Chapter 29: Dee
When Milly asked Dee to join her and her Mum to go and get hot chocolates at the café in Clapham Junction station, Dee did not hesitate before accepting. She found herself increasingly preoccupied with thoughts of Milly and Isla. This pair brought meaning to her day and as the cloud that had consumed her life for so very long began to slowly lift and dissipate, she found herself looking to Isla and her daughter to find out how to live.
This pair that had it all were people she could learn from, she thought. She had once harboured ill feelings towards Isla, or Yummy Mummy as she’d always thought of her then, thinking of her as over-privileged and undeserving, but it is far less easy to judge someone once their face has a name and you begin to fill in details of their life with facts rather than imagined fictions. Dee was growing to quite like Isla, she wasn’t sure she understood her yet and she still felt deeply envious of how together her life was and, more than anything, the unconditional love she received from Milly, but as her own relationship with Milly grew and that love was shared, she found it easy to temper her previous disdain for Isla and instead focus on getting to know the real, rather than the imagined person.
The little Isla now knew of Dee indicated that there was a lot more to her than the vacuous personality that she’d had previously imagined, though she did find that despite her verbosity on occasion that Isla was quite a closed book. Dee had no idea what career, if any, she had ever pursued and she had never so much as mentioned Milly’s father. The motivation for her evening outings was beginning to puzzle Dee too.
And so, given the chance to spend some more time with Isla and Mily, Dee was more than eager and, unlike last time, Isla did not put up a huge show of resistance. Perhaps she had realised that Dee really did have nowhere she needed to be or places she wanted to go. Dee was having to work hard at striking the right balance her longstanding pretence and her real life. On the one hand she wanted to blend in to the background, to look like a commuter, to look and feel like someone with people to see and places to go. On the other hand, she did not want to fuel Isla’s fear that she was too busy or too important to spend time going kite flying or out for coffee. She’d clearly got the balance right though as Isla nodded and smiled in acknowledgement of Dee’s acceptance whilst Milly bounced up and down on the spot explaining exactly how she liked her hot chocolate – cream and marshmallows were equally important it seemed. If you had marshmallows but no cream they just melted into the hot chocolate and grew slimy, and cream with no marshmallows was simply not worth contemplating because marshmallows were so delicious. Dee could not argue with such a well formed argument, though her tastes were a little different – she was already looking forward to the latte she planned to enjoy with a dash of ginger syrup and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
The pleasure she found herself able to take in the little things she encountered with Isla and Milly were not to be taken for granted. The fact that she was able to imagine the feel of the warm mug of coffee resting in her hands, the fragrant smells of coffee, ginger and cinnamon filling her nostrils, was really quite something. Dee was so used to feeling nothing. Long grey dark cold days spent in a bubble of despair. She had become so used to not looking forward to nor being motivated by anything that this simple outing was making her stomach turn in excited somersaults. She felt like a small child headed for Disneyland. It was just coffee but it felt symbolic of so much more. She was out; she was breaking with her grey routine, she was building relationships and breaking boundaries, perhaps life was finally beginning to look up?
She had wondered for a long time if things would ever change, and her certainty that after all this time things would never, could never, get better had been a key factor which fuelled her desire to die. For so long she had felt she could bear it no more. But now? Now, things were changing, albeit slowly.
It had started the day that she leapt on Milly on the station platform. She found herself returning to that moment often. Platform four at Vauxhall station was now haunted with two sets of conflicting memories, one set involving two lives lost, two lives Isla had always felt she could, should have saved; the other, contrasting memories of a life almost certainly saved. She had done that; she had saved a life.
The enormity of it had passed her by at the time. In truth she had been completely thrown by the fact that her own suicide plans had been so rapidly scuppered just as she had finally committed to her final goodbye.
Fate had intervened and instead of ending her own life, she had saved Milly’s.
She found herself wondering now if she had paid her penance, a life saved for two lives lost. Perhaps that was why the fog was lifting? She wasn’t sure and she didn’t want to pin too much hope on the improvement during such early days, nor did she want to over complicate things, she simply wanted to enjoy the moment so as the train approached Clapham Junction, she readied herself to leave. As she did so, Milly took hold of her hand and led her towards new and happy memories, fresh beginnings and the taste of ginger.
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Thank you for feeding back each day. I’m building in your edits and suggestions to the version held on my local machine so the initial raw version will remain here. When I’ve got questions, I’m going to ask them each day – don’t feel obliged to answer them, but if you’re happy to they’ll help me as I try to craft the story. If you have questions or observations I’d be keen to hear them too.
As ever your descriptive power brings everything alive for your reader. There is so much information about the tiny details, especially around Milly’s character; you’ve made her such an adorable little girl you can’t help but love her. I like Dees thoughts and realisation of how her life is changing thanks to her jumping on Milly and saving a life to ‘pay’ for the ones she didn’t save before and hope that she soon sees that she has saved two lives here. As a plain black coffee drinker I’ve become curious about Dee’s choice and can almost taste it, superb description again.
In P3 you should start with Dee getting to know Isla rather than the other way round. But it’s all still amazing Pooky writing 😉👍
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It’s a good job I’m not reading a book like the fantasy novels Tom reads with a cast of dozens!
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I was also puzzled by paragraph 3 at first (as Terry mentioned also) but it seems to make more sense if it reads Dee getting to know Isla. I love the idea of Dee looking to Isla and Milly as role models for how she can learn to live her life. So much of our daily learning about life comes from other people. The thought that comes to my mind is one I often feel — the blind are leading the blind.
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