Chelsea, London, 2022


I like drawing because I make pictures of things that are nice. I paint with crayons and I like filling in the shapes. I want to be an artist when I grow up because I want to make lots of pictures that people can look at.

I’m sitting at the table and as I finish my drawing, Mummy looks over my shoulder.

“That’s nice,” she says.

“It’s snowdrops in the garden where it’s all winter and cold. And the house is cold too because the heating isn’t working.”

“Are you cold, darling? Would you like me to get you your cardigan with the rabbits on?”

“No, I’m not cold anymore,” I reply. My bunny rabbit cardigan is my favourite because I was born at Easter and it was a birthday present from my nana who knitted it herself which I think is really clever.

“That doesn’t look like our garden,” she says, pointing to a tall tree on the left.

We don’t have trees in our garden. It’s all covered up with concrete and my daddy says it’s because the people who lived here before us had horrible taste.

“It’s where I lived before,” I reply.

Mummy smiles and her face goes all creased like the sheets when she’s just washed them.

“You and your imagination, you’ll be a writer when you’re older like your father.”

“No, I’ll be an artist.”

Mummy does that thing of rolling her eyes like I do when I’m bored and she says, “What would you like for your tea, darling?”

                                                                               Dublin, Ireland, 1959


I look nervously around me, at the crowds filing into the White Heart Gallery. ‘Spring’ is my first exhibition and I don’t want Brendon to ruin it. Brendon isn’t my beau, he just likes to think he is and so he follows me everywhere like a little lost pup.

“I’ll  make you mine, so I will,” he’s always saying, but he gives me the eebie jeebies, the way he looks at me, like I’m already his.

“Everything all right?” Maria comes up to me and gives me a kiss on the cheek.

“Fine, thanks,”

“He’s not going to turn up, you know. Don’t go worrying your head about him, he’s an eejit of the first order.”

“I’m not.”

“I can see it on your face, you’ve got that look, like you’re all pinched in, so you are, like a little doll that’s been sewn together wrong.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence.”

“I’m only teasing. Your picture is looking great.”

I glance over. It’s attracting crowds already and I feel shivery so I pull my knitted bolero around me. It’s got white rabbits on it so I think it’s appropriate for an Easter exhibition.

“It’ll soon be your birthday,” Maria says.

“Yes, born on Aprils Fool’s. Destined to be an existentialist.”

Maria laughs. “But you’re not though, are you? An existentialist. That’s all that Waiting for Godot and staring at empty spaces waiting for stuff to happen, right?”

I say nothing because I am waiting for stuff to happen though I don’t want it to, and now I see a figure approaching, walking through the main doors.

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph,” I say under my breath. “The cheek of it.”


“Well done,” Miss Burnes says as she sticks a gold star on my picture. I collect gold stars and sometimes I even steal them from her drawer when she forgets to lock it.

“I’m going to put this forward for the local exhibition. It’s for the top year in school but it’s definitely good enough.”

I can’t wait to get home and tell Mummy so when the bell goes I run really fast out of school and into her arms and my heart is going really fast like it’s going to pop out of my chest onto the floor.

“I’ve won!” I shout, and I tell her all about it.

“That’s wonderful. Let’s go and get chocolate ice-cream to celebrate.”

“I like sorbet better,” I say.

“Since when have you tried sorbet?”

“It was before I was in your tummy.”

She kneels down and her face is all serious and I don’t like it because it makes me sad.

“Eliza, you didn’t exist before you were in my tummy.”

“Yes I did. I lived with another mummy and daddy in Ireland, and we lived near a lake.”

Mummy frowns and I don’t like it when she frowns either, because she’s not as pretty as when she smiles.

“Come on, let’s go home and I’ll make you a sorbet if that’s what you want.”

We get into the car and she drives me home.

    Dublin, 1959


I grab Maria’s arm.

“Holy crap,” she says as she notices where I’m looking.

“He’s coming over.”

“Get security,” she says.

But it’s too late. Brendon is standing right in front of me, bold as you like.

“I’m going to have you all to myself,” he says. “You’re mine and no one else’s.”

 “What are you talking about?” I say to him. “Look, I’m not your property, we’re not even going out together so why don’t you mind your own business, you fecking eejit.”

People are staring now. I want to run and hide but though I’m shaking like a dog in a thunderstorm I’m yelling at him to back off.

 “You heard,” Maria says, “she doesn’t want you so why don’t you go home and boil your head?”

All I can do is look at the clock that says quarter to midday and everything feels as if it’s happening in slow motion.

He pulls out a gun, I’m punched in the chest, then it goes dark.


It’s the middle of the night and I’m screaming, then Mummy comes rushing in, Daddy behind me.

They’re at my side.

“£Did you have a bad dream?”

‘”A man…there was a man…”

“What man?” Daddy says, looking out of the window like the bogeyman is out there.

“He had a gun-“

“Eliza, where is this coming from?” Mummy says. She turns to Daddy. “She’s been like this for a few weeks now, saying things about before she was in my tummy.” Then she looks at me. “It was just a bad dream. I’ll leave the landing light on and our door open and you can go back to sleep and you won’t have any more nasty dreams.”

“No, it wasn’t a dream, it wasn’t.” They don’t say anything and I know they don’t understand about how I died and came back again.


It’s the day of the exhibition but I don’t feel excited. I feel sick and I can’t eat my coco pops.

“It’s just nerves,” Daddy says, kissing me on top of my head.

When we get to the big room where the exhibition is there are lots of people and my heart’s going too fast and I feel sicker and sicker. My parents are talking with the head teacher who’s smiling at me.

There’s a clock on the wall and I look at the little hand. It’s on the twelve and the big hand is on the nine. I start crying and hide under the big white table that’s like got all sparkly bits in it like a thick slab of frost and I stay there, cowering under the frost. I can hear the clock ticking and I want it to stop but it won’t, so I cover my ears to try and make it go away.

“It’s all right,” I hear Mummy saying. “She’s just shy.”

“I’m not coming out, so I’m not, I’m not fecking comin’ out, do you think I’m an eejit or something?”

“What the-” Mummy starts saying, but Daddy shushes her loudly.

He gets under the table with me, and he starts talking about how proud he is of me and that I deserve lots of treats like Haribos and stuff and he makes me feels lots and lots better so I peep out from under the table.

I’m staring straight at my picture and I’m thinking about how dying is like winter but when it’s over and it’s spring everything gets born all over again. And I see that the big hand is almost on the twelve and I know it’s safe for me to poke up through the frost so I crawl out from under the table to be where the snowdrops grow.