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Posts Tagged ‘Hester Tingey’

After Katoline’s three vampoos for the magoline, my spiney ached. Tubed a killapayn. Early aftube I started vlombing and plaiting. I took over from Dalla on spamduty for an hour. I canti believe this diculous trav hasn’t been autommed. But tristlon, only humans can be proper spamspotters, as them infhackers are so sharpysharp. !Miley. !It’s demeaning.

A chap came in ziring a lengthening cone. We used to do them all the time, but that was before shorter vaddervanillis became all the shwerve. Then a striking vlady with thick pink-painted vlips and florlong black vurls turned up. She siddered me, darsktipping. ‘I troobi your beads and knots and pearls,’ she said.

‘I can easlion do beads and knots and pearls for you if you troobit.’

‘No, I’m… I’m after an Outpout.’

‘You do alpretta have an Outpout,’ I said, siddering her swollen vlips.

‘Yeah,’ she snapped, ‘but I zire a Dashpout.’

I was afeared. A Dashpout, the most streme form of the trilly fashwervable Outpout, is a throwback from the late thirties. A Dashrim, which creates the Dashpout, is more tensitens than the more normynorm tempy softproppers. Dashes are not easy to sert, nor to stract, so people keep them in for several months, or til they get fected. I have done Outpouts for vladies, course, but nevah a Dash. I did have to put one on a mannequin for my last xam at school. They’re riculoso, that’s the problet. It was Kitti-two, the last of the Kardashi dynasty, who made Dashes all the shwerve then promptlion deddered of fection from her tretchwounds.

Wever, who am I to argue? I’m just doing my trav. Gotta keep the cuzmo happihapps. I made the vlady send consent through to my darsk. I fetched a sterile Dashrim from the drawer. I jected the mons and vlips with killapayn, vlombed her thick vressis away from her whorl, wiped it with antisep and serted the metal spikes swinefully, twisting til they bit. Then I pumped up the rim. I litters would never do this to myself because once the killapayn has worn off, a Dashrim will ache. Must admit though, the way it forces the pout up and out is pressive. Even when you’re dronging up the street, people can litters see right into your whorl. You are montring your trueinf to the world. It’s the ultimate in confessional, which is bangup. Everyone is wantiing to know the real you, like deep inside you, but litters.

I sat exo on the bench with my moufleur in the smogga. It might be looted but at least it’s cool. You don’t want your make-up to run. You see ixes from the thirties where people’s vascara had run. They dinti know much then. And the fashwerve was so basic. ?Like vlipliner under your whorl. No one would do that now, unless they were carrying off retro trilly well. It’s all about the upper line now. A strong, fiddent upper line. And the way they used to put vanilliliner all the way round the vadderbase…it’s presk larious. Now, it’s more suttle, yet also more bold. Katoline is constlon banging on about bold. Some people just get it stinctively. I do. I was born with the knowledge. My doptive says the day I was louvered to her door, age one day, I was alpretta trilly sinnated by design. You just pick it up from all around you.

I had the vantage of growing up in my doptive cuddlecupple’s quiltigymna. A quiltigymna is more about the feel-fokka factor than normal gymnas. My doptive and her partner Rissa had thirty pummelcubes and ran a bar too, where you could hire safeprugspace or vlatticubes. Safeprugs came in after the monstrol Festideath. Not larious, ten thousand dedders in one night from looted prugs. Now of course, everything’s legal and better tested so you’re less likelon to dedder… less you’re hookton vlattivamp, course.

Vlattivamp makes you feel fokkadokka though. You rampit rough, you’re like wild or something, oozing fiddence. My friend Shadda, she got deddered on Vlattivamp. You can just litters fiddence yourself exolife. You have so much fiddence that you forget to have fear. And you take more and more, in one seshal, til you’re vlatting so hard your midden aches and your moufleur weeps. You dedder rough, real and wild, but… you dedder.

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Sally-Anne, thats me.

Sally-Anne, thats me.

 

Chapter 21.

LittelBaby and LittelBrudda had looked up from there werk. Neether of them cried owt. May be thay had known we were on borowed time. Suddernly the copper biside me let go my arm and dropt to his nees. I thort that was odd. Then he let go of my hand cuffs and fell flat on to his fase, his hare in the edgis of the streme. I looked up the streme. LittelBrudda had anuther large flat stowne in his hand and was bringing his arm back. Thwack! The stowne hit the humungus thug what was sitting on Duncan, on the side of his hed. I saw it all in slo moshun as LittelBrudda aimed again and down fell a massiv police woman, who topperled side weys, mowth opern in mid showt. The larst man, a mussly skinny chap not in uniform, ducked but not farst enugh. LittelBaby had parsed LittelBrudda anuther rock, wich sored owt of his hand and thuded hard in to skinnys cheke. Down he went.

There was a silence. Jus the gergling of the streme and the tweating of berds.

LittelBaby clapped her hands. ‘Oo good atta trow de stownes!’ she said.

‘Yeh,’ said Duncan faintly. ‘Not bad, LittelBrudda!’

A car dor slammed bihind us. Three more men stood there, with guns, glaring at us thrugh goggels. The guns went kuh chi kuh, kuh chi kuh, like geting redy to fiyer. You often here that sownd in the moovies but not often in rele life. LittelBrudda had anuther stowne in his hands. ‘Dont, LittelBrudda!’ scremed Duncan.

It was such a high screme that I wantid to showt ‘Your a gerl, your a gerl,’ but I realised it wasent the moment. Quite often I have to kerb my inpulsis.

‘We give are selvs up!’ I showtid. ‘Plese dont shoot.’

There was a crack of a gun. Three cracks. I thort ‘oh shit, have I bene shot?’ But I dident fiyul eny pane. I looked at Duncan. He was still standing. I looked at the babies. They were still standing in the streme. The three men buckeled at the nees. One of there guns went of, but in to the trees. Who had brogt them down? It was a mistery. The leves jus shimmered in the silence.

Then there was a cracking of twigs. Some one walked owt of the bushis. It was CrazyStranger with a gun in his hand. ‘What…?’ I croked. He terns up all over the plase.

‘Iyum sorry, Sally-Anne,’ he said, ‘that I apere to be following you arownd all over the plase.’

‘Well, it is a bit weerd,’ I said, ‘but thank you, eny wey.’ I noddid at the three flatterned blokes.

‘There not ded,’ he said. ‘Its salt. Theyull come rownd in a bit, we shoud move.’ He put owt his hand. I shook it. ‘Iyuv bene looking owt for you for a long time, Sally-Anne,’ he said.

There was more crackling of under growth bihind him and a dumpy lady with a rownd red fase was standing there. I thort I was having one of my vishuns. ‘Mum?’ I wispered.

‘Well, Yes, and No, Sally-Anne, my love,’ she said.

She all weys has been a bit odd, so I jus ignored that strange rip lie. ‘What are you doing here?’ I arsked, not berlieving my eyes.

‘Me and Prefeser Snow go back a long wey,’ she said. ‘To nine munths bifore you were born, Sally-Anne.’

‘Weyull explane in a minit. Get in your car and follow us,’ said CrazyStranger.

We quickly swept up are blankits, tent and food and rammed it in to are crappy car. We followed CrazyStranger along a windy root for abowt forty minits. All the time, I was saying to Duncan, ‘What? What is that? Why woud Mum know CrazyStranger all this time?’ We went owt of the woods and on to a bigger rode, along anuther windy lane, thrugh a cupel of villigis, thrugh a ford, parst a farm and we parked bihind a pub where there was a littel play grownd and got owt and let the babies play in the swings.

CrazyStranger sat on the botterm of the slide. He sihged. He lookt quite old and tiyerd. ‘Your muther was the surogut for my very ferst, originle, succes full attempt to bring a neyanderthal being in to the werld, Sally-Anne.’

‘What?’ I was gob smacked. ‘Was she? Why did I never mete that neander thingy then? Did it ever live at are howse?’

Duncan garsped. He was looking at me. ‘Oh my god,’ he said, ‘Sally-Anne, its you!’

I stared back at him. ‘Am I a speri mint?’

‘Yes, you are,’ he said.

‘Wow,’ I said. Lucky it dont still mene chewing gum then.

‘Well, it dont make no diffrence,’ I said, ‘seeing as how I dont evern get properly what one is!’

‘Thats why your dad left,’ said my Mum, ‘He coudent cope with you being so…diffrent. Thogh Iyud only agreed to do it for him! To pay of his dets, the un grate full….’

‘Is that why Iyum a freek? And why pepol dont make eny sense…?’

‘Your not a freek,’ said CrazyStranger staring at me with….love, I think it was, ‘you are a wonder, and thats also why you were chosern to bring LittelBaby into the werld. The sientists had tried again and again but the babies were all weys miscarried or still born. They figered you were the only one who coud do it.’

I thort back to how it all startid. ‘So Jess was pade to get me to Wantababy….’

LittelBaby was in the swing, going ‘Weeee! Weeee!’ My mum was pushing her. It made me nerely die of happy ness wotching them, so I coud hardly consentrate on all this stupid speri mint stuff.

‘Oh, yes…thay pade Jess, thay pade Wantababy, thay pade Frances…it was a teme effert.’

‘You were manipulatid,’ said Duncan. ‘It menes cuntrolled,’ he addid, ‘like a puppit.’

Ooh, it made me feyul weerd that pepol had been wotching me, and plotting me like that. And oh shit, Frances was NarstyLady….Still, I was glad she wasent LittelBabys rele mum…who was LittelBabys rele mum then?

‘Who is LittelBabys rele mum then?’ I arsked CrazyStranger.

‘Her rele mum? Her rele mum….and your rele mum…two different wimin, lived sixty thowsand yeres ago, in a cave in Romania, in a big famly group of Neyanderthal. But you, and the babies, you are cloned….’

‘Cloned menes like copied, Sally-Anne,’ said Duncan.

‘…yes, like copied, from three of the children of those two wimin. There remanes were fownd in a beautifle cave on a hill side. It was luvley, tidy, all the speres lined up, pichers on the walls and a harth, or fiyer, in side.’

I knew that. I had sene the cave, I had sene the piols of fer, the fiyer, the brambels at the entrunse, the view. I had smelt the smoke, the animuls, the children, the love. In those vishuns I must of been seeing memries parsed on from my rele, aynchent muther and farther, or memries parsed on from my oridginle self. Was it like I was getting eccows of her feelings? Iyum not clever enugh to know.

‘Does that mene I have lived bifore?’

‘Not quite. Some boddy pritty much ixactly the same as you lived bifore.’

‘Why did you help us get away from the laboratry?’ I arked. ‘Do you…not like,’ I coudent really say Bludshoteyes, ….’ that Procter Docter man what kept the babies in cagis?’

‘I dont like them precisely bicause they kepe babies in cagis,’ he ansered. ‘Docter Procter wantid to kepe you in a cage, for your hole life, Sally-Anne. ‘

My hart clenched with horrer. If I coudent be owt side and fiyul the brease on my fase evry day, I think I woud die. He continewed: ‘I had a massiv falling owt with Procter and his stupid son, with me insisting on having you broght up by your suragut and having your freedum. But I never dremed they were hatching a plan to get you to be the surogut for a new generashun of battery caged neanderthal. They were one step ahed of me there.’

‘So you fownd owt I was pregnunt…’

‘And I vowed to help you kepe your baby owt of the cagis….’

‘But I woudent lisen…I thort you were crazy!’

‘I dont blame you for that,’ he laughed, ‘but I all weys had watched you from afar, taking notes and injoying the fact you were loving the owt dors, loving to darnse. You are a true oridginle, Sally-Anne. No boddy else sees things the wey you do.’

Who else had said that to me? It rang a bell. It was the lady who gave me the book to write in. This book. ‘The lady…’ I said, ‘The lady who gave me the book…’

‘Yes,’ said Prefeser Snow. ‘My wife, Cecilia. We were really hoping you might rite some of your advenchers down, as it woud be a fasinating rede.’

‘Shes going to,’ said Duncan.

I dident even know then that I really coud rite it all down. But see, I nearly have, and Iyum nearly at the end of the story so far. My hand akes fit to bust I hope you know.

I lookt over at my mum pushing the babies in the swings. ‘I have one more queschun,’ I said, wispering. ‘Why did you choose my mum/not mum? Like, shes not…..’

‘Bicause ferstly, she agreed to do it. You dont find meny who are brave enugh. Also, she had a high persentige of neyanderthal genes,’ said Snow. ‘Her blud test rejistered highist in the like leehood stakes of being abel to bring you in to the werld.’

Duncan carried on talking to CrazyStranger. It was to sientific for me so I went over to the swings. My mum was laughing. I dident think Iyud sene her laugh in yeres. ‘Look, Sally-Anne!’ she said. As the babies came for werd in the swing she was hi fiving there littel swinging fete. ‘Hi five! Hi five!’ Thay were screming with dilight.

‘Mum…do you want to buy them littel rabits?’ I arsked her, with teres prickeling bihind my eyes.

‘Oh, yes,’ she said, blinking rapidley like she had jus wokern up, ‘I do! I want to buy them rabits, and books, and ice cremes. I just had to come with the Prefeser, and see my grand childrun, and say good bye, cos….your going of… for a time?’

‘Yeh, were of to an ilund,’ I said.

I hugged my mum/not mum good bye. She felt wunderfley sollid and warm. ‘Dont eat too meny donuts and thanks…for being brave enugh to bring me in to the werld,’ I said.

‘Your a very speshul gerl, Sally-Anne,’ she said, ‘and dont you ferget it.’

‘I carnt ferget it, Mum,’ I said. ‘Its jus part of being speshul, you dont ever get to ferget it!’

On the way up to the top of Scot Land we terned up the radio and sang along lowdly. We sang ‘I want to brake free-hee!’ and ‘Were all Going on a Sunny Holiday!’ Are crappy car was back firing and fucked up but we trundeled along happiley, and sloley.

‘We can get up the top this time for shure, Sally-Anne,’ he said.

‘To the Orknees?’ I said. We had talkt abowt this a lot.

‘Yes, the Orknees.’

As we drove, I streched in to the back and held LittelBabys hand often. And LittelBruddas. I wantid to explane to them that we woud for ever be in danger but I thort may be thay all redy knew. Thay are so clever. Thay know things. More things than I do.

‘You know, Sally-Anne,’ said Duncan.

‘What Duncan?’

‘You dont have to wurry eny more abowt NarstyLady. There not going to be arfter us no more.’

‘How come? I thort thay woud be arfter us for ever.’

‘CrazyStranger, he said that as soon as we were of, he was going to hand his self in.’

‘Hand his self in?’

‘Yes, he said hes eighty two now and he dusent mind being in prison for NarstyLady if it menes that his speri mint, thats you, and the babies, can be wiold and free.’

I startid to cry with gratty chood. What a gift. I realised that if CrazyStranger loved us that much then it ment I was kind of his dorter.

Duncan startid laughing. ‘He arsked me what he shoud say if thay arsk him why he set light to her hare.’

‘What did you tell him?’ I arsked.

‘I said, ‘just say you gave her a fag so she coud have a larst smoke on her wey down the river.’

We coudent help it but we chuckeled and chuckeled abowt NarstyLady and her por berning hed all the way up to the top.

We stopt in a wood to camp, the night bifore are crossing on the erly morning ferry. When ever the babies were in naycher to gether, its like we coudent kepe are eyes of them. Thay had a beautifle bright grene shimmering light arownd them. You coud see spex of dust darncing in this light. It was like enerjy, like as if I was seeing enerjy. It moved in curves, like waves. I was addictid to wotching the babies.

LittleBrudda had soft gowldern hare all over his boddy. It was soft and moved in the wind, like the wind was brushing it. He gazed up at the sky, up at the moon. He only moved when abserlutely necisery. He charntid softly, like ‘oom, gana, wana, gana, oola moona noooog.’ He coud clime trees really well. I dident see no harm in it. I let him clime. Theres no sense taking some one owt of a cage and puting them in to anuther one, bisides wich, he was making up for lost time. ‘You go as high as you can, LittelBrudda!’ I called. So up he went, hand over hand, foot over foot. Duncan came back from finding wood for the fiyer and he looked arownd and saw LittelBaby sitting in a littel nut tree picking cob nuts. ‘Where is LittelBrudda?’ he arsked.

I pointid up in to an inormus beech tree. ‘Sally-Anne,’ said Duncan. ‘You are completley barmy! He is a baby!’

I saw that LittelBrudda was right at the top. Oops, it was bit high. ‘He might be a baby,’ I said, ‘but he is very strong and very good at climing. Bisides wich, I know what he nedes bicause I am a neander thingy and so is he.’

‘LittelBrudda!’ showtid Duncan. ‘Are you all right?’

‘Me or righ Dung Dung!’ the baby charntid back, swinging from a brarnch, miols abuv us. ‘Me high, me high, wid di berdies, no wurri!’

Duncan startid climing up. LittelBrudda showtid down to me: ‘Sally-Anne! Sally-Anne! No wurri, me hi five di toptop leves fo oo, Sally-Anne!’

Duncan went up as high as he coud to help LittelBrudda get down, but Iyum telling you, pepol like LittelBrudda…. not that there are eny, as he is uneke…. dont nede no help. He was a jenius climer, a proper legend.

We realised that night that it was LittelBabys, and there for LittelBruddas, ferst berth day, the 31st of Octoba, 2023. We lit a fiyer and sang ‘Oh dragen fly with your wings so blue,’ and ‘I….have bicome…comfterbly num,’ and ‘Happy Berth Day to you hoo.’

Next morning at dawn, porpusis lept all arownd are bowt. Slanting sun light berst thrugh clowds to glint on the dark cherning waves. Seles poked there heds owt of the water to wotch us go by and uther sele famerlies viewed us from rocks. LittelBaby was fasinatid. ‘Ooh, ooh, LittelBrudda!’ she said again and again. ‘Sele for oo. Sele for oo. Baby sele dere!’

The bowt stopt a cuple of times at rimote, wind brushed ilunds but we did not get of. We were heding as far awey as possibel from the sivel eyes ayshun. ‘Vanish, LittelBaby,’ I said, ‘thats what we nede to do, even if that CrazyStranger Snow is hanging owt in prison for us.’ I squezed her. We had a sete on the deck. She kissed my cheke and cuddeled in side my red puffa what I got from Oxfam. I looked at my luvley famerly. Duncan was in his big grene jumper with moth holes in it. LittelBaby was waring her hat with the fer lining, grene flowerey dungarees, and wellies. LittelBrudda was waring red trowsies what Duncan fownd in Sue Ryder for him, a brown fleese and a tartan hat with furrey ear flaps. They were all so gorjus I wantid to hug them tight to me for ever.

LittelBrudda was clutching on to the rales, wotching the fome bihind the bowt and the gulls weeling over the sparkeling sea. He had that far awey look in his eyes. He crooned on a mono tone: ‘Goo nana wolla noo noo….Flana gonoo omma wooooo.’

‘Spirit is evry thing,’ translaytid LittelBaby, popping her hed owt of my puffa, ‘life is a fract chured sperience, but in the end, we are all one.’

‘Duncan?’

‘Yes, Sally-Anne?’

‘Whats fract chured?’ we said together. We laughed.

‘It menes brokern,’ Duncan said.

Its lucky that I can under stand Duncan, and Duncan can under stand LittelBaby, and LittelBaby can under stand LittelBrudda, uther wise in are famly there woud be a bit of a langwidge baryer.

The End

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I smiold so as to look normel

I smiold so as to look normel

Chapter 18.

We pulled over. The Police stopped bihind us. Duncan wownd down his windo. We were redy for the end. This is it, I thort, weyull be eating gruel in prison to night.

A copper lent on the dor. ‘Two coffees, wite, one shuger, one chocolat donut and a jammy donut, please.’

I coudent bileve this. Duncan got in the back and pored them some coffees, got six fifty of them and gave them the donuts. They waved us on are way. I dont think my harts going to servive much more of this.

We got to an industrial istate thingy with low bildings and piols of bricks and stuff, then got to anuther terning with lots of huj signs, like ‘Rentaspace,’ ‘The Range,’ ‘Veternery Hospitel’, ‘All day Caff’ and the like. Duncan looked at the list and the map. Hes clever like that. ‘Look,’ he muttered. ‘Second one up on the therd colum. Elmlea Laboratries. Its on Level 2 in that massiv bilding bihind the caff,’ he said. ‘Come on, lets get are baby back.’

‘Duncan, Iyum scared. What if thayer wating for us?’

‘Thay dont know we know abowt the lab,’ he rip lied. ‘Thay wont think we will of fownd them so quick. Come on, Sally-Anne, we gotta get LittelBaby back and this is the only wey.’

‘I jus, dont know if I can… act.’

‘Look,’ he said, ‘Iyuv dilivered donuts bifore, its easy. Jus prertend you really are going in to diliver donuts… for some ones berth day. You dont want to dissapoint the por berth day gerl, do you? We go in, all confidant, and swipe LittelBaby.’

I thort abowt when I had gone and bustid LittelBaby owt of the neo natel. Its not easy but you jus got to forse your self on werd even if you are shaking with fere. Thogh some externel fors had semed to power us that day. It was the power of LittelBabys soul I think. She had needid her mum, thats me, to find her, piure and simpel. And now she needid me again, so yes, we had to do it.

We got owt the van, carrying one inormus card bord tray of donuts each. I thort I woud wet my self I was that angshus. Then I cort a glimps of us riflectid in the dark glars of the bilding. With are uniform and littel hats on we really did look good. I woud of done a selfie so you coud of seen what we looked like but I was carrying my inormus flat box with both hands and eny way Duncan had takern the battries owt my phone cos he dident like me going on fase book.

We tried the frunt dor. It was locked. We rang on one of the meny bells. It took a wiol, but then a buzzy womans voice said: ‘Yes?’

‘Donuts for Level 2,’ said Duncan confidantly.

She buzzed us in. ‘Wow that was easy,’ I brethed. ‘LittelBaby is in here, I can fiyul her…shes clowse.’

Oh no. We were in a resepshun airea, with a hole semi cercal of pepol with fake smiols in smart soots bihind compiuters. Thay looked like thay were getting redy to opern up. A groomed yung man came rownd the desk, arms owt stretched. ‘Donuts?’ he said. ‘For whoom?’

‘Its Level 2,’ Duncan said, holding his box tight.

‘Elmlea, wasent it?’ I said.

‘Yeah, Elmlea,’ he said. ‘Some ones berthday.’

‘Its a serprise,’ I wispered but lowdly. ‘Apparerntly.’

‘Yeah,’ said Duncan, ‘We gotta tip toe.’

‘Well, how abowt you leve them here on the desk?’ said the man, ‘and Ill let them know theyuv arrived.’

‘No,’ said Duncan. ‘We have to take them up.’

‘Yeh,’ I said, ‘bicause the person you speke to might be the berth day gerl. Also,’ I addid as an arfter thort, ‘they are quite hard to carry in a wey that dus not mangel them.’

‘Let them go thrugh,’ said a gerl. ‘Jus follow the sings,’ she said.

They let us go up. Wow. I am an actriss, I thort to my self. Next thing I know Ill be on the West End or in the Royerl Shake a Spere Cumpny. I had a littel fantersy of a massiv ordience throwing red rosis and shakin there speres, or what ever ordiencis do, at me as I bowed again and again. I followed Duncan along a coridor, terned left, then right and he pushed opern anuther metal dor.

‘God, these donuts are hevy,’ I said.

We clattered up some stares to Level 2 looking all arownd us. Evry where semed to be thick, strong, derty grene metel. We walked a long coridors, Duncan looking in to rooms. Most rooms were empty. Some were officis with bored secetaries who looked quite ixitid that the donuts might be for them. If there were pepol in them Duncan said ‘Donut dilivery? Oh, sorry, rong room.’

I felt some thing like a fors, like graverty but side weys, pulling me the uther wey. I lisened with my soul. She was there. ‘This way, Duncan,’ I called softly.

We walked the uther way up a long coridor to the very end. There was a sicurity man in black siting there. He saw us coming and got up. Duncan dumped his donuts and ran, head down and buttid him in the stumuch against the wall. The man groned and clapsed. We pushed opern the metal dor. The room was quite bare, like a hospitel examinashun room. There were charts and medical suplies. I garsped. There, in a cage, in the midderl of the room, was LittelBaby. She was sitting quiertly. She saw us and put a finger to her lips. Her hand was sticking owt thrugh the bars, holding on to the hand of ….LittelBrudda, also in a cage. He had huj black eyes like LittelBaby, a shock of black hare sticking only owt of the very top of his hed, and the same hi fore hed with rinkles. He kind of looked like a sad, fat punk. He was standing up like a stocky warrier, clutching on to the bars of his cage with one chubby fist and holding LittelBabys hand with the uther. No one was in the room with them. A clock ticked on the wall. Machines hummed.

LittelBrudda looked at us, a deep crese in the middel of his for hed. ‘LittelBrudda,’ wispered LittelBaby, ‘me tolled oo me mudda an de Dung Dung cummin a bust oo owtta here!’ Then, sloly, the most fantastic smiol spred over his fase. ‘Mudda,’ wispered LittelBaby, ‘Come on! Quickee. Godda gogo scapig oudof here!’ Most things LittelBaby says are dis mayed exclumashuns.

‘Key dere,’ said LiddelBrudda, pointing with one hand at a hook nere the dor and with the uther at the clock on the wall wich showed ten to nine. ‘Huzza huzza, brekka nine a cockcock.’

‘Oh my god,’ said Duncan, ‘thay speke the same blinkin langwidge!’

Duncan rummidged the keys. He fownd the right one and opernd the cagis. LittelBrudda put him self in to Duncans arms, care fully, bringing his blankit with him. LittelBaby in my arms felt like the most warm, wunder full, buttery gorjuss ness. I meltid with love and kissed her joy fully.

We terned to the dor, but it opernd bifore we coud get to it. There stood three frowning men in wite cotes.

 

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Look normel, Sally-Anne

Look normel, Sally-Anne

Chapter 17.

Duncan got the spare can of petrel owt of the boot and pored it into the tank to the larst drop. ‘This wont even give us fifteen miols,’ he said. ‘So pray for a petrol stashun.’

There was one abowt forteen miols along so that was lucky. My showlder was agony. And I coudent bare to think of them having LittelBaby. I missed her with a terribel ake in my boddy and my hart. Evry time I looked at Duncan it was a shock. His fase dident look like his fase, it was so brused and his biyerd was so full of mud it looked black. We filled up, bort some bars of chocolat then stopt of the rode to wosh the blud of are facis in a streme and make a plan. Duncan was rummidging arownd in the back of the car. He coud hardly see as his eyes were so swollern. He got some papers owt of his bag. ‘Look, Sally-Anne,’ he said. ‘NarstyLadys papers…. That letter from….Elmlea Laboratries, it says…orthorising her to pick up Item 187 from Wantababy? So what dew wanna bet, that labull be where theyuv taken LittelBaby….’ He frowned at the papers. ‘With these, who knows, we can probly find LittelBrudda too.’

He got back in the car. ‘Come on,’ he said, ‘No time to loose.’

‘But how do we even know LittelBaby has a brudda?’ I arsked, leping in biside him. He drove like the clappers, sqeeling rownd corners and making the car shudder and screme.

‘Why woud LittelBaby make it up? Shes not having vishuns for nuthing…and shes right abowt so meny uther things.’

I stared at Duncan and sihged with love.

He went on: ‘And that CrazyStranger weirdo tolled you she was not the only one….member? He said there was anuther one. And theres the number 193 that had ‘issue’ to, like LittelBaby.’

Oh yes, I did member. My memry came and went. I some times fownd it hard to member eny thing bifore LittelBaby was born, or arfter. ‘CrazyStranger dusent know eny thing!’ I said, ‘Hes mene. He said LittelBaby was stinkey and french.’

‘What, Sally-Anne? When did he say she was stinkey and french? You never tolled me that.’

We went soring over a hump in the rode and my stumuck got left up in the air.  ‘Stedy on, Duncan, youl make me throw up. The uther day, in the markit. He must of bene up here on holiday, I thort.’

‘Sally-Anne, if CrazyStrangers up here, its not bicause hes on holiday. Its bicause were up here.’

‘Oh,’ I said. ‘Well, he said she was french stinkey colone so I dont like him eny more.’

What did you jus say?’

‘I dont like him eny more.’

‘No, bifore that.’

‘French stinky colone?’

‘Colone, colone,’ wispered Duncan. ‘Oh my god.’

‘What?’ I arsked, in a panic. He was looking so weird with his black eyes and so freeked and his driving was so manic he was like some sort of terrerist sewer side bomba.

‘Jesus! Iyum so fucking stupid. LittelBaby is a ….clone!’ he said. ‘A clone, Sally-Anne. Thats why thay want her.’

‘But Duncan,’ I wispered, ‘I dont even know what clone menes, or that issue stuff, or that neyander thingy stuff. I carnt think like you.’

He looked even more freeked and swerved the car, hitting the bank and screeching back on to the rode. ‘Neyander thingy….’ he garsped. ‘Is that what CrazyStranger said?’

‘Yes, he kept going on abowt it… tolled you he was bonkers. Neyander some thing this and neyander some thing that.’

‘Sally-Anne, your baby must be a neanderthal clone, thats it, thats it….oh fuck, no wunder NarstyLady was in a panic to get her back…shes uneek! Shes an anthoperlogicle marvel…’

‘Yeh, CrazyStranger said she was that to,’ I waled, ‘but I dont know what eny of it menes, and I perticuly hate thinking abowt NarstyLady.’

‘Sally-Anne,’ he said, taking one hand of the weel and putting it on my hand. ‘She was a bitsh. She wantid to take LittelBaby and do speri mints on her, like have wires in her hed.’

Oh, so thats what speri mint ment. Wires in the hed. Nuthing to do with chewing gum. Who woud have thort it?

‘So is it all right that we killed her?’

He sihged. ‘I think its better that we killed her than them herting LittelBaby in some lab some where.’

‘But even thogh we killed her, thay still got are baby and thayer still doing speri mints on her! We have to rush, we have to stop them.’

‘We are rushing, Sally-Anne, but we have to think, to. We have to get it right.’

The car was back firing and sownding really lowd all of a suddern, roring like it was a sports car. Duncan said the ixorst pipe probly had a hole in it from going up the bank and from going so farst over bumps. Duncan was forsed to go a bit slower.

‘So, if LittelBaby is speri mint a hundred and eighty severn, and her brudda is speri mint a hundred and nintey three, then when was he made?’ I arsked. ‘What was the date on that one?’

‘That babys number and the werd ‘issue’ were all redy on these doquments what NarstyLady had with her right arfter LittelBaby was born. So he must all redy of bene born by then.’

‘And is he LittelBabys bruther?’ I arsked.

‘Well, if they used deeyenay from the same famly grupe to create his clone, then he woud be.’

Oh, god, long inoying werds like deeyenay jus make my eyes glaze over. I sihged.

‘Sally-Anne,’ said Duncan. ‘I will try to ixplane it to you, in a wey that you will under stand.’ He screeched to a halt at a serprise traffic light: ‘Shiiiiit….OK, an ixact copy of LittelBaby lived a long long time ago, like thowsands of yeres ago, in a cave. OK? Can you magine that?’

I shut my eyes. I coud magine it. Only to well. I had sene it with my own eyes. The fiyer, the lumbering beests, the piol of fers, the beautifle view from the cave.

‘Can you magine her growing up? Picking black berries from the bushis?’

I noddid.

‘Watching her daddy chase the woolley mammuths down in the vally? Helping her mum tend the fiyer? Catching rabits with her tame wolf or dog? Making arrows for her bow that her daddy gave her?’

Oh, easy, easy as pie. ‘Finding flints?’ I arsked. ‘Collecting shells? Picking up shepes wool and sticks? Digging holes?’

‘Yes, all of those things,’ he said softly. ‘She was a slightly diffrent tipe of human from us. She lived then, had a wunderful life, and then later,  dide, as you do, and now cells from her dried up boddy from long, long ago have been used to create an ixact copy of her, which was then grown… in your tummy.’

‘LittelBaby,’ I brethed.

‘Yes. LittelBaby.’

‘So her rele mummy is ded.’

‘Her rele mummy and daddy are definiteley ded. Very ded.’

‘Oo,’ I said. ‘Wow. Por LittelBaby. Her mummy is ded.’ I had had my mind blown. I shut my eyes and sat quiertly for a wiol.  I thort of some thing. ‘But why did these lab pepol want to bring a neyander thingy baby in to are time? Shurly thay are only sootid to there own time.’

‘Who knows?’ he said. ‘May be thay wantid to know what thay were like. Lots of pepol make guessis from neanderthals fossilised remanes and from dried up boddies priserved in caves….but thay dont really know what thay were like.’

‘Or may be thay want to make muny owt of her being diffrent.  Duncan….what happerned to all the uther por speri mint babies?’

‘May be thay all died. May be thay were miss carried or still born. That list jus says ‘no ishue,’ again and again.’

We stopped on the banks of Loch Lochy to have a pee. ‘Duncan, all those papers, you shoud of throwed them awey agis ago,’ I said. ‘What if pepol find them on you, theyull know we…..’ I wispered, ‘…done in NarstyLady.’

‘OK, OK, Iyull throw them awey,’ he said.

He ripped up NarstyLadys pars port then and there, hacked it in to tiny peicis with his nife and berid them under some brackern. ‘Shes gone,’ I said with satis facshun.

‘Yeh, but pepol are still owt there looking for her killers,’ Duncan said.

‘We look really diffrent now,’ I pointed owt. ‘Your biyerd has changed your fase, and my hare is shorter now and I look older.’

‘Your only a yere older. Thayull be ixpecting you to look a bit diffrent. And there aint nuthin you can do abowt your nose,’ said Duncan.

What did he mene? Do I have a funny nose? It looks normel to me when I look in the mirrer.  ‘What do you mene? Do I have a funny nose?’

‘Nah, nah, your all right….’ said Duncan. ‘….May be a bit funny,’ he said.

I punched him in the arm, not in the fase, that woudof bene mene, and we rolled abowt on the grownd. Ow, ow, it hert cos of my showlder. Its fun being with Duncan thogh. Hes so strong and big and cumfy to lie on.

‘Duncan?’ I said.

‘Yes, Sally-Anne.’

‘Do you think por LittelBaby has wires in her hed right now?’

‘I bluddy hope not, Sally-Anne…..but lets get a move on. The less time thay get with her, the better.’

We drove on and I slept cos I had so much to take in. We got as far as the botterm of Loch Lomund when the ixorst pipe fell off. We dicidid to hitch rarther than wate. Duncan phoned Big Steve wiol we were wating for a lift.

A great big fat man in a lorry took us as far down as Carliyul. He dident say much but he stared at Duncans brusis, grinned a lot, ate sarnies and slerped from a massiv bottel of diyet coke. I wantid to tell him that the diyet coke wasant doing no good for his diyet, but I dident bicause some times its not best to tell the truth, if its not nesisery. Like, you dont abserlutly have to tell the truth. We are not ablydged, as my teacher once said when I tolled her her teeth were wonky. I do not know what ablydged menes, nor am I likely to know ever. Unless I arsk, that is.

‘Duncan?’ I said. My head was resting on his showlder.

‘Yes, Sally-Anne,’ he said.

‘What does ablydged mene?’

‘It menes you gotta do it,’ he said.

‘Oh,’ I said. ‘So not ablydged menes you dont gotta do it?’

‘Yes,’ he said.

Anuther lorry, carrying nappies, took us ferther down. I wantid to arsk that driver if I coud have a lode of free pull ups for LittelBaby, this was asyuming we got her back, and I coudent magine not getting her back, but Duncan had said I musent talk too much, so as not to be noticed and not to be membered. The lorry driver stopt at the Manchister servicis at arownd ten, to slepe. We were starving so we bort some cwussons and coffee. We fownd a crappy two persen tent for a tenner then got anuther lift in a van.

The Italien driver said he was glad of the compny uther wise he woud fall aslepe. He did kepe falling aslepe but then so did we. We were nackered. The rode went on and on and on. We had to keep pokeing the driver to kepe him from vering into the central reser vayshun. Avensholy he had to stop and have a slepe nere Bermingum. It was nearly mid night by then. We had eggs on towst and tea at the servicis. We needid to get to the juncshun that cuts across from the M6 towards Kettering and Corbey so we got anuther lift of a cuple in an istate car with four gray hownds in the back. I stared at the dogs all the way. Thay stared at me too. Thay looked jentel. I think thay liked me. I wantid to stroke them but thay were bihind a baryer.

The cuple left us at the juncshun. We stood there for agis under an oringe light. I felt ixpowsed. Not meny cars went parst. It was dark. We were tiyerd. Duncan said he woud put up the tent when we got nere enugh. Finerly, a posh bloke in a Mersaydes gave us a ride up the A14 to the owt skerts of Corbey. Rownd abowts, rownd abowts, so meny rownd abowts. Dont like them, thay make you fiyul ill. It was abowt two in the morning. We trudged into a fiyuld of winter whete and put up are tent in the shelter of the hedge and crawled in side are slepeing bags, ixorstid. It felt horribel not having LittelBabys cosy form in there scrunched up with me. I realised how much I was use to having her with me all the time.

The next day, Duncan woke me jus as the goldern septemba rays were sliding side weys over the fiyuld. Big Steve had terned up in a Dunkin’ Donuts van.   ‘Its moran me jobs werth,’ he moned and ‘Fuckin hell, look at your fuckin fase!’ but he handid over the keys to Duncan and slapped him on the back. ‘Ill need it back arfter,’ he said.

‘Thanks, mate,’ said Duncan.

‘Your not doing no dodgy bisniss are you?’ said Steve.

‘Only getting back what is right fully ares,’ said Duncan.

‘Wheres the baby?’ arsked Steve, looking arownd.

‘Ixacley,’ said Duncan.

Steve took us in the back, showed us clene piols of uniform, hats, flat boxis and the fridgis full of fresh donuts. We had a quick coffee and put the uniforms on then and there. Telling you, I look well buff in dark blue with a wite aprun and wite cap. Duncan laid owt rows and rows of donuts in the huj card bored trays.

We dropt Steve of at Corbey stashun at seven therty, then got a bit lost rownd the ring rode as it was complicatid in the morning traffic. We endid up going rownd the rownd abowt three times and getting dizzy.   Duncan swore and cut left in frunt of some one and we iscaped on to the right rode.  We parsed a parked police car.  ‘Look normel, Sally-Anne,’ Duncan said.

I dont know abowt you, but if eny one tells me to look normel, I just carnt.  My fase went in to a spasum and my tung poked owt and my eyes went cross eyed.

The police car pulled in to the traffic just bihind us.  ‘Bluddy hell,’ said Duncan giving an in voluntery swerv of panic.

We drove a long with them right on are tale for a fiew minits.  I felt like I was going to wet my self with the strane of looking normel. Coud thay see my fase in the wing mirrer?  I smiold niceley in to it in case thay coud.  I shoudent of bothered eny way as there blue flashy lights went on and the sirens startid going.

‘This is it, Sally-Anne,’ said Duncan as he pulled over.  ‘Thayv finerly rumbold us.’

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Chapter 13.

Duncan pade for are stay. We clened up the blud, and packed up are stuff including NarstyLadys hand bag. We fownd NarstyLadys car keys and matched it up with a dark blue Toyota Yaris in the car park.

‘Oh, no,’ I said, ‘that menes we coud of dispowsed of her using her own car, if weyud only thort.’

We got in and drove awey from the motel, along the lane owt to wards the mane rode. We drove up North for a cupel of awers. ‘This cars very handy,’ said Duncan, ‘but we have to dump it.’

‘Why?’ I arsked.

‘Because having NarstyLady’s car is a ded give awey that we had some thing to do with her dis aperance,’ he said. He all weys thinks of evry thing like that.

We followed a rode wich went along side a river. We posishuned the car facing the bank, got owt with all are things, and LittelBaby, lucky we dident ferget her, that woud of been bad, and Duncan got in, reved up the enjin then got owt and pressed hard on the axelerater, thrugh the windo, with a stick. He maniged to get the frunt of the car to fall of the bank. The car was stuck. We pushed and pushed but we coudent get the back tires to go in. The frunt of the car sunk littel by littel, quite sloly as it was muddy at the botterm of the river. Unforchunatly are feet had left tracks on the bank but we poked the muddy bits with sticks and dropped bits of fern on them to mess them up.

It was inoying how we had to dump the car in the river because disternses that seme really short in a car seem so much longer on foot. Strete lamps were on. A light drizel was falling. I was trying to stop the wet getting on the babys fase, because she was aslepe and I was afrayd she woud wake up. I held a blankie over her fase.

We strugeled on over a bridge, up a hill and to a juncshun. We terned right. The rode had a very small verj and the grownd was soft and springy and wet. My track soot botterms were soon wet to the knee and cuvered in berrs. We had bort me some new crap traners at a servicis wich were sopping wet. My arms were tiyerd from carrying LittelBaby. Duncan carried her then for a wiol. We trudged on, exorsted all redy and silent. We stood at the next rownd abowt and Duncan stuck his thum owt and I sat on the wet verge and fed the baby. We wated abowt harf an awer. Only abowt sixteen cars parsed us in that time. Shame that all of them woud probly member us, what with the tiny baby and are grimy clothes, but there was nuthing we coud do abowt that.

Finerly some one picked us up. It was a lorry driver. He dident say much, but he parsed us some toffees, and terned the radio up. I wantid to sing along to Biyonsay but I thort Iyud better not. I took LittelBaby owt of the shoe box and held her against my showlder and pattid her back. She cried a bit, then berped and fell aslepe. I lent against Duncan and fell aslepe too. I wished very hard wiol I was falling aslepe that we had not killed Mrs Collins. But I knew in my hart that what was done was done. It had definatly happerned and there was no going back.

I awoke as the lorry came of the moter wey. The driver was going to park up and slepe. Oringe strete lamps were shining sliding bars of light across my fase. LittelBaby was completly zonked owt. We thanked the driver and I handid LittelBaby to Duncan, and climed down from the cab. He handid LittelBaby back to me and climed down too. We put her back in the shoe box and walked into the car park. ‘I jus want to slepe,’ I said to Duncan.

‘Sally-Anne, we carnt slepe. We have to kepe moveing. We have to ….get awey,’ said Duncan.

‘Duncan?’ I said.

‘Yes, Sally-Anne.’

‘Are we on the run?’ I arsked.

‘Yes, Sally-Anne,’ he said. ‘You coud safely say, we are on the run.’

That pepped me up a bit. On the run kind of sownded a bit exiting, like we were in the moovies or some thing. We hitch hiked again from the slip rode on to the moter wey. This time the therd car to pars stopped. ‘Were getting better at this,’ said Duncan. But the car only took us abowt an awer up the rode as he was terning of.

It was raning so we sat in the servisis for harf an awer and had a cup of tea. Duncan was going thrugh NarstyLadys papers. ‘Ha,’ he said.

‘What?’ I said.

‘Well,’ he said, ‘She wasent called Mrs Collins, for starters.’ He pointed to the name on her pars port. ‘Frances Bold. Born in New York, New York.’

‘Oo,’ I said. ‘So she was lying. I knew that, I coud fiyul it.’

‘Look,’ he said. ‘Theres a list..Procter and Snow Ltd…its a lab.’

When he said that, I had a suddern craving for snow to fall. Like quiert gentel flakes taking there time to flote down like thayv got all the time in the werld. Oh, I thort what fun it woud be the ferst time LittelBaby saw snow, we coud make a snow man and snow angles.

‘Whats a lab, Duncan? Is it a dog?’

‘No, it means laboratry. Its where they do speri mints.’

I dident want to seme dumdum so I dident arsk him what speri mints were. I thort may be it was to do with chewing gum. May be they made chewing gum at the snow plase.

Duncan carried on muttering, ‘..like a riceet or some thing….Item…Item….most of them ‘Void.’ Oh, hold on….a cupel say ‘Ishue‘: numbers 187 and 193: ‘ishue‘. Look and all of the uthers say ‘void‘.’

I looked over his showlder. Oh, I realised thay spelt it ‘issue.’ Thats silly because you woud think you woud prernownce it issoo, woudent you? Evern I know that s and h together make a sh sownd. Two essis make a sss sownd. Silly pepol at the snow plase carnt evern spele.

‘And this is the letter orthorising Frances, NarstyLady I mene, to pick up…. Item 187….that must be LittelBaby... from Wantababy.’ He looked at the top of the letter. ‘Procter and Son, Elmlea Laboratries. Why do thay want LittelBaby so badly?’

‘Procter and Snow,’ I said.

‘What?’ said Duncan.

‘Procter and Snow,’ I said. ‘You said Procter and Snow, not Procter and Son.’

Duncan looked back at the papers. ‘Yeh,’ he said, ‘your sharp, Sally-Anne! The cumpny was called Procter and Snow, but later, like now, its Procter and Son.’

‘Maybe Snow died,’ I said, happy that Duncan thort I was sharp. ‘May be Procters son killed him.’

‘What ever. What do thay want with LittelBaby thogh? Thats the queschun.’

‘Well, CrazyStranger did kepe trying to tell me lots of pepol were arfter her,’ I said. ‘But I just thort he was a loony.’

‘What did he say, Sally-Anne?’

I racked my branes but for the life of me I coudent member hardly eny thing. ‘He said LittelBaby was speshul…’

‘Yeeees…?’ said Duncan.

‘…and a cone….’

‘Yeeees…?’ said Duncan.

‘… and neyander thingy and lots of pepol wantid her and wantid to…. I carnt member,’ I said.

‘Neyander thingy?’ arsked Duncan. ‘Whats neyander thingy?’

‘I dont know!’ I ansered. ‘He made no sense. He was a loony Iyum telling you.’

He was frowning at the bit of paper. ‘I wunder why LittelBaby is Item 187,’ he said. ‘Like what happerned to all the uther items?’

He terned the shete over and exclamed, ‘Oh, theres more. Years and years, rows and rows…number 33 was Issue, wey back in 2003, then for years and years there all Void, Void, Void, Void….Void. Hmm, the only other ‘Issue‘ is number 193.’

‘Wich year?’

‘This year, its like recent.’

‘So theres anuther baby?’

‘May be, yes.’

We had to get a move on, so we hedid of. We stood in the rane on the slip rode owt of the servisis for anuther awer bifore eny boddy stopped. It was a lady with grey hare and glarsis. ‘You por things!’ she exclamed as we climed in to her VW Polo. ‘Hitching in this wether. Ooh and with a…’ she looked in my shoe box as if she woud find a puppy or some thing, ‘oo, a baby! And very teeny! Well I never. What a treet!’ She rubbed her windo with her sleev as it was all stemed up and she coudent see much, and she pulled owt. She drove quite sloly. I fell aslepe next to her in the frunt with my hed bumping on my windo, and Duncan held the shoe box in the back. We drove and drove on thrugh the night. The lady was going all the way up to Glasgow to visit her grand dorter. We said we woud go all the way with her if she dident mind. ‘No, no, Iyum glad of the cumpny,’ she said.

She stopped at a big servises arownd Carliyul. ‘Have a stretch, do, I wont be a minit,’ she said. We changed the babys nappy and drank some water owt of the tap and bort sanwigis and I sat on a toilet sete with LittelBab slerping awey on my nippel. It still hurt like mad, but I loved doing it.

The lady came back a time later with a small baby car sete. I was so tuched I startid to cry. ‘Dont cry, dere, its the least I can do to help,’ she said.

I jus coudent stop crying arfter that. I cried and cried, rivers of teres all the way. The lady woud reche across and pat my hand evry so often, and Duncan woud pars me crackers, but no one spoke for a cupel of awers.

At five in the morning we got a coffee at a Costa. The TV was on. I saw a police boat, a cordened of airea, pepol dressed in wite soot things, some one talking abowt merder. Oh bugger. Thay had fownd the lady on the bowt. Thay woud be looking for us all redy.

Car sete lady was in the toilets. ‘Duncan,’ I said. ‘We shoud of jus dumpt NarstyLady in the river. And what did we even do with the merder wepern?’

He stared at me. ‘What was the murder wepern?’ he said.

‘The brick,’ I wispered. ‘Carnt you member?’

‘Oh, yeh,’ he said. ‘I chucked it in the river cos it had blud on it.’

‘Oh, good.’ I realised thogh that may be sniffer dogs woud be arfter us like straight awey. Wurries came poring in on me. ‘Duncan,’ I said, ‘we have to get as far awey as we can.’

‘Lisen,’ he said, ‘it will take them a wiol to find owt who she is. Its not like we sent her of down the river with her ID. She hasent got her pars port with her. And shes from New York, so it will take a wiol.’

‘Shes dusent live in New York. Shes lives…lived… in Lunden, I think,’ I tolled him. ‘It dident take her long to tern up that night arfter LittelBaby was born did it?’

‘Oh,’ he said. ‘Well, thats not so good then.’

The lady came back from the toilet so I dragged my eyes awey from the TV and tried to look normel. We got back on the rode, and finerly got owt on the Glasgow ring rode. I thanked her for the car sete. She jus gave us a winck and said, ‘good luck,’ and ‘your a very good mummy.’

Anuther lorry took us up parst Loch Lomund where we bort bred and sardines and twiglits in a villige shop. Then we got a lift up a glen in a Lan Drover with a shepe in it. Duncan sat on a buckit of chickin feed. I sat on some sacks with LittelBaby on my lap. The shepe looked at us. Its ears were very long and went straight owt from its hed. I scratched it arownd its littel horns. It dident mind being stroked. Its hare was very wirey and springey. It had sweet littel black lips. We bumped along for a wiol. The farmer was looking in his rere view mirrer. He glansed round at us. ‘Want to tell us what youv done?’ he said.

We were like, ‘What?’

He stopped the engin and pointid owt the back. Half a mile back down the curvy track there was a convoy of like eight police cars coming arfter us. The farmer got owt.

‘Sally-Anne,’ hissed Duncan. ‘Just dont say eny thing. Its safer if you dont say a werd.’

‘I wont, Duncan,’ I said. ‘Are thay arfter LittelBaby, or are thay arfter us?’

‘It must be abowt NarstyLady,’ he wispered.

The police cars put on their flashy lights as they got close. The por shepe looked wurried. She bleetid. The blue flashis were lighting her up. Me and LittelBaby were both staring in fasinashun at the strobey bleeting blue shepe. I suddernly thort of some thing. ‘NarstyLadys papers!’ I said.

Duncan looked panicked. He rummidged in his bag, broght owt the papers and the pars port, peeled the lid of the chickin fede buckit what he was siting on, thrust them in there, shoved the lid back down and sat down on it again. I know his hart must of bene thumping like he woud have a hart attack, cos mine was to. The back doors operned. I held tight onto LittelBaby as the blue lights fluddid are facis.

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Sally-Anne

Chapter 10.

He was crowched biside my bed. His eyes glemed black and yello from lights riflectid in them. ‘Sally-Anne,’ he wispered. ‘What thay done to you is rong….Iyum sorry…’

I felt sad ness more than eny thing. ‘Did you…did you…bitray me?’ I arsked him.

The look on his fase was my anser. I coud hardly bileve it.

‘Were you…going to let them take LittelBaby…all along?’

There was a silence. His warm hand squezed mine. ‘Shh, yes, Sally-Anne,’ he wispered. ‘Iyum sorry. I dident realise what it ment. It was like easy muny. I agreed to it bifore I even met you.’

 I pulled my hand out of his and terned my fase to the wall.

‘I really am a hundred persent sorry, I will make it up to you.’ He ducked down suddernly, as a nerse with a clip bord came throgh the swing dors to the ward and clicked parst my cubical.

I said nuthing. Losing him was all most as much a blow as losing LittelBaby.

‘Lisen, Sally-Anne, I’m here to help you get LittelBaby back.’

Oh god, what a stupid idiut. Thay woud never risk letting her owt of there sight. Teres were poring down my fase. Why do I never find rele friends? Only idiuts. Probly because I am a gullibel, naïv idiut my self. Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid Sally-Anne. Why had I ever thort that I coud find a boy friend as good and as nice as the Duncan I thort I knew? Of cors it had all been fake. I had jus been imminensly stupid to think I, Silly-Sally, coud of struk gowld.

‘We carnt get her back, Duncan. Thay will be garding her. And we dont even know where she is, like where did thay take her?’

He stared at me. ‘Sheyull be here, wont she? In the center? At least for a fiew awers.’

Well yes. Where else coud thay of taken her? I realised she was most likely very clowse. And its not like NarstyLady woud of arrived all redy to get her in the middel of the night, shurly, as sheyud had no warning that I woud give berth a weke erly. I lened up on my elbow and looked abowt me. No one was arownd. The nerse who had jus helped me had gone of up the coridor and was tapping on a compiuter at the far end. But a terribel weke ness was in my legs and in my hart. ‘Duncan,’ I said, sinking back down on the pillos, ‘I jus…I jus dont think I can.’

‘Sally-Anne,’ he wispered, ‘its now or never. If you want your baby, youv got to get her now, wiol thay wont be ixpecting you to have the strenth.’

I was crying again. ‘But…I dont have the strenth.’

He rolled under my bed, as the same nerse squeked back again to the dor with her clip bord. He rolled owt again.

‘Yes you do,’ he wispered. ‘You can do it. Iyum going to help you. Sally-Anne, I promis I will never bitray you again. I love you.’

I said nuthing. I jus gulped down more snot.

‘Plese, Sally-Anne. Your the best thing that ever happerned to me. Iyuv never had so much fun as when Iyum with you.’

No…how coud I trust him now? I was thinking again of how we darnsed on the beach. Had he only darnsed just because he was pade to keep an eye on me and he was jus extra good at his job? I thort how are friend ship had sunk.

‘Did you only darnse with me….because it was your job?’ I arsked.

‘No, no, Sally-Anne, how can you think that? That was me, that wasent the job! Sally-Anne, we havent got time…Neo natel is jus along the coridor, and up on level 2, I parsed a sign as I was coming in,’ he said erjently.

‘Yeh, I know where it is,’ I said. ‘Its jus, Iyum not brave like you.’

‘Sally-Anne,’ Duncan hissed, ‘What have you got to loose?

I thort abowt it. What did I have to loose? If thay cort me, I woud only be in the same situashun as I was in now. I coud try then….was I brave enugh?

‘Iyum getting the van,’ he wispered. ‘Iyull be owt side the frunt in fifteen minits.’

I jus stared at him in terrer. My boddy was shaking, like in volanterily.

‘Come on Sally-Anne, LittelBaby Sprinkels nedes us.’

‘Duncan,’ I wispered, clutching his hand tight, ‘thay have a night…sicurity gard, Jimmy, owt side….the dor of neo natel.’ My voice was coming in strange, raggid garsps.

He frowned. ‘Iyull go there ferst. Iyull dele with Jimmy. By the time you get there, heyull be gone, dont wurry,’ he said.

Dispite my terrer, I maniged to give a tiny nod. He looked arownd to check no boddy was there, and shot of owt the dor.

Fere corsed thrugh me. I tried to cuntrol the littel garsps and sobs that were coming owt of me. I was still shivring as I pulled my self owt of the bed, kepeing lo, squished my pillos into a boddy shape under the cuvers and scrumpeled a black cardigun where my hed shoud be. With my tethe chattering, I pulled the hoodie thay had broght me back over my hed and pulled on jogging botterms and my traners.

I knew where neo natel was, because it was on the same flor as where I had my helth checks. With my hed swivling franticly apon my showlders, I did what Duncan had done, and zoomed as farst as I coud, but on tip toes to slip owt of the swing dors. I had no time to look back and see if I was being followed. I heved my self up a fligt of stares, quiertly, quiertly, and crossing my fingers in my hed, pushed opern the dor at the top a crack and peked rownd. The coridor was empty. I shuffeled up it, peped rownd the corner and again ran along until I reched an alcove. Right next to the alcove was a fire iscape with a spyrolled metel stare case on the owt side of the bilding. Coud I get owt there with LittelBaby? Was it the tipe of dor wich woud set of an alarm? The neo natel ward was jus biyond it at the end of the coridor. There were two glars windos in the dors. It looked darkish in side. As I peeked owt of my alcove the dors banged opern. I pulled my hed back sharply.

‘Oh! Wheres Jimmy gone?’ said a nerse.

‘Gone for a fag, mos probly,’ said anuther.

‘Hes left his coffee bihind, silly man! Itul go cold.’

Thay squeked parst chatting in low voicis. I squeezed my self back against the wall. I thort I might screme or may be wet my self with fright.

I tip toed very quiertly to wards the dors. Shure enugh, no sign of Jimmy. Jus an empty chare, a niews paper and the coffee cup on the flor, steming jently. Well done, Duncan. I looked thrugh the glars windo. All looked still with in. I took my curidge in my hands. ‘What have you got to loose, Sally-Anne?‘ I arsked my self again and I ansered my self too, with fresh teres corsing down my chekes: ‘Nuthing, abselutely nuthing, Sally-Anne.’

I pushed opern the dors and walked in. No boddy sterred. No boddy was in the resepshun airea. At the far end a woman who looked like she was the maniger was bent over files with a littel reading lamp iloominating the paper. She looked up but she was quite far awey. I walked normally. The ferst two littel see thrugh cots were empty. I walked on, like in a dreme, to the therd cot. It was a fat boy baby with a very red fase. Not mine. I carried on walking. ‘You jus have to be very very quick, Sally-Anne, and very very shure of your self,’ I said to my self. ‘Confidance is evry thing.’ The next cot was surrowndid by blue curtens. I slipped rownd the curten. There was the cot. There was my baby. She was dressed in a pink baby gro. Her hed was tiny. Her hare was wite. Her hands were the tiniest things you ever saw. Rownd her rist I saw the tag with ‘Collins’ on it. No time to loose, I picked her up. Her hed fell for werd on to my coller bown. She was floppy. She gurgeled. I grabbed the blankits from the cot, clarsped them arownd her, and shuffeled off, but farst, ‘no noise, Sally-Anne, make no noise,’ I said to my self.

I herd a showt. I terned rownd but carried on shufferling back werds as farst as I coud. The maniger lady with the files was harf way to wards me, a questshuning look on her fase. ‘Excuse me?’ she called. A nerse looked owt of a room and startid walking to wards me. It was Nerse Janit. ‘Sally-Anne!’ she exclamed. Suddernly thay were panicking, and showting for Jimmy. My legs stopped walking. I was like frozen and coudent move. I knew they were going to get her of me. My legs woud not obay my mind.

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I never use to under stand when pepol talked abowt love. I thort it was jus like happy ness. I thort I loved my mum, or my sisters bifore thay left home or even my bruther even thogh he was mene, because I was happy to be with them, happy to make rice pudding with them, or giggerl with them abowt some thing on the telly. I thort lovers were like that. I thort thay jus injoyed being with each uther and that was what love was. But in the garden of the center, in that hamuck stretched bitween two trees, I lay, with naycher bersting all arownd me, as it was the munth of may. Ooh, that rimes, lay…may, may be I am a powit.  Eny wey, humming to LittelBaby, and fiyuling her riggel her littel lims with plesher, I felt things giving way in my brane and my hart, letting go, like those grate big aynshunt glasiers crawling thrugh inormus vallys like what Mr Oxburg tolled us happerned thowsunds of years ago. I felt a woosh wooshing, like a big wave pulling me along with it. It jus scooped me up and rushed me along. It was not to be cuntrolled. I realised I coudent fight it and dident want to fight it. I tumbeled into a deep rilax. I felt a sense of pease. My legs and arms felt floppy, right to the tips of the fingers. My in sides felt warm and slo, like treakel or huny. My eyes were harf shut. The sun glittered and flashed thrugh my lashes. My breth came slo and deep and reguler.

I magined how the baby woud look all redy. She was small, tiny, but perfict. Her spine was perfictly curved but later woud be completley strait. Her tiny thum was at her lips. Her fase was thin, her cheke bowns so beautifle, her mowth all redy sensitiv and smily. She was so sweet, jus so so sweet, I carnt tell you. She was the best baby in the werld. I wantid her to be owt so I coud cradel her in my arms and hold her tight to me. But I also dident want her to be owt, as uthers wantid to cradel her and I dident want them to. I woud lie in the hamuck and wisper to my self in time with the swinging, ‘mine, mine, mine. You are mine, not theres, you are mine.’

Evry time I thort abowt her, I had to shut my eyes and take a deep breth in. I held the imij in my mind, cradled in pink clowd. I stroked my tummy and sagn and sagn. The more I sagn, the more I wantid to sign. The notes and werds jus tumbold from my lungs and mowth. I coud fiyul my voice in my tummy as I smoothed it. I knew the baby coud here it. I knew she wantid to lern to sign along with me. She twistid her boddy in dilight when I startid to sign.

She coud talk to me. Not in werds exakly, but in cool breasiz wisling threw my brane. She woud nock, nock, jently in side me. She brane washed me. Juring thos nine munths, she made me wiold.

On Fridays I had the hole day off. Evry week. In bed on Thersday night I woud hug the baby in my tummy, hug her tight and say, ‘tomorro, littel baby, we are going to have tretes.’ I have all weys loved tretes. My muther, before my dad left, use to give me a littel sprig of lavender, a cuple of bits of chocolat, two hazel nuts fresh from the shell. Some times a thin strip of marzipan from a cake she was making. ‘Look, Sally-Anne,’ she use to say, ‘a littel trete for you.’

I loved these littel gifts more than eny thing, so I knew it was inportent for babies to have tretes. And I so wantid to be a good mummy, the best mummy, for my baby. That one Friday that I member more than eny uther day, I dressed in my fayvrit flowty dress of the time, wich was yello with big pink flowers and grene leves, put my oringe and black sun hat on, then bort a slice of cheese from the grocer under are flat, a roll from the baker and a big fat termarto from the man on the markit. I walked to the beach. I straddeled a brake water, looking owt to sea. No one was arownd, so as the sun came owt from bihind a clowd, I unbutterned my yello dress at the frunt and let my bump stick owt in the air. It felt so fresh with the cool breasiz blowing on my tummy. The sun shone thrugh my skin and I coud suddernly see thrugh my babys eyes. I magined the rich red and oringe light poring in to her muffold watery werld, and I took a long slo pease full breth. She loved this. She woud rigel as she got the hit of oxigen. I was so hungry, I ate the roll farst, and the cheese and the termarto. I was still hungry, so I went along the beach to wards the pier.

I took the stone steps up to the sea frunt and a skinny all most bald man in a thin grey cote peeled awey from the bench he was lening on and startid walking in step with me to wards the pier. I looked across at him. His mac was flapping in the wind. He did have a fiew strands of wite hair on his hed and a thick wite mustarsh and biyerd. I was wary. What did he want? ‘Dont wurry,’ he said owt of the side of his mowth. ‘Iyum not trying to scare you.’

That is a scary thing to say in its self. I walked farster, trying to shake him off. He walked farster too. ‘Dont rush of,’ he said, ‘plese.’ I thort he was probly a perv. I dident say eny thing, and I dident look at him again. I felt scared.

‘I jus want you to know some thing, some thing inportent,’ he said. He was spekeing quiertly and farst. I pulled my sun hat down over my eyes. I dident want to here him. ‘Your baby…is not jus…oh, how can I explane this?…not jus eny baby, Sally-Anne.’

I stopped walking. He stopped walking. We looked at each uther. Now I was really wurried. How did he know my name? I coud sware I had never seen him bifore in my life.

‘Sally-Anne,’ he said, ‘Iyum jus warning you, lots of pepol want your baby. Your baby is…speshul. Shes…not what you think…’

I garsped. How did he know my baby was a gerl? I thort only I knew that. The wind had got up and was whipping my hare into my mowth. I pushed it awey and said, ‘What do you mene? I know my baby is speshul, but…’

‘I mene,’ he said, sloly, ‘really, really speshul. And those pepol, that cupel, thayr not…’ He stopped talking as a bunch of lads were coming parst with cans of Speshul Brew, showting and shuving each uther. I thort, ‘This is too weerd,’ saw two nersis from the center nere the entranse to the pier, and rushed to wards them, ignoring the man.

Later I thort, ‘Oh Sally-Anne, you shoud of herd him owt. What was he going to say? Why did he think your baby was so speshul?’

I hedid up the pier to see Duncan. I had been going back to see him quite a lot. He was jus so funny and made me laugh evry time. I woud buy donuts of of him all most evry day, even thogh it was ferther than the baker. ‘A lot of pregnunt ladies come here for there donuts,’ he said. ‘Thay need them to grow there babies,’ he said.

‘I dont eat them much, its for my mum,’ I said.

One june morning I was up erly and dident have to be at the center til ten so, even thogh it was ferther, I went to get mums donuts from the pier. It was a gorjuss sunny day, so I skipped a bit. Duncan smiold when he saw me. ‘Hows Baby Sprinkels?’ he said.

‘Shes fine,’ I smioled too. ‘Shes been skipping.’

‘Skipping?’ he said.

‘Yes. She likes it.’

He said, ‘Your up erly.’

‘The erly berd catchis the werm,’ I said.

He laughed. ‘The werm being me,’ he said. ‘Hook, line and sinka. Dyou want to come owt for a coffee?’

‘Oh, ere we go!’ showtid Big Steve from over at the coffee mashine. ‘Youv only jus got ere. I dont know why I pay you eny thing!’ He rowled his eyes and moned, but heved his self to the frunt to take over making the donuts.

We sat in the caff opasit the entranse to the pier. I tolled Duncan abowt the weerd man in the flappy mac. He said, ‘Probly trying to sell you some thing.’

‘But he said my baby was speshul.’

‘Well, eny one can see that Baby Sprinkels is speshul!’ he said. ‘But he probly said that to flatter you and make you buy some thing,’ he said.

‘But…he dident have eny thing to sell,’ I said. ‘And he said my baby was a gerl. How did he know that?’

‘He had one in two charnsis of getting that right,’ said Duncan. ‘And eny way, how do you know that it is a gerl?’

‘I jus do,’ I said.

‘Dyou want to come up to my flat?’ he arsked.

‘May be anuther time,’ I said. ‘I got to take Mums donuts back then I got clarses from ten til like one.’

‘Well, come back later on then,’ he sujestid.

I came back at one therty. As soon as we got in the dor of his flat what he shared with Big Steve for the summer he lifted my shert and ran his hands over my boddy. ‘Sally-Anne,’ he said. ‘You are gorjuss!’

I laughed and said, ‘You are gorjuss too, Duncan from Dunkan Donuts.’

I squished his flesh in my hands. He was so big and sollid. We fell over to gether on to his settee and giggerled. I jus coudent stop laughing. ‘You is my littel Panda Bare,’ he said.

‘No, you is my big Teddy,’ I said.

‘You is my….Crocerdile,’ he said biting my neck.

‘No, you is my…..’ I coudent think of eny thing. It dident matter. Duncan was kissing me.

Arfter the kiss I had thort of some thing. ‘You is my rinoserus,’ I said.

‘Well, you is my blue wale,’ he said.

We did sex. It was much better than with Gary from the Garidge. For a start I coud aksholy fiyul Duncans penis going in and owt. And this time, I wantid it. In Garys Ford Focus, I wasant really sure if I wantid it or not. I dident say no, but I dident say yes neether. Plus, with Duncan, you got lots of kissing. He kissed me all over my boddy. I liked the back of my legs most. Made me tickel but in a luvley way. Also this time, we dident have to wurry abowt getting pregnunt because I was all redy pregnunt.

We had lots of giggerling fits to gether. Abowt being fat. Abowt bums being wobbley bobbley. Duncan is so big. Like a big bare. ‘My littel Panda,’ he woud say, ‘You is aaaaaaall……wobbly-bobbly!’ I felt fuzzy in side when he said things like this. It was better than a movie. To gether we felt in vinsabel. Like super man or some thing. Like in that film with all the super herows in it flying abowt bashing pepol in. We were like them.

Funny werds made us laugh, like vergina. Most times we woud end up screming with laughing and the man from the down stares flat woud come and bang on the dor and complane at us. I all weys scremed when Duncan prertended to be a shark and did the theme choon of jaws and then bit me on the leg. I woud push him hard and he woud fall of the bed, on perpus, and I woud tickel his fete and he woud screme a really high screme and I woud showt ‘your a gerl, your a gerl!’

He liked to phone me when he was right there in the room with me. It made me laugh to here Duncan saying ‘Hello? Is that Sally-Anne?’ in the phone in my ear and right next to me. Then I woud phone him and he woud anser with ‘Yeh? Phone sex hot line,’ wiol he was stroking my thy, wich made me laugh more. The best thing was darnsing with Duncan thogh. We jus loved darnsing and did it all over his flat. We were really good at it.

A bit later in june, when there were less clarsis as some teachers were on holiday, I was jus going owt of the resepshun airia arfter lunch, and Zoe called me over. ‘I have a littel job for you, Sally-Anne,’ she said. ‘You need to be kept bisy, I saspect.’

I said, ‘I dont mind, I like not doing eny thing, its pease full.’

She looked at me cradeling that baby. I think I looked a bit stowned with love. I tried to stop smioling and make my eyes look harder, less dremey. It was hard.

‘Its making pang cake batter for to night,’ she said.

‘OK,’ I said. I dont mind. Its easy, you jus brake eggs and por milk and bete the mixcher. I went of to the kitchins. Two wimin that I knew a littel bit, as thay did the same cooking clarses as me, were sitting on benchis at a long tabel meshuring flower owt. Anuther, Fler, was siting on a stool with a bowl on the bench in frunt of her, using a hand blender. I knew her, as she sat at my tabel at crafts. She was pregnunt with twins. I washed my hands at the sink and startid braking eggs in to a bowl. I werked and werked. I hardly notised the wimin, but then Fler showtid, over the noise of the blender, ‘How meny munths do you have to go, Sally-Anne?’

I looked up. Her long black hare had a bluey scarf tied rownd it. She all weys wore soft blue dungarees and wite sherts. She had a big nose, but a kind fase. She was skwotting on that stool with her legs wide apart arownd her inormus tummy. ‘Umm,’ in truth it was not a queschun I thort much abowt. I did not like to think of the end. ‘I think, abowt four munths. Thay tolled me end of octoba or erly novemba,’ I said. ‘How abowt you?’

‘Im jue in one week, end of june,’ she said.

‘Ooh,’ I said. ‘Soon.’

Her companyuns on the bench smiold. ‘You get more for twins,’ said one.

Fler smiold too. She took the blender owt of the mixchur and put it on a dish and pushed the batter to one side. ‘Im paying of a chunk of my howse this time. Larst time I put the hole diposit down.’

One of the bench ladies had stopped meshuring and was lening back having a strech. ‘What are you going to do with your muny, Sally-Anne?’

I stopped braking eggs. I stroked my belly quiertly. I dident want the baby to here eny of this. ‘Umm, I dont know yet,’ I wispered. I thort abowt telling these kind ladies that I did not want to sell my baby. But some thing scremed in side my hed: dont trust them, thay might tell Zoe, thay are part of the sistem, thay have been brane washed along with all of them.

‘Here,’ said BenchLady, pushing her three bowls of meshured flower to wards me. ‘Im of, done enugh.’

‘Hunh,’ I said, looking at the three bowls, ‘I only got two pare a hands, you know.’

The three women all laughed. I still dont know what it was I said. What did I say? I have only got two pare a hands.

‘So, come on, Sally-Anne, what are you going to do with the muny?’ arsked Fler again.

‘I might give some to my mum,’ I croked. ‘I coud help her buy a niew settee and a niew TV may be..’ In my mind I was yelling ‘Not really, not really, LittelBaby, dont worry, I wont be selling you to eny boddy.’

I said I had to go to the toilet, and I stood in side the cubikle, panting with the stress, stroking my tummy and humming, low and fiers, all my love for her. You know in those films when a man is going owt with two ladies, or a lady has two men, and she dusent tell them, I felt like that. I felt like I had been unfathe full to my baby. I sang ‘All the loving, I will give to you ou ou, all the loving, baby, Iyull be true.’

How coud those wimin give up there babies? I thort. Why did thay not fiyul desprit like me? How coud thay be so carm? What did thay see in muny? Jus paper notes, and coins. How coud that be eny substichoot for some thing so preshus and perfict as there baby?

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