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  from They Call Me Nothing by Jenny Young

Chapter 1

Coming to the church was probably a mistake. What if they know? What if they call the Police? I listen intently, ready to run. No gunshots, no running feet, only the uneven pounding of my heart. I feel exposed. For seven years I have been invisible, a nothing. Nobody sees me. Nobody knows me. Am I really willing to give up my only protection? It seems to me now, in the light of day, that my decision of last night was only a dream. A foolish, childish dream.

I picture in my mind what might happen… The lady at reception glances up from her fashion magazine when I enter. She looks at me, a question forms on her well made-up face. She consults her computer for confirmation, then, with fear in her eyes, asks me to sit. She tries to look casual and unconcerned as she lifts the phone and murmurs something into it behind her hand. “Somebody will come and help you soon,” she says and leaves the room with a quick, nervous, high heel clatter. Ten minutes later three burly policemen rush in behind their shiny guns. They are disappointed that I am so small and so unresisting. They had been ready for a fight. Will they hit me and push me anyway? Will they put handcuffs on me? Will they throw me into the back of one of those horrible, barred police vans? Or, even worse, my mouth goes dry, will they handcuff me to the back of the vehicle and drag me along? I’ve read about that happening. The man died.

I turn slowly and start walking back. That was close! I get to the corner and check for traffic. Behind a bread delivery truck, a man in blue overalls crosses the road. I wonder if he is a mechanic like Baba was. I haven’t thought about Baba in a very long time. Why now? What would he say if he saw me here?

I think he’d say, “A man must have courage, my Son. If a lion runs away he is no better than a hyena.”

I hesitate then turn around again. The big rock in my tummy that had just begun to stop worrying me comes back with a thud. I’d better get it over with before I change my mind again. I walk quickly, pausing only to read the sign outside the church again.

“The Oasis Counselling Centre, where you can share life’s difficulties confidentially with trained carers...” Does confidentially mean what I think it means or is it cancelled if you are a criminal?

I ring the buzzer under the CCTV camera. Do I look respectable enough or do I look like what I am, a housebreaker? I wipe my clammy palms on the back of my grey school trousers. I thought school uniform was my best bet. I wait. My heart is beating like a tribal drum in my ears.

The gate springs open with a threatening click. I take a deep breath and walk through into the church garden. I am committed now. The rock in my stomach wobbles precariously. A strong scent of flowers encourages me. It is Spring. Time for new beginnings.

Discreet arrows lead to the counselling room. The door is partially open. I quickly shine my shoes on the back of my trouser legs and knock gently. A gogo looks up and smiles. She flicks her grey streaked hair away from her face. I slide in noiselessly. She looks at me. I feel like she actually sees me. I am not used to that. Usually I can come and go without being noticed.

“Hi, please sit down.” She points to two comfortable chairs next to a low coffee table.

My eyes scan the room. I note the tissues on the table. They look like they are embarrassed to be on the same table as the silver bowl of roses, as if they don’t belong. At the far end of the room are shelves of books behind glass doors. My eyes linger on them longingly. I’d love to be al...

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