I’ve been working on and off on this novel project for some years now, and it’s time to finish it. Based on a screenplay, the story has excited, infuriated and intrigued me in equal measures, not least because the script has been so close to production in the past – but alas, the Lady waits. So, I owe it to all the people who have loved it, praised it, critiqued it, questioned it and wished me well with it. The novel will be done. And blessed be.
And here is the original piece of writing that inspired it all, with some slight modifications:
The night that Jesse died, we’d had a terrible row. Actually, the final confrontation wasn’t so much of a row; that had come earlier, when I picked him up from the police station. My son, my only boy, charged with possession of drugs.
I tore into him, a rage I never knew I had in me. A rage he never knew I had in me. I wanted to know where he got the pills from. He wouldn’t tell me.
But, for the first time ever, he mentioned her.
Later, when he tried in his awkward, adolescent way to apologize, to swear that it was the first and only time, and that it would never happen again, I saw right through him.
And he saw right through me, hitting me with his best shot; the Daddy question.
Of course I couldn’t tell him who his father was, so I did the only thing I could. I ran from his frustrated rage against me. Hid in the bathroom and covered my ears while my son screamed at me from the other side of the door.
Ma, please Ma! Talk to me!
I still hear him now, his pleading voice echoing in my head when all is dark and quiet and he whispers to me from the white noise. Ma?
And I never could repair the hole he put through the wall with his angry fist.
He took those fucking pills that night, with her. He told me that he loved her, and he ran out on me. And he died, at her feet, wreathing in agony as his heart burst with the pressure; the last face he saw, hers.
My boy died on a dirty floor while I sat alone, miserable and slumped across my kitchen table. As I watched the clock, waiting to hear the key in the door, his return to me, that filthy poison, laced with what only that scum dealer knows, coursed through his clean and healthy body with immediate and lethal force.
When I kissed him goodbye in the morgue, they hadn’t even wiped the blood that pumped from his nose. I like to think that they were too busy trying to revive him, but in my heart I know that they never even got that far.
And so I buried my baby. And the pain dug deep into my heart and took up residence there, so deep I could barely breathe.
But I am still breathing.
People look at me now, sideways glances. She’s a strange one, she is. Why isn’t she crying? I hear them from my silent world, but they can’t hear the screaming inside my brain. The real me is trapped in there you see, looking out, while the new me itches inside my veins. She wants from me, more than I can ever give her.
I don’t like her, though I can’t shake her off. She is relentless. She is determined. I do understand her though. She has a purpose now, with her different face, and she is stronger. The real me has no purpose.
Extract from LADY BETH. All Rights Reserved. 2015. Reproduced in Time Standing Still, a collection of short stories and other musings