Trudy never knew if her father was coming home. Sometimes he did and sometimes he didn’t. Sometimes he’d turn up unexpectedly, swaddled in blankets and wheeled through the squeaky gate into air that was thick with concern, only for him to disappear again without notice when she was at school. Sometimes there were months in between, sometimes days and too often, hours.
He’d sometimes cry a lot and look a funny colour. It had been this way since she was small. Well, not really small. When she was really small, they were a proper family and very often, happy. She had the photos to prove it. A perfect 25 year old with drainpipe jeans, shoes that were built to pick winkles, a skinny white T-shirt and a quiff the girls must have gone wild over.
When was her life to start?
She had only had him to herself for 18 months. Proud and happy, she left that family where her cold mother had survived the war with the taste for work, leaving her eldest daughter to bring up the rest. Trudy’s mother was a woman whose childhood had barely started. As a result she could still throw a spectacular tantrum. Now that she had some power at last, she would pinch the other kids in the house and did not shy away from giving them a swift and sneaky kick.
Since she had had to share every private moment, even night’s sleep, every ribbon and pair of shoes with 4 siblings, now she refused to share anything at all, not even with her own child. Moreover nothing, nothing was ever her fault. Sometimes, she would lie awake all night, forcing the facts into something that didn’t resemble the truth of the matter; like a magician twisting balloon animals, or making a balloon hat. Trudy’s mother was an expert at making her appalling behaviour into a hat. And even then, the hat wasn’t hers. In this way she remained the heroine of a storybook filled with the inexplicable behaviour of others. In this way, she hid from herself.