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A boy who went to school with me, his dad died unexpectedly. He was in a car crash. My friends and I talk about it at a birthday party, sighing and signing a card to send to Andy. They treat me like an expert.

Bella says, ‘I think it must be the worst way to die… for the family, I mean. The shock of it all, not being able to say goodbye…’ Everyone nods and looks at me, expecting me to agree because I am evidently recovering marvellously.

I think of the last six months and of Mum slowly withering and of sudden hospital stays and of the weight hanging over me the whole time. I think of Dad scurrying around, worried about doing things wrong. I think of the smell of the Oncology Ward; it will never leave me. I think of misery so heavy that I am physically sick. I think of the unspeakable things I saw on the last day of my mother’s life, and I look at Bella, so pretty, so privileged, so naïve, and wonder what the hell she thinks she knows about it.

I nod, because they all want me to.


Alison Stedman is a fiction editor at Halfway Down the Stairs.

© 2010, Alison Stedman


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