Listen to this. It may look like your child, but it may be a changeling. It might suddenly speak to you with a man’s voice. You may come in from the kitchen to find it smoking a fag.
A stepmother is a changeling.
I am the changeling. The difficulties. My sister does not know I am an only child. I challenged stepmother by being. Awkward attempts to make a connection sustained us through twenty years, but we loved and hated in equal measure.
There is a rock formation on the moors near Leeds called the Cow and Calf. Huge dark forms press on that soil, rearing out of earth. Forms which perhaps have bones reaching down into hot layers, down below.
When stepmother first arrived, my sister and I still had plaits. She was not much older than us. We all went on outings to such places. There was a river where we cooled our feet. When father left, he didn’t go far, but he didn’t come back. Well, he was still there. What of father? Hard to say.
I needed father when things went wrong. I was a slow learner.
Stepmother, mother, father, sister. And other shadows. Is our story real?
The solicitor’s letter. The onset of my relationship. The “silence” accusation. The quality of fear. The handing over of power (on both sides). My pregnancy. She had no children. She wanted to watch me changing a nappy, “Because I’ve never seen it done.”
Stepmothers are in fairy tales. How can you prick your finger on a spindle? There is no sharp part. I have a mother. One is enough. Tangle. She was more like another sister I can’t describe, foisted on me.