Milly's Last Days

A sixteen-year-old resident of my street, who's lived here her whole life, recently died. This is the story of her last days, in her own words.

(For the Story on Your Street competition)


1. Milly's Last Days

Slowly, my very bones aching with the effort, I walk up the street where I live one last time. Every fibre of my being is telling me to stop, to lie down - my poor tired legs tremble under my weight. I can't stop now, though, not when I'm so nearly...home. Yes, no matter what has happened, that house is still my home and I love it. Just a few more steps and I'll be there. Even if I drop dead on the doorstep I want to get there.

My name is Milly. I am sixteen years old, and my time has come. I've already outlived many who are like me, and so many people never expected me to last this long. I should be feeling grateful, but the only intelligible thought crossing my mind is a longing to let it come, to succumb to the weakness I feel washing over me.

Not until you get home, Milly, I tell myself.

An entire lifetime's worth of memories reappear as I approach the house, as I wander the street I know every single inch of. It's the only home I can ever remember. I was born, one of triplets, in the summer-time, and we were all taken away from our mother before the leaves had begun to fall. I don't even remember her, so I wasn't sad - after all, I was adopted into a loving family. The Collins family. David and Clarissa were newly married and had only just moved into number 48, Ampthill Road, when I came - and oh, did they love me. It wasn't just a simple matter of food, water and shelter - I was a part of their family. I would go out to play during the day - people rarely minded me peering into their gardens, finding and exploring every nook and cranny the street had to offer. I knew that I could go home in the evening to a cosy living room and a cuddle from Clarissa.

My heart aches as I remember sweet, lovely Clarissa. The memory of her caring smile, her stripy socks which always had holes in the toes, the flowery-homely smell of her: it makes me hurt inside, how much I loved her. She was the closest thing to a mother I ever had - and, sadly, I was the closest thing to a daughter. David and Clarissa couldn't have children of their own - a shame really, because they were wonderful parents to me. The amount of times Clarissa held me on her lap, sobbing silently and whispering that she loved me, are too numerous to count - but I can remember every single one.

Why did you have to betray me, Clarissa?

As for the other residents of the street: there were only four families that really took any notice of me. Not always good notice, but notice nonetheless. The Browns at number 44 were a couple and two young sons, and the boys always used to throw stones at me and laugh as I ran away. The Stewarts at number 43 were far too posh to care about someone like me, but their little son and daughter would always smile and wave as I passed, despite their parents' best efforts. The McAuleys at number 42, a riotous Irish family with three teenage daughters, were always happy to see me - just like Sophie Martin, a teenager living with her Mum at number 40. With the exception of the Brown boys, I loved them all.

I watched the street change - for the worse. A lot can happen in sixteen years. One of the Brown boys got terribly sick and had to go to hospital. For a long, long time. Suffice to say that the pale, drawn and deeply depressed Brown family moved away after that. The sweet Stewart children grew up to be just like their snobby parents, treating me just like the Brown boys had before. The arguments between Sophie and her Mum got so out of hand that she left home as soon as she could. They never really spoke again. The McAuley girls left home - and, although they were successful and well-paid, their doting parents never quite stopped missing them. I saw it all.

As for me? David and Clarissa began to pay less and less attention to me, focusing on creating better lives for themselves. They both advanced up the career ladder, apparent in Clarissa's lapfuls of paperwork every night. There was no time for cuddles any more, and I was constantly being shooed away and shouted at by them both. It wasn't my fault, and I hated it.

One day, I got so angry that I decided to simply walk out and play in the street before they were awake - they'd be scouring the street in worry for me! I ended up getting so caught up in exploring that I quite forgot what I'd left for. By the time I went home in the evening I missed them both terribly, hoping I hadn't upset them too much - but nothing could have prepared me for what I found.

Everything had gone.

I wandered through that empty shell of bricks and mortar, mouth agape and heartbroken. Pictures had been stripped from walls. Furniture and possessions had vanished. David and Clarissa themselves had gone. They had simply upped and left, moved away, abandoned me, left me behind - without even bothering to look for me, to take me with them. I wasn't important enough. I was too much hassle. I wasn't loved enough to even consider going with them.

Even Clarissa hadn't bothered to come looking for me. My Clarissa. The very woman who had chosen me, cared for me, loved me all these years - she'd simply left me behind. I curled up in the corner of what had once been the living room, and was now a draughty space, until night fell. Dying inside, not knowing where I would go or what I would do. I was, for the first time in my life, completely alone.

The next day I walked down Ampthill Road, that street of broken hearts and wasted lives, and suddenly knew how it felt to be one of them. I walked all the way down the street and away, away, into the world.

Everything became a kind of blur after that. I walked for days, my mind snapped and my heart broken, scavenging food and being a general nuisance to the general public. There was a boy, eventually, a vagrant like me. Consequently there was a pregnancy too - triplets, like my mother - but that didn't last long. Babies can't survive inside their mother if she's homeless, scrawny and starving. I learned that mothers also can't survive if they are homeless, scrawny and starving - which was how I came to be walking down Ampthill Road again, padding towards the home I know best for one last look. It's too late, though - time's running out. My trembling legs finally collapse beneath me and I fall down hard onto the pavement. Paralysed by fatigue and hopelessness, I can do nothing but stare at the ground in front of me. So close - so nearly home. Two more steps and I would have made it.

As my eyelids begin to flicker, and I feel myself desperately trying not to fade away, a shadow descends across me. The darkness is closing in, but someone's standing over me. Who? I realise, with a pang of sadness, that it's Mr McAuley. He looks greyer, thinner, more lined than before, and he's standing over me concernedly. Maybe he can take me home! Can he hear me? No person was ever able to hear me...

"There, there." I hear his kind voice say. "Don't worry, old girl. You've been through the wars, haven't you?" He calls to his wife, and I know it'll be the last thing I ever hear...

"Mary? Mary! Something's wrong with the Collins' cat!"

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