Char is four. She doesn't sleep.
I'm so worried I've even taped strips of bright green sponge to the loft ladder
to stop it creaking as I come up and down. I'm also keeping the hatch wide
open so I can hear her if (when) she screams.
I've got almost all the junk up here now, including the wicker
chair and the splintered rocking horse. My hands are buggered,
chaffed as hell, with a large plaster round the bottom of my right
thumb to prove it.
There's just one box left.
This box is practically mummified with packaging tape. The words "THE ACTORY" are squiggled in black ink down one side. I have no idea
On my climb back down the ladder, my 'holy-crapola-I-forgot-to-turn-my-settings-to-muted' phone rings in my back pocket. "Shit," I whisper and snatch it out...
"John. Dr Gambyte here. Can you talk?"
"Right, hi Dr Gambyte, just give me a minute… I'm in the loft.
Just need to keep-" I duck under one of the roofing beams and sit down
in the peacock chair, which creaks madly like it's going to splinter
apart (crap), so I get off it quickly and park myself cross-legged on the
grubby floor..."-need to keep quiet, sorry. What's up?"
"I'm calling to check in about your Thursday 10.15am appointment? We haven't had a confirmation call from you, so I thought I'd phone you
"Yeah well, I haven't had time to confirm, sorry. And I'm not sure I can make it..."
"...right. Can I ask why?"
"Look, I don't want another one of your rants right now. Seriously. Can we just leave it?"
I scratch the back of my neck, which is cold and sweaty. I've put
off my last two sessions with the good Doctor. His patience
must be just about paper-thin by now.
look, I'll call you tomorrow to confirm, I just need to sort some stuff
here and then I can make sure I'm up to it. Okay?"
"I'd really appreciate that, John."
I close my eyes. "Okay." Open them again.
"Just before I go: how's Charlotte?"
"Is she still having...difficulties...about Mo?"
"We can talk about that more on Thursday. You still want to talk about Mo, don't you, John?"
"Of course I do. Why wouldn't I? I'm just getting her stuff in
the loft. And I don't know why I've even got it. Turns out it's just a mass
of crap. God knows why she'd leave it to her long-lost nephew, you think she'd know I wouldn't want to deal with this crud,
right? It's not like I can sell this stuff, it's too old." I glance at
the rocking horse, which looks like it belongs in a skip.
"...uhm, okay, John. I'll...I'll leave you to it. Let's
talk about your...about...Mo on Thursday, yes? Call us back with
confirmation tomorrow, please?"
"Do my best". I press the END CALL button and sling the phone
across the loft floor. The rocking horse stares at me, even though it
doesn't have eyes, just holes where the eyes are supposed to be.
It might be the noise of the phone clattering, the
back flying off it, but it's at that exact moment I hear