Short fiction by Chloe Turner
Ten minutes before the first guest is due, Marlie Harris is drawing. The birthday girl’s trainers dangle over the sofa edge, their sequinned sides pulsing with the rotation of the glitter ball. She’s got a sketch book on her lap, but with a pink triangle of tongue pressed between thin lips, she’s tracing an outline across the inside of the left hand armrest instead. Penis and scrotal sack, in black marker pen; disquieting against the crinkled cream leather.
The drawing is careful and, for an eight year old, admirably correct in its anatomy. It’ll be something she’s recalled from the inside covers of her cousin Kieron’s school books. Marlie is always keen to demonstrate what she’s learnt from Kieron; last time he visited from Dublin, he mocked her rainbow doodles. (And for owning a doll at eight years old…Astrid was buried the next day, with little ceremony, at the cat-shit end of the sand pit.)
A refined nose might pick up a hint of juniper in the air. Marlie’s mother, Lou, is in the kitchen, pouring a generous Bombay Sapphire: several hours before her usual tipple, and light on the tonic. But aside from the gin’s astringent ping, the overriding odour is of candy floss. Hot pink candy. The atmosphere is thickening with the sweet stink of it.
‘Christ, Stu, how much did you put in that thing? It reeks.’ Clacking through to the lounge in heels she’s already regretting, Lou glares at the machine on the side board. A gleaming apparatus of industrial proportions, the machine whickers flesh coloured sugar grains into soft, pink clouds. Lou slops gin onto polished maple in her haste to access the off switch. She can’t find it; twists a dial which eases the machine’s speed instead, then crouches to gather up the pink fluff which has fallen.
‘Oof,’ she says, then remembers Stu pursing his lips, saying that noise makes her sound like some knackered old bag. Her heels buckle outwards as she heaves herself back upright, grabbing the sofa back for support. Who’s he to talk? He’s got grey curls in his chest hair, and a sag around his jaw. Lou throws the handful of candy floss back into the metal pan, feels the tacky sugar residue in her palm.
Terri-Ann Davies came up with the candy floss maker, from the sweet shop where she works. It’s the only reason her daughter Joanne will attend. The urge to avoid – exclude – Joanne, with her ratty plait and her charity shop Disney dresses, is one of a bare handful of sentiments that mother and daughter share, though for different reasons. Lou doesn’t feel good about it, but candy floss makers don’t come cheap, and Marlie Harris is in the habit of drawing up a long list of birthday demands.
‘Marlie, tell me next time, yeah? If it’s overflowing,’ Lou says, careful to keep it light. ‘Now, where are those skewers I bought?’
Marlie doesn’t reply, just eases a scatter cushion from under her side so that the marker pen outline is better concealed under its purple silk piping. It’ll stay covered for a while yet.
Even with the dial turned down, the sideboard is rocking with the vigour of the candy-floss maker’s spin. With each fresh batch of spun sugar, the aluminium box judders forward a centimetre or two. But Lou has already moved on, to the lid of the underused piano; she rearranges the food that she set up earlier, shifting paper plates of cocktail sausages and crisps. Looks behind the pot of hummus that her sister Han recommended as a token gesture, and under the tray of crudité she knows will be ignored.
‘What’s this, what’s this? Did I hear there was candy floss in the house? As if by magic?’ Marlie’s father, Stuart, is halfway down the stairs. His whole body swings one way and then the other with each step, a mobile swagger which he’s adopted to fit the lower centre of gravity of middle age. He’s slicked back his hair today, because he likes to think he’s still got it.
‘It’s not magic, Dad. It’s a metal thing that whizzes round. And you bought the sugar, anyway, so you know that.’
Marlie may be rolling her eyes, but she still jumps up and runs to hug her father, catching him at the foot of the stairs. She fans newly polished rainbow fingernails over the midnight blue polyester of his Everton shirt.
‘You got me, baby girl. Now, is my princess all ready for her special day?’
Marlie steps back, gathering up the flounced red tulle of her pageant dress, and curtsies for her Daddy. The hairdresser wired her ponytails earlier, so they stick out at right angles above her ears. It doesn’t look as elegant as she’d hoped. When Stuart grins, so that his two front teeth hug his lower lip, Lou hears her sister Han’s voice, begging her to drag him to the dentist. But if Han knew him better, she’d know that his vanity is trumped by his paralysing fear of the drill; he’d have done it long ago if he could.
‘Wait a minute. Which wicked witch has put a blemish on my beautiful princess? I must break this spell at once.’
‘What is it, Dad?’
When Marlie sat back earlier to admire the detail of her drawing, she caught the apple of her right cheek with the pen, and it’s this streak that Stuart has spotted. He licks the pad of his thumb, smooths it across the mark. Then, frowning, rubs harder.
‘What you got here, love? It won’t come off.’
Lou’s shaking her head. ‘Five minutes to go. Could we please…?’ She promised herself she wouldn’t lose it.
‘Keep your hair on, Lou-Lou. Just give us some of that stuff you use. If there’s any left, the way you slap it on.’
Lou’s shoulders stiffen, but she’s turned for the stairs when the doorbell goes. Happy Birthday! Stu likes her to change the chime each week between the six available. Her preference, though she couldn’t name it, is Beethoven’s 5th. Increasingly, she hates them all. Today’s was a given.
Marlie’s crying now, snorting like a piglet at the trough. It’s not just the pen mark. The glitter she glued to her forehead has begun to irritate her skin, turning it patchy and red, exaggerating the pink of her eyes.
‘Tell them to go, Dad.’
‘Baby girl, it’s just a tiny dot. I should’ve never mentioned it.’
The doorbell chimes on, and shapes shift in the frosted glass of the frame. It looks like a crowd. And there’s a yellow blob above them, squeaking against the glass.
Lou comes back down the stairs with a concealer tube, and Stuart glances over. She can’t meet his eye, adjusting the green rayon ruffles around her neckline. He hates the top, she knows it. She wasn’t sure, but Han sent the link to the online store. Those stuck-up bitches from the Edge End Estate won’t be able to touch you in this. The elastic’s already pinching at her waist where it meets the soft skin of her stomach, probably leaving a mark all round. She must remember not to lift her arms above her head.
The yellow shape squeaks again, and a small hand hammers the glass. It’ll be those stuck-up bitches now. She wishes Han wasn’t on the other side of the Irish Sea. Just like them to be early for a nosey. And bringing their own balloon, for Christ’s sake, as if she might not provide enough.
Stuart snatches the concealer, dabs an untidy blob of mismatched colour onto his daughter’s cheek. That done, he reaches to stroke a plait, then thinks better of it.
‘Come on, love, you look like a proper princess. And all your princes are hammering that door down, wanting to treat you like a lady.’
‘Everything’s ruined. I won’t be pretty. Mum can’t even make candy floss properly. And I hate the piñata. It doesn’t look like Elsa’s dress. It looks like a big, blue poo.’
Stuart raises an eyebrow at Lou. ‘I did say get the one in Asda.’
‘It was supposed to be a treat, making it together. I…’
Stuart snorts and she gives up.
‘Certainly took long enough. Next time, let’s just get the proper one, yeah, and miss out the weeks of glue and shit all over the living room,’ he says.
Lou stares at him until he lifts his shoulders in a shrug.
‘Get the door, would you?’
She doesn’t, retreating to the kitchen instead. The gin is waiting for her. In its pretty pale blue bottle, it reminds her of sea glass on a beach; of steeply banked sand, down to white ribbon waves. She pours another two fingers into a tall glass.
Back in the lounge, Marlie’s still crying, but she’s spotted her reflection in the mirror on the far wall. She pouts with each sob, until gradually she is just pouting.
‘Right, baby girl. You all set? Are we letting these reprob…retrobate…whatever, in, or what? You know I’ll send them all home if you want me to, but they might have presents…’
Stu reaches for Marlie’s armpit. She squirms away from the tickle, feigning irritation, but he’s worked his magic.
‘Okay, then,’ she says, heavy emphasis on the ‘kay’.
There’s a moment of silence between the doorbell’s final peal and Stuart turning the latch. Then – freeze-frame – the children are revealed, stoppered into the doorway in their desperation to be first. The three women behind lean inwards: one with a package in rose-gold tissue, one in a cloud of Chanel Cristalle, one on a mobile phone.
It’s Robbie Wainwright who breaks the seal, elbowing his way into the hall, his bowtie elastic already stretched so that it sags below his collar. Tegan and Mitzy are close behind, mobbing Marlie in a screaming, whirling confusion of ripped gilt wrap and flammable fabrics. Stuart steps aside, arms lifted theatrically, the grin of a clown, as the rest of the kids surge in. There’s a shout from the gate as he’s leaning back to close the door.
‘Sorry, mate.’ Stu’s friend Andy with his daughter Georgia. They cross the threshold just as Lou returns, smile painted on and a mouthful of botanicals. By the standards of Stuart’s football mates, Andy is as well-behaved as he is well-groomed. Today, his hair is so thickly waxed that light rain has settled along the spikes in perfect droplets, and he’s wearing a collared shirt like the one Stuart refused. She’s oblivious to the obscene tattoo which sits just under its collar.
‘Know what it’s like, if that’s any consolation,’ Andy goes on, his voice so low, it’s a growl. ‘These parties, wild! They did over our place last week – she was gutted Marlie was sick, Georgia was – but truth be known I was grateful to have one less.’
‘Don’t worry, mate. The wife told me. Got your brother in redecorating the staircase, she said, where the little fuckers took the plaster out.’
A passing child hears the profanity, giggles. Lou winces as the two men congratulate each other with back slaps and a half hug. At least the three wise women won’t have heard; they’re too busy casing the room. Divided for better coverage, they’re poking manicured fingernails, taking in the Primark prints and Stu’s vast telly, and the six-inch plastic flamenco dancer he brought her back from Marbella that time, which Lou’s forgotten to hide.
She glances over at the new sofa, hoping they notice that, at least. It cost enough. It was that or an extension to the side return, and she took a chance that the sofa would get more attention. Worth it, surely, even if Stuart’s still whinging about worktop space for his deep fat fryer. But the women show no interest in the sofa, and even though Lou left a line of shoes in the porch as a hint, Robbie’s already planted his size 3 Nike Airs on the middle cushion. For a moment it looks like he might kick the scatter cushion off the drawing, but then he’s over the end and down, knocking Mitzy sideways. The candy floss machine shudders another millimetre towards the edge.
The children have proliferated to every corner now, squeezing under furniture on some impromptu treasure hunt. Tegan, the smart-aleck whose mother Veronica runs an insurance company, is unwinding a cloud of candy floss, looping it across her shoulders like a sugary boa. Lou retrieves a plate of sausages from the floor, leaving the chipolata that’s the smeared casualty of someone’s heel, and looks away from the spilt squash over the piano lid. She forces a smile, so at least Stuart can’t complain she’s got that ugly fussing look on, and takes a long draught of Sapphire. The tang of the tonic bubbles sears up through her adenoids.
Happy Birthday! The doorbell starts up again. More children, and behind them comes the entertainer, drab and underwhelming in a tatty velvet smock and jester’s hat. This was Veronica’s recommendation, and Lou wonders if she’s been set up. The woman backs herself into a corner, blocking off children with the vast disco speakers Stu borrowed from a man down The Bull & Bear, and starts filling modelling balloons. Every time she twists the rubber, it squeaks like nails on a blackboard, and Lou’s grateful when someone turns the music on full blast.
Katy Perry’s Roar. The girls take their squealing up another notch, and Robbie grinds his pelvis to the beat. His mother juts out her lower lip as the other mothers point, but still takes a photo on her phone. On the far side of the room, Stuart starts to copy the boy. It’s repellent, but at least three of the mothers clap along. By the time he’s moved on to Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off, no-one’s watching Robbie anymore, so the boy starts to kick the piano leg. Veronica is miming a passable striptease, and Stu’s miming to Andy that he should film her doing it.
Happy Birthday! The chimes clash with Swift, and this time it’s Joanne, standing alone on the path. As Louise walks towards her, Terri-Ann waves from the car window beyond the gate, then her knackered old Punto is away. Louise grits her teeth. It’s a worse dress than last year: orange skirt with black spiders, one legless. The whole ensemble clearly meant for Hallowe’en, but it’s June. The girl’s hair’s not been brushed. The gift she’s carrying looks thin and small.
But then, like a slug in the gut, Lou remembers Terri-Ann back at school.
All those times, they come rushing back as one. Being ushered into the classroom that first day, the ranks of alien, suspicious faces, the sweet relief of Terri’s grin from the far side, pointing to the spare seat beside her. That night on the common in Year 9, when those boys wouldn’t let them go home: pushing them on the swings – gently first, then much too high – twisting the cables so they were trapped in the swing seats. Boys’ hands everywhere, and Lou’d gone mute so it was left to Terri to scream for help from the man in the ice-cream van. And then Terri’s face, tight from the effort of not crying, when Stuart finally blurted out that he’d been seeing someone else, and that someone was Lou.
She takes the gift from the girl now, slips it into her pocket – best Marlie and the rest don’t have the chance to rip the wrapper off. It occurs to Lou she could sneak Joanne round the back now. Make an excuse, get her into something from Marlie’s packed rails. She takes the girl’s hand, but Stuart’s on the step: ‘Ah…’ rolling his eyes, ‘again.’
It’s too late, and anyway the urge has gone. Joanne will be alright. These kids aren’t like those kids, and it was all a long time ago. She lets go of Joanne’s hand, but the girl doesn’t move, paralysed by the wall of sound. Lou has to usher her in with her palm against the prickly fabric of the dress.
Inside, someone has pulled the back curtains and the glitter ball’s manic: light beads duck and dive over the Artex. The girls are wrestling on the sofa, shifting the scatter cushion so that one half of a ball sack has slipped into view, though no-one’s noticed it yet. Robbie’s skidding on the rug. Stuart’s in the middle of it all, with a bottle of Rioja in one hand and his novelty opener in the other. Mitzy’s mother, Emmie, has got her hand round Sir Perky’s appendage and she’s giggling, her lower lip coral pink and loose. When Stu gives her the glass, she takes the first sip without taking her eyes off him. Louise wonders how it would be not to care.
There’s a shriek then. Georgia’s collided with Emmie’s yellow heel, and red wine is sloshed across the faux ash linoleum. The girl’s alright, but Emmie’s sleeveless top is a Rioja leopard print.
‘I’ll go,’ says Stu, and Emmie goes after him, exhaling through her nose in little gasps as she pats uselessly at the white silk of her vest. They don’t come back. Lou gets on her knees, uses a tissue that someone hands her to mop up the worst of it. Closes her eyes and thinks of that beach. Of chalky smooth pebbles that she could hurl into the waves.
‘What the…?’ she hears, as she stands up at last, white stars in the corners of her vision like when she stands too quickly in the bath. Veronica’s got the cushion in her hand. A new network of tight lines has appeared between the edge of her nostrils and her upper lip, as if the puppet master is pulling tendons from within. It’s not her house, who gives her the right?
‘It was Joanne,’ says the first child, before Veronica’s even got her Rouge Essentiel nail extended towards the life-sized cock on the sofa arm. Louise almost laughs. The drawing’s no worse than she could have done herself.
‘I saw her,’ says Robbie’s mum, though she’s barely lifted her eyes from her phone since she’s arrived.
Georgia’s recovered from her collision long enough to get hold of Joanne, and she shoves her forward. Other voices chime in. Robbie sticks his foot out automatically, but Joanne steps over it, eyes down. At least one woman mutters something about ‘dirty’ and ‘Hallowe’en’. Lou feels as if her feet are not on stable ground.
Someone’s turned the music off so everyone hears the laugh from the kitchen. Lou knows Joanne didn’t draw on the sofa arm. Even if Marlie didn’t have that face on – her mouth is turned down in a full arc of defiance and one eyebrow ever so slightly lifted – she’d know who the culprit was. One day she will confront the fact that she doesn’t really like her daughter, but today is not the day.
She looks around. Sees the jury have given their verdict. Perhaps it is too late to intervene, in any case.
‘Joanne, I’m calling your mother,’ Lou says gently.
Joanne holds herself very still. There’s a hole in her right sock, and through it they can see the toenail on her big toe has been untended so long, it’s started to curve up and away from the skin.
‘She won’t have it on her. She’s got no credit.’ Joanne looks at her feet as she says it. Why doesn’t she deny it? Marlie would have denied it immediately, before she knew what she’d been accused of.
Veronica snorts, strokes the deep red of a fingernail with the thumb of the other hand. ‘Dirty little thing. Just take her home. I would.’
‘Mum’s at work.’
Joanne doesn’t cry. The only sign of her distress is a tremor at her shoulder, where a legless spider clings on to the tattered remnants of a web.
‘Take her there, then. It’s a party. You’re not running a crèche,’ Veronica says.
Lou takes a deep breath. Tegan’s mother is the playground’s undisputed queen. A bad word from Veronica, and every school run will be a misery. Lou quashes inconvenient memories of Terri-Ann: tiny saves and kindnesses. She looks away from Joanne’s wrists, so thin that the lump at her wrist where the ulna meets the tessellated bones of the hand stands proud like a tumour. She’ll make it up to the girl. The party is over for her now, anyway.
‘Stu can do it. I’ll get him now.’
Veronica nods at her, satisfied. Steps past Joanne as if she were something unspeakable on the rug. Presses play on the stereo – only the tiniest frown at the outdated model – so Taylor Swift comes blasting back into the room. Andy moves in for a closer look at the drawing, looks about for Stu, padded cheeks sagging when his friend’s not about to share the joke. The candy floss machine rattles, empty of sugar, hanging proud of the sideboard’s edge.
When Lou comes into the kitchen, she doesn’t realise at first what she’s seeing. Mitzy’s mother is facing away, towards the window that looks out over the garden, and Stu is right behind her, leaning past her with his hand on the tap. But the water’s not running and he’s close to her, too close, so that his groin must be pressed hard against the back pockets of Emmie’s skinny jeans.
Lou starts to wheel about, catching her hip on the hard plastic edge of Stu’s fryer, sending a bolt of pain up through her ribs.
‘I told you, we should have done the side return,’ Stu doesn’t say, because he can’t speak. He’s looking round at Lou now, but his face has turned a dull terracotta shade she recognises. Lou’s surprised by how bored it makes her feel this time, how the sight of his belly peeling away from Emmie’s fragile vest makes her nauseous rather than jealous. She doesn’t make eye-contact with Emmie. Can’t be bothered. It’s not about her.
‘Wait, Lou…’ she hears, as she retraces her steps, but she doesn’t turn. When she gets to the lounge, Joanne is still on the rug, alone. A loosely anchored skiff in a storm. Robbie and the other boys bounce around her to One Direction.
‘Can you turn it down?’ Lou shouts across the room. Andy nods, mouthing something back, twisting the dial the wrong way. The light beads from the glitter ball judder in their path around the walls with the bass. The children’s eyes are wild. Robbie is break dancing in a pool of squash between the piano legs.
‘I can’t…’ Lou shouts.
People are looking. Her cheeks must be as flaming as they feel. For a moment the faces are like masks in a play, shifting and gurning across her vision. Then comes the mechanical thud, and the scream that follows it. The candy floss machine has been driven over the edge by the incessant bass, and someone has broken its fall. Identical dents have been left in Georgia’s leg and in the waxy surface of the lino. She’s lying white-faced, staring at the unnatural depression the machine has left in the bony core of her shin.
‘Let’s have that off. Mate, I’ll get the ambulance.’ Stu’s there at once, shouting across the noisy room. He flicks the switch on the stereo, his hand grazing Andy’s shoulder as his friend bends over his daughter. Lou realises she’s been frozen, staring.
‘I’ll make the call,’ she says, grateful to be relieved of the sight of that leg.
In the frantic minutes that follow, Georgia starts up a low moan, and a couple of other children begin to cry. Joanne doesn’t move from the rug. Robbie picks up sausages from the floor, tucking them under his lips to make fat vampire teeth.
‘Tegan, baby, we should go.’ Veronica is wiping her hands with a disinfectant wipe she’s pulled from her handbag. Her daughter whines and pulls on her arm. Veronica brushes her off with the wipe.
‘But we haven’t done the piñata.’ Marlie’s outraged squeal combines with Georgia’s moan and Tegan’s whine in a dreadful choir of complaint.
‘Quickly then, while we wait for the ambulance.’ Stu’s recovered himself. Like a child, his guilt is short-lived and quickly turns to indignant denial. Nothing cheers him more than a crisis. He lifts the blue papier maché shape from on top of the bookshelf, sets it down on a bare patch of floor. The glitter ball’s light beads still spin pointlessly around the walls, illuminating the crushed food and spillages.
‘Ewww,’ says a child’s voice.
‘Make sure you give Georgia enough space.’
Some party,’ Lou hears behind her. This’ll be playground fuel for weeks.
Stu hands the toy baseball bat to Marlie for the first strike, but she misses the piñata altogether, leaving a dent in the coffee table leg that is an unwanted reminder of the groaning girl in the corner. Marlie strikes again, and again, but the bat falls weakly away from the papier maché core.
‘You made it too hard, Mum.’ Her arms are folded. She is rigid with disgust. Robbie snatches the bat before she can throw it aside.
‘I’ll do it. You watch.’
His face reddens as if a dial is being turned inside, and the mould does give a little under his barrage of abuse, but it doesn’t yield. A few others try. Mitzy kicks the piñata with the toe of a glittery shoe. The lacy trim around Elsa’s dress comes away, so the Disney princess looks as shameful as Lou feels.
All at once, impatience and overtired laughter blooms in the group around Lou, and then there is a move as one towards the door. The sharks have had their fill. It is time. The three wise women exit quickly, leaving a lingering trace of Chanel and a tide of guilt. Robbie kicks the doorframe as he passes, still griping for another go with the bat. Too late, Lou realises that she’s forgotten the party bags, which sit upstairs in accusing ranks across her bedroom floor. She thinks of the charm bracelets and watches, in multiples that she could not afford, and wonders if the market stall might take them back.
Soon after, the ambulance arrives: two booted men in high-vis march in, grinding the last of the food between the cracks in the lino tiles. With a tiny twitch of his head, one gestures at the sofa arm, raising his eyebrows to his mate as they lift the girl onto the stretcher. Georgia’s smiling weakly now, already contemplating lucrative weeks of convalescence. Stu claps Andy on the back as he follows the ambulance men down the path.
‘Not your fault.’
Stu wanders out with his friend to see the ambulance off.
At last it is only Lou, Marlie and Joanne. Around them, the full scale of the destruction is revealed. The sofa cushion lies in a sodden mass of molten candy floss. The uplifted arm of the plastic flamenco dancer has been wrapped around its throat in a stranglehold. Bare of its shielding cushion, the sofa arm’s obscene inner cheek is in full view. The fingers of a chocolate handprint are clearly visible on the other arm.
‘You ruined my party, Mum.’ Marlie is already stomping upstairs. Any minute now she will pass the open bedroom door, pumping the bellows of her fury at the sight of the forgotten party bags.
Joanne still has not moved. Someone has pulled the witch’s cauldron from the belt of her dress, and her hair has come loose from its plait. Lou wants to say sorry, but she can’t find the words. She reaches for the baseball bat, which has rolled under the coffee table next to a discarded shoe, and hands it to Joanne. She hears the wail from upstairs, and Joanne’s face is a question, but Lou shakes her head. Points to the piñata.
Joanne makes the first strike, and then Lou joins her, grabbing the Velux window pole from the corner, which thuds into the piñata’s casing again and again with a satisfying smash. The green of Lou’s shirt darkens at the armpits but they keep up the battery; at last a tiny tear appears in the papier maché bodice. A tear that eases open into a wide rip, and further still so that the piñata yawns to reveal the sweet wrappers inside. Lou takes a handful, passes them to Joanne, motions for the girl to sit. Then she picks up the pole again, twisting it for the best grip, and returns to the sickly iced-blue shell of the piñata.
‘What you doing, Lou? Think the woman’s lost it,’ she hears from the doorway. But it’s too late by then, her face is burning with the pleasure of it. With every strike of the pole, the void inside Elsa’s dress gapes more widely. The sweets are pulverised in their jewelled wrappings. As she pummels the bloated mass of the thing, she thinks about Marlie. About her daughter’s sour little face, and the eye roll she has inherited from her father. She thinks about Emmie, how her thin hand with its opal rings covered Stuart’s fat palm on her thigh. She thinks about Robbie, with his random acts of destruction, and whether she could call herself any better than him now, smashing this piñata as if it had done her some wrong. And she thinks about Joanne, how the girl’s face did not alter as she was wrongly accused, so used to being let down. About Terri-Ann, and all those times.
‘Let’s go,’ Lou says at last, laying down the pole and taking Joanne’s hand.
‘What the..?’ Stu says, as she pushes past him in the doorway, but the cool air outside strengthens her resolve.
Joanne’s hand, sticky in her palm, feels as fragile as the skeleton of a mouse. There’s no sign of the Punto, but it’s not far to Terri-Ann’s.
‘There’s something I need to say to your mother,’ Lou says, as they walk together down the path.