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by Tim Love

For her A-level art project she’d had to identify her home from as far away as possible. Her idea was to leave their bathroom window open and place her father’s shaving mirror at an angle she’d carefully calculated. She cycled to Hampstead Heath with her camera and waited for the sun to reflect off the mirror. But there were clouds.

She’d spent the summer after exams rebelling in Prague, entertaining tourists on the streets with snakes. One morning a photographer she knew hired her to pose in front of a graffiti’d train carriage topless, her albino python wrapped around her. Black wavy lines were sprayed over the carriage as if the graffiti had been graffiti’d.

Now her son’s starting law school. They fill the car with his stuff. She’s proud of him — proof of how she’s turned her life around again and again, surviving art college, divorce, and her parents’ death in a car crash. He’s all she has. She helps him carry his boxes into his shared flat, then has a tea with his flat-mates who he knows already from Facebook. She looks around the kitchen, impressed by how homely it feels — a coffee frother, a garlic crusher, even a duty roster on the fridge. They’ve stuck up two empty bar charts with their names on — a “Chunder Chart” and a “Pulling Chart” — and posters, one of the Prague train.

“Cool, isn’t it?” a flat-mate says. “There was a sale on campus. See how those black lines on the train match the snake’s coils?” She hasn’t seen the poster before. When the photographer kept repositioning the python she’d thought he was touching her up. “Actually,” says the flat-mate, edging closer to her, “it’s Arabic. It means Free Palestine. Cute though, isn’t she, the girl.”

On the drive home she’d expected to cry. Instead she feels lucky that she had long hair then, hiding her face. She hopes her son will appear on the bar charts before long — she’s never seen him drunk. She no longer fears returning to an empty house. In her loft somewhere is the drawing she gave in for the project, with angles and calculations. Perhaps she’ll take up art again.

Tim Love’s publications are a poetry pamphlet Moving Parts (HappenStance) and a story collection By all means (Nine Arches Press). He lives in Cambridge, UK. His poetry and prose have appeared in Stand, Rialto, Magma, Unthology, etc. He blogs at litrefs.blogspot.com/