She scratched her nail into the groove of the wood. Deeper and deeper; splintering both nail and wood. The thumb was her preferred digit but both the left and right were scraped red raw, down to the fleshy stub. She had two index fingers. One baby finger left on her right hand. The left one had been lost….disappeared one day in a haze of bad memories and darkness that shrouded her in security.
That day when it happened, the darkness had been slashed with blinding white light. It had rained consistently for seven days and seven nights. Her finger had gone poof! on the fifth day of rain. She wondered if it sat in the rusty baked bean can that sat on the third shelf on the opposite wall.
Odd place for me to mislay my finger though, she thought as she scratched, scratched, scratched her head upsetting the head lice. Fingers caught in the tangles, she grabbed the strands and yanked until the pale yellow clump floated free. Watched it float down, down, down to the dirt floor. She used her bare, sore encrusted foot to push it away as if the hair could contaminate her.
Hyperactive eyes found an open sore and those itchy fingers scuttled down her bare thigh to dig into the slushy mess on the side of her heel.
– Why are you up there finger? She asked aloud. The can never replied; she was tired of its insolence.
– What did I do? Why did you leave me? Answer me Can! Answer me! Please just talk to me…gone so long without hearing a voice. Be like that then. I have other friends, I don’t need you.
Pressing her open lips to the wet wooden plank she let the dampness seep into her skin. It refreshed her. Made her clean.
Sometimes, when she rested her eyes, for she never slept anymore, she remembered another place. A house made of brick, that had more than one door, and a roof that didn’t leak. She had a room that was filled with pink things, a doll with a sparkly dress and a real dog. An actual warm, breathing furry dog that loved her. He had been her best friend – ssshh! Bailey, Mummy will hear! She’ll send you out into the garden if she knows you’re here – but she had had another friend, a girl called Amy or Amelia.
– I have another friend Can, be a big baby see if I care. I’ll go play with Amy, she’s my best friend. I don’t like you anymore. You can’t have my finger anymore, give it back, it’s mine, it was only on loan. Why won’t you speak to me!
That house had smelt of toast.
That house was a long long time ago…maybe weeks or months. For a girl of her age time moved slowly. She had been looking forward to her ninth birthday. A One Direction cake and hopefully tickets to see them in concert. Daddy had said if she was a good girl from here to eternity – which she knew meant her birthday – then perhaps, maybe, quite possibly, of course princess, she could go and see Niall, Zayn, Liam, Louis and Harry.
Life was one dimensional now.
At first she had sung their songs to her new friends in the shed. Not to Can though, not anymore because he had issues as her mummy would always say. At first she had remembered all of the words to What Makes You Beautiful and Live While We’re Young but once, when it was happening, Frog had put his amphibious finger to his amphibious lips and shook his amphibious head.
When she was inclined to play she asked Frog to hop and jump around the shed with her – he didn’t like to skip, boys don’t – but he never joined in.
– Don’t be boring Frog. She said into the cool air. Come on Frog, Froggy please, let’s hop and jump about. It’ll keep us warm. It’s about to rain again, I can smell it. I’m getting good at predicting the weather now aren’t I? So good, Daddy said practice makes perfect. Come down and play, please.
Her fingers were bored of the sore on her heel. They scrambled back up her skinny leg, over her dirt streaked and torn dress to rest on her chest, just over her heart where they tapped out their own tattoo.
Shifting on the floor with the minutest of movements she located the hole where two planks of wood met and stared out. The house was just up ahead. Once she had estimated that it was thirty-six paces away, thirty-six of his paces, but she had stopped counting at fifteen because she didn’t want to look at him approaching.
There was no reason to look at him. It was the one thing she made a point of never doing. Not that he cared but she felt it was important to have some contim…continu…to do something time and time again. After the first visit she had asked Cracked Mirror to turn around. They had fought and Cracked Mirror had cut her – forehead, cheek and shoulder – but even though Cracked Mirror was bigger she had had more determination back then those weeks or months ago when she had first arrived.
– Daddy always said fight for what you want, but fight fairly. She spoke to the contents of the shed. Cracked Mirror refused to comment. She stuck her tongue out and even giggled.
Bailey didn’t like the rain.
Returning her eye to the hole she ignored the small beads of orange that grew in the grooves of the wood, she didn’t know what they were but they had never harmed her and daddy always said….
She missed her mummy and daddy and that house that smelled of toast.
As she mumbled against the wood, her lips pressed so forcefully against the damp plank that they turned white, the door to the house opened and she heard rather than saw the heavy thud of footsteps descending down the steps and the squelch of boots on sodden ground.
When he entered she had moved.
She was lying on the old workbench that stood in the middle of the room.
Her arms were above her, stretched out on either side of her head. He liked to clamp them in the vices.
She wondered if Cracked Mirror was crying, she had at first.
Can gave her the finger. Naughty!
Lifting her eyes to the ceiling she focused on to the painting of Frog, never took her eyes off his green face and looked deep into his orange eyes with the black centre.
As he raised his amphibious finger to his amphibious mouth she winked.
Photo by Tomek Dzido