I AM IN NOTTINGHAM CITY CENTRE FOR AN APPOINTMENT. I find out the appointment has been cancelled so I turn around and head home. On the way, I check my phone and see “Annie” has texted me, but I can’t access her message.
I arrive home. From the outside, it’s the house in Wirksworth that I lived in with my (now ex) wife and four children, but inside it is the house in Slade Green I grew up in. There are lots of people in the house. There is a girl with no head. Since she can neither see nor hear, I place my hand on her back to say hello. I ask someone, “Where’s Annie?”
“She’s sleeping upstairs,” they reply.
I go upstairs to what I remember as my parents’ bedroom. Annie is tucked up in bed asleep. I don’t want to wake her. I start rummaging through my mum’s antique wooden wardrobe, the one I used to hide in as a child. I’m looking for my blue pyjamas but I can’t find them. There are lots of clothes in plastic bags. I pull out a few items of clothing but see they are hi-viz jackets. In the end, I find a blue t-shirt and a pair of yellow jog bottoms and change into them.
I feel exhausted and just want to get into bed with Annie, but there is a woman standing outside the bedroom door. I go out to her and ask her what she wants.
“Would you have a Bible study with the girl with no head?” she asks.
“No,” I reply.
The woman starts crying.
“The thing is,” I explain, “I wouldn’t want my fiancée thinking anything is going on.”
The woman continues crying and I feel guilty.
“Okay,” I say, “I’ll ask Annie. Wait there.” I go into the bedroom and whisper in Annie’s ear, “Can I study with the girl with no head?”
“Sure,” Annie replies, half asleep, “When?”
“November 6th to 9th,” I reply.
“That’s my intake day, so I’ll be away,” Annie says.
“Okay,” I say, “And just so you know—I’m not at all attracted to her, but this doesn’t mean you can have a best boyfriend, ok?”
“Okay,” replies Annie.
“The chapter on having a head will be fun!” I joke, and we both laugh.
I return to the woman outside our bedroom.
“Yes,” I say to her, “I’ll study with the girl with no head.”
“Thank you!” the woman says, “Thank you so much!”
She walks down the stairs while I watch from the landing. Halfway down the stairs she turns and says, “It was nice seeing you again.”
“Wait,” I say, “We’ve met before?”
“Yes,” replies the woman, “Riji at Rosewood says hi.”
It’s then I remember that the woman was my therapist when I had a mental breakdown as a child. Rosewood was, it seems, a recovery unit I attended.
The woman takes a seat in an armchair at the bottom of the stairs. Sitting next to her, also in an armchair, is an old woman. The bottom of the stairs leads into an open living space where the group of people I met earlier are sitting around watching television. The old woman looks angry. She crawls up the stairs on her knees and grabs hold of my hands. Referring to my ex-therapist she screams at me, “Tell the bitch to shut up! I can’t hear the TV!”
I let go of her hands. She tumbles backwards down the stairs and knocks herself out at the bottom. I see someone check her pulse. She is still alive. Then she is placed on a stretcher and carried away.