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Susan


Snowing today. My grandchildren love it of course, and Gregory phoned up to make sure I was all right. The family will be here, they’ll bring groceries and noise and their dratted golden retriever that never stops barking. My son worries about me in the winter. It’s all right, it’s fine, I tell him, the house is like noon on the southern reaches of Calormen. My son clearly suspects me of being a reptile. He comes in, turns the heating right up. Silly boy, I just wait for him to go home and turn it down again. I want to be cold. It’s all right to be cold.

The most irritating thing about the family is not the dog. It’s the inevitable questions, made worse now because of TV programmes and films. I have given several interviews but actually it’s always the same one. ‘You knew him then,’ they say, and then the questions become more shy…’What do you say to those who claim she was based on you?’ and ‘Did you resent him using that early tragedy in his books?’

And they look at me, the story already written in their minds. I don’t wear lipstick anymore, I have been married twice and had two children both of whom now have children of their own. One of the most wonderful things about my second husband was his complete lack of interest in my past. He was the only person who thought there might be something for me here.The little ones spent their whole childhood waiting for me to appear at the kitchen door with a ruddy great lion behind me. My grandchildren run all over the house looking for magical wardrobes. The interviews pay very well and that’s why I do them. But I am awfully bored by them.

One thing the magazines love to see, are the little photographs of my brothers and sister I keep. My sister was notoriously plain, so typical of Clive to think that beauty and badness had to go together in a woman. Point was, he gave her a lot more than he gave me, and even then he couldn’t accept he did it out of pity. No-one ever pitied me. As Ed said, ‘You’ve got the face of a movie star. No-one thinks you need a favour.’
Clive loved a pretty face, and never forgave himself for it. Or me.

The only people who ever ask me the real question, the only question, are my grandchildren. They are completely honest with me and I am completely honest with them. Then their eyes go all wide. ‘Don’t you hate him?’ They ask; clever little things, they don’t mean Clive. They mean him. And they don’t engage in that nonsense about the train accident. Children know what it is to be abandoned. It’s their only fear really.

‘Yes,’ I tell them. ‘Of course I do.’ My whole family, all except me… I was left to go on alone, because, in the end, He didn’t like me.

They understand perfectly.

Snowing, snowing. When I look at my hands, they are transparent. I am old.

They will be here at one, so I enjoy the cold while I can. I open the back door and walk into the garden.

The melting tracks can look like giant paw prints, yes, yes, I know, I chased them all once upon a time. Now I don’t chase.

Still, the shape is reminiscent, I’ll say that. Snow crunching underfoot., I do not need a lamp-post or a stable or a castle or a fantasy bloody lion. All I need now is air and sky and snow.

There’s a robin on my fence, puffing out its feathers in a fierce little song.
I like walking.

It makes me feel less heavy, especially today. Thick snow still falling, the family will be late if this keeps up. That’s all right. So nice to feel that freshness, wakes my limbs, makes me smile. Trees glittering

Clive’s world was a snow globe.
Now it’s here.
Thought I heard something, jumped almost, but it’s just that bird.

I feel less stiff now even in this biting cold. It suddenly occurs to me that most old people die around now, don’t they? Now that would be an event. Family turns up,
finds me dead in the back garden. Knowing my luck I’ll get buried under a headstone without even my real name; it’ll sport some nonsense like ‘Susan of Narnia’ on it. What am I talking about? My son would undoubtedly have me cremated, his final attempt to keep me warm.

And I realise now that I have walked further than I ever thought, beyond the end of my back garden and still farther. I look back and I can barely see the lights of my house. I turn forward. The robin is still there.

I know this wood.

X


Note from the Author: I hope you enjoyed my story! This Winter, let's look after the vulnerable in our neighbourhoods.


Copyright and intellectual property of Debbie Gallagher 4th Feb 2012 all rights reserved

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
larians
Feb. 7th, 2012 08:55 am (UTC)
Beautiful.
smokingboot
Feb. 7th, 2012 10:04 am (UTC)
Thank you:-)
sixtine
Feb. 7th, 2012 10:05 pm (UTC)
Super dooper. Write more!
smokingboot
Feb. 7th, 2012 11:01 pm (UTC)
You are very kind, thank you - and I will!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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