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Girl in The Garden
There is a girl in my garden.
She is small, and young, and doesn’t know many words and I should not have a child in my garden. The man sad I’m not to.
Not just in my garden. I’m not to have children. I can’t look after them, he said, so I can’t even have my own ones, the ones I had at the hospital all proper.
But there she is, in my garden, and she is in pyjamas and I am worried.
If she is found here and they don’t believe me that she’s not mine, I will be in trouble for having her because they said I can’t have children when I’m by myself.
I don’t know what to do and I’m afraid to call the man, because he is mean to me and calls me a liar and takes things away from me.
But the girl is very young and she has pretty eyes and she reminds me of my little one, the last one, that they let me keep for a while, ‘til she got burned and then they said she had to go.
Even though I never burned her myself or anything and even the doctor said it was just an accident with the kettle and anyone can do it.
I want to ask someone in the street to help but there are too many of them. I like things quiet, but today everyone is home from work on the holidays and everyone is out and the street is crowded.
I can see a police car and a police van and I think something has happened; probably someone else got burgled like last week.
It makes me nervous, makes me want to stay inside and lock up and stay away.
But the man might come round. If he comes and I’m not here, it’s okay and he doesn’t get mad, he leaves a note to say he called. If he comes and I have a little girl here I’m in right trouble.
Mum lives up the hill but there’s too many people on the road to walk that way. I don’t like the crowds and the little girl, coaxed inside with a plate of biscuits, she seems like she’ll cry and scream around a crowd, seems on the verge of one of those big tantrums like I used to do when I was little when I’d hold my breath ‘til I fainted. I don’t want to be in trouble, so I decide I’ll walk through the park behind the house.
The little girl is only in her pyjamas and she smells like wee a little bit, and other things. I give her a bath like I used to give my girl, dress her in the left behind clothes the man and the social never took with her. I didn’t understand that, how they would take her but not the clothes I bought for her. Mum had told me it was so she would forget me, so she’d have no memory of me, not even a pair of socks or a hat.
So I have spare clothes and they’re clean and soft because they go through the wash once a month in case they bring her back, so I put them on and they fit her. This girl and mine are the same size and it’s quite nice to see the little green hat I used to like so much, keeping somebodies head warm.
I make us some toast and tea and the girl, who I think of as Jane because she looks like a Jane, is very quiet now and I think she’s so little that she’s run out of feelings to have and just got tired, so she sits and doesn’t say much.
I don’t have any TV for her to watch because the TV got stolen and I never watched it anyway, but while I get ready, she sits and scribbles on paper and I remember how my girl used to do that.
I make us both a nice lunch, sandwiches wrapped in brown paper like mum makes, and then we go out the back door and through the gap in the fence.
I’m right inside the park then and mum lives all the way up the hill. It’s a steep climb but I do it all the time and my legs are used to it. The ground is lumpy and some of it has sand under the dirt, but it makes for good handholds. When I was little I would play here for hours, and when I got bigger mum said I could only live as far away as the end of the park because I know it so well so I’ll never get lost. Mum says this hill is my hill the way I walk it.
Little Jane, though, she’s not as big and strong as me and she starts to cry quickly and I get afraid I’ll be heard and get in trouble.
I let her ride on my back and that makes her happy, even though I’m tired now, from carrying her. She cuddles close against the windy rain the hill always gets, twirling my hair around her fingers and singing in my ear.
When I look back at our house, I’ve climbed enough to see over the roof and over the hedges. There are even more crowds now, loads more cars and vans and even ones like them that turn up outside of the football matches. Mum says they’re for the telly, those vans and that’s why they have all that funny stuff on top, to send their signals to the TV. It even looks like the road is closed; those portable fences set up to block all the traffic.
I wonder if I missed the Queen coming to visit. I hope I didn’t, because I like the Queen and once when I was six I met her and gave her flowers and she smiled at me and she’s a Queen so that means I’m special because she never smiles.
But the police that are stood about don’t look like they do for the Queen, happy and smiling. These police look all serious and angry and keep sending people back the way they came with big waving arms and loud voices I can almost hear all the way up here.
Whatever it is I’m glad we’ve stayed away, and I carry on, turning back to my climb and trying not to huff and puff so much. Jane is getting heavier and I think she’s falling asleep like my one used to. If she does, she’ll not be able to hold on to my back and she’ll fall and she might get hurt and I’ll be back to being in trouble again and I really don’t want to be in trouble.
I put her down and make her walk, but it’s not even that far to go anyway, now. I can see the back of mums’ house, the thick hedges that line her garden.
My hole is still there, the gap in the branches I use to use to run away when mum had upset me.
I’d hide on the hill for hours and mum would be so upset and would call the police to find me. But then this one policeman was really mean and said I was a horrible girl and next time no one should try to find me. And that made mum stop calling the police when I ran away, and I would get lost for longer and get found by other people that weren’t police men and they would hurt me. Mum said they gave me my babies but I don’t know how hurt can make a baby because mum said babies are made from love, like I was.
I wonder if anyone loves the little girl as I push her through the hole, but realise if she was loved she wouldn’t have run away too and ended up in my garden.
My mum is already waiting for me, like she does. Her back window looks down the hill so she can always see me coming and always has tea waiting.
But today she has seen Jane with me and she looks worried and starts asking me questions and I think I’ve made a mistake. Maybe I should have left Jane where she was, because mum is only asking about her and where I got her and I didn’t expect mum to be so mad.
Mum talks so fast and she’s so angry that I can’t keep up and I decide not to answer and mum knows she won’t get me talking again now, I can throw a sulk for days.
She goes quiet too, then but she does that thing where she looks at the floor while she works it all out. I don’t know what she’s working out since we just need to find out where the girl came from but mum already has a plan, I think.
She runs around the house like a mad one, packing a small suitcase with clothes for me and her and getting on her computer. Then she gets out our passports, not just mine and hers, but the one we got for my girl just before they took her away, when we thought they’d let me keep her for ever.
Mum has all the photos of my daughter because I didn’t want them in my house, because they made me too sad. She takes one of them, and the little girl, into the bathroom and when they come out Jane has her hair dyed red like my girl, and if you didn’t know you would think it was her again.
I nearly start to cry when I see her, thinking of my little one but mum hasn’t noticed and still thinks I’m sulking.
She’s printing something, hustling us all into a car and I’m so confused and still angry at mum for shouting at me that I just go with her. It’s too noisy now in my head, and with her shouting, and I want it to be quiet again for a while and once we all get in the car, it is.
Jane falls asleep and mum puts the radio on but quiet like, and someone is talking about the police and how any locals that want to help can come to Crown Street, my street, to volunteer.
Mum nearly crashes the car trying to change the radio and in the end she just puts a CD on and its Queen because it’s always Queen and I want to point out how she’s playing Queen while the Queen visits my street and it’s funny, but she still seems mad and I still want to sulk if she’s going to be mad at me for nothing, so I do.
Mum drives us to the airport, and now I’m really confused but I start to think I’ve made a mistake somewhere, and that I should have told mum why I brought the girl, rather than go all sulky and say nothing.
Mum is telling Jane that her name is Mary, like my little girl. Now I really think I should say something but mum must have bought the tickets and she’ll not get her money back and then she might get into trouble from the bank.
So I keep on saying nothing and let mum smile and charm and be pretty at everyone until we’re through into the gate, because she’s good at that, and I keep on saying nothing while we walk around and buy giant Toblerones and some kids toys and games for the plane.
When we go to board, the lady at the desk squints a little too long at the little girl and I think I should say something then because the lady has already figured it out, but mum has this smile, the one she would wear when the man or the police came around to talk about me, school, my behaviour, my babies.
It’s a very special smile that means ‘say nothing, let mummy fix it’
So I say nothing, and let mummy fix it, and we board the plane.
And as we fly away, to visit Auntie Carol that lives on an island by Greece, mum finally tells me, Jane, or Mary now, as she began to fall asleep, mum looks at me for a full minute, just looks, then begins crying into her hands.
And I just wish she would tell what I’ve done wrong.