Sick Rose

Lancaster Gate was a quick way to Paddington, through back streets. There Rose would get a train to Reading and stand beside a grave and not cry. O Rose thou art sick, Mum used to say with her Lancashire accent. Some bit of poem she’d got from somewhere, whispering as she cuddled Rose with meaty arms and the smell of cheap perfume, Rothmans and vodka.

When the crowd had left the platform, when the sound of the train had faded, Rose collapsed on a bench, sobbing. There was no-one here and no more trains for six minutes. Six minutes to cry for Mum, long dead. So Rose cried under the laboratory bright light of the station.

No tears for him. She had only visited him once. Some care-home where the nurses looked grim, underpaid, and capable of being secretly vicious, much to Rose’s satisfaction.

O Rose thou art sick, Mum had said. Mum had never known. No, she can’t have known what ailed her little Rose. Yes he got drunk and knocked Mum about a bit but… that? No-one talked about that in those days.

She dried her eyes. There was a couple further down the platform. Mustn’t be seen making a show of herself. No.

Why was she going? It was her father’s funeral so of course she must go. She couldn’t say that all she wanted was to see him covered in dirt the way he had covered her in dirt all her life.

Years later she’d came across the William Blake poem.

O Rose thou art sick
The invisible worm
That flies in the night
In the howling storm
Has found thy bed
Of crimson joy
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.

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