My nerves are shattered.
As usual, Sharon and Tracey were causing a scene. They'd come to visit my daughter, Scarlet, in the hospital, with me. I mean, for Christ's sake, she could have been dying. They'd gone out into the corridor and stolen patients' meals from the trolley. Sat at the bottom of Scarlet's bed, they devoured their sausage and mash (with onion gravy) like pigs. Still hungry, they returned to the corridor and raided the trolley once more. They were lucky not to be caught. I told them that they were bad girls (beep beep, toot toot), but, as ever, they ignored me, cramming mashed potato and gravy into their mouths with their bare hands.
Yes, they were lucky. But they were also stupid. Their next stunt was to play the Rolling Stones, at full volume, on Sharon's ghetto blaster.
Security came and threw them out.
When Scarlet woke from the coma, I told her to have nothing to do with Sharon and Tracey ever again. It was having friends like these and their influence which got her into all that trouble in the first place. At least one good thing has come out of all this. Scarlet listens to me now, and pays attention. If only she'd listened to me that fateful morning...
My Mother lived in a small cottage in the woods had been housebound for several years. After being banned from various pubs in the village, she'd taken to drinking at home. Rising at lunch time, by mid-afternoon, she was in a drunken stupor.
She'd ceased cooking for herself (after the chip-pan fire), and probably eating, unless Scarlet was there with her to witness her consuming any food I'd sent over. She refused to allow me into her home as I refused to send her alcohol.
But I couldn't work out why she'd never refused to see Scarlet.
Oh, how, now, I wish I'd sent her some wine, vodka or gin. Because of my blank refusal, she was reliant on Mr Wolf from the village shop to furnish her with booze, at greatly overblown prices. But the question of the price of the booze was the least of her troubles, as it turned out.
Scarlet had known Sharon and Tracey since she started secondary school at the age of eleven. Before that, she'd been a nice girl, always helping me around the house; looking clean, neat and tidy. But that all changed, as I said, six years ago. Sharon and Tracey turned Scarlet into a vain, drug-taking, egotistical, permissive drunk. It began with them braiding her hair and encouraging her to wear make up and ended with them encouraging her to flirt with men she hardly even knew. Sharon and Tracey told my daughter that it was only rape if she said, "No." If she simply said, "Yes," every time, no crime would be committed.
I'll never forget that day. It started, as usual, with me waking at six, preparing breakfast for my daughter and doing the chores around the house. I called Scarlet at eight, knowing full-well that she wouldn't be up for at least another two hours, but call her, I did.
"Please get up! I want you to go round to Granny's with some food and perhaps sweep the stairs before you leave."
"Ah, fuck off you miserable old bitch."
I ignored these nasty retorts. It was the drink talking, not my dear daughter.
At about ten o'clock, I could hear stirring up stairs. It would take her at least an hour to get washed, dressed, do her make up and paint her nails. By eleven, I'd done all the chores, got my coat and sat by the back door with my basket, waiting for Scarlet to show her face, so I could remind her to go to her Granny's house before I popped down to the shops. We were right out of Cif and my rubber gloves had a hole in the finger.
She came into the kitchen, stared at me nonchalantly, put one hand on her jutting hip, flicked back her bleached hair and demanded money. I know, I'm a fool, but I gave it to her, with a promise that she would be at Granny's before one o'clock. Any later, and she might be drunk.
"Don't worry," said Scarlet, "she leaves a key for me under the mat."
I'd been gone about three hours. When I returned, I found the carrier-bag of food I'd left for my Mother still on the kitchen table. The doors on my Welsh dresser were wide open. What had she been up to? Three bottles of wine were missing. That bloody bitch! Sharon and Tracey!
I went to hang my coat up and saw my fur coat laid on the floor at the foot of the stairs. At least she had the sense not to wear that. It was given to me when I was sixteen. It was acceptable to wear fur back then. But I did see that my little red riding hood was missing from the coat stand. The cow!
I put the kettle on, sat at the kitchen table and began reading the newspaper, waiting for the water to boil.
A knock at the door...
Two police officers asked me to confirm my name, which I did. They then asked if they could come inside.
"What has she been up to, now?" I asked.
They told me I should sit down. I could feel life draining away from within me. She was dead. I just knew it. I began to cry.
One of the officers put his arm around me and told me that my daughter was in hospital while the other made three cups of tea. Good job I'd just boiled the kettle. But, hey, what cheeky bastards!? They didn't even ask if they could have one themselves, dear reader.
To be continued...