novel in progress – section 3


Everyone’s got  secrets, specially in a place like this – secrets & lies – secrets about lies, lies about secrets – prisons are all about secrets, even when really everyone knows everything about everybody, we all keep our little secrets close to us.

I’ve got a secret, nah we’re not talking Jeremy Kyle here, I’ve  got way too much pride for that sort of thing, sad slags with their looser boyfriends – I know who the fathers of my kids are – thank you very much.

Nah, my secret is running, I run, most every day & I’m good at it too

Like I said – I liked PE at school & this PE teacher – she was alright, bit bossy, but they always are – the other girls said she was a lezza but she was ok & if she’d tried any of that with me- anyway – she took me distance running & I was good & I still am.

6.35 min  miles – I can pump them out – mile after mile – I reckon to do 10 miles as a minimum………………….

& I spend money we haven’t got on really flash running shoes & good kit & I read this running magazine – look at all the pictures & read about marathons & all that stuff………………………………..

Course, I don’t take any of it home, just hide my kit at work & lie about when my shift ends…………………….

& I run, brain empty , just one foot in front of the other & it’s my bit of time & no-one can get to me, it’s the only thing I’ve ever been good at & it’s my secret & I keep it close to me & it makes me feel good.

And  that’s why I’m going to write my prisoner profile on Claire – she’s the other one – the other one who murdered her own kid & I should hate her cos she’s not like the rest, she’s got no excuses, there was nothing wrong with her life………………………………………………………..

One day I was escorting her over to the visit block to meet with her solicitor and it’s this fantastic winter day, really sunny & cold & I’m thinking about a run I want to do after work, it’s a real good un & I can almost see myself running it & its like I’ve said it out loud, cos from nowhere she suddenly pipes up that it’s a perfect day for a run & cos I’m already in my run place I just start talking to her – she’s a runner & she’s run marathons & I should really really hate her now – with her gym membership & her running club & I bet she didn’t  have to hide her new running shoes – but somehow all the thinking about running just comes spilling  out of me & before I can stop myself we’re having a real conversation. But then we get there & I hand her over to the visits officer & it’s like there’s a voice in my head saying – no, don’t let them in, cos once you’ve let them in then they come home with you.

So, the next time I’m near her, I push her –just a tiny bit, just to remind her how it works.



When I had my big girl – it wasn’t like she was planned or anything – but its not like I was one of those girls at school – the ones you just know wont make it thru Yr 11 – the ones who turn up to their exams with their bellies poking out, who you see outside school waiting for their mates with a baby buggy and a fag on – I wasn’t like them – I even said I wanted to go to college – partly cos if you said that you could make the teachers so pleased – they’d sort of puff up with pride like it was something they’d achieved for  themselves, but this one teacher looked me in the eye, the way they do when they are really trying to get  to you & she said

“but what is it you want to study?

what do you want to know more about?”

And you know what – I realised then  that there was nothing & I mean nothing that I wanted to learn from books, so I didn’t go to college.

My mum works as a carer with old people, travelling around to their homes & doing stuff for them, so she had a word with her boss & I started working with her.

It was okay I suppose. Money was alright, some of the old people were okay. I didn’t mind it & me & my mum we get on, always have, so I stuck it for a while, just marking time really, waiting for something to happen.

Like I said – I didn’t plan my daughter – but I didn’t do anything not to plan her either.

Her dad, he isn’t around anymore, well he was never really around anyway – he was a boy from school , known him since I was 9 or 10, nothing special, just one of those things,

So, there I am, nearly 18, worked for a couple of years – it’s a good time to have a baby – so I do and for the first time ever I wish I’d paid more attention in school cos then I’d have loads more words, proper big words to explain how I feel, how my heart goes when I look at my baby, how good she smells and everything, but I didn’t go to English much cos it was really, really boring, but then I see this really nice tattoo that David Beckham got done after his baby was born, so I get that  & it looks great and really for me, it’s enough. It says it all.

Some people roll their eyes at that, when they see it. When they know I’m a working teen mum they look all surprised and happy as if I’m breaking the mold but then I reach to pass them something or sometimes, on purpose, I scratch my nose or I’ll fix my hair and they see it there, on my wrist, in my own careful, round handwriting, with the stars and her birthdate. And their face drops, like every story the Daily Mail tells them about girls like me has come true, like everything I’ve done up to now has stopped mattering because before I was a sensible girl making the best of it, but now I’m a daft kid with silly tattoos.

So, there I was, wrapped up in this big blanket of love with my daughter – & I’m doing a couple of shifts a week and the weeks and the months pass & it’s all ok.

Actually, it’s all much better than ok – but that’s my big secret – I am in love with my daughter – I cannot get enough of her – the smell of her skin, her tiny fingernails , and when she starts to smile – I am completely knocked out – nobody told me it would be like this.

And you know what, something changes in me. I want to be better, to be a better person, to do stuff to make her proud, to be someone she can boast about in the playground – I want to hear her say – my mum’s better than yours.

Cos, I look at my mum & I love her and all and really I know that she does her best, it’s just that her best isn’t really very good at all – crappy little job – like all the crappy jobs she’s had & never enough money – now don’t get me wrong – it’s not like we starve or anything, but every extra bill is a disaster – she’s always on some kind of knife edge – panicking about the boiler going wrong or the car failing its MOT – you know, all that kind of stuff.

So,  I look into my daughters face & its all scrunched up with happiness – cos that’s how good a mother I am & out loud I say “we, you & me, we are going to have a better life than this” & yeah, that feels a bit stupid, but I really really mean it – now all I’ve got to do is work out what next.


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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