Paisley Pattern

 Siobhan knew that changes were happening. Changes in her body and changes in the way her mother’s boyfriends looked at her. In a way she wanted to hold onto her innocence. Every month since she turned fifteen she was reminded that she was no longer a little girl.

 She stood in front of the tall oak swing mirror combing her shoulder length black hair. She looked down at the rest of her body, naked as the day she was born. Her breasts were small and her hips had taken on a beautiful curve like a river cetacean rising out of the water. Glancing over at the Rosetti print above her bed, she cupped her left breast with her right hand, her eyes becoming Astarte, the Syrian goddess of love.

  Jess, her unemployed and neurotic mother spent most of the day pickled on cheap gin. Not today. Today she had decided it was time to have a little chat with her lost princess.

  Siobhan loathed her mother and avoided eye contact let alone breakfast seminars at all costs.

 ‘What the fuck was her problem? Another lecture on the morals of wearing pyjamas in front of her boyfriend? Silly cow needs to keep her man on a tighter leash if he can’t be trusted.’

 Her mum pushed the chair out from the table.

 ‘Sit.’

 As Siobhan deflated onto the chair she let out a sigh that suggested she had just come up for air.

 ‘What?’ she replied with sheer contempt.

 ‘Listen sweetheart, I know your mother comes across as slightly out of touch at times, but you have to remember I’m doing this on my own. I know James tries very hard to be part of the family but you and I both know he will never replace your father. Your dad was unique; he built this house with his own bare hands.’

 Siobhan thought of how the Patels had been flooded after her mum left the shower head on and how the banister had came out of the brickwork at the bottom of the stairs-

 ‘Jack of all trades and master of none, more likes – the house is a fucking death-trap!’

 ‘Don’t talk about your father like that, have some respect you ungrateful brat!’Jess spat out the last word as if her life depended on it.

 She knew the truth but shielded it with her own delusions about the domestic sphere. There was no bride and carriage, just an unwanted pregnancy and the untimely death of Siobhan’s father. All the local newspapers made a hero out of her dad. His achievements in delivering Barr’s Iron Bru bottles around the streets of Paisley were legendary. It took four milkmen to cover the distance Eric could complete in a morning and then one day it was all over.

 Eric or wee Eck as he was known on the rounds had just finished his shift and was heading into town to collect tickets for the old firm match. The brakes failed as he left the slip road off the M8. The coroner said he was killed outright by a crate of Irn Bru that shot through the rear windscreen as he hit the concrete pillar supporting the fly-over. The insurance money paid for Jess’s own means of coping … alcohol.

 ‘I think it’s high time we had a talk madam.’ snapped Jess as if she were making an announcement at the Sheriff Court. ‘As a young woman, you have certain responsibilities my dear and as your mother I will be making sure you adhere to them’.

 Siobhan lifted her eyes from the piece of chewing gum attached to the underside of the living room table-

 ‘What the fuck is she on about?’ she thought.

 ‘You’ll need these’, as her mother handed over a packet of menstruation towels.

 ‘What? … It was a bit late for that precaution.’ Siobhan muttered to herself. If only her mum had sobered up last summer, she might have informed her precious daughter about ‘bleeding’ before it happened during O Level Maths.

 Mrs Tate, the Maths teacher, had come prepared and sent Siobhan home with a couple of Tampons and a fiver to buy a new pair of knickers. The blood had soaked through her pants and at first she thought she had wet herself. By the time she got to the teacher, her face was chalk white. It was only the reassurance from Mrs Tate that prevented her from passing out or screaming.

 As Siobhan sat in front of her mother, all she could think about was heading down to the park on Fitzroy Street and losing herself in a bottle of Buckfast.

 ‘Thanks mum’ she said as Jess handed over the pads. ‘You’re the best’. Jess smiled not really knowing how to react to her daughters unusual burst of emotion. There was a half bottle of Gordon’s in the bottom drawer in her bedroom.

 ‘I’m gonna nip upstairs and get ready’- she replied. James was on his way round to pick her up. He’d promised to take her to Ikea to look at cushions and hopefully a shag was on the cards. ‘Make sure you remember to do your homework tonight. I’ll be back late’.

 Siobhan threw the pads in her bag, grabbed her blazer and left, slamming the door. With the bitter Scottish wind biting at her ankles she noticed the bus pulling up and could see the rest of the gang sitting upstairs. She ran and caught the door as it closed on her.

 ‘Did you not see me running?’ she quizzed the balding bus driver.

 ‘I’m not paid to wait around fir the likes of you’ he said as he scratched the dry skin around his nose and closed the door behind her. Siobhan flashed her bus pass as if walking into a crime scene.

 ‘Hold it – Come back here.’ She was half way up the stairs when she heard him. Stopping in her tracks she spun round and rammed the pass up against the glass.

 ‘That’s better; who do you think I am sister? The Bionic man? She didn’t even register his complaint.

 ‘Asshole!’ she whispered to herself.

  James, Claire and Alice were laughing like hyaenas up the back of the bus. James had purchased a packet of snap-its from the newsagent in town and was throwing them at a group of public school boys in the front seat.

 ‘Please! If you don’t stop, I’ll tell the driver.’ the youngest boy pleaded. He could only have been in primary six or seven, still wearing the school uniform; shorts and plimsolls on a bitter January morning.

 ‘I’ll tell the driver!’ echoed James as he launched another paper explosive at the boys head. As the young boy swung round in order to gauge the distance of the next terrorist attack, the packed ignited of the back of the seat. The snap of gunpowder and stone left a charred remain on the plastic exterior. James was disappointed, ‘Bastards … missed!’

 Siobhan sat down in between Claire and Alice, throwing her bag on the floor. ‘James, you got any smokes?’

 ‘Buy your own ya greedy cow’, his attack on the upper classes halted for a minute. ‘I can’t afford to keep you in tobacco all year round – it’s no cheap you know.’

 He pulled a regal from the packet and slid it into her hand with an ambiguous smile. The other girls noticed his contradiction in compliance to Siobhan’s request and burst into a fit of giggles. Siobhan lit the cigarette and sat back, her eyes scanning over James like Superman lasers and finishing up on the pavement outside.

 ‘Did you bring any Buckfast?’ James said as he placed the cigarettes back in his pocket. Siobhan turned to look at James with the confidence of a wildcat,

‘Of course.’

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