Hannah kicked the back of the plastic chair in front of her. There was something inevitable about this place, this moment—the smell of cheap linoleum flooring, the bright yellow lights. Hannah didn’t believe in fate, as such—more the building of things. That you were, subconsciously, the aggregation of everything that had ever happened to you—the names you were called in preschool—the bad hair days and good outfits—the way the world had looked at you from the second you opened your eyes. All of it, somehow, had brought her here, to St Thomas’s Community Centre in Bracken Hill. It began and ended here.
The woman at the front spoke in a low murmur. Her hair was sleek, dark and bobbed and she was wearing a suit, but her face belied her appearance. Hannah knew her from a mile away. She knew the yellow skin under her eyes, the strong smell (not liquor, something else—perfume, cigarette smoke, chewing gum), the bulge in her pocket. Hannah had not counted herself among these people. She did not feel connected to this room, to its haunted expression and hollow cheekbones. The woman at the front kept repeating, “It’s my happy ending. My happy ending.”
On the way home her mother read from leaflets and talked about next steps in a positive voice and Hannah made an effort to join in. It had taken a lot to get here, she knew. The pieces of hope her mother clung to like Rapunzel’s golden strands of hair, glinting in the light.
When she got home she made excuses which she knew her mother would be desperate enough to believe. She walked to the corner shop and bought a miniature bottle of wine, the type her boss had bought her as a Christmas present in another story. She drank it in the public toilets outside Bracken Heath train station. Somehow, she felt, she had the right.