AUTUMN 2017 FIRST PLACE
A crap year of scrimping. Penny-pinching nights in instead of out. No holidays. Forget the sales. Op shop buys. No Friday nights getting slaughtered with my mates. Finally, a new job. Pay day celebration. I deserved it, didn’t I? Credit card splurge. The coral-pink Jimmy Choo sandals and matching clutch are mine. Friday night, drinking, laughing, flaunting and flirting in my gorgeous fuck-me shoes before babysitting Maddy, and a promised rock-pooling Saturday, so Lori and Mark could have a weekend break before baby number two.
Crap weather for a beach day especially after a long night, but a monumental hangover and no fags are easy in the face of a seven-year-old’s whining. Bloody bus stopped 500 meters past the mini-mart.
“Wait here. I’m going for sunscreen.” (Who said I wasn’t responsible?) And paracetamol. And cigarettes. I piled our gear on the sand. Maddy’s face screwed for another whinge. “Don’t. Ten minutes, okay?”
“Promise, Aunty Cas.”
Crap years of chips, vodkas and nicotine turned a ten-minute dash into fifteen. Twenty if I’m honest.
Crap weather for a funeral. Over the heads of our tight-lipped family, I call to my sister hugging her swollen tummy.
“Lori, please. She promised to wait.”
“Now you know, Cas. Seven-year-olds, like twenty-seven-year olds, don’t keep promises.”
Crap weather for the beach. Another wrong night. Wind whips my hair. Lager greases my vodka-stale mouth. No busybodies ask are you all right, dear? Shall I call someone? I crack the seal on another Smirnoff and pull my Jimmy Choos from the Asda bag. Cops sit warm and dry in their cars sipping Costa coffees and hoping for a quiet Saturday night. Dream on, boys. My fingers crackle the plastic bag of dolly mixture Les down the pub sold me. They cost me the clutch. I kept the shoes. Vodka washes down the pills. Swallow. Dammit. Swallow. More beer. Sand grits my eyes. I crumple the can, toss it (arrest me) with the others. Crowned by my salty arms, bony knees blot my tears to black pinging shadows. Courage.
Trainers off, amazing sandals on. A walk, a stumble. The ice-cold sea.