Losing Juliet

By: June Taylor


The words sounded blurred and far away, as if someone had pushed her head underwater. She ran off into the rain and into the darkness. Her mother shouted her name but didn’t come after her. In any case she was too quick. She cast off her shoes, tossing them into the air, wishing they would explode into little pieces. She wanted to break something. Hit something.

The water running down her face was a mixture of rainwater and tears. She wasn’t cold but her dress was stuck to her skin, which was visible through the thin fabric. She didn’t know where she was heading and somehow found herself by the side of the lake. How different it felt to the last time she was here.

She removed her clothes, all of them, ripping her dress in the process. What did it matter? What did any of this matter?

The rocks tore at her feet. But what couldn’t be seen couldn’t hurt you. She knew that now. It’s what you could see. It’s what you did know. That’s what hurt the most.

The icy chill of the water seemed to take away some of her pain.

‘There is no better freedom,’ she wanted to say, but the words froze as soon as her lips tried to shape them. She swam to keep warm, soon becoming disorientated. Where was the shore and where was the middle of the lake? Impossible to tell with the darkness wrapped around her and the rain coming down again. The middle of the lake was too deep, she remembered. Soon she would be out of her depth and was already getting tired.

Did it matter? Did any of it matter?

Treading water she turned full circle on herself. The shadows and outlines all looked the same. Her knees scraped against rocks. Crawling over them she managed to stand up, the water to her waist, and she began to wade through it, pushing hard against the lake, feeling exhausted and numb with cold.

Gradually her steps became easier. Somehow she had reached the lakeshore and looked around, hugging her shoulders, searching for her dress swallowed up in the gloom. She ran. She must have, because suddenly she found herself at the tiny hut by the side of the tennis court where the racquets and balls were kept. The director’s chair was in the doorway, wet beneath her skin when she sank into it. Pressing her hands hard against her ears she slumped over her knees. If only Chrissy’s words would stop echoing inside her head.

She was shivering; naked, alone, and curled up like a foetus.

To think that only a few weeks ago she hadn’t known any of this. Was it better now that she knew the truth? She had wanted it so desperately.



Manchester: 2007

The phone rang. She picked up.

‘Hello,’ said a voice. ‘I wonder: can you tell me, does someone by the name of Chrissy live there?’

She tried to tune in to the sounds at the other end for clues. Music. Opera, was it? A clanking of cups, possibly in a café?

‘Erm, who wants to know?’

‘I’m Juliet, an old friend from uni. We were best friends.’

The voice had a late-night feel to it, deep and smoky; the sort you might want to get to know.

‘Chrissy’s my mother,’ she said, seeing no reason to keep that from her.

‘Oh that’s brilliant! I thought I’d never find her, been trying for ages. Can I speak to her?’

‘She’s not here at the moment.’

‘Okay, well I’ll give you my number. If you could tell her I phoned?’


‘And you are?’


‘Eloise. What a beautiful name. She chose a French name for you, that’s interesting.’

‘Is it?’

‘It’s a lovely name. She’s never mentioned me to you, Eloise?’


‘Well, it was a long time ago, must be nearly twenty years in fact. Getting on for that. It would be so lovely to see her. And to meet you, too. How old are you?’


‘Well, tell Chrissy to hurry up and get in touch or you’ll have left home!’

‘I’ll try.’


‘Are you absolutely sure she said Juliet?’

‘Yes, for the hundredth time, I’m sure,’ said Eloise, throwing her hands up in exasperation.

‘And she definitely asked for Chrissy? Not – oh, I don’t know – Flissy. Or just Chris? I bet she said Chris.’

Eloise gave her papers a shove down the end of the table to make some room, causing a pen to roll off the edge before she could catch it. But Chrissy made no effort to pick it up, so immersed was she in her thoughts. Eloise slid a slice of pizza onto her mother’s plate, hoping the conversation could move on from this now.

‘There you go, Pizza à la Freezer with some extra Cheese Eloise,’ she announced. But Chrissy was giving her a pleading look. ‘Oh, Mum, I told you. How many times? Definitely Chrissy. I said that you were my mother, and … What? What’s wrong with that?’