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I have a confession to make.

I haven’t been writing this blog in real time. But I can bring you up to speed pretty easily. My mother is still insane. Mia is still the centre of my world.

And I'm completely and utterly heartbroken.

I took a calculated risk when I decided to get involved with a man exactly twelve years and eleven months my junior.

I gave it six months.

It was supposed to be a fling. I wasn’t supposed to fall in love with him. He wasn’t supposed to become my best friend.

I tried to end it on more than one occasion. But he stopped me every time. He kissed my fears away.

He told me I was the most beautiful, complicated woman he’d ever met. And that we’d always be together.

So I overcame my fear of water and climbed into a small boat with him. And I trusted him enough to let him row us to the middle of the ocean.

We made it to four years.

Then he just dived into the sea and swam off. And I’m not sure I can find my way back without him.

I feel so lost.

If only I’d known that our trip this summer was going to be our last. I would have cherished waking up with him every morning.

It could have been our beautiful long goodbye.

Instead I quietly obsess about the way the sun highlights the lines on my face. And I become moody and withdrawn.

I can’t keep competing with girls half my age. It’s exhausting. And expensive; dracula therapy and bull semen don’t come cheap.

I’m so wrapped up in my own unhappiness that it takes me a while to notice Jake has become distant.

Then everything starts to unravel ridiculously quickly.

“This isn’t working is it Jake?” There’s a long silence on the other end of the line. He finally speaks. And it all comes tumbling out.

He’s been struggling with it for the last few months. His life’s changed. His career’s taking off. There are new paths opening up for him. He wants to move overseas when he qualifies. He wants to raise a family.

And it’s clear that there’s absolutely no place for me in his future.

But he can’t let me go. He’s confused. He asks for more time to decide what he wants.

It feels like a stay of execution.

I barely eat for days. I have one sleepless night after another. I feel sick and totally detached from everything around me.

I'm driving home when No Doubt’s 'Don't Speak' comes on the radio. 'I really feel that I’m losing my best friend, I can’t believe this could be the end’.

By the time it gets to ‘It’s all ending, I gotta stop pretending who we are. You and me I can see us dying...are we?’ I have to pull over because I can't see through my tears.

This is killing me. I can’t wait for him to make a decision. I send him an email.

I love you sweetheart, I always will but sometimes all the love in the world isn't enough to make a relationship work. And our relationship has run its course. We both know that. You taught me that I could climb a mountain. I'll never forget that. And I’ll never forget you. Goodbye Jake.

He calls immediately. I don't pick up. Everything feels so surreal. I knew this was going to happen. But I still can't believe it. He sends me a text 'I'm seeing you on Friday – whether you like it or not'.

He arrives Friday evening looking tired and sad. His eyes fill up as he tells me he's not strong enough to deal with this right now.

I hug him. Then we kiss, slowly at first then passionately, desperately. We make love all night. We both know this might be the last time. I try to submit every touch, every kiss to memory.

I wake up in his arms in the morning. I ask him how he feels now. He tells me he’s still confused. He still doesn’t know if he wants to be with me.

And that stings like hell. I had thought, for one moment, that perhaps we could find a way to make it work.

That’s when I finally realise the blindingly obvious; there’s always been a part of me that believed this would last. I honestly thought we could defy the odds and stay together.

How utterly bloody stupid of me. And Demi. But at least she gets to hate Ashton because he cheated on her. At least she gets to be angry because he behaved like a total prick.

All Jake has done is what I always said he would do; he has grown up.

I gather all his things together and put them in a bag. I give it to him and ask him to leave. I refuse to exist in a state of limbo.

This is the first time I’m breaking up with someone I’m still in love with. And it's unbearably sad.

We’re both crying as he tells me how much he loves me. How certain he is that he’ll never meet anyone like me again. But he doesn’t try to stop me ending it this time.

He knows it’s the right thing to do. He just didn’t have the strength to do it.

I watch him dive into the ocean. And I can only hope I have enough strength left to find my way back safely.

Then I remember that I got into the boat wearing a life jacket....

Matthew’s one line message “I hear you’re looking for me” accompanied only by a telephone number is confident, playful and endearingly succinct.

But who the hell is he?

He certainly looks fit from behind; in his profile photo he’s walking away from the camera holding hands with two small children.

Then I notice we have a mutual friend in Melissa. She saw the tongue in cheek request I posted on my wall and decided to do a little match making.

Matthew is 40, ex-military, recently divorced with two children aged eight and three. She assures me he’s as attractive from the front as he is from the back and, as far as she knows, he’s free of ‘issues’.

I’m not sure about that. The man is ex-military and recently divorced. Surely he’s riddled with issues?

Then she mentions that he lives over two hundred miles away in a village that is very middle England.

And that immediately and inexplicably makes him very attractive. I send him a casual response.

He asks me to have dinner with him. I’m mulling over whether or not to accept when my mother phones.

“I had a dream last night”.

That’s always been my mother’s way of seeking confirmation for something she either already knows or strongly suspects.

I used to think she was a witch when I was younger because her ‘dreams’ were always so frighteningly accurate.

I was ten when she told me she had a dream that I used my father's razor and cut myself;

I developed embarrassingly early. So I always held a towel around myself when I got changed for swimming.

But I had accidentally dropped my towel that morning. I was so mortified that instead of picking it back up, I just froze to the spot.

They gawped at me as the room slowly fell silent. Then they started chanting “Kitty has a hairy fanny”.

That in itself may not have been quite so terrible but as the only ‘ethnic’ child in the entire school, I was already considered a freak.

My father and I had walked in through the gates on my first day and almost immediately, a boy ran up to me, shouted ‘paki’ then spat in my face.

I remember waiting for my big, strong, father to give him a clip around the ear.

Instead he pulled out a pristine white (ironed) handkerchief, bent down, wiped my face, whispered to me to stop crying and told me to hold my head up high as we continued to walk on.

And I had been holding my tears in and my head up ever since.

But my clumsy hands had just undone all those years of effort in the space of a few minutes! I could feel the hot tears running down my face as I hung my head.

I went home, tried to (dry) shave it off and cut myself quite badly in the process. It didn’t occur to me that the bloodied razor and towel I left in the bathroom had given me away.

My mother cleaned the cut and put a plaster on it, telling me that “being hairy is the price we pay for having beautiful olive skin”.

I still repeat that mantra to myself at my fortnightly almost-all-over-body waxing treatments.

I take a deep breath and ask my mother what her dream was about. “I dreamt you’d split up with Jake”. My sister must have told her. “Well, did you?”

“Yes”. She tries to make me feel better by telling me a story about a single mother her friend knows who also had a relationship with a 'much younger' man.

He finally ran off with her sixteen year old daughter. "That could have happened to you in six years time so it's lucky you split up now really isn't it?"

Then she asks me if I'm ok. I tell her I'm fine. She's not convinced, "Have you lost weight?"

I always lose weight when I’m unhappy.

It’s not deliberate. It just feels like I have a permanent lump in my throat and I can’t get any food past it.

She invites me to spend the weekend with them while Mia is with her father.

I have visions of being tied to a chair and continuously force fed whilst being made to watch one diabolical Turkish soap after another.

Thank god I’ve already made plans with Charlie. I haven’t seen him for over a year but we effortlessly pick up where we left off (in a way that you can only do with very old friends).

We met in the Union bar in our first week at University when he asked me for a toke of my spliff. He was cool so I shared the rest of my stash with him.

That was almost twenty years ago. And we’ve sinced moved on to sharing bottles of fine wine over dinner in our favourite French restaurant.

But some things never change; by the time we get to dessert, we’re ruthlessly analysing each other’s unsuccessful love lives.

I tell Charlie his problem is that he’s only attracted to women who are unhinged in some way.

He prefers to call them ‘kooky’ but concedes that a few of them have crossed over the line into ‘deranged’.

I helpfully point out that he has a sub-conscious fear of commitment which is why he chooses women that it’s impossible to commit to.

He retaliates by reminding me that my only significant relationships since my divorce have been with a Greek Cypriot and a man almost thirteen years my junior.

I concede that they were unfortunate choices. But insist that I do not have a fear of commitment, sub-consciously or otherwise. And to prove my point, I text Matthew and accept his offer of dinner.

Then I remember that I only got really excited about him when I realised that he lived over two hundred miles away.

I decide not to mention that to Charlie.

It’s been two weeks since Jake left me in the middle of the ocean. And I think my life jacket is faulty. It’s not keeping me afloat. I’m afraid I may drown (in my own tears).

Then he throws me a rubber ring...

Oh God. I’m making myself cringe. I really shouldn’t write when I’m feeling emotional.

But I simply have to write. And I have no idea when I’ll stop feeling emotional. So I’ll start again without the analogies and just tell it as it is; I still feel like crap.

Then he sends me a text...

I’ve always loved you. I always will. Who I am now (the best bits – the worst bits are my own doing) I owe more to you than anyone. I want to live my whole life with the integrity, passion and ability to love that you’ve always shown. I’m not good with tragedy; sorry I dealt with this all badly. You always deserve the very best.

...and I accelerate through the five stages of dealing with loss;

He’s taking the first step towards trying to change my mind (denial).

He’s right – he did deal with it all very badly (anger).

Maybe he’ll agree to stay in London if I agree to a possible move overseas in the future? (bargaining).

That won’t happen. I’ll never be happy again (depression).

It’s over (acceptance).

His carefully chosen words are so thoughtful, so poetic, and so utterly lovely that I decide to copy them into my notebook so I can keep them forever.

Mia will be home soon. I have a shower, style my hair and put on my make-up; I’m ready for some (retail) therapy.

I’m pleasantly surprised to find I’m attracting a lot of attention. Perhaps I never noticed before because I wasn’t available? Mia dismisses my theory “No mum, it’s your nipples”.

My eleven year old daughter has just reduced my entire appeal to a pair of nipples!

She denies it, “It’s your nipples that get their attention and then they look at your face and realise that you’re pretty.”

She pauses then deadpans “Maybe you shouldn’t wear a white top when it’s cold”.

She makes me laugh all afternoon. And I go to bed feeling wildly euphoric! But I wake up feeling incredibly flat.

I remain upbeat until I drop Mia off at school. Then I go to the gym and pound the treadmill to clear my mind of Jake related thoughts.

It works. And I can’t help but notice Roberto pumping weights through the mirror. He’s probably the closest thing to physical perfection I’ve ever seen.

My jaw literally dropped the first time I laid eyes on him (shortly after my divorce). He noticed me too and things got pretty hot in the steam room one afternoon.

The physical side of it was incredible. Then after a few weeks (yes, it was that good), I tried to have a proper conversation with him.

It wasn’t easy. His vocabulary was somewhat limited. And my attraction to him waned rapidly.

I notice that he’s smouldering in my direction. Didn’t someone once say that the quickest way to get over someone is to get under someone else?

I start thinking about our encounter in the steam room.

This proves to be somewhat distracting; I trip over my own feet, land on my face and slide off the (fast) moving treadmill in a most undignified manner.

I take it as a sign that I shouldn't sleep with Roberto.

I go home and spend hours frantically cleaning instead. Then my new washing machine arrives.

And it's only when the delivery guy gives me a little pep talk before he leaves that I realise I’ve been (silently) crying the whole time.

I think I’m re-visiting the depression stage of loss.

There’s nothing left to clean. But I have to keep myself busy so I go to Sainsbury’s. I put a few things in my trolley then leave it at the bottom of the aisle while I get some fruit.

It’s gone when I get back. Someone has stolen it! How bloody rude! And it’s got my pound in it!

It doesn’t take me too long to spot the culprit; my trolley is one of the smaller ones and there aren’t a lot of people in the supermarket.

I march over and physically move her out of the way. I’m so furious that I don’t trust myself to speak.

I empty the trolley until I find my things at the bottom. I point at them indignantly. I don't know why she's looking so freaked out. She’s lucky I've managed to remain calm.

I walk off with my trolley.

Several aisles later it occurs to me that pushing her out of the way, throwing her shopping on the floor then pointing at my things without uttering a single word was probably somewhat disconcerting. And not at all calm.

It would appear that I’m not quite done with the anger stage of loss yet either.

I miss him so much. He’s left a huge empty space in my life. I read his text over and over again, sighing tearfully to myself.

But somewhere around the fifth read I start to find it a little patronising.

By the tenth read, I’m absolutely furious (and dry eyed). I’m dying here and he sends me a cliché ridden text? Four years of my life and all I get is a poxy, patronising text?

Shit. I’m starting to sound bitter. And that's not who I am.

But it’s enough of a shock to bring me to my senses; I do not want to become an angry, bitter, lonely old lady who spends my days rocking in a chair with a cat sitting on my head.

It’s time to move on. I post a light hearted request on my facebook wall;

I would like to meet a man who is attractive, kind, funny, fit, patient, loyal, aged 35-45, preferably with child(ren) of his own and without ‘issues’. I’m not holding my breath.

Then (several days later) a message lands in my inbox ‘I hear you’re looking for me’.

I sneak off to have a shower while everyone else is eating. My cunning plan pays off and the water stays gloriously hot.

But my happiness is short lived; we’re going to spend the night in a room with six other people.

The beds are tiny. And there isn’t much space between each one. I wait until Jake goes to the bathroom. Then I pop a couple of caffeine pills.

My roommates appear normal enough. But that means nothing. The worst serial killers in history looked like the guy next door.

I slow down my breathing and pretend to be asleep.

They all fall asleep pretty quickly. And the room reverberates with a symphony of snoring. I put my iPod on and sit up. I’m not stupid. I may not be able to hear them coming towards me now. But I’ll certainly be able to see them.

I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself. Then I realise that my heart is beating really fast. This makes me anxious; which makes my heart beat faster.

It occurs to me that perhaps I should have just taken the one pill. I don’t drink coffee or fizzy drinks. And I rarely eat chocolate.

Therefore my body isn’t used to caffeine. I check the packet. I now have 400mg of it swimming around my body.

I remind myself why I took them in the first place; to stay awake and stop people stealing my belongings/masturbating over my feet/murdering me.

There’s nothing I can do about it now but ride it out. I try to steady my breathing and get my heart rate to slow down.

Then I get an unsettling feeling of déjà vu; closely followed by a vivid flashback to the early nineties when I popped an ecstasy pill for the first (and last) time.

I didn’t realise it took around thirty minutes to kick in. So I’d actually forgotten I’d taken it until my heart suddenly felt like it was going to burst out of my chest.

Apparently that point when you think you’re going to have a heart attack is the best bit.

I spent the next twelve hours curled up in a ball muttering “don’t like it, don’t like it, don’t like it”.

And I don’t like this caffeine buzz much either.

I turn my iPod up to try and drown out the sound of my thumping heart. It works. I can't hear it anymore but I can still feel it. I start pacing up and down the room.

Then I lie down (curled up in a ball). Then I sit up. Then I pace.

I manically continue the same process for the next seven hours while everyone else sleeps soundly. I’m starting to think that there isn’t one thief, rapist or murderer amongst them.

Or it could be that my constant state of alertness has thwarted their plans. I decide to go with that otherwise I’ll have put myself through this for no good reason at all.

I’m still jittery at breakfast. Jake looks concerned “Did you manage to get any sleep?” I tell him I slept like a log. Then I realise that my hand is shaking. And I’m spilling tea everywhere.

I’m still buzzing so we make really good time on the ascent. Then we get hit by sleet. And I start coming down from my caffeine high.

The sleet turns into snow; lots of snow that settles really quickly.

There isn't any shelter so we have no choice but to continue our descent (from around 2000 metres).

We’re on steep, rocky terrain which is dangerously slippery. Did I mention this is my first proper hike? I’m absolutely terrified.

I also have a thumping headache and an overwhelming urge to just say “Fuck hypothermia” and find somewhere to lie down.

But I don’t really want to die. So I start to (very) slowly follow Jake down. I’m so relieved when it stops snowing.

Then it starts raining really heavily. The descent should take four hours. It takes me seven. And it rains heavily the whole time. I am completely soaked through.

There is absolutely no way I’m staying in a bloody tent tonight. I demand to stay in the first hotel I see.

We walk in and immediately create a huge puddle in the lobby.

The concierge tells us they’re fully booked. I know he’s lying from the way he’s looking down his nose at us. There’s no point arguing though. So I shake myself like a dog (in his direction) before we leave.

We try every hotel and refuge we see. Every single one is fully booked. It’s late in the day and the weather is so bad that anyone intending to camp has decamped to hotels and refuges.

I am cold, wet, hungry and tired. Somehow I’m managing to hold it together. But I can feel the mother of all tantrums coming on...

I'm confused.

I can understand raclette being one of only two dishes available on Switzerland’s National Day but chicken curry? That makes no sense at all.

Unfortunately, neither option is appealing. Curry does very little for me and I’m not keen on eating a lump of grilled cheese.

But I’m starving and this is the only restaurant open in the vicinity.

A cursory glance around me confirms that all the other diners have opted for the traditional raclette; which explains the unappetising aroma of smelly feet.

I decide to risk the curry. The rice is bland and the chicken is rubbery. Bad food really upsets me.

I’m even more upset when the bill arrives; that boil in the bag excuse for a curry cost me twenty pounds! I’m tempted to refuse. Then I realise I should have asked how much it was before I ordered it.

I also realise that having a curry and sleeping in a small tent with your (relatively new) boyfriend probably isn’t a very good idea.

Luckily I’m too tired to care. I desperately want to sleep. But it feels odd being fully clothed. And the level of effort required to toss and turn until I find a comfortable position is ridiculous.

I really don’t like the sensation of being restricted by the sleeping bag. How am I supposed to move quickly in the event of an emergency? What’s to stop some lunatic from setting our tent on fire? We wouldn’t stand a chance; we’d be frazzled.

I lean into my bag and pull out Mia’s Little Teddy. She gave him to me before I left “just in case you need hugs mummy”.

I close my eyes and try really hard to sleep. I’m finally about to drift off. Then I realise that my breathing is becoming quite laboured. I shake Jake awake, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe”.

He unzips the tent – then points out that the tent has a ventilation panel. I’m still not convinced that I won’t suffocate.

I lie with my head outside the tent. At least this way I have a higher chance of survival in the event of an arson attack. Unless they set my hair on fire. Or stamp on my head.

I exhaust myself with one horrific thought after another until I eventually fall asleep.

My hair is damp from condensation when I wake up. I’m cold, wet and smelly. I sleepily make my way over to the shower block.

I make the mistake of looking in the mirror. I have incredibly puffy eyes. And my skin is blotchy. I rummage through my bag. Shit. I’ve forgotten my Talika eye therapy patches. It’ll take hours for the puffiness to subside without them.

Then I remember that I have sunglasses. And that they’re big enough to obscure half my face. Panic over.

Thankfully the shower is hot. And it stays that way for almost a whole minute. Then it’s ice cold. Cold water is supposed to be great for toning. I keep reminding myself of that as I shiver my sore arse off.

The woman in the cubicle next to me is making the whole experience even more unpleasant with her rasping cough.

And she makes the most awful noise when she gathers up the flem in her throat before spitting it out.

This means I have to stand on my tip-toes and watch the floor for any signs of floating flem; which makes washing my hair more difficult than it needs to be. And in turn makes me colder for longer.

I decide I really don't like this woman. Then she starts singing (loudly and off-key). This is possibly the worst shower experience of my entire life.

Thank god it’s over. I wrap myself in a towel and try to get dressed as quickly as possible.

The other cubicle door opens. I turn around, curious to see what this tone-deaf-gruff-sounding-flem-spitting-50-fags-a-day-woman looks like.

‘She’ is a man. A large naked man. We stare at each other for an uncomfortably long time.

I must say something to break the awkward silence “Brrr...it’s so cold isn’t it?” Shit. I involuntarily looked at his (very) small willy when I said that.

He quickly covers himself with a towel and disappears back into the cubicle.

I do feel a little (no pun intended) bad. But what exactly was he doing in the women’s shower room? And why did he come out stark bollock naked? Is he some kind of pervert?

Then another man walks in. And I realise I’m in the men’s shower room. Oh. I hurry back to the tent.

Jake drains my blisters and wraps up my toes. I strap the backpack across my bruised hips and we set off.

The pain really kicks in around the half-way mark. But I am determined to walk through it. And I’m doing quite well. Then last night’s curry starts making strange noises in my tummy.

I ask Jake how close we are to a bathroom. He checks the map. There isn’t one until we get to the refuge (which is at least two hours away).

There’s no way I can wait that long. He suggests I use my She-wee. I tell him I can’t. He asks me why. I tell him the clue is in the name. He looks confused.

I lose my patience (and my decorum) “I don’t need to wee Jake! I need to poo and I need to do it soon!”
He finds a relatively secluded area and digs a small hole. Then he keeps a look-out as I crouch over it. Oh the indignity of it all.

We’re still in the honeymoon period of our relationship. So I’ve been very careful not to fart, burp or do anything remotely unladylike in his presence. Now I’m (loudly) pooping into a hole with my trousers around my ankles.

I’m very subdued as we continue our ascent. We stop for a break and Jake pushes my hat back to kiss me. I pull it back down.

“No! I don’t want you to see my puffy eyes and my blotchy skin. It’s bad enough that you had to drain my ugly blisters, not to mention listen to me doing something in the woods that only bears should do. And I’m not a bear!”

He has a smile playing on his lips. I can tell he’s trying really hard not to laugh at me “No you’re not.”

He pulls off my hat, removes my sunglasses and plants gentle kisses all over my face “You’re beautiful and your blisters are cute”. I tell him he’s a liar “Ok. Your blisters aren’t cute but your feet are”.

I ask him if the bear in the woods incident has made me less sexy. “No..... but you did fart a lot in your sleep last night and that was kind of off-putting”.

I’m mortified.

Then he bursts out laughing. “I’m only joking!” His laughter is contagious. He pulls me towards him “Now stop being so silly and kiss me”. I do exactly as I’m told.

Then I eat lots of chocolate and the sugar rush lasts long enough to get me to the 2,500 metre Grand Col de Ferret. I feel a real sense of achievement as I happily pose for a photo with Little Teddy.

We’re about to enter my favourite country, Italy. And we’re going to spend the night in a dry refuge instead of a damp tent. Surely things couldn’t get any better?

No but as it turned out, they could certainly get a lot worse...

I jump up and down on the sofa while Mia hugs the TV.

“Mia, can you hear anything?” She listens intently before shaking her head.

"Neither can I sweetheart. Isn't that wonderful?" She tells me I'm being weird then goes back to hugging the TV.

It's blissfully quiet. I had almost forgotten the wonderful sound of silence; it feels so good to be home.

Then the doorbell rings. Bollocks.

Alison walks in brandishing a box of chocolates and a bottle of wine “Welcome back!” She pushes her daughter Megan towards the living room “Go and play with Mia”.

Then she gives me a big hug “I’ve missed you so much”. How strange. We’re not exactly close. We’re simply neighbours who exchange pleasantries over the garden fence occasionally.

And we haven’t even done that since she drunkenly flashed her breasts at me. Perhaps she thinks that incident forged some kind of friendship between us.

“I love your hair! It really suits you and it’s so shiny”. She starts stroking my hair.

Her over familiarity is very unsettling. I move my head out of reach "How did you know we were coming back today?"

She hesitates for too long before answering “I didn’t. I saw your car in the drive when I got home”.

She seems a little twitchy and nervous. I hope she isn’t going to expose herself to me again.

I lean in as she speaks so I can discreetly check her breath for alcohol.

Then she asks if she can use the bathroom before rushing off upstairs “We’ve been out all day and I’m a bit desperate”.

There is something very odd about her behaviour. And I intend to get to the bottom of it.

I turn to Megan “Have you been somewhere nice today?” She shakes her head. Apparently they’ve been at home all day waiting for us to come back.

Alarm bells start to ring;

How did Alison know we were due back today? Why did she lie to me about being out all day?

Why is she so desperate for the toilet when she has two of her own? And why go to the one upstairs when the one downstairs is closer? I tiptoe slowly up the stairs.

The bathroom door is open; she isn’t in there.

I find her in my bedroom on her hands and knees looking under my bed. I watch as she retrieves a red bra which does not belong to me “What are you doing?”

She looks up startled “Don’t judge me!” I tell her that I’m not interested in judging her but I am interested in how her bra came to be under my bed.

She bursts into tears and starts telling me how unhappy her marriage is. I cut her short “I just want to know why your bra is in my bedroom”.

Apparently she had a fling with one of my builders “and you had sex in my bed?” I am incredulous.

“I knew you’d judge me! You don’t understand what it’s like to be in a loveless marriage”. I tell her that I don’t give a shit about her cheating on her husband. But I am very upset that she did it in my bed.

Then I realise that if she hadn’t forgotten her bra, I would never have found out and I would have slept in those sheets. That is so disgusting.

She is still babbling on about her unhappy marriage as I strip the bed.

And she is getting progressively louder and more hysterical “We haven’t had sex for over a year! What was I supposed to do? He won’t even touch me”.

I tell her to keep her voice down and remind her that her daughter is downstairs. She eventually calms down. And asks me what she should do.

Ordinarily I would be a little more sympathetic to her plight but her lack of respect has really pissed me off. So I suggest she splashes some cold water on her face before she leaves.

I’m still fuming when Mia and I join the rest of the family at a Turkish restaurant to celebrate my brother’s birthday.

I have a quick flick through the menu and opt for something other than the usual shish kebab. But I’m not sure of the correct Turkish pronunciation for the dish that I want.

And I know that they will laugh at me if I get it wrong. It’s bad enough that I speak Turkish with an English accent.

So I play it safe and order it by number “Otuz bir (31)”. My mother looks horrified “You can’t say that”. “What? 31?” She apologises to the waiter who is looking a little flushed “She doesn’t know what she’s saying”.

I don’t understand “Why can’t I say 31?!” Then I realise that a hush has descended over the restaurant. And everyone seems to be staring at me.

The silence is broken by Ayse and Melek’s hysterical laughter.

Apparently 31 in Turkish is slang for male masturbation which effectively means that I ordered a wank.

I look around the table “Does everybody know about this?” They nod. Ayse splutters “I think you must be the only one that doesn’t” before cracking up again.

I suppose that makes sense because I don’t really mix in the community; the only Turkish people I spend any time with are my family. And it’s not really a topic of conversation that would ever come up.

“But why 31? Ours must be the only language in the world where a number means that. The number 13 would work better as the 3 could represent the hand” I start to illustrate what I mean.

My mother slaps my hand “Stop it, you’re making it worse”. But my curiosity has been aroused “Can anybody tell me why it’s called 31?” No. It just is. I try to let it go.

Then I find myself lying in bed still mulling it over. 69 I get, its’ meaning is clearly represented by the shape of the numbers. But I just don’t get 31.

It’s so random. There is no logic to it at all. It is yet another one of those inexplicable Turkishisms that I can file away along with the six month henna party and their unique approach to puberty;

When a child is six months old, the whole family gather together and the poor child has a lump of henna tied to one foot and one hand with pieces of silk whilst prayers are read from the Koran.

Then a wicker tray full of peanuts is passed around, each person throws in money and takes out a handful of peanuts in return (which makes them the most expensive peanuts you’ll ever eat).

The henna is kept on overnight before being removed, leaving the child with two orange splodges.

My mother insisted that I had to do that with Mia. And I agreed on condition that she could explain its meaning to me. She couldn’t “It’s just something we’ve always done”.

She had also used the exact same words to justify her bizarre reaction when I started my period;

I knew absolutely nothing about periods so when I started shortly before my eleventh birthday I thought I was dying. It took two full days and nights of constant worry before I confided in my mother.

Her reaction was to slap me hard across the face (as dictated by tradition) before bursting into tears and hugging me until I couldn’t breathe.

It was confusing to say the least.

But back to this whole number 31 thing – is there anyone out there who can shed some light on it for me?

I suspect they offer generous staff discounts.

Her face is completely unlined; almost wax like. And I am morbidly fascinated by her over-inflated lips.

I think she is trying to smile at me but it’s difficult to tell. “I can see why you would want your nose fixed. It’s not very straight is it? Have you broken it? You should also consider upper eyelid surgery; it would make you look less tired”.

Admittedly my eyelids have always been a little heavy but I’ve never really had a problem with that. She hands me a mirror then pulls my eyelids up to demonstrate how much more ‘awake’ I would look. And I find myself murmuring in agreement.

Then she says “Can I see your breasts? You could probably benefit from an up-lift too”. I fold my arms protectively across my chest and tell her that I quite like my breasts thank you very much.

She goes on to suggest liposuction on my bottom “to trim it down a little”. This really is too much. “I’m Mediterranean. I’m supposed to have a decent sized arse. Are you deliberately trying to piss me off?”

Apparently she is merely encouraging me to take advantage of this month’s special offer; three surgical procedures for the price of two. Now I understand. She’s a salesperson in a nurse’s uniform.

“Hmmm, three for two offers are hard to refuse”. Her face twitches slightly, she is trying to smile at me again>i> “Excellent. I’ll get the paperwork”.

I tell her I hadn’t finished “It’s hard to refuse the offer in a supermarket but much easier when it comes to putting my life at risk with unnecessary surgery”.

Another slight twitch, I think it’s a frown this time “I really am only interested in the rhinoplasty. When can I speak to the surgeon?”

She hands me a booking form and pen. “Just as soon as we have you booked in – when is good for you? We require a fifty percent deposit”.

I thank her for her time as I’m walking out. She follows me all the way to the door, trying to persuade me to sign the booking form.

I ask her how many people she has pressured into signing up for potentially life threatening surgery that they don’t actually need. It’s appalling how she plays on your insecurities.

Fortunately for me my intelligence outweighs my insecurity. I make a mental note to report the clinic to the GMC.

Then I walk further down Harley Street to see a surgeon recommended by a friend. His client base is all through word of mouth (not advertisements on the underground). And my consultation is with the actual surgeon.

I explain that I would like a nose job to straighten my nose and make it less prominent. He studies my face for a moment. “Your nose fits your face perfectly. I wouldn’t recommend rhinoplasty unless you absolutely needed it. It’s the most complicated facial surgery and the risk factors are high”.

I ask him about my upper eyelids. He smiles kindly at me “I wouldn’t touch them for at least another ten to fifteen years”. I want to know if there is anything else I can have done now to make me look pretty.

He shakes his head, “You are a very attractive woman and you have fantastic bone structure, just think yourself lucky”.

I remember that he also works for the NHS carrying out reconstructive surgery. And I leave the clinic feeling incredibly silly.

What on earth has happened to me? Since when did I decide it was worth risking my life and leaving Mia motherless for the sake of vanity?

I decide to scrap Plan A; I am most definitely not going to undergo any invasive surgical procedures.

But there is absolutely no harm in trying non-invasive natural alternatives that carry no risk at all right? And apparently Dracula Therapy is the hottest thing in anti-aging right now. It’s also my Plan B.

I have already done all the research but I listen patiently as the doctor explains the procedure.

He will draw blood then separate it into the red blood cells, the clear serum and the platelets. Then, after amino acids and vitamins are added, the enriched serum is injected back into my face. And my skin will look younger naturally.

I’m relieved when he produces a needle and draws four vials of blood from my arm; my keen sense of drama meant that I was half expecting him to sink his teeth into my neck.

I watch him preparing the serum and I start to feel like I’m in Frankenstein’s laboratory. I hum to try and drown out the two voices arguing in my head “How the hell do you know what he’s going to inject into your face? You could end up looking like Frankenstein’s monster. Don’t do it”.

“No. Do it. It’s only your own blood with lots of vitamins added to it. You’ll look all fresh and lovely”.

They are still arguing when he starts injecting my face from hair line to jaw line. My pain threshold is very low. And it really fucking hurts. I wince. “Stay still please”.

I want to get up and walk out but then one side of my face will look younger than the other. I curse myself for being such a shallow idiot.

Then I clench my fists and try to go to my happy place until it’s over.

It will take at least three weeks for me to see any effects. In the meantime my face looks like a pink pin cushion (without the pins obviously).

He advises me to have a top up in six months. I don’t think so.

At least my next appointment is going to be completely pain-free. A good haircut is supposed to take years off a person. And I have managed to book myself in with one of the best hairdressers in London.

I thought my face had calmed down a little but he asks me if I’ve just come out of the gym “You look a little flushed”. I nod then move on swiftly “What would you recommend? I don’t want to look mutton”.

We decide on a sleek graduated bob.

Then he suggests that I go for a deep conditioning treatment “I use an organic product with a lot of protein which is what hair is made of and lacks when it’s dry”.

I like the sound of that. He massages the treatment into my hair. I comment on the lovely smell “What’s in it exactly?”

It’s a mix of a protein rich plant called katera. And bull semen.

Bull semen? My hair is smothered in bull semen? And he couldn’t have told me that before? How do they get it? Do they make the bull wear a condom while it has sex or is someone masturbating it?

I try not to retch. I would insist on having it washed out immediately but this stuff doesn’t come cheap so I have to tough it out.

This means spending the next forty-five minutes sitting under a steamer so that the “treatment penetrates” my hair.

His unfortunate choice of words involuntarily set off a series of very disturbing images in my bull semen covered head.

Yuck. Yuck. Yuck.

It’s difficult holding this position. My legs are starting to ache. And my bottom is feeling cold.

The supermarket toilet is not the ideal place to do this. But I couldn't bear to wait any longer.

I’ve been hovering over the toilet seat holding the stick in what I hope is the right place for some time now (I find it hard to pee on demand).

Then I’m finally about to go when someone starts banging on the door “This is security. You’re in a disabled toilet.”

Damn. I’ve started now so I have to finish. I shout back in Turkish “Anlamiyorum sizi (I don’t understand you)”

There is a brief pause before another (older) voice pipes up. “Typical. She’s a foreigner. I expect she parks in disabled spaces too”.

He asks her if she’s sure that I’m not disabled. “Of course I am. I told you, I saw her walking in there bold as brass”.

I try to ignore them and focus on trying to pee on the stick. But they keep banging on the door “You shouldn’t be in there”.

I’m not quite sure what they expect me to do. I can hardly walk out mid-pee. And I have to wait for the result.

So I buy myself some time by having a rant at them “Nasil insansiniz yahu? Bakiniz beni rahat iseyim (what kind of people are you? Let me pee in peace)”.

Then I throw in a few “Allah Allah’s” for good measure.

There is silence from the other side of the door. Turkish is not a language that is easily identifiable so it throws people.

And the reference to Allah always works because people are either worried about appearing to be racist or fear that you may have terrorist links.

My heart is thumping as I watch the stick intently. A single pink line appears. I quickly double check the leaflet. Yes! It’s negative.

I step outside to find an elderly lady waiting to (rightly) chastise me. She points at the disabled sign on the door and speaks very slowly and loudly “This means it is for people in a wheelchair or for people with missing limbs”. I try not to laugh as she hops around on one leg to illustrate.

Then I practically skip all the way home. It’s lucky I’m in a good mood because my mother has been ‘taking care’ of me while I’ve been out.

And so far this has consisted of shrinking my favourite cashmere sweater, ironing sharp creases down my linen trousers and throwing away my distressed Seven jeans.

We sit down to eat. My father puts salt on his food before tasting it. Then he asks my mother for a lemon. She gets up, takes a lemon from the fridge, cuts it in half and hands it to him.

Then he asks for a napkin. And she gets up again. This happens several more times. “Dad, can you not just get things for yourself? She’s up and down like a yoyo. Her food’s going cold”.

She has always done everything for my father, right down to peeling his fruit. I’ll have to do something about that while I’m here.

I’m sure my mother is more than capable of rebelling (with a little encouragement).

He fixes me with a stare then continues eating his food. She has a little smile playing on her lips.

We finish our meals in silence. Then I tell them I’m going out this evening. And that I won’t be back until tomorrow. They exchange disapproving glances but say nothing.

I arrive at the bar early and watch Jake as he walks in. I can see girls nudging their friends and nodding towards him. He appears to be totally oblivious to the attention he attracts.

This happens everywhere we go. And it was something I found mildly amusing when I considered him a brief fling.

But now that I have fallen in love with him, it’s not in the least bit funny.

He gives me a long lingering kiss then tells me that he has a surprise for me. Oh dear. I am a control freak therefore I absolutely detest surprises.

I am appalled when he leads me into a karaoke venue. He has booked us a booth for an hour. I am struggling to understand why he thought this would be a good idea.

Then I remember him singing along to the Mamma Mia soundtrack in the car and trying to get me to join in. I had point blank refused “I don’t do anything that I know I’m not good at”.

But I did reluctantly admit to singing ‘No Woman No Cry” with a reggae band in Jamaica (having consumed copious amounts of rum). I enjoyed it so much that I refused to leave the stage.

They kindly allowed me to ruin a few more songs before I was carried off by their guitarist and deposited backstage.

There is audio evidence of that night. And I am definitely tone deaf. Jake assures me that the booths are sound proofed. But I am still a little embarrassed.

Then he says “You know if you just let yourself go a little this could be fun”. I hate being told to ‘let myself go’. Go where for fuck’s sake?

But I don’t want to seem ungracious so I reluctantly agree to give it a go. I cringe at my awful voice at first, only singing the odd line here and there.

But gradually I start to sing more and more until I can no longer hear how awful I sound. Then I fulfill a secret lifetime’s ambition by making him Danny to my Sandy and performing “You’re The One That I Want”.

This feels so liberating. My voice is hoarse by the time our hour is up. I thank Jake. Perhaps he knows me better than I think.

Then we do something I have managed to avoid thus far; we go back to his house. He has two tenants who pay his mortgage while he studies for his Masters degree.

I haven’t been out with someone in a house-share since my student days. I just hope his bed doesn’t creak.

The house is empty but I’m still a little uncomfortable. Jake puts me at ease very quickly. And I discover that he is a fantastic cook.

I savour every delicious mouthful of his home cooked lasagne. Then one of his tenants walks in. Agnes is French.

And I am very happy to note that she looks nothing like the playboy model I had envisaged. His other tenant is male so I can relax a little now.

Then Agnes’ gorgeous friend follows her in and my stomach tightens. Her eyes light up when she sees Jake.

Agnes introduces Millie to him but not me. Jake is quick to rectify that “This is my girlfriend, Kitty”.

I grin inanely at her. My fake smiles always make me look a little deranged, which may explain why she disappears upstairs rather quickly.

I spend the next five minutes watching Agnes trying to flirt with Jake.

He is polite but distant in the way he talks to her. She, on the other hand, is clearly smitten with him. I mention this when she leaves the room. He tells me that I’m “being silly”.

I find that incredibly annoying. I point out the constant flicking of her hair as she spoke to him and the puppy dog eyes. Not to mention the barely concealed hostility towards me. He opens his mouth to speak. I tell him I hope he isn’t going to patronise me again.

He admits that she is a little weird which is why he keeps her at arms’ length. Then I think about the way women stare at him everywhere we go. And my stomach tightens again.

I’m feeling incredibly insecure and that is a huge setback for me; one of the things I’ve enjoyed about getting older is the confidence that comes with it.

It’s taken a long time for me to become comfortable in my own skin. The realisation that I would never be pretty first hit me when I was nine;

We were in Cyprus and I had a cousin the same age who was not only beautiful but had blue eyes which made her very special. Everywhere we went, people stopped us to tell her how beautiful she was.

My mother tried to comfort me with “Never mind, you’re clever” so I threw myself into learning and being as smart as possible.

But I still couldn’t help wanting to be pretty. I used to look in the mirror and imagine how much better my life would be if only I looked like my cousin.

I didn’t see her again for nine years. And by that point I was utterly consumed with jealousy. I had to drink lots of vodka before I could go home and face that vision of perfection.

I walked in to find an acne ridden overweight teenager whose eyebrows met in the middle of those (admittedly) still beautiful blue eyes.

And I learned a simple lesson. Be happy with who you are. Don’t compare yourself to other people.

Then I read a quote from Anjelica Huston “Someone once said to me, you’ll never be pretty but you’ll always be magnificent”.

I had already accepted that my big nose and uneven features meant that I would never be pretty. So I focused on being magnificent.

But being with Jake could easily undo all my hard work.

I tell him I’m not sure I can do this “I don’t want to be constantly competing with other women”.

He tells me that I’m not competing with anyone. He has no interest in anyone else. He is in love with me. My stomach does a little flip. He is in love with me. We kiss and I start to unbutton his shirt when Agnes walks back in again.

She sits on the end of the sofa “So, how did you two meet?” Her manner is very abrupt. I tell myself that it could simply be because her grasp of English is poor. And that’s why I shouldn’t tell her to fuck off (yet).

Jake buttons his shirt back up “I don't mean to be rude but we’re trying to enjoy a romantic evening alone”. She remains seated.

Jake takes my hand and leads me to his bedroom. I warn him that she is a bunny boiler. And insist that he locks the door. I don't want to wake up with a knife in my chest.

Then I catch sight of myself in the mirror; the soft glow of moonlight falls across my face. And I can see my high cheekbones, almond shaped eyes and lovely lips.

I’m not pretty but I am magnificent.

I’m still staring at my reflection when the room suddenly becomes very bright. Jake has turned the light on because he wants to see me ‘properly’. I almost scream in horror. It was just a trick of the light.

I'm not magnificent at all. I'm hideous.

Perhaps it’s time to consider surgery?

I wake up in a state of panic. How long have I been asleep? Am I late picking Mia up? I check the time. Shit. It’s eight o’clock.

I stand up too quickly. And make myself dizzy. I lean against the wall to steady myself.

Then I remember that it’s Friday. And Mark picked Mia up from school today. But my relief is short-lived because I also remember that I was supposed to meet Jake thirty minutes ago.

I grab my phone; fourteen missed calls from him. He picks up straight away “What happened? Are you ok?” I assure him that I’m fine “I just had a little nap”.

He says he has been very worried about me. I’m a little confused. Then alarm bells start to ring; he has called me fourteen times in the last thirty minutes.

Damn it. I knew he was too good to be true. He is about to turn obsessive psycho on me.

The disappointment is evident in my voice “I think you’re over reacting a tad”.

He responds with “Really? You don’t turn up for our date last night and I don’t hear from you until this morning and you think I’m over reacting?”

Last night?

Apparently it’s eight o’clock Saturday morning. I am fully dressed, my feet are filthy and I have been asleep for almost seventeen hours straight.

I apologise profusely and promise that I’ll make it up to him tonight.

Then I realise that the house is eerily quiet. And that just adds to my sense of disorientation.

They must be having a lie-in. But why aren’t they snoring? Oh my god. I didn’t smother them in my sleep did I? I run into their (thankfully empty) bedrooms.

Then I go downstairs. The living room is empty but there is a pillow and duvet on the sofa. Who slept there and why? What is going on? I feel like I have woken up in some kind of twilight zone.

Then I have a flashback to what happened before I fell asleep yesterday afternoon (or lost consciousness, I’m not sure which);

My mother had started shouting at me the moment I walked in through the door “Why did you run off? Where did you go? We’ve been worried sick. You should have more consideration for us”.

And that’s when I snapped “I should have more consideration? What about your bloody snoring? And your noisy friends and canary and radio and television? I can’t sleep. It’s driving me mad. I want to smother you with your pillow just to shut you up”.

She ignored my outburst and put her hand on my forehead. “You feel hot” Then she looked down at my muddy feet. “You’re barefoot! What did you do with the slippers?”

I proudly declared that I threw them in the river. And when she asked me why, I told her that I didn’t want her life thank you very much. Then I went upstairs and collapsed on the bed.

I feel terrible. I must apologise to her. Where is she? The kitchen is empty too. Then I notice her through the window.

She is climbing up a ladder in the garden brandishing a hedge trimmer. And wearing her high heeled slippers.

My father is six foot four to her five foot nothing. So she wears heels all the time. And the fact that they caused her to break not only her own leg but my father's as well hasn't deterred her in the slightest.

Of course her version of events absolves both herself and her heels of any blame. Apparently my father lost his balance as he was getting in the taxi. She had tried to steady him. And he had fallen on top of her.

My father’s version (and the one we were all more inclined to believe) is that my mothers’ high heels had caused her to stumble on the cobbles. She had grabbed hold of him to steady herself as she fell backwards and pulled him down on top of her.

They were on holiday in Turkey at the time. And my father had refused to allow the surgeons there to operate on them. So my brothers had flown out to bring them back home.

We all dined out on that particular story for some time. They even featured on a BBC documentary about Guy’s Hospital when a doctor was asked about unusual cases and cited my parents.

There was a hilarious shot of them sitting opposite each other with their right legs in plaster.

I remind her about the metal plate in her leg. And suggest that she either gets off the ladder or takes off her heels.

She is (understandably) giving me the silent treatment. But her anger is evident in the ferocious way she is trimming the hedge.

I apologise for what I said yesterday. I explain that I was very tired. And that I didn’t mean it.

She brushes the trimmings off the top of the hedge. And right into my face. Then she gets off the ladder without acknowledging me. I stay a safe distance away until she puts the hedge trimmer down.

Then I follow her into the kitchen. The silent treatment is usually followed by lots of shouting and screaming.

I prepare for it by getting her the glass of water she’ll need when she feels faint because her blood pressure has gone up.

Then she throws me by asking (very quietly) “Do you think this is the life that I had wanted for myself?”

I wasn’t expecting that. And I’m not sure how to respond. I had always assumed that she was satisfied with her life. But I think I may have confused satisfaction with acceptance.

I know her life hasn’t been easy;

Her abusive bastard of a father died when she was ten and in that time widows could not remarry. So my grandmother took her out of school and engaged her to my father at the age of thirteen.

My mother never forgave her for that. Her friends were playing hopscotch while she was being a little housewife. She had five children (and a nervous breakdown) by the time she was twenty four.

Then the 1974 invasion happened and she had to leave behind everything she knew and start again with five children (I wasn't born until years later)

My father had suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and temporarily lost his sight the moment he got them all to the safety of the UK.

He was hospitalised for months. Meanwhile my grandmother had a stroke that left her partially paralysed.

I am still contemplating her life and my response when she answers her own question “No Kitty. This was not the life I wanted for myself and it is definitely not the life I would ever want for you”.

I suddenly feel very small. We sit in silence for a while. Then she says “I’m sorry my snoring has kept you awake. I’ll sleep on the sofa. You won’t be able to hear me from there”.

I tell her that I would rather find somewhere else for us to stay than force her out of her bed.

She shakes her head “No. You mustn’t leave. Give me the chance to take care of you, even if only for a few weeks”.

I tell her that I don’t need to be taken care of. She shakes her head as her eyes fill up. I hand her a tissue. “I know you don’t. You have always taken care of yourself. But I need to take care of you.”

I wait for her to continue. She nervously twists the tissue around in her hands “You were born at a very difficult time”.

She pauses as her voice falters “In Cyprus we had been rich. In England we became paupers. I was always busy working on that god forsaken over-locking machine when you were a baby. Then as you were growing up, I was either taking care of the grandchildren or my mother. You had to bring yourself up. It was easier for the others. They were a lot older and they had each other”.

The tears are streaming down her face “But you were alone. I never had any time for you. And I’m very sorry for that”.

I’m not sure what to say because what she is saying is true. And for a long time I simply thought she didn’t love me.

That's why I was angry with her for years. I tried to hurt her as much as possible because I held her responsible for every single thing that ever went wrong in my life.

Then I realised that there comes a point when you have to take responsibility for your own life and stop blaming other people for your bad choices.

So I decided that I would only ever look back to gain understanding, not to apportion blame; that allowed me to make peace with both myself and my mother.

And helped me to understand that she loved me as much as she possibly could.

I tell her that I have a lot to apologise for too. She says we are both guilty but that she is guiltier “I knew you were going through your own hell but I never asked you about it because I was afraid of the answers. I thought your pain would kill me.”

And I finally understand why she never reached out to me.

When Mia first cried because she missed her father, I did everything I could to make her stop. I offered her chocolate and when that didn’t work I tried to make her laugh by wearing knickers on my head and doing a silly dance.

Then I realised that I was being selfish. I wanted her to stop crying because I couldn’t bear her pain, particularly when I thought I was responsible for it.

So I took her in my arms. And I told her that it was ok to cry because she missed her daddy; her need to express that emotion was far greater than my selfish need to suppress it.

And had my mother’s life been different; if she were capable of those thought processes then I am certain that she would have come to the same conclusion.

I reassure my mother that I would have been a fucked up teenager even if she had spent every waking hour with me. And that there isn’t a single thing I would have changed because I am the sum of all my experiences.

I tell her that I couldn’t have asked for a better mother.

And I mean it because she was the best mother that she could possibly have been in those circumstances.

She gently strokes the scars on my arm and whispers “Thank you".

The mixture of gratitude and relief on her face is heartbreaking. I lean over and kiss her forehead.

Then she looks down at my bare feet “I’ll buy you different slippers. You can choose them”. I stand up and take a pair of fluffy pink boudoir slippers out of the box.

I squeeze my feet into them and smile “No mum, these ones are fine for me”.

Sleep deprivation has been used as a form of torture during times of war. And I can completely understand why.

I would be willing to divulge any and all information right now in exchange for some sleep.

Obviously this means that I must avoid my mother at all costs; particularly as she has yet to interrogate me about Jake. I am praying that she isn’t home. But I can hear the shrill tones of her gang even before I open the door.

All I want is some peace and quiet so that I can sleep. Is that really too much to ask? I close the door quietly behind me, remove my shoes and start to tip toe up the stairs.

Then I hear “Kitty! We’re in the kitchen. Come and join us.” Damn it. I’m really not in the mood for them. I try to ignore her and continue up the stairs.

But I’m not fast enough. Her head appears around the door “Come and say hello to Afet”. Great, her little club has a fourth member today.

She observes my bare feet. Then reaches into her slipper box and hands me a pair of high heeled fluffy red slippers.

I tell her that they are a little too boudoir for me. And a size too small. But she insists I squeeze my feet into them.

“You’ll get a stomach ache walking around with bare feet”. I’m too tired to challenge her village 'wisdom' so I decide to just do as I’m told.

Then she leads me into the kitchen and puts a small cup (decorated with a map of Cyprus) in front of me. I hate Turkish coffee but the quicker I drink it, the quicker I can escape.

They turn their coffee cups upside down onto their saucers as soon as they’re finished. I follow suit.

The saucers are also decorated with a map of Cyprus. And there is a framed map of Cyprus on the wall (lest we should forget where we’re from).

My mother takes Meyrem’s cup and starts ‘reading’ the coffee residue “I see a bird. Oh, that means you will fly, far, far away. I see a crescent. You will go back to Cyprus, for a visit, not forever”.

She claps her hands happily “Oh good”. Afet isn’t impressed “But you go back to Cyprus every year”. I seem to recall that there is some sort of friction between her and my mother.

Meyrem insists that she didn’t know if she would be going back this year. Afet scoffs “You told me you already had the tickets“. She shakes her head furiously “Fatma has just seen it in the cup. This is the first I knew of it”

My mother’s pursed lips are a warning sign. She clicks her knuckles. Then abruptly rounds up the reading “I see a tree, a tree bearing fruit, you will eat plenty of fruit. I also see sunshine. There will be sunshine in your life. Everything is good for you Meyrem”.

She puts her cup to one side and takes Afet’s. “I see a goat. A goat brings prosperity and wealth” Afet’s cynicism is quickly replaced by excitement at the mention of money "Am I going to win the lottery?"

My mother shakes her head as she looks in the cup “Oh no wait. It is a bad sign. The goat only has three legs, this is not good”.

Afet leans over to have a look at the cup. She moves it away from her and continues “I see tears, not of joy, but of shame and sadness. You must pray to Allah to forgive you for your sins”.

She is getting very upset “No, you are mistaken! I haven’t sinned”. My mother snaps at her “Yes you have. I see a figure of a woman, she is missing her hand. It has been chopped off for stealing”.

Poor Afet is very red in the face “Show me. Show me where you see this”.

She lunges for the cup. My mother clings to it and they tug at the cup between them. “Oh, you’ve ruined it. The coffee has moved. It’s just sludge now”.

Afet glares angrily at my mother whilst making a few choice hand gestures. Hatice grabs my mother’s monitor “Let me measure your blood pressure. I think it is dangerously high right now”

She shakes her off her arm. Then Afet gets up and storms out of the house. Hatice immediately asks if she really saw that in the cup. My mother shakes her head “No but I will never forgive her for what she did back in Cyprus.”

Apparently she stole loquats from her garden. “She’s always denied it but I saw her selling my loquats at the market and she didn’t have loquat trees in her garden, she had fig trees”.

I shake my head in exasperation “That was over thirty five years ago. Just fucking let it go”. She slaps me around the head in response. I take that as my cue to leave but she pulls me back into the chair. “Wait. I will read your cup then you can leave”.

She picks it up and stares at it for a while. “Hmmm...I see entwined hands. You will get married again to a dark haired man” I roll my eyes at her predictability. “I suppose he’s a Turkish Cypriot?” Correct.

Then I look down and realise that we are all wearing matching slippers. And somehow this image symbolises my future. My vision starts to blur.

She continues with “I see a stork”. I take a closer look at the cup. It really does look like a stork. “You will have another child. A boy”. She puts the cup down satisfied with her vision of my future.

Unfortunately it's a vision that is supported by the quartet of slippers that I can't stop staring at. My head is starting to spin.

Then she suggests I join them at the bingo hall this evening “We go every Friday”.

And it suddenly feels like the walls are closing in on me.

I can hear my mother shouting after me as I run out of the door and straight to the nearby river. The water usually has a calming effect on me. But all I can think of when I look at it now is the flooding that forced me out of my home. And back into my parents.

We’ve only been there for a few days but it feels like so much longer. And I’m scared the repair work will keep dragging on and I’ll be stuck there forever; wearing silly slippers and drinking coffee with nothing to look forward to except Friday night bingo.

That is not the life I had planned for myself. But I had never planned on being a single parent either. When I got married I had expected it to last for the rest of our lives. I had wanted someone to grow old with. I still do.

But I’m in love with a man I feel I have to stay young for. And what’s even worse is that despite being insanely pre-menstrual for a week, my period never actually arrived.

Apparently that is a relatively common occurrence with the type of pill I’m taking. But I have to consider the possibility that I may be pregnant. I know. I should just take a pregnancy test. And I will. Just as soon as I have prepared myself for the worst case scenario;

The options are simple. If I am pregnant then I either continue with the pregnancy or I terminate it.

I can’t continue with it.

Jake isn’t ready for that sort of responsibility and it’s not something I want to do alone again. In fact, right now, it’s not something I want to do at all.

So I have to terminate.

Then my hand instinctively (and protectively) moves to cover my stomach. I always said I would terminate an unwanted pregnancy. But I have never been tested on that. And I’m not sure I could bring myself to do it.

I would forever be thinking “My baby would have been crawling around about now.... My baby would have been starting school now.... My baby would be graduating now”. It would become a stick to beat myself with for the rest of my life.

So the options are actually anything but simple. What the hell am I going to do? And why is there a dog licking my toes? I pull my feet away from it.

Then I notice that the red boudoir slippers are covered in mud. And that means they no longer match the others. I stomp around in the mud to make them even dirtier.

But the scary symbolism is still visible in the remaining traces of red. So I take them off and throw them in the river. Then I feel much better. I also feel a little delirious.

I really need to sleep. And no canary and its radio or mother and her cronies or worries about babies that may or may not exist are going to stop me.

I walk barefoot back towards the house (hoping I don't get a stomach ache).