CHAPTER 1

 

This is the story of Bella, who woke up one morning and realised she'd had enough.

She's no one special. England's full of wounded people. Quietly choking. Shrieking softly so the neighbours won't hear. You must have seen them. You've probably passed them. You've certainly stepped on them. Too many people have had enough. It's nothing new. It's what you do about it that really counts.

She could have done the decent thing. She could have done what decent people do. She could have filled her gently rounded belly with barbiturates, or flung herself, with gay abandon, from the top of a tower block. They would have thought it sad, but not unseemly. Alas, poor Bella, they would have said, as they shovelled what remained of her into the waiting earth. She must have had enough, they would have said. At least she had the decency to do the decent thing.

But pain and Bella made poor companions. She ran from pain, and thought it wouldn't find her. She shut her eyes, and held her breath, and hoped that pain would pass her by. The very thought of slicing into pale, translucent skin, or laying down her nubile form on the London-Brighton line, or hanging from the ceiling, with a flex around her neck, was enough to make her sphincter almost lose its cunning.

Pain, in short, was not her cup of tea.

There might have been another reason why she couldn't do the deed. Another reason why she carried on, regardless. Perhaps it was the thought of having been, and gone, and left no mark. The thought that if she finished it, she would have had no story. The thought that no one even knew her name. For though she barely was alive, she wanted them to know her name. She wanted them, if nothing else, at least to know her name.

Some people are good at life, and some are bad. Bella was bad. No on had taught her how to do it, so she stumbled along in the dark. She went crashing into taste, and tripping over refinement, and knocking her head against the brick wall of success and everlasting happiness.

She wasn't very good at playing the game, but she'd learnt to be a good loser. Losing seemed to suit her. It was something familiar, like an ache that's always there, but you know you'll miss it if it ever goes. The wonder is it didn't make her bitter. But it didn't.

All she wanted was to be left alone, which didn't seem a lot to ask. She expected little, and received less, and thanked her gods for what she got.

She'd found herself a tiny space, and you wouldn't begrudge her that. She'd carved out a space, in a basement flat, in a road that ran down to the sea. She sweltered in the summer, and shivered in the winter, and spent her evenings searching for damp, and it was a dull, grey life, a mutant kind of life, an abortion of a life. But it was hers, and she accepted it.

And nothing would have changed, no one would have known her name, but for the man who watched her. An ordinary man, who watched her from his window. A man who watched and wanted, as he stood there at his window. He saw her in her basement, and had to have a go. He didn't have the sense to let her be.

He thought she was an empty vessel that he alone could fill. He thought he'd take her by the hair and pull her through the street. He thought he'd clamp a hand across her mouth, and bend her into what he wanted. His trouble was he thought too much. A little mind with big ideas.

For Bella couldn't bend.

As he found out, as she found out, Bella could only break.

 

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