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Sick Notes

by Gwendoline Riley

This is the story of Esther, who returns from the States to look for an answer to her loneliness. She seems to have friends but turns away from them all and lives in a dream world. It leaves you wondering whether any of her stories are true. There are some powerful descriptive passages and I wanted to read it to the end but be warned, this is a depressing and complex read. Not for those seeking a light-hearted or uplifting reading experience.

Extract

Back in the flat the bathroom is spinning so I spin the opposite way, smashing both my elbows on the tiles. Then I fall on my knees and make woozy eyes at myself inside the bottom half of the looming mirror. I start sweet-talking my smeary reflection in a sibilant whisper, twitching on eyebrow up and nodding. I get bored with that, rock forward onto all fours and crawl off slippily down the dark hallway towards my bedroom, grazing my knees through my jeans as I go. My eyes are stinging and my skin has an electric tingle in the cold. Silence presses into my thoughts: when I'm making a setentious speech to someone I knew once. I sit down with my back against the radiator. I feel the burn of the cold metal through my cardigan. I hold a hand out and see myself blurring around the edges. Well ... either blurring or glowing ... I stand up and shake myself, clench my teeth to make myself calm. Then I go into the kitchen, take some of my donated crockery from the cupboard and start bowling it down the hallway. I wear myself out at that, and decide to make a nice ghoulish suburban scene for when Donna comes home. I crouch in a darkling corner, with my shoulders hunched, my knees drawn up and a faraway look in my eyes. Broken china round my bare feet. 'I have missed you' she says when she gets in and finds me. I feel a lot better. I don't hoover now, I just put my shoes back on and pick up the bigger plate shards, then find a black marker pen in the cutlery drawer and write on a sheet of our thick cream paper: BARE FEET BEWARE and lay it by the front door with the snow globe holding it in place.

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