“The third thing is, I’m leaving for good. I know I can be happier somewhere else, somewhere I’m not shut in at the top of a stepladder in the sky, cut off from the earth and the sea and all the other people. Mel, you can come too, if you want. The rest of you stay put.”

Mel did want to come, for a moment. But then she thought about the first thing her sister had said and, looking at the shocked, uncomprehending faces of her mother and brothers, knew that she didn’t dare. She shook her head.

Jill shrugged and, still brandishing the – long-evaporated – lighter, continued her descent into the dark depths at the foot of the tree. They never saw her again. Melanie cried herself to sleep that night, though, and many of the nights that followed.

[This I dreamed … 14/2/98]

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