I have decided to do something. To post a novelette on my blog. In installments, of course. One chapter per post, once every four-ish days. Now, you may not care. You do not need to read these. But you may like it. So there you go.
(Small warning: this story does mention a case of rape at some point. Of course it is handled delicately (and it's not talked about in detail etc.etc.) but if you are younger than 13 you may want to ask your parents if they're ok with that.)
Chapter one // Chapter two // Today we have chapter three! This chapter introduces you to SOMEONE NEW. No. Not The Guy. He's in chapter four. So stay tuned for that on the 7th of April.
So, last time we ended with:
"I'm serious, Anna, I’m honestly so in to you. We have mutual friends. I’d rather not say who I am on the wall. I’ll try to think of a way to tell you who I am sometime.
Not only was this the longest message (after the GONE WITH THE WIND quote some literary buff once wrote – that took up like a quarter of the wall space) on the wall, but it seemed so… intense. Dramatic. It was the sort of thing that I wished I didn’t make such a big deal of, but yet, for some stupid reason, I was always thinking about it.
I went to Gayl the following weekend to try to get this stupid thing out of my head. We went to a pub with a small group of friends and ate chips with our fingers. We listened to the cute guy playing jaunty Scott Joplin tunes on the piano and we played card games while drinking coke or beer till the clock stroke 11:00 and we decided it was time to leave. We made an epic group selfie with our ugliest faces. It was blurry and dark, but it was epic.
We took our time walking home as we picked our favourite stars and asked random late-goers their favourite Christmas carol. Gayl’s boyfriend, Tim, asked a random stranger what his favourite toe was, and we almost died laughing when the stranger gave him a death glare and quickly walked on without a word. Gayl and I sang Frank Sinatra songs as the moon shone silver and the lamplight shone yellow, and then Tim kissed Gayl under an old archway and me and Betsy (A cousin of Gayl’s) looked at each other and related to the feeling of singleness.
“I’m sorry,” Gayl said. “We shouldn’t kiss like that.”
Tim looked at her, drunk with young love and stardust. There is something about the deep waves of the evening, when the clock nears the midnight call. It sets young hearts on fire, and brings sparkle and sass to the world. It must be so fun, I thought with a pang of jealousy towards Gayl and Tim, to be in love at half past eleven, under the stars, in Henffordd village. They were so cute, and just head over heels about each other.
“Kiss all you want,” Betsy said. “You guys are aDORable. I ship you so hard.”
Gayle gave me an arm. “Sorry,” she whispered. “We shouldn’t do it when people are watching. It makes things awkward, I know.”
“It is a little, but don’t worry,” I smiled. “And honestly, I’m happy you’re happy.”
Tim grinned in front of us. “Does that mean I can kiss her again?”
“NO,” I said. Jokingly on the surface – (and completely not jokingly on the inside because in all fairness it did make things incredibly awkward for me and plus, they went much too far with their PDA-levels.)
“Well okay, your highness,” Tim teased.
“Stop teasing,” Gayl smiled. She adorably pressed her thumb against his nose. Somebody should have been there to photograph.
“Sorry,” Tim said. He playfully nudged me and said something which was supposed to make me feel very good about my relationship status. “Don’t worry, Anna. You’ll get a wonderful dude very soon, I feel it.”
That, of course, brought me back to the message thing. Thanks, Gayl’s boyfriend, for bringing that up. After being bought aware that I was hopelessly single and that there was this creepy message which hinted perhaps otherwise, I wanted to go back home and just go to bed.
I didn’t shower; I quickly brushed my teeth, peeled off my clothes, kicked off my shoes and dove into bed. I prayed a quick prayer of gratefulness before I drowsed off, because my corking splendid mother had washed my bedsheets and it felt and smelt completely divine around my tired legs and because I’d had a wonderful night and basically because God is wonderful.
Creepy message or not, there continued to be lovely notes on the wall, and I continued to be very intrigued with the idea that strangers gathered together to jot down snippets of their brain and share it with completely unrelated passers-by. I would sometimes write down my favourites in my journal. I instagrammed the one when a stranger wrote down my favourite Bible verse. Best batty coincidence ever – loved that. The picture of the white brick wall clashed with the stupid theme of my feed, but seriously, I never was that intent on a pretty feed. (Who even has time for that?)
“When I was little, I wanted to marry Manneken Pis in Brussels.”
“Love. It reigns.”
“Don’t forget how freaking lovely you are.”
“Someone give me 100 quid.”
“I dread telling my daughter I have cancer.”
My heart did a kerfloppy spin (the bad kind) when I read that ‘I dread telling my daughter I have cancer’ one. Her handwriting looked an awful lot like my Mums’. She used circles instead of dots on the ‘i’s, too. And she wrote her ‘a’s the complicated way, with two pencil strokes instead of one line. Daddy teased her for that sometimes.
The idea that this was a possibility daunted when I realised that Mum had ‘check-up’ written in the diary and then ‘doctor’ a few days after.
The more I studied her handwriting on her shopping lists and old birthday cards, the more I began to suspect that my Mum had written that on the wall. Maybe this was her way of telling me – Mum knew I loved the wall; she knew I read almost every message on it. I told her I did; I told Mum pretty much everything. She was one of my favourite people on this earth – I loved her to death. Mum didn’t like being the bearer of bad news – as does no-one, I assume. When I was little, and Granny died, Mum told me via a note on my cushion. She came and hugged me and talked with me, but she didn’t want to say it. Maybe this was the same.
Of course, this was a big shock to me. I cried till my neck was wet with tears that night. I couldn’t listen to any songs, or get my mind drifting in a dream-land, fictional direction. I was stuck in the world of the day; thinking about what would happen if Mum died from this potential cancer disease.
Other people have cancer. My two granddads died from it. My great-uncle did too. That chap across the road; his sister was battling a hard road of cancer. I always heard of it… but not MUM. Not my own, sweet, darling mum who bought loads of chocolates whenever I was upset and who randomly painted the walls of the living room in a different colour if she was in the mood. Not my blood-own mother who read Jane Eyre every January and who watched the BBC Pride and Prejudice over and over again. Not my Mum with her smile so colourful it didn’t need lipstick and her embrace so familiar it needed no extra words of welcome with it whenever I came home from somewhere. Not Mum who had my back and made difficult situations seem simple as chopsticks. Not Mum who always said she once was an excellent pianist but never had ever shown me vague skills to prove it. Not Mum who teased with Dad and decorated the Christmas tree and volunteered at homeless centres every week.
She was too… close to me. She was my Mum, goshdarnit. NOT HER.
That night was a rocky one, to say in the least.
Rocky is an interesting word to describe rough moments, on further insight. Once I went to Cadair Iris, in a Welsh district called Gwynedd, where the rocks are mind-blowingly illustrious and majestic, and I heard a fellow admiring stranger mumble something to his friend as he studied the gorgeous rocks through his binoculars. “It’s crazy how people decided rocky was a word to describe sadness,” he said. The friend said, “Haha yeah.”
The following week I didn’t ask my Mum a thing – it was one of those subject I just could not, physically not, make my mouth talk about. I didn’t want to think that it was true. It couldn’t be true. It was a coincidence. Some other mother with a handwriting similar to mine had written that.
On that thought, my heart went out to the daughter of that other mother.
Her name was Miley. She made the name beautiful and graceful after the ungraceful image of pop-star Miley Cyrus and she wore braids and plaid shirts and skinny jeans without rips. Her dark brown eyes read and re-read the same message I read and re-read. Our eyes were focused on the same words; on the same line on the wall.
How funny, I thought. Out of all the lines on the wall, we were reading the same one. Over and over again. It’s like we had the same eyes.
One always feels a sense of comradery when one does the exact same thing as a stranger next to you. If you and the stranger next to you both start to slowly dance during a swoony concert, or if you and a random stranger are reading the same newspaper… there’s this sense of, ‘Hey. We could be friends.’
“Hi,” I said.
I have no idea why I said hi. I hardly ever spoke to people I didn’t know. But now I had to. She looked just as distressed as me.
“Hi,” she said. She didn’t want to talk – her body language was everything but ‘hey yeah lets strike a random conversation’, but I felt like I couldn’t leave our ‘hi’s hanging in the air like that. Something told me I needed to strike this random conversation, so I forced myself to continue.
“Are you reading the message about cancer?” I asked.
Miley stared at me for a few seconds and then focused her attention on a blue weedy plant two inches away from her left food. (Anything better than a pumpkin face.)
“Yeah,” she said.
“So was I,” I said. I coughed, struggling to find what I wanted to say. “I think my mum wrote it,” I said.
This time I was more interesting than the ground. She looked up and I spotted a glimmer of hope in her eyes. “Really?”
“Nothing,” she said.
“Do you think your Mum wrote it?”
Miley nodded. She nervously fumbled her fingers in the collar of her plaid shirt. I used to do that when I was nervous too.
“Wow,” I said. “I mean; I’m – I’m really sorry.”
She bit her lip.
I asked her why she suspected it was her mother, and she said that her mother had told her several times these past weeks that she wanted to tell her something and that she (Miley) had to prepare herself.
“Prepare yourself?” I asked.
“I know. It’s an odd thing to say. Mama says odd things sometimes, but this time she seems to say it with like, such a sad tone in her face. Also, I know she loves this wall, so, yeah I don’t know.”
“I thought it was my Mum because I recognised the handwriting. Also – she has doctors’ appointments written down in her diary.” Saying the word ‘doctor’ was painful. It seemed so grave.
“Well,” Miley said. “It’s probably either your Mum or mine.”
“Gosh,” I said. “I’m so sorry.”
“So am I. If you find out it’s yours, please don’t think I’ll rejoice because of it. I’ll be relieved it’s not mine, but I’ll be very sad for your sake.”
Drat, that made me choke up. The darkness in her eyes made me ache. She was so sincere and kind. “Same goes for you,” I said.
I held out my hand. “I’m Anna.”
The next day, my Mum told me at breakfast, “Anna. I have to tell you something.”
My fingers dug into the toast. My jaw clenched on a crispy piece of bacon. I knew what was coming. “I know, Mama,” I said. “I read it on the wall.”
“It wasn’t you? Someone wrote something about telling their daughter they have cancer and your handwriting – I could swear it was your handwriting.”
It dawned to me that Mum had no idea what I was talking about. The word dawn could not be more appropriate. It is one of my favourite words, but I hate it when writers use it to describe people who use it in unhappy circumstances. ‘Dawned’ is for good news. It’s like the blazing beauty of the sunset casting over you, setting your soul on peace. So was the realisation that Mama hadn’t written it – that Mama didn’t have cancer – I felt a shiver of happiness; of pink and purple; of peace and thankfulness.
Turns out those doctor appointments were dentist appointments and that what Mama wanted to tell me concerned works on the roof. I had spent days worried about nothing.
But it was good that I’d worried, because now I didn’t underestimate the health of my family. My mother did not have cancer. It was fine. I was overwhelmingly relieved, but now I knew what the stress and sadness of the mere fact that cancer being in the family being a possibility felt like, I knew I couldn’t just leave Miley behind in my past. I had to find her again, and be with her as she went through this. She might lose her mother, and I felt more sorry for her than I’d ever felt for anyone.
That all houses have their own cross to bear is not exactly true. Some houses have no crosses to bear while other seem to have millions of crosses to bear. But it’s true that every house bears its cross at some point. I had felt the cross come closer but now it was taken away from me and I felt so light. The cross had landed on Miley’s shoulders.