IT’S NO GOOD CRYING

And I walk in to find Mum stroking Yvonne’s head.

‘There there there,’ Mum says. ‘It doesn’t matter, love. Don’t cry.’ They are wrapped together like (I don’t know what.) She spilt the milk mum mouths to me. And broke the jug.

And I imagine Yvonne skipping in spring sunshine to borrow milk from the Packers. Then, as rain pelts down, she dashes through a downpour to the black hut. Clouds impair the sky. She’s carrying the blue and white striped jug with a doily covering it. Is she crying? I can’t tell because of the rain. Anyway she’s decided to shelter until it eases. She stumbles over the threshold and into the metallic smell of the hut. She reaches out for balance and lets go of the jug. It smashes and the milk soaks into the floorboards. The milk mummy needed. Drinka Pinta Milka Day. Custard to go with apple pie. She reaches out and lifts the handle, dangles it from her thumb and forefinger. The milk dribbles away, stains the wood just as tears cloud her thoughts.

And I am with her as he asked her if the milk was worth a kiss. I feel his arm holding her as his face drew nearer. I can smell the stale smoke on him, see the crescent scar above his eyebrow, feel the bristle of his moustache on her cheek, hear the snore of breath in the back of his nose. I can tell when she closed her eyes. I knew she tensed. She was repelled all right. Shocked.

Now back in the hut she hears some loose tarpaulin flap against the roof. Rain has eased. She picks the shards of crockery, wraps them in the muslin cloth. Now she makes a run for home.

And I watch her drop the crockery on the kitchen floor. She pricks her finger. Cries again. But stops as she pops the finger in her mouth.

And I know that his could have been me if I hadn’t deliberately dallied on my home.

And I ask myself is she crying because she spilt the milk? Perhaps because she broke the jug? Or is it out of fear of the gritty moustache on her cheek, the hand that strokes her leg?

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