Launch pad


The woman stands, flexing her long toes over the edge of the brickwork.

Her arms are held outwards, elbows so slightly bent that unless an observer chose to look closely, they would think her arms were ramrod straight. Her wrists are loose, flexing to allow her hands to rest, palms down as if on pillows. In her mind’s eye, she is poised like a ballerina en pointe, giving the illusion of effortless grace.

And yet all her muscles are screaming with the effort to hold this pose.

She looks outwards, eyes trained towards the horizon, over and above the valley in which is nestled her home town, the place she had fled a lifetime ago, jettisoning herself towards a life of excitement, discovery and more than anything else, freedom.

She had high hopes, exacting ideals. She would never have to scrimp and save, buy own-brand cereals or watch everyone else sipping cocktails in bars whilst she nursed a diet Coke, nose pressed against the window, on the outside looking in. Energy bills would be an irritation rather than something to lose sleep over. She would blossom, become a man or woman’s one desire, have children, grandchildren, be surrounded by love. She would succeed.

Oh, she knows this town like the back of her hand. The petty resentments and gossip on which it thrives, the sideways looks, the pitying whispers, the ‘thank God it’s her and not me’ huddles on corners of streets, they are like a film playing over and over in her head, clouding her vision, thrumming in her ears.

How much is a person supposed to bear? How long can the distractions of life fill those empty nights? What is the point if behind that veneer of success, there is nothing? No family, no partner, no children, nobody to care whether you had a good day, an easy journey home, whether you eat dinner or not. What is the point?

She had only wanted to escape from the dullness, the loneliness, the relentless grey of small town life.

Too late she had realised that no matter how far you fly, you are always there, dogging your own footsteps like a ghost.

So here she is, toes curled, gripping tight to the brickwork, focusing grimly on the horizon, the setting sun, the silhouetted hills.

She leans forwards. She launches. She sets herself free.

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