by Amy Dollery
WE had been sitting there forever. Them looking at me, me looking at the blank paper, everyone waiting. They had offered me lined paper, but I had told them to fuck right off. I didn’t want to look childish, or stupid. Like I couldn’t even write straight.
Now I don’t know why it mattered. I can’t think of a sodding thing to write anyway. I press the pen onto the paper so hard the end snaps and with it my temper goes too.
“I can’t bloody do this!” I shout as I throw the crappy pen across the room. “I won’t do it. I won’t give them the bloody satisfaction.”
Joanna, the fat cow that she is, raises her eyebrows at Liz, but unsurprisingly doesn’t move her lazy arse off the chair. Liz instead walks over from the sofa where I had sent her earlier, picks up the broken pen, and gently passes me another.
“Come on now Emma,” she says in that maddening calm voice she uses. “You can do this.”
“Get lost.” I tell her.
“I know you think you hate them, but you don’t really,” she says.
“No, I hate you.” I reply, thinking I mean it.
“I know.” she sighs with a hint of a smile. “But try to think of Billy, try to think of him.”
At Billy’s name the rage in me erupts again and I stand, pushing my hands down on the table, spitting my words out. “Don’t you talk to me about him. Don’t you dare. Not when it’s your fault, yours and hers.” I throw a glare over at fat Joanna.
Joanna, from her throne in the corner, tuts. “Of course, it had nothing to do with your choices Emma, you played no role in it at all…” And just as I am about to launch the new pen like a dagger straight into her left eye, Liz says “Joanna, that’s enough.”
Somehow watching Joanna get put in her place, gives me a tiny second of satisfaction in what otherwise is an all-round shit afternoon and I sit back down. Joanna will bloody hate being shown up like that and I can see by the way her lips have puckered up like an old trout, she is pissed off. I almost feel sorry for Liz, I know what it is like to have Joanna as an enemy. Ever since I told her, that her husband was shagging Ruby from the bookies, which is still true by the way, she has hated me.
Joanna’s problem is she forgets where she comes from and she hates to be reminded. Just because she has got this job with the council, it doesn’t mean she didn’t come right out of the gutter with the rest of us. You should’ve heard her on the way in, telling Liz that if I finish early, she will nip into the hairdressers on the way home. That’s what I mean to her. Get me done quick, so she can get her 80s perm refried. Perhaps she wants me to give up altogether, so she would have time to get her fucking nails done as well.
You can see how she hates me in every bloody report she has written. Every time I so much as blinked, she wrote it down in that stupid pink notebook. Twisted it. Like the day she told me they were going to take Billie and I fucking screamed and she wrote it down as me being aggressive. Fuck me, how would she act if someone said they were taking her kid. Thinking about it makes my hands squeeze into fists.
Liz cautiously sits down besides me. I look up at her and she smiles encouragingly.
“So how do you want me to write this, Liz?” I ask. “How do you want me to start? Or shall I start and then you can tell me I’m wrong, and feel good about yourself all over again.”
Liz tries to tell me, she isn’t scoring points, that it has never been about that. But I stare back at her in disbelief, I heard what she said in court. Liz sees my face and tries to back track saying she knows I won’t believe her, but we are all working towards what is best for Billie, we both want what is best for him.
She has no idea how stupid she sounds. If we were both working for Billy, he would be here with me now, not living with strangers. If we had both wanted what was best, I wouldn’t be sat here in the family centre, without a bloody family, knowing I won’t see my son until he is grown up.
Joanna smiles a smug smile, she is pleased it is precious Liz who has got it wrong and I am torn by wanting to be nice to Liz again, just to annoy Joanna, and wanting to punch her.
“It doesn’t matter. You were all against me, but it doesn’t matter,” I finally hiss, my teeth clenched shut.
“Okay, Okay.” said Liz trying to pacify me. “But let’s think about now,” and she goes on to say she really wants me to write this letter, for both Billie and me. She tells me it was a way of keeping our relationship going, letting him know I haven’t forgotten him.
I try and argue saying “I won’t just forget him. Do you just think you can just forget your own son?” but even to me it sounds lame, like the fire is going out and I can’t have that. If the anger goes, the pain will arrive and bugger me if I will let fat Joanna see that. I will not let her see I am broken.
Liz is being oh so gentle with me, which makes me feel worse “Why don’t we look at the letter they sent us again,” she says. “It will give us a clue where to start.”
When Liz first showed me the letter, I had wanted to pull it from her hands and tear it to shreds, right in front of her face. Liz though didn’t give me the chance. Instead she read it out loud and when I demanded it, she refused to hand it over. I ended up telling her what a patronizing cow she was, and threatening her with the police for stealing my property, but by the time I had finished yelling, and she had passed the letter over, I had lost the urge to rip it up.
It is sat there now on that crappy plastic table, looking at me. Liz nods at it to see if she can take it. I shrug.
“Look they talk about Billie getting a little ride on bike, you could talk about that,” she says, with fake enthusiasm.
“I would’ve got him a bike though,” I say. “They think they were special for getting him a bike, Gary would’ve been able to get hold of one.”
Liz ignores me saying perhaps I could write, the bike sounds lovely, and I hope he enjoys it.
“I don’t see why I can’t I tell him I would buy him a bike.” I complain, not really caring that I did know why.
“Look, she has also taken him swimming,” says Liz. “Do you like swimming, could you talk about that?”
I look at Liz with disgust. “Yeah every Sunday, I get out my swim suit from John Lewis, go for a lovely paddle and then come home for dinner. What do you think?”
Liz is not to be drawn in this time saying, “I just meant you might like swimming. But okay what do you want to say? Let’s see if we can put it into words for you.”
But I don’t want to write, that’s the point. It is not enough. It is not nearly enough. I want to hold him. Put his little face between my palms. I want to kiss him and tell him that I miss him. I want to tell him that everyone lied about me, and that he is not to believe what they say. That I want him to be happy, but that I am so unhappy without him, I could die. I want him to know that I am so shamed by what happened, but that I was so misunderstood and the fuckers had it in for me. I want to say, Billie, I should have picked you up and run away, the first time they knocked on the door. That I don’t wish you well in your new family, who were so nice and kind and understanding, in their stupid matching beige clothes and boring haircuts. And that I feel such rage, that if only I had had parents like that, with clothes like that, with their hair done in that way, it wouldn’t have turned out like this for me. I want to say all that, but I know Liz will just look at me in her pitying way. So I reply “I dunno.”
I am not even allowed to sign the fucking thing as Mum, because apparently he has a new mum and I can’t confuse him. I want to say bugger him, what about me, but I know that just counts against you. But you can’t tell a mum, they are no longer a mum, no law in the world can do that.
And to my fucking disgust, I find tears falling down my face. Tears of damn frustration at having to write this letter, but more than that, tears because I am just realising no matter how unfair it is, I can’t change it. No matter how hard I fight now, this is how it is. All I can do now is write this poxy letter, once a year, that isn’t allowed to say anything and isn’t allowed to be from his mum.
Liz holds my hand and for once I don’t mind. It will get easier, she tells me, writing these letters, that I will get used to it. It will all become easier and I will survive. But I look up at her with dead eyes, because I know it won’t. The pain is too much. Too much for anyone to bear.
When I leave this room I will ring Kev, get him to sort it out. Just this once. Just because today has been so difficult, just to take the edge of it. I already feel numb, Kev will make sure I feel nothing.
This decision makes me feel stronger, the knowledge that oblivion is almost in my grasp. And now I have thought of it, the old craving looms hot and insistent and I want to be gone. From this room and from this reality, from it all.
Together we write the letter.
I am so glad to hear you are settling well. Your bike sounds very exciting. It will not be long before you move on to one with peddles and then nothing will be able to stop you. I am fine here and I am liking the warmer weather. I am thinking of trying swimming, it sounds like you enjoy it. I had better go now, as I have to meet a friend, but I love you very much, Billie, every day I love you.
©Amy Dollery 2016