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Synopsis

Joanne’s identical twin daughters, Maggie and Annie are accused of hideous crimes. Annie is in jail. Maggie has amnesia. The press called them psychopaths, yet Joanne believes that they are innocent… until she discovers her murdered god daughter’s dolly in her home. Joanne now realises that one of her girls is a violent murderer, but which one?


Chapter Fourteen

Laura

14. LAURA

Joanne
You arrived within fifteen minutes, just as you predicted. How on earth do you do it, Susan? I am always late despite my very best intentions: I was late for my wedding, late picking up the girls from school and always far too late getting them to school. The number of detentions the twins had due to missing registration in the morning was endless – poor loves, and it was entirely my fault as I was always so incredibly disorganised.
I tried, Susan, I really did! I’d prepare their school lunches the night before, remembering to pop them into the fridge with a little carton of orange juice for each of the twins. I’d then read the girls’ timetable, ensuring that if it was cookery or, in Maggie’s case, woodwork, the ingredients were packed and the money required for Maggie’s latest project were all placed on the kitchen worktop. Yet as soon as the twins awoke, all chaos would let loose, I’d lose control, Jeff would leave for work, and I’d become late.
As always, he made light of the situation… my darling Jeff. “You’ll be late for your own funeral, Kirsty!” I was late for his instead.
I’m trying to avoid writing about tonight; you are, at long last sleeping but I can’t sleep, Susan. Heck I wish that I could just collapse into a drunken stupor as you have just now. Remember the four of us pre-kids? Oh my goodness how on earth we managed to consume that volume of alcohol in one short evening still baffles me. Mind you, looking at the empty bottle of gin laying on the carpet, we did pretty well tonight too. It didn’t make us daft and carefree like in the good old days though did it, Susan? Quite the opposite. Robert warned me that gin makes you depressed and yet again, he was right.
When you turned up, you were armed not only with gin but a vast selection of goodies too. Crisps, peanuts and chocolate were packed into the carrier bag, along with some magazines you’d read; you’d saved them just for me. I couldn’t meet your eyes, let alone show any enthusiasm at the prospect of having a fun girls’ night in. I know that your intentions were so kind, Susan. They always are:
“Oh come on Jo, you look so sad. Cheer up! I know, let’s crack open the gin, pig-out on junk and watch a chick-flick. What do you reckon?”
“Sit down, Susan, please sit down and listen to what I have to say before I lose my courage.”
You grabbed a couple of glasses from the cabinet, poured us each a neat gin and obediently sat down on the comfy armchair.
I sat close to you, on what I call ‘Robert’s chair’ and you passed me the glass. I took a mouthful for Dutch courage and you smiled.
“Better?”
I wasn’t better and nor was this God-forsaken situation. Your smile dissipated and you too gulped a large mouthful from your glass, sensing that I had something quite serious to share with you. I know that you had no idea of how serious the conversation would be though. I am so very sorry.
I pointed to the large wooden box which I’d moved intentionally on to the coffee table. Struggling to reach it, you grabbed the box and passed it to me.
“Stop trying to be so independent Jo; you must let others help you. I wish that you weren’t so bloody stubborn.”
You studied the inscription on the box as I did the day Robert presented the horrors within it to me.
“Oh bless, I remember that box Jo. Mags made it at school didn’t she and she was so chuffed as she got a merit that day. You and Jeff were so proud of her; do you remember?”
Of course I remembered. How could I forget? It was the only merit Maggie ever received. I forced a smile and nodded.
“I remember, Susan, but it’s the contents of the box that I need to show you, not the nice memories associated with it.”
You downed your gin in one large gulp and poured another.
“Jesus Jo, you’re scaring me now. What the hell is in there? I can tell that it’s bad; you’ve lost the little colour you had when I turned up. Pass it to me if you won’t tell me. It’s obviously quite dreadful. Let me at least take that one burden away from you.”
Like the stupid Churchill dog, I continued to nod and robotically opened the lid.
“It is bad, Susan but it…”
“What Jo? Oh come on now, after what we’ve both been through, it can’t be that bad. Give it to me; come on, let’s get this little façade out of the way then we can get really drunk!”
You grabbed the opened box away from my shaking hand. It fell to the floor and Matilda’s eyes appeared to glare in your direction. You were completely still. Your eyes remained transfixed on the little dolly and you remained motionless – like a corpse, yet you were still breathing.
Your eyes met mine. I can’t explain how you looked… angry, devastated, bitter, and sad and, as ironic as it sounds now, at peace. I fell onto the carpet and crawled next to you, stroking your legs, seeking comfort: as you did. Words could not escape from my mouth. The all familiar deafening silence swamped the room, ghosts from the past formed shadows on the walls, shrouding us, suffocating us both. We were both drowning in our sorrow.
“I am so, so sorry, Susan.”
You stared blankly at me and grabbed Matilda by her head. You stroked her plastic face and ran your finger over her little eyelids. They blinked. You did not. You lifted her rigid body closer to your face, smelling her, stroking her hair, moving her little legs, studying her tiny fingers.
“Laura loved this dolly so much.”
I fell into you. I didn’t mean to but I was so weak.
“Robert found the box, Susan.”
You stopped stroking Matilda’s hair and placed her gently next to you.
“Where?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t ask him.” I replied honestly.
You picked up the dolly again and continued to smell her plastic body.
“I want to smell my little girl again, Joanne. I thought, I thought that I might just pick up her scent, as Laura cuddled Matilda in bed every single night. She’d curl her tiny fingers into Matilda’s hair and make a funny little humming noise as she drifted into sleep. Matilda was Laura’s comfort: just like Annie and Mags had their blanket. I just want to feel my baby again Jo. I want my baby back…”
I cried so hard, not from self-pity but from the empathy I felt for my dear friend. I too felt an enormous sense of loss when I lost Jeff but he’d lived for forty-eight years. I felt enormous grief at ‘losing’ my girls but they were still living and breathing and I could see them too. Susan had completely and utterly lost her one baby.
I stroked your hand. You shoved it away bitterly.
“How did you get this, Joanne?” Your trembling voice became strong. Then angry.
“Not yet, Susan, there’s more.”
“More? Oh Christ, Joanne, what the hell have you found now? The shotgun, an axe, the fucking knife that stabbed my baby to death? A fire-work to remember that infamous night by? Oh come on now: show me all of your little mementoes, you may as well. Oh and whilst you’re at it, you may as well get the petrol can out… the one that burned my little baby to a charred skeleton.”
I couldn’t help it but I snapped back. I too was under enormous pressure:
“The box isn’t that big, Susan.”
“Just fucking let me have it.”
I let you have it – the box that is. I poured us both another drink and I downed mine in a single mouthful. I still felt dreadful.
It was then that you cried. I watched you as you stroked the clump of hair and smelled it as you had the dolly. Your eyes met mine.
“I can smell her, Joanne. I can smell my baby.”
My eyes streamed like a waterfall as I studied you clinging onto the one last physical piece of your little girl. You clutched it firmly then you passed the hair to me.
“Smell it Jo; it’s Laura! It’s my little baby. Oh thank you Jo, thank you so much for bringing her back to me.”
I felt physically sick as you grabbed the hair back and placed it onto Matilda’s tummy.
“My baby. You found part of my baby.”
I could take no more. I had to end the pain for you, Susan. I gently removed the little red shoe from the box and placed it next to Matilda and the hair.
“Robert found this too.”
You didn’t acknowledge the shoe but continued to rock back and forth clutching the hair and Matilda humming ‘Hush little baby.’ I tried to stop you and once again you pushed me away.
“Shhhh, I’m just getting Laura off to sleep. Don’t worry my baby, Mummy will protect you. Mummy’s here.”
I was powerless. I contemplated calling Robert but I did not. I must learn to cope with life on my own; I will have to, as soon I will be alone.
The independence will do you good, Joanne.
Will it, Robert? I somehow doubt it.
I racked my brains trying to formulate a plan. What would Robert do in this situation?
I picked up the telephone, tempted to call the police and end this torture now. I stopped as the shoe slammed against my back. Your eyes were enraged.
“Who took this shoe away from Laura? It’s her favourite pair. Somebody must have stolen it from her. How on earth will she manage to get home with only one shoe?”
“She doesn’t need the shoe anymore, Susan.”
“Oh right, so what’s she going to do; hop all the bloody way home?”
I gained an inner strength to continue.
“She doesn’t need shoes in Heaven.”
You dropped Matilda and the hair. They fell onto your lap.
“Heaven? Who said anything about pissing Heaven?”
“She’s gone, Susan.” I gulped hard and inhaled deeply. “Laura’s dead. I am so, so sorry but she’s no longer with us my love; she’s a little angel now watching down on you.”
You grabbed the bottle of gin and drank a massive mouthful straight from the bottle before starting to shake; then you screamed at me. You cried again, this time tragic, sad tears… not bitter ones. I wished that I’d had a tissue nearby but you didn’t seem to care.
“Oh my God. You are right. My baby, my precious little angel is gone.”
You looked so coldly at me; it scared me, Susan, as I had never seen that look before.
“Who put Laura’s things in the box? Who found them? Was it Jeff – your wonderful, darling husband? Was it him Jo? Come on now, tell me or I’ll beat the truth out of you.”
“No it wasn’t Jeff.”
Your features became contorted as you met my eyes again. You yelled at me angrily.
“It was that fucking psycho of a daughter of yours wasn’t it? The one that should’ve been banged up but managed to conveniently forget every pissing thing that was of any relevance. Maggie did it didn’t she?”
I closed my eyes and replied softly before shuffling away towards Robert’s chair.
“No, neither of them did it. It was Annie.”
“Annie? Oh come on, she may have possibly killed the others but she adored Laura, and Laura loved Annie with all of her heart. Impossible Jo. You are talking complete and utter crap. Mags did it; the ugly, hateful little bitch. She loathed my baby. She despised her. She did it Jo. Not Annie.”
I didn’t know what to say just then. The memories of Maggie’s joy when I mentioned the box and she spoke excitedly of the treasure hunt and of Matilda, reassured me that I was correct with my presumption.
I then took a mouthful of gin from the bottle before spluttering a response.
“Call it gut instinct, but I know that it was Annie. Mags, well Mags would never have hurt little Laura. I know that she had a temper but she adored her. And although Maggie found the box, she explained how that happened too. It was a treasure hunt, Susan; an innocent game in her very simple world.”
You snapped.
“Innocent game you say? Oh that’s simply grand isn’t it? Hey kids, let’s look for the dead girl’s dolly. Oh and while you’re at it, try to find her hair and her shoe as well. And guess what kids: the prize is…”
It was my turn to snap – again.
“Shut up Susan. Stop this now; it’s getting you nowhere. Anger is pointless and at last you have the evidence that will finally close this horrific chapter of yours and Richard’s lives. The police will re-open the case and solve the mystery of Laura’s murder once and for all. And you, my love, my dear friend, will finally find closure. It’s not easy for me either, Sue… knowing that, knowing that Annie took your baby away from you. I hate this whole situation almost as much as you do.”
At last you heard me Sue and you calmed down. The tears stopped flowing for a brief moment as well.
“You’re right. At least we have the stuff now and I’ll take it to the police tomorrow. I’m sorry Jo too. It can’t be easy for you either.”
I moved towards you and, at last I received a warm hug. We both sobbed into each other’s arms. You pulled away and looked into my eyes before stuttering those awful words to me.
“But I know that it was Mags though: now that you’ve found her box and the incriminating contents.”
“How can you be so sure Sue?”
You finished the bottle of gin and held my hand tightly.
“Laura’s murderer stabbed her six times… Maggie was strong and well-built wasn’t she?”
I nodded recollecting her puppy fat and large frame.
“Annie was as skinny as a rake.”
I smiled and nodded again as I recalled her trousers falling half-way down her legs and her scowling at me as she yanked them up again.
“The forensic examinations revealed the angle at which the knife penetrated Laura’s heart.”
I didn’t know that but I nodded anyhow.
“They said that it was personal.”
“I know,” I whispered.
“And they said that Laura’s killer was right handed.”
I nodded before the stark realisation slammed through my body as the knife had through Laura’s.
“Maggie’s right-handed Jo.”
I nodded one final time.
Susan went to bed sobbing and took the box with her clutching it close against her chest. I finish this entry, alone and heartbroken and, once again, I question whether I ever knew my daughters at all.

* * *

Maggie
I actually plucked up the courage to make a telephone call today; it’s the first time since the accident and once more, I am so very proud of my achievement.
It was only a brief conversation with Gran; the problem is that due to her illness, she speaks very quietly and I find it quite difficult to understand what she’s saying. Her tremors are getting worse too. She told me that only yesterday, she shook so violently that she dropped her cup of tea and scolded her arm. It made me laugh though Mum when she rambled on about the discomfort she felt following her minor scald; I must admit that I felt rage surge through me when she asked for sympathy. But I calmed down and empathised with her a little: after all, she’s old and frail and not really equipped to cope with pain; something that I will be forced to live with for the remainder of my life.
She must have realised how selfish she was after a few minutes of whingeing, as she actually apologised and agreed to visit me for a little while. I wasn’t really in the right frame of mind but agreed that she could see me so long as she cheered me up and stopped moaning about her own health issues. Surprisingly she did try and she bought me some gifts to compensate for her diabolical behaviour earlier; sadly she did not achieve the desired result and I ended up looking like a circus clown rather than a pretty, young woman, like Annie; my sickeningly, stunning sister.
I have calmed down a little now, but just a few hours ago after she plastered that filthy stuff over my face, I could have killed her. Who did she think she was kidding, Mum? I have skin grafts covering eighty percent of my face which is discoloured: yellow even… if you look close enough, and it’s still red-raw in places. I have no hair or eyebrows and the false eyelashes she tried to fit to my floppy eyelids simply fell off and fluttered down my face into my lap. I’ll never have the chance to flutter my real eyelashes again at boys; it always worked you know and Kevin simply adored it when I looked at him that way. He did love me, Mum; he told me so many times. That’s why Annie murdered him isn’t it? She was jealous because I had a boyfriend and she didn’t. She hated me with a vengeance once Kevin stopped being her boyfriend and chose me instead. We both paid the ultimate price though, didn’t we? I still miss him, despite everything he was accused of. My very special Kevin.
Anyway back to Gran. I know that she believed she was helping me, but another thing that she had failed to consider was the pain. I’m not sure whether it’s psychological or physiological (big words, I know and I learned how to spell them, and what they mean on the internet today) but each and every time my skin is touched, I feel riddled with agony. It hurts so much and as soon as I close my eyes to eliminate it, I see the flames, I feel the heat burning through my flesh and I smell the stench of me as I am engulfed in the inferno, watching my skin melt away as my life almost did that night.
She left soon after. I cried bitter tears as I studied my ridiculous reflection. Even my good eye wanted to fall out of its socket and roll away into the same dark abyss my other one went to. My artificial lips cracked… again as I spluttered a goodbye to her then spoke softly at my hideous reflection.
“Who are you?”
I couldn’t respond, Mum. I was and still am terrified because I really do not know the answer to my own question.
Who exactly am I?

* * *

Annie
I had a bizarre dream last night Mum; in fact it was so engrossing, I didn’t want to wake up and was stunned when the alarm bellowed through my cell reminding me to drag myself out of bed, scrub up and get dressed.
Me and Mags were little girls and it was Christmas Day. The images of you and Dad are still vivid in my mind. I can almost smell breakfast cooking, especially the bacon that you always grilled to perfection. I loved the crispy rind, as Mags did too and we’d squabble over who had the biggest piece. Was there ever a day when we didn’t argue?
Back to the dream:
Dad was sitting close to the Christmas tree which we had all decorated the week before. Oh how you must have loved us, Mum, as the pathetic decorations we had made by stripping down an egg-box and splattering paint over the grey cardboard sections absolutely covered every branch and, in hindsight, looked a complete mess! I’d hidden a couple of chocolate decorations from Maggie as she had eaten all of the others and I wanted you and Dad to have one each. However, in line with her usual mannerisms, she won again having thrown a tantrum over the sodding bacon fat. Why did you always back down, Mum? You should have listened to Dad.
I recall watching you as Maggie stuffed her fat face, and Dad sorted the gifts into four piles. You had the most beautiful eyes and they sparkled with life – and love, I am sure, as you crouched onto the carpet close to us all and wrapped your arms around me and Mags. I remember Dad’s features too as he studied you, then us. His smile could have launched a thousand ships and when he whispered ‘I love you all’, I believed him with all of my heart. It was a perfect moment until they turned up and, as always, took over our formerly magical day.
Don’t get me wrong Mum. I really did like Richard and Susan and, as you know, I loved Laura too. But sometimes, like on Christmas Day, it would have been nice for us: me, you, Dad and Mags to just spend some quality time together as a family without the intrusion of visitors. The more I analyse it, the more I realise that we had very little time alone. Why was that?
As always, Laura looked so pretty; beautiful even. Richard and Susan didn’t need to buy her a princess outfit like you and Dad had bought for us that year as she’d have looked good in an old dustbin bag. I still see her skipping into our living room with her bright eyes sparkling and her little rosy cheeks and blonde, wavy hair brushing against her little bottom. My heart burst with excitement though as she joined us. Despite her perfection she was completely unaware of her beauty, oblivious of Maggie’s envious green eyes boring deep into her back. She was simply perfect, Mum, and I yearned to be her… just for a day, which is where my dream became so strange.
I’ve heard of ‘out of body’ experiences and they sound pretty unbelievable but in my dream, it really happened! I felt my soul soar above you and Dad, over Maggie’s ginger mop of hair then, just like a bolt of lightning, I was inside Laura’s little body, watching through her beautiful eyes and smiling with her perfect mouth. I felt instantly calm and blissfully content as I studied Laura trapped in my body whose entire persona had changed in an instant. Her eyes looked haunted and sad and she scrunched her shoulders towards her face before desperately trying to crawl out of my skeleton. I, on the other hand, never wanted to escape. I had found an inner peace which felt close to how I would imagine paradise to be. It’s a shame that the dream came to such an abrupt closure: I would have loved to have been Laura for a little longer.
I ate a hearty breakfast this morning before meeting with Doctor Jonathan. I know that it takes a lot for me to become excited but, as I don’t have any internet access yet, I was eager to spend some time with another human being who matched my intellect…
I’ve become increasingly aware that a majority of the British population are blabbering idiots. I know that I quoted the example of the morons on Photobook who all lead a meaningless and empty life but, in addition to those prats, there are the dregs of society here… the epitome of what our ridiculous island represents to the world.
Firstly, let’s examine the actual individuals I am forced to associate myself with:
Average BMI: 35
Reason before imprisonment:
They eat crap all day. They stuff packets of crisps down their throats before preparing their evening meal of pizza and chips. They eat shit-loads of chocolate, consume endless fizzy drinks and only move to have a pee or a dump. Life revolves around TV and frigging Photobook and how much filthy food they can ram down their throats in the space of ten hours.
Average IQ: 70
Reason:
One of the main reasons is that their parents are as thick as shit. Most of them probably consider it an achievement to actually crawl out of their pits and take a shower before traipsing down the job centre to collect their job-seeker’s allowance. Then, once they have bought the items highlighted above, they crack open a pack of cheap yet strong lager, get pissed and have sex. The result? A carbon copy of them.
Another Reason:
They can’t be arsed to learn. Their role models (parents) do just fine scrounging off the state and it’s much more fun watching SKY Movies (which the tax-payer kindly bought them) or sitting online playing mindless games and talking to virtual friends. However, they do feel a great sense of achievement when they learn the texting language which, to them, is all they will ever need. Grunting like Neanderthals worked millions of years ago and these people are reverting back to those ancient times. Mind you, if they had to hunt for their food, they would starve; it would be too much effort to get off their fat arses which again takes me back to point one.
In conclusion, they don’t need to learn do they? So long as our government continues to support them financially, they will never have an incentive to educate themselves.
Body Decorations: Endless
Don’t get me wrong, Mum. I completely understand why tribes decorate their bodies. Be it the gold bands over tribal womens’ necks which demonstrate their age, or body decorations that denote which tribe they belong to, these specific items actually do represent something very significant. Even the number of teeth contained within a tribal leader’s ornamental decoration representing his hunting achievements: these I fully acknowledge and even respect. They are a simple sign, which other tribes also recognise or, with regard to the hunters, an accolade of their hunting talents.
I even comprehend why you and Dad wore your wedding rings. They are a symbol that you are betrothed to each other for your lifetimes: or at least that’s what you hoped Mum.
So what is it with the fat, stupid idiots here then? I sound such a prude but seriously, Mum, I have never seen such a selection of hideous tattoos over every crevice of each body as I have over the last few months. One woman even has her neck covered in blue and red ink. When I lowered myself to ask her what the hell it was she said, I quote: “fuckin obvious innit?” I just nodded and walked away; whatever it was, I still have no idea other than it looks as though some pissed lunatic got some permanent spray paint and randomly spewed it over her face whilst she was unconscious on beer and too much saturated fat.
Next come the piercings. OMG how many earrings does it take to realise how bloody ridiculous they look? I swear to God, there’s one woman here who had so many earrings in her face when she arrived here, she looked reminiscent to a bloody porcupine. You should see the state of her now, Mum; do you remember those natural sponges that you bought for me and Mags? Well, imagine that’s your face. As for the others, well, just like ‘the porcupine’, they’ve had theirs removed as well and most have gaping holes over most of their bodies. I’m glad that I listened to you and heeded your warnings about infecting my ears when I was little. Thanks Mum for the great advice.
So there you have it; a brief synopsis of the scum I have to live with day in, day out. I felt such enormous relief when I saw him breeze across the corridor and gently take my arm away from the zoo-keeper, oops, I meant prison officer, and open the door to his office. Jonathan’s such a gentleman; he even allowed me to enter first and pulled out my chair like a true gentleman on a first date would. Instead of making me a coffee, he ran the tap for a few minutes then passed me a glass of ice-cold water. He really is my type of guy. It’s such a pity he’s so old.
As always, he started with the routine questions; how are you, how are you feeling today and, in line with my usual tradition, I hunched my shoulders and ignored him. Boring.
“Actually, Annie, I’m pleased that you agreed to see me as I believe that we made some progress on Monday and should continue with regular sessions for the foreseeable future. What do you think?”
He’s good, Mum; I know I’ve told you this before but he forces me to respond. I like that in a man.
“I think that I’d like that very much, Jonathan. Thank you.”
He melted as I threw one of my hypnotic smiles at him; I simply know it.
“So, looking at your notes from the last session when we discussed Kevin’s murder, you recollected some information where you claim that your sister framed you. Do you remember this, Annie?”
Of course I fucking remembered. How could I forget?
“Yes, Doctor Davies, I remember alright. Can we talk about something else please?”
“Why, Annie?”
“Because this is painful. I’ve been imprisoned for Kevin’s murder and I’m innocent.”
I watched him flick towards the middle of my enormous file to a page without a Post-it. His finger fumbled through some separator tabs, then turned a page open which, surprisingly didn’t have my former shrink’s handwriting on it, but a typed page: presumably from a computer.
“What’s that?”
He ignored me until he’d finished reading the notes, then surprised me by removing the page from the plastic A4 protector and pushing it in my direction. I must admit that I was flabbergasted.
“Read it, Annie; it’s a copy of the hospital report when Maggie was admitted into the burn’s unit.”
I shoved it back towards him. I didn’t need to read some stupid report from an inexperienced quack. I’d seen the bloody injuries first hand.
“What’s the matter, Annie? Don’t you like to read the evidence of Maggie’s injuries? Do I sense guilt here?”
My lust towards Doctor Jonathan Davies was eliminated in an instant. I glared hatefully in his direction before giving considered thought to my response.
“I have no reason to feel any form of guilt, Doctor.”
He removed his spectacles and met my eyes before responding.
“You should, Annie; after all, you pushed her into the bonfire. Had she died, you would have been tried for three murders, wouldn’t you?”
I saw red. I felt my blood boil with rage as Mags’ did that infamous night.
“You have absolutely no idea do you, Doctor? Let me reiterate the circumstances once again, as I tried to in court. I genuinely hope that this time, I will be heard and that you will listen to the true account of what happened that night. Can you promise me one thing, Doctor?”
“What is that, Annie?
“That you at least acknowledge my account of events and you start a new page in my file and document everything I say?”
“I’m not a judge, Annie. I’m your psychiatrist.”
“I don’t care, Doctor. I want you to hear what I have to say. I insist that you record, in written form, what I have to say as well. Please. You have nothing to lose do you?”
His cold eyes warmed a little and he nodded which I guess meant yes.
“Okay, Annie but it won’t change a thing; your sentence is set in stone and the charge of attempted murder will remain just that; do I make myself clear?”
I didn’t care about my sentence; I cared about my conscience which was desperate to come clean and blurt out the truth.
“I never wanted to go you know. It was Maggie’s idea. She loved firework displays with all of the noise, the bright colours bursting into the night sky and the crowds. She would lose herself in the atmosphere; she thrived on the excitement surrounding her, and well, that night, she was in her element. Me? Well, I didn’t care for crowds. I’m a loner and preferred to spend time just with my family, within my comfort zone, enjoying a few sparklers and fireworks then celebrating with the traditional hot-dog. As always, Mags won and I was forced to join in with the frantic crowds who were all fighting, shoving and pushing to get closer to the enormous bonfire and watch the guy get chucked on it just before the display started.”
“I still hate her for forcing me to go there. Crowds frighten me; enclosed groups of people even more. I suffer from claustrophobia, Doctor did you know that?”
“No, Annie, I didn’t. Do you know why?”
“Oh yes, Doctor. Another little trait of Maggie’s was to lock me into the downstairs broom cupboard when nobody was looking. I have never gotten over the terror I felt when my breathing would become laboured and sweat would consume my body. And so, that night… the firework night, frightened me. That’s why I pushed her forward; it was to move her out of my way so that I could escape from the crowd that was crushing me.”
“So you did push her then, Annie?”
“Yes, Doctor. But we were nowhere near the fire. Mags kept shoving her way forward, yelling for my Dad who had managed to force his way towards the front of the crowd. He must have found Maggie and grabbed her hand, as the next time I saw her, she was on Dad’s shoulders, waving her arms in the air and screaming with the euphoric crowd as the Guy was cremated in front of their eyes.”
He turned to another blank page and continued to write his notes.
“So you weren’t at the front of the crowd then Annie; is that what you are saying?”
“No, I wasn’t – initially. I’d pushed and shoved my way to the side of the group. I could just about see Dad who turned around and beckoned for me to meet with them. I fought desperately not to re-join the crowd, but he wouldn’t give in and, eventually he battled his way through and grabbed my hand so that I could join Maggie and have a great view of the bonfire and forthcoming fireworks. I was furious, enraged even. He never took any notice of what I wanted; it was always Mags. She always got her own way. That’s why I…”
“What did you do, Annie?”
“I kicked him. I kicked my Dad so hard that he jolted forward and almost fell. I forced my way outside of the crush, screaming frantically that I needed to get some air, and miraculously the crowd separated as the red-sea did in the Bible and a tiny path was created for me to find my own solitude. When I escaped, everyone was elated as the first of the fireworks exploded into the sky and their eyes remained transfixed on the spectacle of noise and colours above them. It was then… the precise moment the display started, when I saw what happened; I turned my head towards the fire and heard the most hideous blood curdling screams originating from it, once he had…
“He, Annie?”
“Yes, my Dad. He didn’t mean to push her. I am sure of that, and perhaps it was an automatic reaction from being kicked, but he slapped Mags across the back, possibly believing it had been her who had kicked him. She must have lost her balance and fallen. Nevertheless, it wasn’t me who did it, despite her accusations. It was him, Doctor, although, as you know, I had to take responsibility.”
I gulped a mouthful of water before I tried to continue. I was rudely interrupted.
“Why did you have to take responsibility, Annie? What do you mean?”
“Remember Kevin’s death? The blackmailing cow had forced me to accept the blame for everything subsequent to him dying, including this or she would tell the police that Kevin hadn’t committed suicide and I would be blamed for his murder.”
Doctor Davies referred back to the pink Post-it page.
“I do recall you saying that, Annie, yes.”
“So, once again, I took the blame. I surmised that Maggie wanted me to be imprisoned in a cell because she was trapped in her little flat all day and in her hideous, deformed body. Maybe that’s what it was; she was incarcerated due to her disfigurements and I was as well – albeit in prison. Whatever her twisted, crazy reasons were, she won.”
Doctor Davies closed my file before pushing his chair away from his desk and heading towards the kettle. I watched him as he systematically added a level teaspoon of coffee to his mug, stirred the liquid anti-clockwise as he poured in the water, then finally added a little milk.
“Want one?”
“No thanks.”
He studied me intensely before taking a sip from his cup. I didn’t react; I am used to people giving away their flaws and weaknesses with their body language. My eyes remained transfixed on his; my body motionless.
“You know that I am a father, Annie don’t you?”
I nodded.
“And hopefully you will realise that the love a father feels for their children is unconditional and selfless.”
I agreed again.
“And your point is, Doctor?”
“Quite obvious, Annie. Why should I believe that your father would allow you… his young daughter, to take on the dreadful burden of responsibility for Maggie’s injuries when you claim that you are completely innocent and that he actually pushed her – intentionally or unintentionally? It makes no difference to me nor any sense.”
His eyes bore into mine. I wanted to run away.
“Tell me then, Annie, come on, why did your father fail to admit to the police officers or doctors that he had accidentally pushed Maggie into the fire? Why on earth did he allow you to be punished for something you didn’t do? Surely somebody within the crowd watched you scramble away, as you claim. Or were they all blind, as well as deaf?“
I could tell from his flushed face that he was borderline angry. His hand actually shook as he held his mug before taking another mouthful.
“I asked that question a thousand times too, Doctor. Yet, I still can’t understand why. Perhaps it was fear or maybe he believed that I had caused the accident, which I guess I did indirectly through kicking him. Or perhaps he was as terrified of Mags as I was.”
“Oh come on, Annie. How could a grown man be scared of his daughter?”
“He was, Doctor Davies; trust me. Maggie had stuff on him too: another trump card, and in her warped mind, she wanted to control him, along with me. I am absolutely sure of that, Doctor Jonathan.”
I knew that he still wasn’t convinced as my file remained closed; not an encouraging sign.
“What complete nonsense. If what you claim is true, Annie, surely Maggie would have wanted her father to be punished for what he had done to her. After all she had seventy-percent burns and knew that she would be disfigured for the rest of her life. Why in the world would she still want him to be free? It makes absolutely no sense to me.”
“It does to me though. Free, Doctor? You are so wrong. By eliminating me from her life she could focus entirely on controlling my dad; his every move, his bank balance, every imaginable thing he owned and possessed would be literally monitored and owned by Maggie. He would become her slave, answering each command obediently, knowing that if he slipped… just the once, she could shatter his life as quickly as he had shattered hers. She did own him, Doctor, until the day he died. Until he was set free.”
He opened another blank page and started scribbling rapidly. I smiled; he failed to reciprocate.
“You’ve had a while to formulate this tale, Annie, but I will give you credit: you are an excellent storyteller indeed. Have you considered spending some of your free-time here writing? I honestly believe that you have real talent in the field of imagination.”
I could not allow my emotions to control my body or mind. I took a deep breath, closing my eyes as I did so, trying to take myself back to the rare, happy moments of my childhood. I heard the seagulls screeching above my head, I felt the breeze blow through my hair and Mum’s hand warmly securing mine as I watched the endless sky, wondering where it would lead to. I wanted to grow wings and fly into the heavens, away from my sister… my keeper, to freedom and to happiness. I was brought back to reality as he coughed loudly, causing me to almost jump out of my skin.
“Penny for your thoughts, Annie.”
“Just happy memories, Doctor, that’s all. I was at the seaside with my family and remember wanting to fly away into the clouds: away from Mags.”
“Is that why you pushed her, Annie? You hated her so much and you yearned to be free from her; you can tell me if that was the reason.”
This time I could not control my anger. I snapped.
“No, Doctor Davies. I swear on my mother’s life that I did not push her that night. I wasn’t the only one who saw my dad shove her you know. There was a witness: a man. He saw absolutely everything as well, but he failed to make a statement. He could have saved me but he chose to remain anonymous when he called the police and named me as the perpetrator.”
I continued to shout, causing the doctor to move his hand close to the alarm.
“Press the fucking thing if you must. I know that you believe I did all of this stuff. Just bloody well let me finish.”
He moved his hand towards my file before re-starting his interrogation.
“He must have had a personal vendetta against you to accuse you of such a hideous assault. Did you know him, Annie?”
I tried to compose myself but failed miserably. Bitterness swelled through my aching muscles before I responded. If only I could cry; it would help me so much.
“Yes I know him alright.”
“You do?”
“He always threatened that he would seek revenge for what I accused his son of. Well he got it then didn’t he? He and Mags had always liked each other. He would have loved for her to be his daughter-in-law; my perfect, scheming little bitch of a sister.”
Jonathan shuffled closer to me in his chair before continuing to document my statement.
“It was Kevin’s father. He lied to seek vengeance. He never did approve of me and claimed that I corrupted his son before slandering his good name. Of course he blamed me for Kevin’s suicide, which transpired to be murder according to Maggie. I guess that you would hate me too wouldn’t you, Jonathan, if you wore his shoes?”
“No, Annie, I wouldn’t. Heaven forbid if my lad ever abused a child; however, if he did, I would feel not only pity for him due to his illness but for the poor victim as well. So in answer to your question, I would not hate you. I have only ever hated somebody once and believe you me, it causes more heartache and pain than forgiveness does.”
I wanted to question the doctor further, but I felt that this would be inappropriate during today’s session. I would save it for another time. I simply nodded instead, which is becoming a habit of late.
“And so, Doctor, there you have it. He had his revenge for Kevin’s death and Maggie had hers too; against me and of course my dad. But she wasn’t quite finished. She had numerous more tricks up her sleeve.”
I was conscious of the time once again and knew, without even looking at the clock that I had exceeded my hour long consultation. It didn’t seem to concern Doctor Davies though.
“It’s okay, Annie. I allowed two hours for today so continue if you want to.”
I was tired, verging on exhausted. Although I felt at ease most of the time with the doctor, it was genuinely painful recalling the events of the past in precise detail. I just hoped that he would believe me some day, although right now, I doubted it.
“He did rape me, Doctor. I didn’t lie about Kevin. Please believe me.”
I shifted in my chair; it was so uncomfortable.
“Do you want a cushion, Annie? Here have mine.”
He chucked a red cushion towards me and as I ducked to avoid it hitting my face, I laughed. It was strange to hear as I hadn’t giggled or felt happiness for so long, yet there I was in a meeting with my shrink, and a difficult one at that, actually feeling content.
He smiled too. How I longed for him to cuddle me and make me feel secure. I yearned for that love from my dad too. How I regret being unable to show how vulnerable I really was and how I really did need to feel special.
“I was a fool.”
“Sorry, Annie, I missed that.”
I hadn’t realised that I had actually spoken my thoughts but it didn’t matter. I knew from the doctor’s more serious expression that he wanted me to talk more about Kevin. I didn’t know where to start and I was feeling the strain from our previous discussion. It obviously showed.
“Shall we call it a day, Annie? You do look very tired.”
I yawned automatically. It’s strange but did you know that yawning is contagious? It is, and Jonathan also yawned before looking at me rather sheepishly and smiling that gorgeous smile of his.
“Sorry, Annie. I promise you that I’m not bored!”
“Intrigued maybe? It’s not every day that you meet somebody who is accused of being a psychopath is it?”
He didn’t respond; I hadn’t expected him to. He did however start a new page of notes and this time he added a pink Post-it note. I had to question him again about the relevance of these.
“Why pink, Jonathan?”
He looked bemused before realising the angle of my question.
“Oh, as I said before, they’re just reference points, Annie. Nothing worth worrying about.”
“Then why do they all have question marks on them, Doctor?”
He hadn’t realised how observant I was; I missed nothing. He should have known that.
“Do you have doubts in your mind now, Doctor? Do you believe some of the stuff I’ve told you, because I can assure you that every word is true? There’s no point in lying; it gets you nowhere.”
He scratched his nose: a classic sign of lying. I awaited his response in anticipation.
“Annie, I am here to help you in the form of therapy. I am not here to judge you, nor am I prepared to divulge the nature of my observations with you. Please refrain from asking such questions in our future meetings.”
I felt like a naughty schoolgirl and blushed before spluttering a silly response.
“I am sorry, Doctor. I didn’t intend to place you in an awkward position and I won’t ask you again. I was just curious you know, as it’s my life we’re discussing here; what’s left of it anyhow.”
I tried to cry. Yet again, despite feeling the pit deep within my stomach, I couldn’t.
“Don’t cry, Annie,” he whispered. He genuinely looked concerned as I rubbed my eyes.
“I wish that I could, Doctor; it’s something that I’ve been unable to do for as long as I can remember. I have tried endless times, knowing that crying will, in a strange way, offer a sense of relief from the pain I am suffering inside. I sometimes feel as though my heart will break under the pressure from all of the sad and bitter emotions I feel deep within, yet, as with everything else in my godforsaken life, I fail at that – the simplest of tasks… crying.”
I felt so sad as I studied him studying me. I wanted to jump into his mind and swim through his head, swallowing up his emotions and understanding why he was looking at me this way. Perhaps he too felt my pain. I longed to ask him but did not. I wish that I had as he concluded the meeting a few moments after.
“I have a book for you, Annie. It’s not what you asked for, I am sorry; however, it’s quite well written and you may be able to relate to it.”
I was dumbfounded by his kindness.
“Thank you, Doctor, you are so kind. What’s it about?”
“Amnesia, Annie. Although it’s fictional, I believe that the author researched the subject extensively before writing the book. I do hope that it helps you a little.”
Of course I knew what the book was about. I’d even heard about the old movie that featured Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth but I didn’t want to hurt Jonathan’s feelings.
I brushed his hand gently with mine before being escorted back to my cell. He turned towards me and waved before I entered the emptiness once again and this time he didn’t need to speak.
Jonathan had bought me a book which meant that he had thought of me in his own, private world. But most importantly, he must have believed some of what I had told him about Kevin’s death. Heck, perhaps, after all, I am no longer alone in my battle for justice.
Maggie, watch out. Your freedom could be short-lived.

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