section 2 – novel in progress


Everyone says it’s impossible, but I swear that my first memory is of HER, of being with HER, our faces touching, breathing in complete harmony, in out, in out, in out – my perfect mirror image.

Throughout my childhood, I held this memory tight  to myself – hugging it close – in a desperate attempt to re-create that sense of closeness, that sense of the circle closed.

Once, when I was tiny & before I really understood my mothers’ rules, I told her about this memory – there was a moment of terrible silence, a pause so filled with something I did not understand but knew was very very very bad and then she hit my face – hard

Too shocked to cry. I stood gulping air, waiting for someone to make it all aright again.

I was 4 years old, and it was a lesson well learnt .

I kept my memories secret from then on in – I hugged them close to me in pale imitation of the initial hug. I slept with my own arms wrapped around myself. Rocking myself to sleep while in another room, my mother slept or didn’t sleep wrapped in her own misery memories.



The thing, the thing about the women here, the thing that really gets me, that really makes me mad is that they bleat on and on about their bloody kids

“my Chantelle this” and” my Liam that” but they don’t know how easy they have it – see their kids once a fortnight, all dressed up in their dodgy knock off designer clothes but they, the women here, 3 meals a day cooked by somebody else, no decisions to make- they have nothing to do with really being a mum –

The clever ones, the ones who know how to work the system, they remember to ask after our kids, to show an interest, to ask our advice, but they don’t care & we don’t either.

And what really gets to me is the way they use their kids to justify their  stupid little crappie crime lives – “I did it to feed my kids”

“I stayed with him to give my kids a dad”

“ I wanted to give my kids a decent Christmas”


& I want to scream at them –  do you know what time I got up this morning – 3 bloody am so that I could iron their school uniforms and make packed lunches – cos if I leave it to him, he lets them have school dinners & we can’t afford that & then I drove my heap of shit car here in the dark all reasy fro another early , all the time praying for no more funny noises cos I may not be a mechanic but I know that funny noises cost  and when I leave here I need to do a big shop & I can’t trust him to do it properly and when I get home nobody will have done nothing & I’ll stomp around & feel so angry and wound up & if the kids so much as look at me funny – I just know how that will go.

And then it struck me – it’s easy to love your kids when you don’t see them very often. Maybe if I was here – or somewhere like here – maybe I’d be talking about my kids like that too.


Is that enough reflection for you teacher?




Bereaved twin – that’s the term for me or at least the label I prefer to give myself

I can remember  the first time that I ever heard of dead twin syndrome. Of course it was radio 4, burbling on quietly in the background.  Where else do women like me learn anything?

There were others like me, talking about loss, sadness, a sense of something missing, bereavement & grief. I was quite simply gob- smacked, so much so that I had to pull the car onto the hard shoulder and sit, with my hazard lights blinking, while complete & faceless strangers described exactly how I felt.

It had never crossed my mind to see the death of my twin as really anything to do with me, the grief, the quiet sense of mourning continued for far too many years was all for my mother. After all what could I possibly be missing?

I miss the circle we make when we cocoon together, your eyes looking into mine, the few moments when your  warm breath was on my face, as we inhaled together, breathing in & out in complete harmony, I miss your hand in mine, our fingers curled together, hips brushing against each other, I miss the sense of never being alone…………….

For the first time in my life I had an identity, I was a bereaved twin, I too could hold onto my grief, could name it, I had a label to offer to other people, I could define myself not by was I was not, but what I had become.


I made the effort to meet other bereaved twins, hoping for companionship, hoping madly that like lost shoes, perhaps I could find another to make up my missing half. I hadn’t realised that there was a hierarchy of loss, those who had known their twin the longest, were seen as the most bereaved, we, [& I was not the only one] whose twins had died moments after birth  were seen as the least afflicted, after all the logic went, how could we miss what we had never had.

I spent a perfect 9 months with you, we were never out of each other’s sight or reach, our experiences were identical, as were our genes, it was the most intense [ & brutally, the longest] relationship of my life, how can anyone say that I am not allowed to play the loss card.

I moved away from the bereaved twins, not able to share or grade my misery, but grateful that it now had a name



But I need to be writing this thing – we have to take it to the sessions & show it to the teacher – she said not to call her a teacher – but I reckon, it’s a classroom, she’s in the front & I’m writing down what she says – makes her a teacher in my world.


I used to work on main population just on a wing and I liked that – the others girls I worked with were a good laugh – we had some fun & even the women were ok – done crime, knew the score, not too many muppets or head cases – it was all pretty straightforward, but then they moved me here – said I needed to widen my experience – didn’t want to do it – but they said that I would go up a grade & you know the car keeps making that funny noise, so no choice really.

The vulnerable prisoner unit   – yeah well- they should have thought about that before they let some no hoper kiddy fiddling boyfriend downloads snaps of their kids for freaking pedos to perve over.

That’s what most of them are here for – that or some bad violence shit towards their own kids & like most of the time when I go in – I’m looking at them & inside I’m saying of go on just kick off a tiny bit cos you know what none of you are that safe with me either – what they done just turns my stomach – but they know that, so they never ever put a foot wrong, they know that we can end their life – just like that – admin mistake – send them over to main population – come & pick up the mess later.

But there’s 2 in here – child murderers – killed their own daughters & I suppose I ought to hate them the most, cos that’s the most unnatural thing innit for a woman- to kill her own flesh & blood, but one of them – she’s just a sad old poxy scag head – out of her face – couldn’t get her toddler to shut up so gave her a slug of methadone-  and when that worked she just kept upping the dose every day to give herself some peace & quiet –  stupid cow.

The other one though – now that’s different & that why she’s the one I’m gonna write up for the thing,


About cathi rae

50ish teacher & aspiring writer and parent of a stroppy teenager and carer for a confused bedlington terrier and a small selection of horses who fail to shar emy dressage ambitions. Interested in contemporary fiction but find myself returning to PG Wodehouse when the chips are down View all posts by cathi rae

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