Songs of Bliss
Billy makes the usual parental sounds. He asks a few questions, knowing that the
answers are irrelevant. He listens to his voice as if it is coming fro m another room. It is a
tone of voice, an act that all parents learn to some degree. How can he refuse?
"Yeah, yeah, Bex, all right". The sound of her voice in his kitchen is better than Vic
Damone's lullabies, is better than ambrosia. "Actually, it'll be good to have some people in
the house. I'd like that."
Bex stands up, skips around the table and plants a huge kiss on his forehead.
"Brilliant. I'll call them, let them know we'll meet them at Tiverton. Thanks." She trails one
hand across Billy's shoulder and makes a pumping fist movement with the other, the one
that Billy cannot see. "After you?ve showered", she says, "you can take me shopping."
As Bex takes the stairs two at a time Billy smiles. Little girls. All grown up and hell
in the bathroom.
The first migrant house martins are skimming the rooftops, fattening themselves up
before finishing their journeys to summer homes, to familiar eaves and overhangs. With the
steel shutters permanently closed, Arbnor Jasari works by electric light. He has no interest
in the beauty of the morning. He takes a brief walk around the courtyard when he wakes to
clear his head and then tries to settle into his routine. This morning he is distracted.
The cells opposite his desk are open. The one formerly occ upied by the blissed-out
girl is now empty. The camp bed has been made and, apart from some scuff marks on the
wooden floorboards, there is no sign that the cell has recently been occupied. The second
cell, the one which the doctor normally sleeps in, is occupied by the last of the lab rats. She
is awake and curled up under a threadbare blanket on the camp bed. There are two MP3
players on a wooden chair next to the bed together with the spent casings of two tea lights.
On the floor lie two empty bottles of cheap, screw top red wine. Beside them there is a
crumpled plastic sachet. The girl's naked shoulder is covered in bruises. Her knee aches.
The doctor talks to her while he works.
"No repeats, please, it?s no use", he says, counting out empty sachets and putting
them in lines of ten on an old, painted wooden tray. The painted outlines of fat, red hens on
the tray are flaking with age.
"Enough yesterday. I told you, the other girl has gone home. If you scream, I?ll have
to hurt you, but if you?re a good girl, I?ll make more powder for you. You do want to be
"I think so. You?re very young, very pretty. You don't want me to make you
unhappy. I think it?s really very simple."
The doctor finishes with the sachets and takes the tray over to one of the tables in
the middle of the room. He picks up a set of kitchen measures and selects the one marked
up as tablespoon sized. He scoops up a full measure of yellow powder from a stainless steel