One of the cheap; brightly coloured plastic pegs that I’m using to hang out the washing, slips through my cold fingers. There it will lay - a bright red one - hidden in the slightly damp grass until tomorrow morning, which isn’t actually that far away.
Its half past midnight, maybe even quarter to one; dawn is only a couple of hours away at this time of year, and I’m standing outside in just a blue toweling dressing gown hanging out the washing. It’s only a small garden, but even so, the far end of it is in total darkness. The shed windows are the only points of reference, reflecting back the lights that I have left on in the kitchen. As I get to the end of the washing line with the last few pairs of stripy socks, I’m aware that I feel slightly scared out here, and I start to rush. It’s not the darkness, but the absolute silence that unnerves me. It’s as though the world is holding its breath until it goes blue in the face. I can’t hear any cars, planes or people. Right now, I could be the only person on the planet. I think back to six hours ago when the garden was brightly lit with hot sunshine on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year so far. Beth and Ann - my daughters - sat on a tartan blanket on the warm grass, while I cooked on the BBQ. When did I last cook outside for them both? It has to be six or seven years ago. As I flipped over half blackened sausages and burgers I could hear the girls gossiping and laughing about the colourfully covered celeb magazines they had brought with them.
‘Oh yea, she’s such an old slapper, why would she go out with him?’
They don't see that I half smile to myself happily, and for a moment everything in my head is normal.
The warm sun that I welcomed earlier has been replaced by a lovely coolness, and I stand outside the back door for a moment and stare up into the night sky, breathing in the cold air, ignoring the midges that are biting my bare legs. Now I have to, I don’t want to go indoors. I want to stay up and not go to sleep. Flickering stars from distant galaxies look back at me, as though they are begging me to stay. As I turn my back on them, and close the kitchen door, I’m the only person on the planet who is awake.