...if you've got a moment, have a read and let me know what you think. It's a long one, but this is how it kicks off.
The Woman in the Wall
I practice a lot at home. Tonight is no different.
'Tell me where you're from,' asks the woman in the wall and I do. She knows the story well enough now to correct me if I slip up. I know the story well enough not to.
'Just outside Glasgow,' I say.
'I ken Glasgow very well,' she says.
'It's a tiny village,' I say. 'On the outskirts.'
The wall is ordinary. Wallpapered with faded old-people wallpaper, to match the speckled formica kitchenette and pink bathroom suite. When I moved in I thought I might do something with the cottage, make it into a home, but it doesn't bother me that much. It's not like I've ever lived anywhere nice. There will be time for that.
For now I just like the fact that when I lie on the floor on my back and look up out of the cottage windows I can see the air, real air that's invisible all the way up to the sky. Not second-hand city breath, but air as clean as a sheet on the line and smelling just as fresh. For that alone, the cottage is worth the long bus trip in to work in Edinburgh.
'I ken most of the villages outside of Glasgow too,' says the woman in the wall.
'I went to boarding school down south.'
'Och, I loved hockey!'
'Last time you said lacrosse,' I say.
'I like to keep you on your toes,' says the woman in the wall.
'I was more of a bookworm,' I say. 'And I loved maths.'
'An accountant from an early age!' says the woman in the wall and I smile. 'You're showing too many teeth,' she says and I press my lips together, hiding the black scars of cheap fillings, put in too late. The price of a childhood of jeely pieces and gobstoppers.
The afternoon light is fading, adding blotchy grey shadows to the pale roses and creeping vines of the wallpaper. Usually I'm not home until after dark, even in summer, and it stays light most of the night in summer. The woman in the wall says I work too many hours, but I tell her it's my life. She says that's daft and life should mean a social life. I tell her she's my social life and then she'll stop talking, but I know she's pleased.
I start to cough. I've been coughing for a few days, hacking coughs that stoke a fire in my chest that burns constantly now, even when I'm just breathing. Stuart sent me home early today; told me to see a doctor, but I stay away from doctors, because the last thing I want to do is discuss my family history. 'And what did your mother die of?'