I wasn’t always like this, you know. I used to be this insecure pretty thing that blushed when someone said something kind. I always went out of my way to please people, no matter whether it was one of my friends, my mum, a complete stranger or even a teacher. I always worked hard and I was never late for school. Hell, I went to school! But all that changed when I tripped over my own roots, if you know what I mean.
I've never known my dad, because he died when I was little. My mum didn't like to speak about him. I was thirteen when I found out he didn't die from cancer or a meteor kissing him on the head, like ordinary dads, but because he killed himself.
It was a Sunday evening in September when I found his death certificate. As usual, mum was in the Queen's Head, the pub down the road. Before she left off, I said something about that, but she just laughed at me and said I was jealous because I had no social life and she did. I guess she was right, though. My old friends from primary school had forgotten about me, and spending any more time than necessary with one of my new classmates? So not happening!
Anyway, I was on my own, going through her old clothing in the attic. I'd seen her wear a naff leather jacket in an old picture, where I was still a baby, and I was hoping I could give this dead cow a third life. Surrounded by bottle-green blazers, cashmere cardigans, bright Pashminas and ugly fur boots, I found a notebook covered in Chinese silk. I stroked the red embroidery before I dared to open it. It felt delicate, and somehow I knew this silk had drunk mum’s tears. I heard birds singing through the open window and noticed it was getting dark, when I opened the diary and started to read.
The first pages were quite boring, really, she nagged about how hard life is when you’ve got no money and you’ve got no job and you’re afraid your boyfriend will run off with your best friend. And then an envelop fell out of the back. I expected a job offer or an energy bill she couldn't pay – it did look rather official – but I wasn't particularly hooked by her ramblings, if you know what I mean, so I picked it up and peeked inside. So there it was. Benjamin McDermott, that's my dad's name. Cause of death: poisoning. Manner of death: suicide.
I was absolutely gobsmacked.
I felt like I had discovered something I was not supposed to know. I looked at the mess I had made of the attic and it made me want to run.
I reckon I crammed everything back in the closet before I left, but in all honesty, I can't recall. It sort of felt like my skull was stuffed with angora knitts and the only thing I could think was: 'why on earth did she never tell me?' I don't remember whether I ran down the stairs or tried not to make a sound. I don't remember whether I cursed or cried. But I know for sure that I hated him for killing himself and I hated her for not telling me. It made me sick to be in their house and I never wanted to come back.