The clock out in the hall chimed the quarter hour. The window rattled with the wind. There was a draft coming through it. Annabelle ran her finger backwards and forwards over the embroidered cushion. She used to pile the cushions up as a child and hide behind them, a barrier against the shouting in the next room.

“You can’t really be serious,” she said finally.

Her mother nodded. She lifted a finger to smooth a stray hair back into its set. “I know it’s a shock to you.”

“It’s impossible.”

“But we really have a lot of common ground. We’re older. The tensions are gone.”

Annabelle stood and went to the window. The yellowed leaves were beginning to drop from the trees. “He hurt you. He hurt me. He hurt everyone.”


“He’ll do it again.”

“He’s my first love. We really were very much in love.”

“But that was before. How can you just forget everything that happened afterwards?” She turned to look at her mother. There were pearls in her ears, and on a string round her neck. She sat upright in a way women of Annabelle’s generation don’t know how to. “The women, mother.”

Her mother glanced down at her skirt and smoothed a wrinkle. “And the drinking. Yes, it’s very tawdry. And so cliched. It was a different time. We weren’t free.”

“And marrying him again won’t make you free now. You’ll be chained again. All the things you’ve built…” Suddenly Annabelle moved to sit beside her mother and take her papery hands. “You have a life. And it’s a good life.”

They had exactly the same eyes, Annabelle and her mother. They rarely looked each other in the eye, as if like magnets they would repel each other. Her mother lifted her chin and put one hand on Annabelle’s cheek.

“It’s a lonely life too, Annabelle.”

(From The 4am Breakthrough: #1 Parataxis)

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