soul and she certainly isn’t human, but, my dearest, darling diary, she is my little girl, and I will love her all my life, or as long as she lets me live.

Love forever,
The Puppet Mistress

Posted in Blog, Creative Writing, Writing

Jam Sandwich

He grew like a weed,
sprouting and towering above me,
but in my eyes,
he was still five years old,
jam under his fingernails,
reaching up with a smile and sticky hands.

When he was three, he struggled to speak,
but by thirteen, I couldn’t shut him up,
always gabbing,
babbling about the football as dinner falls from his excited mouth,
a stern stare from his father would restore the memory of his manners.

I remember him that way,
or with sticky fingers and a sweet little smile,
even as the handsome man who used to be a boy,
blushing as I rub the remains of his breakfast from his chin,
shooing me from his side as the other uniformed sons step into line with him.

The house was haunted by the eternal emptiness.
I would stare into the cupboard,
my stare, stuck on the strawberry jam,
the last one in town,
a rare, secret treat that I would not allow to be eaten,
until my boy was back home.

It still stares back at me,
with that same, sticky, sweet smile as the small boy who became a man,
A man who couldn’t stay.

Every evening,
I stay up late,
after a long day of listening to the neighbourhood kids,
wondering if their mothers know how lucky they are to never have a moment’s peace.
Everything is quiet as I switch on the television,
blinking back the burst of light it lets into the room,
and the football highlights start.

I’ve made him a jam sandwich.
It’s on the kitchen table,
with all the other ones.

Posted in Blog, Creative Writing, Pride Month 2022, Writing

I Am A Daughter To Many Mothers

I am a daughter to many mothers.

At the highest point of my heart is the one who placed a name, so gently, on my tiny, tender chest, that rose and fell with the tiny, timeless breaths, as she stood by a cot, staring at the thing she had created, with the might of her feminine form.

As I grew, I grasped that there were many women who could adore me in an eternal, unconditional way that surpassed the power of romance or friendship, and as I searched the world for a desire I could not yet understand, I was guided by the kind, consequential hands of many mothers.

My own, the first, humble in my home town, never able to recognise her power, and the power that she had planted underneath my skin when we shared nine glorious months in each other’s company. I learned to be a woman from her, and from her mother. Icons of ambition that cast a cool shadow across me, giving relief from the constant callous lights of life.

I found another, when I tripped and fell into time and space. Our skins had a similar shimmer, and I knew she was something to do with me. That ol’ black girl magic, bewitching and bold. Bricks at the pigs as the sun hid in shame on the corner of Christopher Street. I looked at her, for years and for centuries, seeing the same image that had manifested in my mirror during those troubling first months of puberty.

One more, making her way to me from the movies. Over the rainbow and over the edge, where my fingers clung to the crumbling remains of my restful unawareness. As I spent so long asking what was wrong with me, she just sang softly to my soul as I slept among poppies and popular characters, dreaming of a time when the demon that lived inside of me would feel more like a friend.

Loved and lauded, I still return to the first, sobbing on a voice note about my secret, from miles away, because as I tell her the truth, I cannot face her. Her face is pure, unparalleled love, and though her arms are miles away, I feel the embrace of my mother and the power that she has always had.

I am a daughter to many mothers. A child of war and a child of peace. I am a recipe that has been crafted and perfected by generations of Liverpool’s ladies, the songbird from New Orleans and the little girl that got lost in Oz.

I am ready, now.

Posted in Blog, Creative Writing, Writing

Weeding – Part One

My Son is missing, but I have a feeling I know where he is. That sounds ridiculous, so allow me to explain. I don’t know his location, or the address, but I know where he’ll be. I know who he’s with.

It’s those people. Those sick, sick people.

They’ve got my Andrew. I’ve told the police but they didn’t believe me. I called his university and they said there was nothing they could do. I’ve called his phone every day since he disappeared, and today, it stopped going through at all.

He’s at The Garden. My son is locked away with God knows who, and all I know is that he’s at The Garden of The Free Children. What is The Garden? Well, that’s quite simple. It’s a cult.

The worst part is that it didn’t seem like such a bad place at first. That’s how they do it. That’s how they steal away our children. Please listen to me. Yours could be next.

Andrew came home for the Christmas break and told me all about it. He seemed so excited about this “Garden” and all the friends he’d made. I was pleased, because he’s painfully shy and he had always had trouble making friends and connecting with others, so it was great to hear that he was thriving, even if it was through a church group.

He told me that they supported each other and did volunteering, and my mind was at rest, for a little while, anyway.

I wish I’d asked more questions. That’s what I keep coming back to. If I’d have found out more at the time, I’d have an easier time finding him now.

I started to get worried a few days later, when he started sleepwalking.

He had never done that before, he was always a deep, and relatively still sleeper, but I woke up to find him stood at the foot of my bed.

I called out to him, but he didn’t look up. His eyes were closed and he was whispering. As I stood to investigate, my husband pointed out that he had earphones in. Andrew was just standing there, his eyes closed, undeterred as my husband shook his shoulders, constantly chanting all this nonsense about darkness and a Goddess.

He stayed that way for about a minute, before he just collapsed to the floor. In that moment, it felt like my heart stopped. He began chanting again, over and over, just one word.

“Darkness. Darkness. Darkness.”

He began shaking, his whole body, shaking as his eyes opened wide, bloodshot and sore. There was a horrifying gargle from his throat and then he suddenly fell back, still.

We called his name, shaking his almost lifeless body, before he snapped back to life with a smile. He had no memory of any of it. He didn’t remember the chanting, the sleepwalking, the shaking. None of it.

He was cheerful as he stood up, kissing us both on the cheek and wandering off towards his bedroom. I went after him, but he just slammed the door shut, and if I’m honest, I was a little frightened of opening it and confronting him.

I wish the weirdness had stopped there. I wish I could free my Son from this sickness but he’s consumed by these people. They’re eating him alive.

I asked him about the sleepwalking the next day, but he just told me not to worry. It happened every night for the rest of his stay, but he never had any real explanation. He’d just tell me not to worry. Every night, he’d be at the foot of the bed, mindlessly chanting, and then whenever we tried to stop him, he’d fall to the floor.

After the third time, I just stopped sleeping at night. I’d rest during the day while my husband kept an eye on him, but he went on, as normal, as if nothing was happening.

We tried to get him to a doctor, and that was when I saw a major change. He’d never enjoyed going to the doctor, nobody does, but he was never so insistent on not going. He started screaming at the suggestion, ranting about how doctors were untrustworthy and just wanted to butcher people. I’d never seen anything like it. He began packing up his things, and when my husband tried to calm him down, Andrew attacked him.

My Son has never been violent. He’s the opposite of violent. He was always a shy, sensitive boy, but as his father tried to reason with him, Andrew punched him, right in the face.

My husband fell back, in complete shock, and for a moment, there was stillness. It lasted just a second before Andrew launched across the room and began beating and choking his father.

It was like he was feral. I had never seen him that way and it terrified me. He was screaming and yelling. Not words, just noise. Guttural, wild screaming. I tried to pull him away, but there was a strength I’d never felt from him before, he just pushed me aside and continue his assault.

It took several attempts but I managed to finally pull Andrew away. As I checked on my husband, examining his bruised and bloody face, Andrew stormed out of the house, and that was the last time I saw him.

He stopped calling home, and any time I’d call him, it would go to his voicemail. I left messages over and over, saying that I just needed to know he was safe, but he never responded. I wrote letters to him. I called the university. I started leaving daily messages on his Facebook wall, until he shut his profile down. I even set up an Xbox Live account so I could sent a message to his profile there, but he closed the account shortly after.

It was like he was trying to isolate himself more and more from everyone around him, and was determined that nobody was going to reach him.

I decided to travel up to the university to see him, but he wasn’t there. His housemates said that they hadn’t seen him in days, and that he hadn’t attended lectures or seminars in weeks. They’d tried to contact him but had faced the same setbacks that I had.

Apparently, he just took off in the middle of the night, after they confronted him about his strange behaviour. He’d left all his belongings and just disappeared.

I asked them if they knew about the Garden, and their faces fell. One by one, they all explained that it was notorious around the campus. Once people went in, they never came back out.

They told me that the group latches onto vulnerable kids and pulls them in, and after a while, those kids were never seen again. None of them knew where I could find the Garden, just that a couple of girls visit the campus to recruit for them, every couple of weeks.

I’m going to wait here as long as it takes. I’m going to find those girls, and I’m going to make them take me to my Son. It isn’t much of a plan, but it’s all that I’ve got.

I called his phone again, and now I don’t even get his voicemail, it doesn’t even ring. His number has been disconnected, and all I can hope is that I find him soon.

Posted in Blog, Creative Writing, Writing

A Portrait Of My Motherhood, From The Perspective Of My Long Suffering First Born

7am,

she was my alarm,

loud lullabies at the wrong time of day,

her voice following the melody of the clattering kitchen as I followed the smell of toast to the table.

She had my school tie in her hands,

throwing it to hands that were too tired to catch as her wife watched the whole scene unfold from behind the pages of a broadsheet.

Dark tresses descended down the back of her garishly bright dressing gown,

and she sipped, through painted lips, at strawberry milkshake as she prepared more breakfast than her family could ever consume.

A gargling infant on her hip, harmonising with her nonsense morning medley,

she was a strange sight,

to anyone but us.