The girl without a face

Another evening, same meal. I stand dutifully at the table corseted in my Sunday dress. Ma and pa stab at the lacklustre potato chunks on the large communal plate. Pa’s worn face has a doleful gaze. Ma’s is harder to read.

Our oil lamp shines like a Christmas star above the table. As if the nooks and crannies of our hovel have anything to hide! Just a few ladles and a painting adorn its dank walls.

We all wear the same drab earthen blue, the ladies’ flaccid bonnets doing their best to look white and not grey. My aunts have skin like the bark of knotted willows. Mine is still the bark of a silver birch sapling struggling to survive.

The clock strikes seven. Ma and pa continue to eat without exchanging a word while my two aunts natter incessantly about all and sundry but nothing in particular, their speech punctuated solely by sips of insipid coffee.

Caught between babble and silence I look beyond ma and pa to the painting on the wall, a present from a would-be-preacher, a newcomer to these parts.

Pa pushes the plate towards me. I listlessly pop the starchy lumps into my mouth gulping coffee to wash the blandness away.

Full but not satiated I gaze out of the window into a night darker than my hair is black. My eyelids fall and I dream inside our painting. I’m the blond-haired, girl in turquoise-azure dress laughing outside with the boy in crimson red.