Short fiction and serialised novellas of GJ Fairlamb

Archive for March 2015

Savage Writing: Maisie’s Sister

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This week’s topic was “Unbelievable.” I reread The Dream of the Rood and wrote this. Everyone said they expected this to be the start of a longer piece, which surprised me. I don’t plan to do anything more with this – I don’t see any way it can go without devolving into cliche.


Maisie was cracked. That was for sure. She was four days back from her latest “fallaway”, as she called it. The police had found her wandering around an old estate five miles away, in loose-fitting pyjama bottoms and a grey fleece, clutching a pillow to her chest like it was her favourite teddy bear. She was very quiet when they brought her in, but she gave her sister the biggest, most worrying grin she had ever seen as they took her upstairs.

The police stayed a while. Had some tea. Maisie’s mum forced biscuits upon them to hide her shattered pride. The girl was twenty-one years old, for goodness sake. If she was well enough to dye her hair red as she did, then she was well enough to stay put and not be an embarrassment – that’s what Maisie’s mum said to the police, when the police recommended she take her to the doctors and get more medicine.

‘When I was younger, the doctors wouldn’t have let my mother order medicines for me,’ she said. ‘Not when I was a grown woman.’

The female police officer gave her number and details to Maisie’s sister for this reason. Maisie’s sister missed them the second they were gone.

But this was four days after that. Maisie and her sister were alone at home. And with a creak and a shuffle and a creak, Maisie came down the stairs for the first time since she fellaway.

She had that big, beautiful grin set on her face.

‘Lise,’ she said. She spoke as if she expected a sound effects expert to put a reverberation on her voice: deep, pulsing, dreamlike. ‘Lise. I have…to tell you…the most wondrous…thing.’

Maisie’s sister did not wish to hear the wondrous thing, but she was trapped by love and politeness to the couch.

Maisie saw her sister was listening. The light in her eyes flashed once in excitement, and then she spoke. Not as slow, but not fast, beating rhythmic like a drum or a poem:

‘I have to tell you the most wondrous thing,

it came to me in the middle of the night.

See, I was in bed, and the stars were out, shining,

and I thought I’d see them far better down t’ street,

they looked like gems all sparkling, sparkling,

embedded in the sky like some upside-down mine

so I went outside and I looked up and up

and I looked so hard that I fell the way wrong,

and I floated among them for a days and days

but they sent me home ’cause I said I missed you,

I missed you Lise, and I could’ve been a star.

I’d’ve shone in the night and died in the day

and nothing would have bothered me


nothing at all.’

And here Maisie kept grinning, and she looked at her sister as if she’d just won a prize, and she said….


‘It’s…a pretty story?’

Maisie scowled.

‘I knew it,’ she said, all cadence lost from her voice. ‘I knew I made the wrong decision. It was hard, you know. I told myself it was one of those tests, those trials of fortitude in stories, where the naked woman comes out the mirror or lake and shows you everything you’ve ever wanted if only you’ll stay with her, and you’re tempted but then you remember your family and remember to do the right thing. But I came back, and as soon as I saw mum’s face, I thought, this is Cinderella going back to the coals. I have no family. Not the loving, die-for-you, miss-you-forever kind. I should’ve stayed with the stars.’

So Maisie returned to the stairs, and thudded her way up them, and shut her door with a half-hearted slam.

And Maisie’s sister looked up the contacts on her phone. She’d kept the policewoman’s number. Not far underneath it, was a contact she called “CM.” The contact had once read “For Crazy Maisie”, on her old phone, but Maisie had found it and thrown it onto the kitchen floor and bye-bye-phone. So instead the contact was CM. She had Maisie in her phone already, of course, its picture was a selfie of them both in Tenerife on their last family holiday, before she got bad again.

Maisie’s sister dialled CM, and the familiar number came up.

A voice answered. It was Scott. Maisie’s sister knew them all by the way they said “Hello” by now.

‘Hi Scott,’ she said.

‘How are things today, Lisa? How’s Maisie?’

‘Mum’s out,’ Lisa said. ‘I cleaned the kitchen. Maisie said she’d wished she’d stayed out in the stars, that she has no real family.’

Scott started to say something and Maisie’s sister burst out over him:

‘It’s like a lady came from a lake and showed your greatest desire. Mum not so angry, everything quiet, not needing to worry every time there’s a noise upstairs, not needing to worry every time I go by her room that one day she won’t be moving when I look in. But then I remember that I have to do the right thing. I do, don’t I? I have to keep looking after her. It’s only right.’

Scott comforted her. She hung up, fix granted. Maisie’s sister looked up at the ceiling, and began to speak-chant:

‘Let me tell you the most wondrous thing,

Maisie’s sister, she does the right thing…’


Written by G.J.

20/03/2015 at 1:27 pm