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Competition Excerpt

The following excerpt is to be used in a joint competition between Writing Magazine and FeedaRead.com in November 2013. Details of how to enter are at the bottom of the excerpt.

“You haven’t told me much about your family,” I said.

“No.”

She began the process of preparing another roll up. “Will you be a sweetie and get me another can out the fridge?” she asked. She wasn’t slurring, but her voice had a tired, drunken, up all night quality to it.

“OK.”

I did as she asked, re-appearing with the can just as she was draining the dregs of its predecessor. “Sorry sweetie,” she said as I re-position myself on the floor. “You must be knackered, working all night then having to deal with my crap.”

Actually, she was right; the wired euphoria had faded and my upper-eye lids were starting to feel like they had small weights attached to them. Only my interest in Angela, my desire to help her, or maybe just my desire for her, was keeping me awake.

“It’s OK,” I said.

She lit her cigarette and opened her can, once more indicating the photograph, this time with her eyes. “My brother George,” she said. “He rang me last night. Just to see how I was. I said I was fine. He does that every now and again, out of the blue. I do it with him too. Sometimes we don’t speak for six months, nine months; maybe it’s been a year this time. We don’t even send Christmas and birthday cards, not always. Then we get in touch, just like that. I haven’t seen him for three years, since our dad’s funeral. He’s nearly four years older than me.” She paused, drank some more, smoked some more, closed her eyes as though in deep concentration. I remained silent as she spoke. It was obvious that something big was coming.

“We used to mess about when we were kids; just ‘you show me yours and I’ll show you mine’ kind of stuff. It didn’t matter that we were brother and sister, then, we were just little kids. It probably goes on more than people think, more than they’ll admit.”

“Yeah.”

“Anyway, when I was nine or ten it started to go a bit further. He was twelve, thirteen. It wasn’t like before. He was getting erections for one thing, and I knew that that made things different, though I didn’t really know why. He started giving me some of his pocket money if I’d touch him. It didn’t seem like a big deal, and I never had much as a kid. We were always skint in our family. Then he started to give me a bit more if I’d wank him off properly. I remember the first time he came in my hand. It was a shock. I was quite innocent, I didn’t know what happened. He just sort of groaned and went rigid and all this stuff shot out. It was weird, sort of interesting weird. I didn’t know what I should think about it, so I just washed my hands and went off to spend the money he’d given me. I think it was a quid, then. We did that regularly for a while and then he got me to start sucking him. I think that was a quid-fifty or two quid. I wouldn’t let him come in my mouth, and then I did. Maybe he paid me more for that. It’s hard to remember now; it’s confusing. I don’t know if I went along with him just for the money, or because I was curious, or because I liked it, or what; probably a bit of all three.

 “After a while, maybe a year or so, he got someone else involved, a cousin, Nick. He used to pay George, and George used to pay me. I think George was taking a cut. My main worry was that I’d get into trouble if our mum and dad found out.

“When I was twelve our George started having sex with me, like all the way, sticking it in me sex. At first it hurt and I didn’t like it. Then I got used to it. Then, I don’t know, maybe I did like it. Soon, Nick started having me too. Sometimes it was both of them together. We’d do it round at ours on a Sunday afternoon when dad was out drinking and mum was at the bingo, or else we’d go down the allotments at night.”

Her eyes were open now, staring off into the distance, through the open balcony door. The metal arch could be seen beyond the roofs of the housing estate. It was hot and sunny, getting progressively more so as the morning progressed, but a slight breeze was playing with Angela’s growing hair, briefly disturbing a few strands then putting them back in place, then repeating the process. Her cigarette was dead between her fingers; her can at the ready by her knee. She continued talking without looking at me.

“I didn’t put a stop it until I was fifteen. That was when George suggested getting some of his friends involved. ‘We could make a lot of money,’ he told me one afternoon after he’d finished screwing me on his single bed. I realised then that I had a choice. I could become a proper, full-on prostitute, or I could stop. I didn’t want to be a whore. The whole thing was making me sick; I hated myself for going along with it for all that time. I’d started nicking me dad’s whisky, turning up at school half-pissed. I started doing this as well.” She pushed up the sleeves of her T–shirt, revealing the faint scars on her wrists that I’d noticed that first night together. “I started cutting myself.”

Tears were in her eyes now. I was at a loss as to what to say, what to do: should I offer physical comfort, take her in my arms and hold her? Would this be appropriate? “God, I’m sorry, I’d no idea,” I said. That was all I could manage.

“No, why should you. It’s my crap. Anyway, to cut a long story short, my mum noticed the scars and a teacher noticed the drinking and I got taken to our G.P. He sent me to a psychiatrist. That was Dr Kollontai. She was half-Russian and she was lush, with gorgeous black eyes, and really easy to talk to. That’s when it all came out. I’d already told George I wasn’t going to go along with it anymore, the sex, and Alex, Dr Kollontai, didn’t make me go to the police, though she told me that I had that option, and that she’d support me all the way, if that’s what I wanted.”

Angela paused, smoked and drank and looked at me through blurry eyes. “I haven’t told anyone about this since I first got together with Hannah.”

 I nodded. “Thanks. I’m glad you told me.”

She snaked a hand across the carpet and patted my arm briefly before lifting her can once more to her lips. “Thanks sweetie,” she said after taking a big drink. “So, that’s that one done. The other thing we need to talk about is you and me.”

My heart and stomach sagged again. I knew what was coming. Or thought I did.

“Anyway, to go back a minute, talking to Dr Kollontai helped me to realise I was gay. I always knew I was anyway, but I didn’t want to admit it to myself; until then. I mean, I still had that thing with Tim after Mary finished with me, but I always knew I preferred women, really. With Tim, it was just sex, same with the one night stands I’ve had with men now and again.” She paused again; cradling her can almost suggestively in the palm of her hand. “I mean, sometimes I’ve just got pissed and needed a fuck. It’s not hard for a woman to go out and get a man for the night. It’s much harder to get a woman.”

I nodded again. I knew from painful, bitter experience that this was true, unless you were prepared to pay for it. “Yeah,” I said.

Angela took another drink. “Like I keep saying, I hate the word ‘Bi-sexual’. I’m a gay woman who has sex with men now and again. But I’ve never considered a proper relationship with a man since what our George did, the fuckin’ low-life bastard. Now when we speak on the phone or meet up, we just pretend it never happened; because it’s easier that way.”

She stopped talking and turned her head to look out of the window, at the sunlit-world outside. Then she looked me directly in the eye, a rare event which sent a shiver of excitement through my soul. “I’ve never been able to trust a man because of him; until now.”

November 2013 competition. The question about this extract for the November 2013 competition to win a Bloomsbury Editor critique is as follows. Enter the answer to the question by clicking on 'Competition' at the top of the FeedARead.com homepage and following the rules outlined on that page:

What was Angela’s cousin called?