Truth is, me, in case you hadn’t realised, I carry around a lot of secrets. They come two-a-penny and fill my pockets like all the worst sweeties. Lil fried eggs, rhubarb and custards… remember flying saucers? And I just can’t seem to unpack them—okay, so that’s a lie—even you know that, if you’ve taken a care to read me—no what I do is, I gorge on them—and I make myself sick. Right? I hide away and chew; suck, suck, sucking on secrets. It’s a folly, it really is.

Me, I’m a secreholic.

A memory addict.

Just how long can I last before I make a whole nother mess?

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t feel sorry for myself. More like I think—blithely of course (remember I’m a spirit and spirits, they are blithe (says Noel of the Coward-y custard kind))—what I think is: Me, I’m an idiot.

Don’t you know it: Things, they get imprinted when we’re scrappy lil kiddies—and we come to believe our own dumb dream. Like, what I’m saying is, I’m saying, Jeanie (=mother), she carelessly laid down this legacy for me. La-di-da: idiocy. Fact is, it wasn’t her fault—she was caught in the cruel clutches of something bigger than the both of us. She just fell far far away, disappeared into bitter sods of alcohol.

I lost my mother at the splendour age of four. When I lost my Poppa.

She was there, not-there. And he was there, not-there.

But what can you do?

Okay, so before you start crying in your soup, hold your horses and get this: me, I was a lucky lil perisher, because I had my Granny and my Granddad, two great wonders of the world. And before you attach to the image of a couple of ancients, know this: they were only thirty-six and thirty-seven respectively! These two loves had birthed their Jeanie (=my mother) just twenty years before. Jeanie had been so bright and happy but now my Poppa was gone she was lost. Granny and Granddad, they were under their own sorry strain, but girded themselves, girdling me. They took a hold of things. They tucked me up, and they brought in the bacon when my Poppa and Jeanie couldn’t do it any more. They saw me through.

Bless them.

And me, I waited. Pretending not to wait. Waiting for my Poppa to return. I remember him saying goodbye. He creeps through the mess of my cubbyhole room, careful not to wake me. Tenderly, he sweeps the yellow hair from my face, brushing it out onto the pillow, giving me the appearance of being caught in a gusty breath of wind. He is smiling and crying all at once, silently. Just one warm drop of him plops onto my cheek. Tomorrow I will discover it, a ring of crusty salt. And remember. He said, he said, I’ll be back, my little Ariel. He closes his fingers around my teddy’s mush, lifts him like that, like he’s a ball in his fist, and nestles him close into my loaf. He says, ‘You are decidedly threadbare. Now you look after her, you old thing, y’hear?’ Then he tilts into me once more and tells me in my dreams, ‘I’ll be back when you’re twenty, Ariel, my little sweet. Don’t worry. I’ll be back. When you’re twenty.’

And then he is Gone.

My Poppa, he came, secretly, that night, and told me he’d come back. He told me he’d come back. He told me. When you are twenty. I’ll be back.

Only I don’t know if he told me after he’d already Gone.

Only I do know.

Only I know.

Life and death, it’s a circle. We separate them, make them linear. Birth to death.

But it’s not like that.

We carry on. We are eternal. We are all one throbbing ball of energy, living together, separate, but not. You get me?

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