A dark screen. Faint breathing. An alarm sounds and a rectangle of light faintly highlights a woman’s face. A hand reaches out, presses snooze and switches off the phone. Darkness. Sniffing and ragged breathing. Movement and rustling. Blinds open slightly. We see the woman’s face, eyes closed, but crying slightly.

The alarm sounds again. Without opening her eyes, the woman presses dismiss. A pause and then she rolls over, picks up a tablet and flicks on the radio. Crying still, she lies, eyes closed, listening to the DJ rambling and then the news. As the post-news song starts, she sits, pulls on a T-shirt and shorts and slowly rolls out of bed. She stands.

Taking her towel off the radiator, wiping  away tears, she heads across the room. She pulls a bookshelf away from its position blocking the door and opens it, leaving the room.

She shuts and locks the bathroom door. Checks the lock. Stares at herself in the mirror. Close up of her eyes, tears pooling and then dropping as she watches.

Cut to woman in the shower. Crying, she scrubs her skin red with an exfoliating glove and softens her hair with conditioner. Stepping out of the shower, she stares at her red eyes in the mirror and checks out the scars and marks on her stomach as she brushes her teeth.

In the bedroom, she cries less as she gets dressed, pulling clothes out of a pile on top of the wardrobe. Dries her hair and ties it in a loose, careless ponytail. Takes a deep breath and roughly wipes her eyes. Naked, she casts an eye over her body, pulling at the fat around her stomach in obvious disgust. She pinches the loose fat on her underarms sharply, gathering it between her nails. The tears continue to fall but with less urgency. She holds her breath longer and longer and finally in a quick unexpected movement, punches a knuckle against the wall once, twice. The shock of the pain slows the tears and one more strike stops them and she takes the chance to apply some mascara and examine her eyes. A bit of concealer on the swollen lids goes some way to disguising the redness.

Moving quickly now, she puts on shoes, downs a glass of water, fills a bottle of water and puts it in her rucksack. Headphones in, rucksack on, phone in pocket, she puts sunglasses on and heads out. Walks, head down, to work. Sunglasses off. Head down, up the stairs.

Deep breath.

Types in code and opens the glass door to the third floor.

Deep breath.

Walks down the corridor, past the classrooms, glances in through the glass and forces a smile and a wave at the director. Through the teachers’ room, to the office, to her desk. Computer on. She works all day. Tears swell and are blinked away.

She sits in a toilet cubicle. Pushes the switch on the automatic light and lets herself cry silently, wiping delicately at her under-eyes to avoid smudging her mascara. A sound escapes and she clasps a hand to her mouth, breathes deliberately. The light goes off. She flicks it on. It goes off again. She sits in the dark, watching the light under the door. That goes out too and the only light now is the orange glow from the automatic switch. She flicks the light back on. Wipes her eyes. Stands. Opens the door cautiously. Examines herself in the mirror. Leaves.

Whenever someone steps up to her desk, she smiles widely, laughs, offers sympathy, gives help, answers questions. Eyes flick regularly to the clock in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen.

Eight o’clock. She packs up her rucksack deliberately. Headphones in. A smile goodnight.

Walks quickly home, head down, tears welling. The front door in sight. She checks around. No one near. Key in door, she checks behind her. No one around. She pushes the door open and shuts it carefully and quickly behind her. Impatiently waits for the lift, constantly looking behind. Jumps in. Up to the eighth floor. In the door. Fights past the dogs and brushes past flatmates. Into her room.

Door closed. She collapses on the bed. Stares into nothing, breathing raggedly. Picks up a book, puts it down. Picks up her guitar, puts it down.

Watches TV blankly.

Later she pulls the bookshelf in front of the door again and lies in the dark. Pitch blackness. The catching of breath.


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