54. Soft Touch

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You're a soft touch, baby,
Like a snowflake falling,
My whole heart is melting.


Minnie perches on the edge of the sofa with her legs crossed. She doesn't notice me as I watch her from the doorway of the cottage living room. The oversized blue and white striped mens shirt she wears to sleep in, drowns her. The light is cold and white, coming through a six inch gap in the curtains. She takes a cigarette from a packet on her lap and lights it, her hand shaking a little. She exhales the smoke in a long sigh and throws the packet onto the coffee table in front of her. It lands on the top of the well thumbed, folded newspaper.

'Do you want a cup of tea?' I ask.

Minnie turns around. She shakes her head, considers me for a moment and then pats the space on the sofa next to her. I come into the room and sit down with her. She looks drawn. Her face pale with dark rings round her eyes. Her skin has taken on a grey pallor and her eyes, usually bright and always with a mischievous sparkle, appear dull and defeated.

'Are you okay?' I ask.

Minnie laughs sardonically.

'You look worn out.'

'I haven't slept a wink. Not for a minute. I've been in here since Brian fell asleep, most of the night.'

On the table, next to a glass of water, are two large, circular pills; a white one and a yellow one. With the cigarette still between her fingers, she picks up the yellow one and weighs it in her hand.

'What are they?'

'One pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small.' She throws the pill into her mouth and chases it with a mouthful of water. 'And the ones that mother gives you, don't do anything at all.' 

'Min, should you really be-'

She gives me a pointed look. 'They're prescription, Hannah. Don't start, alright?'

'Stop looking at that,' I tell her, indicating to the paper.

'Aren't you always telling me I should read more?'

'We should put it in the bin.' I lean over her to reach for it.

Minnie puts her arm in the way, blocking me. 'Leave it.'

'Minnie, throw it away, for goodness sakes. Forget about it.'

'Forget?' She laughs hollowly. 'That's what I've tried to do, Han. I've tried and tried, and I... I can't.' She turns her head away, taking a long drag on her cigarette.

'I'm going to put the kettle on.'

'You do that.'

'This room is a mess. We can't leave it like this. We'll have to tidy before we leave.'

I don't move and neither does Minnie. Everything is silent. The only sound comes from Minnie's drags on the cigarette.

'Who do you think did it?' she asks, after a moment.

'Did what?'

She turns back to me again. 'Gave the story to the paper.'

'Someone... This came from someone?'

She gives me a withering look. 'Grow up, Hannah. Of course someone gave it to them. It wasn't some roving reporter who got lucky, was it? The stuff they wrote about us leaving Liverpool like we did, and talking to... to him. How could anyone know about that? Someone told them about us. About me.'

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