She reads the last sentence back carefully and for once, her writing doesn’t make her wince or feel that frisson of shame.
She resists the urge to go back through the piece, mental red pen in hand, finding errors, clumsy sentences, could do betters.
Instead, she lets the story sit, reviews its shape in her head and is still pleased.
Thinks, that she may, when her life has returned to its normal shape and pattern, take it to her writing class, even volunteer to read it out, to wait for criticism.
There will be no need, she thinks, to share the trigger, the clipping and her days spent away from the world, putting her parents’ house to bed.
Her writing group is a serious one, members submit short stories, take part in competitions, talk about agents, book deals, she doesn’t want to bring this almost whimsical, perhaps other worldly inspiration to the table and besides, she is very aware that her 2 publications to date, 2 short stories in a teachers magazine put her in a very junior standing amongst the other members. She doesn’t think that talking about the strange newspaper clippings and their impact on her will help that status and although she tries sometimes to pretend it doesn’t, actually these people’s’ opinion of her does, a great deal.
Writing, has become, over the last few years, the thing she does.
At first quietly, secretly, something to pass the time, a new take on knitting or hand crafting christmas cards, but, she has begun to believe in it, has begun, on days when the classroom noise is actually intolerable, when meetings are so painful that she wants to stand up and scream, to nurse fantasies of success and escape.
She can see the dust jacket
“X used to teach, now, she writes full-time and lives with her cats in an idyllic rural setting and is working on her 3rd novel”.
Even this day-dream, she realises, is rooted in some reality.
She doesn’t hope for JK Rowling level fame or income, film deals, appearance of chat shows, although, of course, Womens’ Hour would be nice.
Instead, she hopes for, on some days prays for, escape from school, escape from the noise and tedium of teenage minds and teenage bodies.
She has become, she understands, one of those kind of teachers, mid 40s, neatly dressed, career stalled and doing exactly what is required, no more and no less.
She finds herself counting down to each holiday, knowing on the first day of any term exactly how many days there are until the next escape, the next release date.
She sits in day long training sessions, trying hard not to roll her eyes or sigh audibly as yet another power point presentation highlights a new list of goals and targets and acronyms and nu-speak.
She doesnt bother, very often, learning the names of the new young teachers, she knows that they will, in 2 or 3 years, move on, following some self-imposed career trajectory and that she will be there, counting down the days to half term.
So, the writing is important, if only to fuel her days dreams of something else, something better.
She is hungry and wonders when exactly she last ate something. She can remember the tomato soup, the chocolate biscuits, but her body tells her that this was some time ago. She doesnt remember the last time that she ate in such a disorganised way, no longer keeping a mental note of calories in, calories out. It is both refreshing and a little scary, reminds her of eating in the days before she got a grip, took control.
She is suddenly hit with a memory from this house, her mother and she, curled up on the sofa together, but not this sofa, with its faintly tweed, faintly brown presence. This would have been 2 maybe 3 sofas back, flowery, she thinks, stiff cushions that slipped from behind your back, not really comfortable, not designed for sprawling, more a sofa to sit neatly on, feet together, almost touching the floor.
But it is that sofa that the memory is linked to, the memory of eating shop bought cakes.
Her mother was old enough to feel shame or at least mild anxiety if she didn’t produce at least a bare minimum of home-baked goodies and in fact she did, dutifully, produce scone, sponge cakes, apple pies, but their shared secret, the little vice was shop bought and not just shop bought, baked on the premises, but packeted cakes, especially Mr Kipling.
They would sit together, a fondant fancy, vienesse whirl, lemon slice on a plate and take quick bites, try hard not to show too much pleasure in these inferior products and of course the whole packet must be eaten so that the evidence can be hidden in the bin, mouth and faces wiped, tea plates put away.
The memory is both vividly pleasurable, the pinks, yellows, strange foamy cream fillings and tinged with guilt.
She wonder who exactly they were hiding the eating from, her father, mild-mannered, showed no interest in anything domestic and she cannot imagine him looking through cupboards for evidence of foolish spending.
She needs to organise some proper food ,maybe even go grocery shopping, but that will mean leaving the house, dressing properly, meeting other people’s eyes , having to hear them shout at their children, husbands , truculent teens dragging behind .
It is the thought of the teens which decides her.
She will not go out today, she will survive on coffee and the remain ing wagon wheels and for old times sake , she will crumple up the packet and hide it deep in the bin, hide the evidence of shop bought treats.
She puts the kettle on, eats the first of the chocolate biscuits and stares out at the winter garden, bedraggled and browning in the autumn frost.
Revived, she stands at the kitchen door, tries to decide which room she should start on.
She cannot yet face the intimacy of her parents bedroom, needs to stay somewhere safe, somewhere neutral.
The spare room, she thinks, the box room.
That will be the next task.