I remember your laugh, a cackle, irrepressible and sometimes never ending, echoing down the stairs. Wooden stairs, or were they covered in lino, scuffed by hundreds of feet up and down in that damaged old house. There were eight of us living there, all running away from parents or vindictive peers. You sat cross-legged on your bed, the mattress full of dust. Look what a state you said hitting it hard, coughing and cackling under clouds descending and you lying under clouds, deep grey skies, an overgrown path at the valley bottom, damp, never seeing daylight. I willed you to get out of bed, tried to get you to come to parties and gigs, but you preferred to stay in your low ceilinged room, with the metal
bed, the dust. When you were a teenager your parents banned you from having friends round, so you climbed onto the flat roof outside your window, and climbed down the drainpipe. Your parents had their own demons, death camps, death, deathly seriousness, living in the suburbs of south London where the neighbours stared at your black clothes. They sent you to a therapist, said you were psychologically unwell, but is having dyed hair a sign of mental illness? Zina, you made me laugh so much; you cackled and sucked hard on your roll-ups, but you fell for men who were experts at stringing you along, invisibles ropes round your waist, caught in a line of other women. You tried running away again, to an itinerant life, wood fires, cold mornings, a baby crawling through fields. You played your violin, dreamed in front of the flames, asleep, awake, but the wood smoke and tobacco smoke and maybe even dust caught you, delving deep into your lungs. We loved you so.
Rachel Wild is based in London. Her short fiction and flash fiction is published in The Honest Ulsterman, Ellipsis Zine, The Nottingham Review and elsewhere. A micro piece has recently been published in Versification. She is an editor at The Forge Literary Magazine.