Charlotte woke up at 12 noon. The sun was at it’s zenith. The blackout blind at her window gave her no clue as to the time. The room remained in total darkness apart from the neon green glow of her clock radio. She turned to her phone, left on silent whilst she slept. No messages, no missed calls, no change there. She switched on her bed-side lamp, and looked at the half-full wine glass, from the night before.

Without even thinking about it, she drained the glass.  A little pick-me-up. She got out of bed and opened the bedroom door, and the sun crashed in like a sledge hammer. The pain behind her eyes exploded into a full-on  headache. She went into the bathroom and sat on the toilet. As she pee’d she reached across to the bath taps and turned them full on. She waited until the hot tap ran hot, then she put in the plug and reached across to the bubble bath… As she stretched across, she slightly lifted her bum off the seat, and swore as she pee’d down the inside of her thigh. She wiped herself off with toilet paper, and went into the kitchen/living room of her flat. She turned on the kettle and put a tea-bag and sugar in the heavily stained cup. She went across to the fridge and saw that she was nearly out of milk.

“Shit, now I’ve got to go to the shop before work.” She stirred the water in the cup and removed the bag before adding the milk. She sipped her brew, and grimaced. The hot tea made her heartburn worse.

She took her tea into the bathroom and then went back into the bedroom for her cigarettes. She took off her nightdress, and carefully dangled a toe into the bath. Not too hot. She turned off the taps. She put one foot in the bath gingerly and then the other. She stood motionless for a couple of seconds… Then realised it was too hot. Too hot to handle.

She jumped out as quick as possible. She put more cold in until it was safe to stand in. She slowly lowered herself into the welcoming water. She washed her short cropped hair and then carefully scrubbed herself down. Then she lay back and shut her eyes. The most blissful moment of any day. She folded her flannel into a rectangle just wide enough to cover her eyes. She allowed herself a minute of bliss, then she jumped up and grabbed her tea. She sipped her tea and then reached for the towel. She dried her hands and took a cigarette out of the pack, She tried to light it with her lighter, but no spark would fly. Obviously her fingers were still damp. She took the towel and ran the lighter wheel across it to take away the moisture. She rubbed her fingers on the towel and then tried the lighter for a second time. It lit. She greedily sucked the smoke into her lungs. Ahh, that first head rush of nicotine. she sat in her bath, tea in one hand, cigarette in the other, and slowly took stock. The day she faced was the day she faced five times a week.

Did she begrudge the hours of her labour? Not so much. It gave her stability, as sense of normality. She had waited a long time to find a sense of normality. For a decade normality was a word which lay beyond her lexicon. For a decade, she had lived in a world beyond words. The thought of that, was enough to make her get a shift on. She got out of the bath, toweled her hair dry and then carefully dried her body. The drugs meant she had to take care to dry herself carefully, she had a horrible side- effect of rashes and dry skin. When she was happy that she was dry, she reached into the bathroom cabinet, took her pills and then took out her toothbrush and toothpaste. She squeezed out a small pearl of paste on to the brush and put it under tap. She rigorously brushed her teeth. She went into her bedroom and put on her uniform. She pinned her name tag to her left breast pocket. She looked across anxiously at the clock… Did she have enough time to go down to the shop before work? Just! She slipped on her flat shoes, grabbed her bag  and pulled on her jacket. She ran the three flights of stairs down to the ground level and went across the road to the local shop. She bought a litre of semi-skimmed milk and a pack of 20 cigarettes. She looked longingly at a bottle of pinot grigio which was reduced… But did not give in to temptation. Drink was strictly for her days off. Work days were drink-free days…She had made it a rule ever since she had gotten back a “normal” life. Do nothing to interfere with the smooth running of that  “normal” existence. She knew the fallibility of this hard and fast rule was ever near… She had already broken it this very day!She had drunk the dregs of last night’s wine when she had woke up.Could she forgive herself this minor misdemeanor? In the end, she had no choice. She had to forgive herself. That is what her counsellor had hammered home to her. She did not have to punish herself for every little misdemeanor. Not every little thing.

(to be continued)


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