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Winston hugged himself tightly, and rocked to and fro on the bed. It hurt, it hurt so badly. He couldn’t bear the pain. He lay down on the bed and curled up in the foetal position, and sobbed himself to sleep. Outside the wind howled, and hailstones pounded relentlessly for brief periods, stopped and then rallied again.

When Winston woke up, he felt frozen. He shivered with the cold. He felt like there was a tight band of solid ice around his heart. It was unnervingly quiet now. Dragging his trembling body off the bed, Winston went over to the window. The world outside was white, stark and bare. Snow had fallen whilst he had slept.

Winston picked up his parka jacket thrown on a chair, and put it on. He stomped downstairs and into the living room. Then a thought ran across his mind. In a panic he ran across the room and shook the front door. It was locked.  Breathing a sigh of relief, he turned and noticed his grandmother, Gladys looking at him. She was smiling out of the silver photo-frame on the side-board. She was dressed in her pink suit and matching hat, she wore for going to the Gospel Church down the road. Winston grabbed the photo and stuffed it into a drawer.

Going into the kitchen, Winston used up the last of the bread and milk to make tea and toast. He sat down on the sofa in the living-room to eat. There was a sound of shouting and laughing outside. Winston instantly ducked to the floor. He crawled behind the sofa, and shook uncontrollably. There was a thud on the window. Winston held his breath……a snowball!

He had thought it was Jermaine and the gang again. They had killed his grandma Gladys. It had been all his fault. Winston blamed himself for running home to get away from them. She had warned him to stay away from the gang. But he had wanted to belong. At first he had just been a look-out for them. Then it was running errands for them; after that a bit of shop-lifting. Then just a few weeks ago, they told him to mug someone and take their phone, and then he would be a fully-fledged member of the gang. Winston had refused to do this, as he knew it was really wrong to hurt someone. Gladys had brought him up well, teaching him right from wrong. He had gone to live with her when he was seven, after his parents had died in a fire. When he told Jermaine and the others that he wouldn’t mug someone, they had threatened him with knives, and he had fled. They had chased Winston down alley-ways, through city traffic, across the playground, until they had cornered him near his home.

Gladys was just returning from shopping, when she had heard Winston pleading the gang to leave him alone, and calling for help. Without a thought for her own safety she had dropped her shopping bag on the ground, turned the corner, scurried over to Winston cowering on the doorstep and held him tight.

“Get out of the way old woman!” Jermaine had jeered.

Gladys had pulled herself up and turned to face her mocker.

“Jermaine Greene, I knew you when you were in short pants. You should be ashamed of yourself, and praying on your knees for this behaviour!”

Gladys had stood there defiantly, with her hands on her hips. She was a short, round, motherly woman. She stared at Jermaine with a strict West-Indian authoritarian look, over the top of her half-rimmed spectacles.  Some of the gang members had started to snigger. Jermaine had started shifting uneasily from one foot to the other, and then suddenly lurched forward. Winston had seen the glint of the knife, and tried to grab it from Jermaine’s hand. But it was too late.

Gladys had gasped, and then collapsed. Jermaine had stood there for a few moments breathing heavily and snarling like a wild animal. The rest of the gang looked frightened and like a group of pigeons, scattered and fled. Jermaine was motionless for a moment, dropped the knife to the ground and took flight too. Winston had tried to stop the spurting blood with his hands. He had looked around helplessly, and had heard a strange primitive scream, that seemed to be emanating from him.

Someone must have called the police and ambulance, because they came. Gladys was dead by the time she got to the hospital, and Winston was treated for shock. The police asked him endless questions, and he had named Jermaine. He had got a taxi home, and when he saw where everything had happened it hit him like a ten ton truck. He had run indoors, locked the door, scrambled upstairs and had thrown himself on the bed.

Now Winston winced at the memories, and pushed them away. He put on the television to distract him from thinking. He left the sound down and put the sub-titles on. Winston sat numbly on the sofa for a few hours, until gnawing hunger and cold made him move. He pushed money into the electricity meter, and then went online to order shopping to be delivered, using Gladys’s card he found in her secret place.

Days came, and days went. Winston slept, ate, and watched television. He took the phone off the hook, and turned his mobile off. He kept the curtains drawn and the door locked. He cocooned himself from the harsh realities he couldn’t bear to face. Outside the world was quiet, nobody ventured forth in the icy conditions in case they should fall; schools and work places closed down.

But one day Winston had no more money for the meter, so he had no electricity to watch television, or use his computer. Reluctantly, Winston put on his mobile to see if he could order food. A barrage of messages came through, as his phone came to life.  He put the phone down in horror. Winston noticed a spot of light bouncing like a sparkly ball, on the carpet. He looked towards the window. The curtains were lit up. He went over and gingerly peeked out. Winston blinked in the daylight that streamed into the room. He drew back the curtains and picked up his mobile phone. Taking a deep breath to steady his nerves Winston began to read the texts, and listen to the messages from the police about Gladys body being released for burial. He read texts from distant relations in Trinidad, offering their condolences, and offers for him to come and visit.

Posted January 28, 2014 by eileenmoynihan in Uncategorized

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