AN: Okay, you'll have to forgive me. I know what I should really be uploading is a new chapter of 'Tea', but this is what I have. And it's rough, so you'll have to forgive me for that, too. This is the unedited, very rough prologue to a new story I'm attempting to write. (Which, by the way, was given more of a plot in one evening than The Poison Garden has gotten in two years. I'm kind of disappointed and proud at the same time?)
Anyway, please enjoy.
It seemed like a long time since Anne’s family had been hopeful.
She had memories of being really small, and rushing downstairs as soon as she woke to catch her dad making a packed lunch before he headed off to work. He would welcome her into the morning with a hug and a beaming smile, kiss her cheek and sneak her a piece of ham, and then Anne would run off again to watch cartoons.
Curled up on the scratched leather couch in her baggy, pink hand-me-down pyjamas, she goggled at the colours and the jokes of the stories that the fat television broadcasted with a wonder only a child with no negative experience of the world could muster. Her mind, though, was already thinking of her mother who, even though she used to work nights, and even though she was now supporting a little boy in her belly, would soon drag herself out of bed, scraggly-haired and bleary-eyed, just to get Anne ready for school.
Her brother arrived when she was four, with grabbing, pudgy fingers and a bald head that would spout the curliest mousy hair by the time he was one. When he started reception, she helped him to get ready for school in the mornings, playing the role of the big sister – this is how you tie your tie, and this is how you should do your hair, and ‘don’t forget to listen to the teacher, okay?’ A year and a half later, and her sisters joined the family in a pair, already sporting twisty brunette locks, looking at Anne as though she were a goddess some mornings and as though she were a devil on others.
She could remember one time when they took a trip to the seaside – St Anne’s on a cold winter’s morning reflected a storm, the sand whipped up against skin, and the sea groaned and wrestled itself, grey under a clouded sky that threatened snow. Bundled up with a bobble hat, mittens, and a onesie so thick and concealing that only her nose squashed out of the hole in the hood, Anne had felt like she had never seen anything more entrancing. She enjoyed the icy bite of the wind on her chubby cheeks, the sound of it whipping the dune grasses, the warmth of her dad’s hand through her too-big mittens, and the expectation of stepping into the arcade that towered over the ocean in the distance, painted white and green with blinking lights hung up by the entrance, like it was ready for Christmas.
She played in the sand with her brother despite the cold, chased him around the beach to warm up. Her sisters blinked blearily through their own onesies and the wind from where they sat in their pram.
Every year they visited. If they went on holiday, it was to Buntins at St Anne’s. If they went on a trip, it was to St Anne’s. If she got to choose where they went – St Anne’s.
Finally, when she did something even bordering on benevolent, she heard the phrase come singing from her parents’ lips: ‘St Anne’s done it again.’
There was never any happiness greater.
Everywhere she looked, someone had a smile on their face that reached their eyes. Everywhere she went, there was some kind of joy to be found – in food, or play, or the endless love that her family gave.
Anne also remembered the night when everything officially started to change.
She could see herself as though from afar – a 14-year-old girl on her knees over a toilet bowl, her hair hanging in greasy rats’ tails around her face. Her fingers gripped the edge of the seat, anaemically pale as she choked, and wretched, and, finally, threw her dinner up as a hardly-digested mush.
The weeks leading up to that moment had been a blur of seemingly unimportant symptoms – it started with a stomach ache. The most ignorable of illnesses. For a week, she could ignore that. For a week longer, she could forget that her appetite was greatly lessened, and her toilet visits less frequent.
It was when she noticed the sudden swelling of her stomach and the nausea hit that she found herself stumbling from her bed in the middle of the night and dizzily racing to cling to the toilet.
The memory was vivid, the feelings engrained in her out of frequency.
Leaning over the toilet that night, the 14-year-old girl wept from her eyes, and her mouth and her nose.
A few nights later, she wept again.
Two days after that, the weeping made it’s third visit.
After it’s fourth, Anne could have sworn that two fifths of her day were spent over a bucket or a toilet bowl, that the glow in everyone’s eyes had spluttered out, and their smiles had been smeared with worry.
The GP was the one who finally wiped the last bit of hope away, and left Anne struggling through a life that was rapidly falling headlong towards the inevitable.