“Do you understand why you are here, Miss Henshaw?”
“I don’t think the title matters.”
“Oh believe me, it matters, Detective.”
Nobody cheered for Scarlett as she walked across the stage for her Year Six Literacy Prize. The day of the Leavers Assembly, not one of the mothers clapped as she stood tall to shake hands with the Headteacher. Her classmates, behind her on the stage, looked to their parents who gave just the merest shake of their head, and they fell silent too.
“Why are you telling me about your daughter’s assembly? I don’t think it has any bearings on the case.”
“I would say it is pertinent.”
Just a few days ago, as part of the Prom Planning party, the other parents had gathered in my garden. They were eating my strawberry trifle. I had served it up from a cut-glass bowl into smaller matching bowls. I knew they would think it was too much. I knew it suggested a desperation to fit in. But that wasn’t it. I just liked the forensic aesthetic of the layers of trifle through glass. I was in the kitchen, having collected plates and cutlery to load into the dishwasher. So, maybe I just imagined that the laughter led by Dianna was vindictive.
Maybe, I was just imagining them passing judgement on my well-manicured lawn and neat borders. I could understand. I found it hard to believe that I was the sort of woman who cared about edges and hardy annuals.
The imagined conversation that I witnessed ran something like this.
“Do you remember that time, she really lost it when your dog tried to dig up her roses?”
“Imagine caring that much about a cheap rose bush. It hadn’t even established. It was newly planted like the rest of this…”, a hand sweeping in disgust at the new Estate built on the old common.
“It could be easily replaced.”
Lorna was stood to the side of them. She would be sticking up for me.
“You never know. The roses might have had sentimental value,” I imagined her saying.
They rolled their eyes. I could tell that they had rolled their eyes from the kitchen window. I have joined them in rolling eyes at Lorna. They are unpleasant, and she is drippy.
The rose bush is not sentimental.
“Yes, about that rosebush?”
“All in good time… Seargeant.”
One evening, I was standing in the doorway of a vegetarian café. The dark air outside was fresh. On the threshold I could see tealights and hear the frantic folk music loved by hippies before their mushroom come-down. Behind the sweaty bodies, was the smell of wholewheat pastries and virtuously seeded snacks.
Adult-hood was not going well.
I was in my early twenties, that horrible year post-graduation, when everyone else seems to have a plan. The job was cold-calling for advertising space, or for a change of pace, stuffing envelopes. I was called a “marketing assistant.”
The office was windowless, just one step up from the stationary cupboard, with boxes piled high and the franking machine that we weren’t allowed to touch. It smelled of carpet and airlessness.
I cried every morning before I left my flat.
But this summer night, nearly a year after graduation, was different. One of our marketing clients was throwing a launch party for a new vegetarian café and even the lowly assistants had been invited. I was there with my overly-tall “boyfriend”. Let’s call him, Kevin. At the last work do, he had followed me around and I had let him come home with me, even though I disliked the pony tail. He wore black boxer shorts and that was enough to ensure that we didn’t have sex. He was standing over me at the doorway to the café, expecting me to join him in sweaty dancing and cheap wine.
I looked up at him and apologised. “I’m tired.”
“Oh, God,” he said, “You’re a giggler.”
I hadn’t noticed my giggle. It was probably a nervous response or an appeasing, flirtatious laugh. I had always giggled.
“His name was Colin.”
“Really, Seargeant. I couldn’t care less.”
Giggling had once been so easy. Polyester shorts against the itchy fabric of my parents’ settee, I only had to look at Pippa and we would collapse into energetic, joyful hiccups.
In the endless summers, hanging upside down from the climbing frame we would recite comedy sketches and tumble to the ground clasping our sides in the ache of gulping giggles.
I had no idea that I would grow up to be a small woman, but if I had discussed it with Pippa, we would have found it hilarious. We would have walked on our knees and made posh, grown-up voices, getting giddier until our throats croaked.
I was known for my giggle. I knew I was a giggler. It took me years to break the habit. And I miss it: my nervous, sweet, hilarious giggling. It had been the punctuation in my sentences. I needed it.
“Kevin” stole my giggle that night.
I still see him now. Taking up all that space.
“Oh God,” he said, “You’re a giggler.”
He said it as though he was used to being listened to, that if he had an opinion, it mattered. It was hard to giggle the words away. In fact, those words unravelled me. I felt like a threadbare jumper with the holes being pulled at. I walked away, shallow breathing.
He followed me. Big mistake.
“So, Colin followed you home?”
“And home at that time was a flat on Balloon Street.”
“That’s right. It was a long time ago. I’ve built a life since then.”
I can’t even remember his name. But he had made me feel every inch of my little girls’ name – Lucy. Did the giggle diminish me further? Cute, sweet, little, giggly Lucy.
He barged into my flat. I said, straight up, “I’m not going to sleep with you.” I remember the sense of being held down. I had said, “no”. I was clear that I had said it. He had bitten my arm. One half of me had frozen and just stared ahead, thinking this was just going to happen to me. And then there was the other part of me, angry and prepared to hunt rather than be hunted. He shoved his finger into my mouth. What a piece of luck that we never made it to the bedroom. That I was there, in the kitchen, trying to appease him with coffee.
Turned out, I could do a fair bit of damage with a kitchen knife. Also turned out, that “Kevin” was a screamer and a fainter.
“So we found something buried under the rosebush?”
“Yes, that’s why I planted it. To hide that something.”
“So, you’re not denying that you buried…”
“I’m not denying anything. I’m asking you to listen to find out what the real crime was there.”
I gave my daughter a name that can be followed by woman – Scarlett. It is a piercing, colourful, full-bodied name.
Nobody cheered for my daughter.
They had held her at arm’s length when she had demonstrated her temper. She was a child. And they had judged her. They have been judging her since she was five years old because she could read fast, giggle and explode.
They laughed at me when I lost my temper when one of their ill-behaved, entitled dogs had dug up a rose bush.
The rose bush was not sentimental.
“Yes, about the rosebush. Dianna Payne called us, after she said her dog had found something unusual buried there.”
“What do you make of Dianna, Seargeant?”
“I would call her an insufferable narc. How about you?”
“You probably like grasses in your line of work, don’t you?”
“It was a severed hand, Ms Henshaw.”
Dianna and her chums got in touch with you, Sergeant, because they pretend to be good people. But they really wanted to have a laugh at my expense.
Dianna claims to be a feminist. She is on several committees. But she doesn’t know what feminism really means. She thinks she’s got it sussed because she has a good job and manages people. She calls herself a “girl boss”.
But she has never giggled wildly with her best friend. She has never lost control and lived in that moment.
I am the real feminist icon. I grab hold of the people that steal women’s lives, that take their giggles and I mutilate them. Burying the evidence.
They think they are in charge. But I am the woman who can hold onto a secret and let it flourish into a beautiful rose garden.
Dianna leads such a cosy life. She has never had that moment when she hears a police siren and wonder if it’s come for her. She has never experienced the cold sweats when there is an authoritative knock at the door.
And she has never done the bravest of things. Making sure her daughter can grow up to be all she is – in all her fierceness and temper and brilliance. She has a freckled, pony-tailed girl who believes her power lies in her long braids, rather than her intellect. And when someone comes along to steal her little girl’s giggle, that girl will just hand it to them on a golden platter.
“Dianna, loves a true crime documentary, you know?”
“Lots of women do.”
“But what is the true crime here?”
“Ms. Earnshaw, I am arresting you for the crime of grievous bodily harm. You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something you later rely on in court. Anything you say may be given in evidence.”
“He stole my giggle. He was going to take more. I just refused to give anything away.”
About the Creator
Writer-Performer based in the North of England. A joyous, flawed mess.
Please read my stories and enjoy. And if you can, please leave a tip. Money raised will be used towards funding a one-woman story-telling, comedy show.