An extract from The Alice Factor by Fyn Day...

A light breeze blew discarded sweetwrappers and dead leaves around the busy playground. Among the children flying swings to the moon was Clare, who seemed pleased to see Sean, even if her mother had remained withdrawn. The Cabot tower stood watch over late season squirrels as they scaled oak trees to hoard food cadged from strollers in the park. Sean hated to work so hard at making someone want his company. All the time he wanted to hold Alice, to feel her in his arms as though she was really his, but every effort at opening even amicable conversation was thwarted by a shrug of Alice's shoulder, a curt response, or sometimes even downright ignorance.

"What is your problem Alice?" Sean spun on his heel and came face to face with Alice. She pouted back with contempt.

"My problem?" she sneered.

Clare watched on from a distance. Her hair, so unlike her mother's, hung in dark cascades blown wildly about her face. Alice's back was turned to her daughter; Sean's eye contact with the child had only been momentary and accidental, but she twitched a smile and he knew he had to go on with the battle.

"Yes," he growled. "Your problem!"

"You're the one with a broken hand," she said. "You're the one with a fiancee in Worthing, a career in pieces and a head in the clouds!" Alice grinned. Her usually wise smirk was tainted with a cold streak, an icy smugness that reached in and turned Sean's stomach. He hugged himself in defensive comfort as something, knotted deeply inside, made him want to strike out. His stiff club fist had twitched at the same time he caught Alice's stare. She knew, but it was he who held back.

"You're mad... or stupid," Sean blustered, looking for spite as powerful as Alice's. "Or both!" In a tantrum he kicked at a pile of dog droppings that lay curled in a neat brown black cone at his feet. Some flew through the air away from him and pelted noisily into a tree trunk, but the majority exploded about his foot and shins. It filled the air with a moist vapour which Sean could both taste and smell the instant his angry foot had made contact. "Shit!!" he screamed peevishly. "Shit, shit, shit!" as he jumped up and down violently in what remained of the undisturbed stools.

Clare screamed with laughter, and ran to dance with Sean who watched as Alice, unmoved at first, later adopted an obvious determination not to laugh.

"Shit!" yelled Clare, and her mother looked horrified, but as she opened her mouth to express this horror all that came out was a childish giggle. She glanced at the other mothers and children in the park, some of whom had not been far from the flight path of flying crap. They definitely had not seen the funny side. The worse they scowled, the more openly Alice laughed, until she, with Clare and Sean, danced around the path chanting "Shit.. shit.. shit.." like a train getting up steam. Off they moved up the path and away from the playground, further up the grassy knoll which gives advantage to the Cabot tower, until safely out of sight of all witnesses, they came to rest on a park bench. Clare sat between the adults. Sean surveyed his splattered trousers.


The Alice Factor
Fyn Day

ISBN 0 95 44983 0 5

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