Chapter 3

Written by: Donna McTavish

I never heard the music box again and now, many months later, I can’t be certain that it was real.

Just like the Polish waitress or the Australian or the person in the empty room next door. I’ve come to believe that none of them exist. Months before, I had exhausted my imagination and had no plausible explanation for the photograph. In the end I convinced myself that the little girl wasn’t me. Logically, it couldn’t be. I was born in Hamilton in New Zealand and had never been anywhere until I came to London with James. Mum had though. When I was 5 she suddenly went away. I came out of school one day and there was someone else waiting for me. I guess Dad was working shifts then. I went to live in a different house with my aunties and cousins. They were kind but I cried every night and prayed that mum would come and rescue me.

One morning she was there sitting on my bed smiling and stroking my hair. I remember putting my arms round her and feeling her tears soak the pillow. She said that she’d never go away again but that was a lie. She went away for good a few weeks later. After so many years, I’ve almost forgotten what she looked like but I still have the tiny red double-decker bus that she gave me as a present that day.

So the house seems to be empty except for Marie and me.  When I leave my room she appears from the kitchen followed by a gust of warm cabbagey air and she stands sentinel against the damp wall watching.  Sometimes her lips move and I think she’s getting ready to speak but she never does.

She dresses in the same mossy green woollen coat, worn to a greasy stained shine. Every now and then the front falls open and I see a flash of crimson. It’s a nightdress made of cheap shiny material. I’ve seen others just like it piled beside packets of socks (three for 99p) on the barrows at the market in Camden Town.

One day Marie wasn’t there when I returned and I hesitated for a moment eyeing the tiny pink sandals waiting for her to push open the door and throw her disapproval at me. I was surprised by the disappointment that flooded my chest and briefly I considered calling her name but I didn’t know what I’d say if she’d appeared.

I guessed that Marie’s life hadn’t been easy. No one lives in a house like this if they have choices, I thought. I certainly wouldn’t.  Apart from the phone call on that first day, I hadn’t heard her talk to anyone and she never had visitors. I knew what that felt like.

“Hello. Anyone there?”  A voice exploded into my consciousness.

“There’s been an accident. I reckon we need an ambulance. Can you dial 999? Make it quick, mate! She’s in a bad way.”


What a beautifully written chapter so full of feeling. As I read it I slipped into Tamara's head and was rudely woken back into reality as I read the last line. Lovely pros and descriptive creativeness.My thoughts are that you should consider writing a short for a writing competition if you have not done so already. Loved it. Please keep writing more.
There were so many gorgeous moments in this chapter. I loved the concept of someone 'throwing her disapproval at me'. There were so many clichéd ways to say this yet the way your wrote it made it fresh and a joy to of those 'wow' moments, of which there are many in this chapter. Thanks Donna.