Saturday 26 June 2021

'The Half-Way House of Happy Endings' by Angela Readman

The lounge is littered with smashed glass and baskets. I sit picking slipper bits from my soles. We flick through magazines, heroines in withdrawal, twitching for bluebirds to land in our palms.

Someone stretches, I look away. Don’t say I’ve noticed how some lay on the couch. Flat-out, fingers locked for flowers. I know how it is. Don’t comment if anyone fills her unmade bed with squirrels or sleeps late. There’s no setting an alarm to Kiss Me Until I Don’t look Dead.

The clocks are muffled with socks. The 12th bong makes some of us run.

‘But couldn’t I...’ I hold a blonde dying to dust. Rule 2: Dusters and brooms must be locked in the closet. It’s forbidden to put anything away. I relapsed that way, most of us have. Totally godmothered.

‘I am not a princess’, we chant in a circle, finger combing hair. Hairbrushes and apples are a source of flashbacks. Mirrors are contraband, but, of course, some sneak in.

We hear them heckle from suitcases. Calling how pretty we are, contesting who’s the fairest in the house. La-la-la I hum over my name. It’s important not to get dragged in.

It took so long to learn to put on a shirt without swallows holding our shoulders in the air. It seemed we’d never realise the rats eating our peaches wouldn’t let us ride them into horsedom and not all old women were trying to kill us.

The bears raking through our tampons and nail clippings did not want us to kiss them.

The scars are glossed with purple lipstick. I hammer tiaras into spiked wands whilst women practise cackling, holding up scores for how villainous they can sound. If we could only stop falling asleep in strange places, licking frogs, smiling.

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