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I am Marilyn not Kitty
by Jane Seaford



6AM: I opened my eyes and Alice was kneeling by my bed and staring at me, frowning. She is my nine year old sister and often angry. With good reason.

‘Go away,’ I said and turned over, wanting more sleep.


‘Please go away.’


‘Alice,’ I said, sitting up. ‘Piss off.’

‘I want to tell you what I saw in the night,’ Alice said. Now she looked frightened; her eyes big in her pale little face. She swallowed and I lifted the covers indicating that she should slide in next to me.

‘What is it?’ I asked although I didn’t really want to know. I felt her skinny body pressing next to me, one of her bony legs over mine.

‘Dad was… doing something funny.’

‘What funny?’ I asked.

‘He was sort of holding Stella, sort of playing with her clothes, and Mum was lying on the sofa with her eyes closed.’

Stella is our neighbour and as bad as our parents. Worse even. She comes around and sells them pot. And brings bottles of beer and puts on loud music and sings along. Dad joins in. Mum does sometimes. Stella was the first person to get me stoned.

Last year when I was twelve. She showed me how you have to take a deep drag of the joint and hold the smoke in your lungs for as long as you can. And then when you let it go, you feel dizzy and strange thoughts come into your head and you don’t care about anything anymore. Dan told me that she’d turned him on too, a few years earlier. Dan is our big brother. He’s nearly sixteen and he’s planning to leave home soon.

‘You must have dreamed it,’ I said to Alice.

‘No. I got up because I needed to pee and after that I went into the kitchen and looked through the doorway at them. I stood there for a long time because I wanted Mum. But they didn’t notice me. Then I called out for Mum and she didn’t even open her eyes. Even when I called again quite loudly. Then I came back into the bedroom and you were snoring.’

‘I don’t snore so it must have been a dream,’ I said although I was sure that what Alice had said was true. I didn’t want to get up and see the remains of the grownup’s evening in the living room. Some school mornings I have to clean up a bit before we leave else it’ll be the same when we come home. The mess is usually worse at the weekends because they stay up even later as Mum doesn’t have to get up early to go to work and today was a Saturday. 

‘Kitty. I really did see what I said and I’ve got a pain in my tummy now.’

‘My name is Marilyn, don’t call me Kitty,’ I told Alice and she kicked me. It hurt.   


8AM: After Alice insisted that she needed food we went into the kitchen and I tried not to notice the full ashtrays, the dirty plates and glasses, the empty bottles, one of them broken, and all the other stuff in the living room. There were even some of Stella’s clothes. I won’t say which ones but it nearly made me sick. Or that may have been the smell of old smoke, grownup skin and stale pizza. We ate the last of the cereal and there was enough milk for Alice, I had water with mine. After that, I started to clear up. I found half a joint in one of the ashtrays and when Alice went to get dressed, I sat on the sofa, smoking it and thinking about my life. I leant back and closed my eyes and planned the house I would live in when I was grown up. There would be big squashy sofas around a huge square wooden table and a folding door that opened onto a wooden deck with potted plants and a swimming pool just below it, like I’d seen a magazine one time. Alice came back and I sat up and stubbed out the joint.

She lay on the floor and said it was boring living here and would I take her to the playground or even the swimming pool. She said she’d money and could pay. So I told her not be silly but if she helped me that I might do something with her. She stood up and slouched out into the garden. I saw her kicking something that was on the lawn, her shoulders hunched. When all the rubbish was in bags and the dirty stuff in the sink, I hung Stella’s discarded clothes on one of the pegs in the hall and I started searching for spare coins. I looked under the furniture and the cushions but all I found was twenty pence.

Alice came to the door and shouted, ‘You’re mean,’ through it so I told her to piss off. It was too early to go anywhere so I went to our bedroom and lay on my bed and thought about being Marilyn. Who is who I am. Kitty makes me sound soppy and light and as if I need protection and want to be stroked. As Marilyn I am strong and can look after myself and don’t take all the bullshit that grownups give you all the time. Also it’s sexy, like Marilyn Monroe. She changed her name from something boring to one that would help her be successful. As I have done. Different name, different life.


11AM: Alice eventually settled down to drawing pictures on the living room wall. She loves doing that because it makes Dad cross and then there’s a big row with Alice as the centre of attention. Mum just moans at her, as if being a mother was nothing but a struggle. Dan came out of his smelly bedroom, yawning, and then swearing because there was no food. He went out soon after without answering any of the questions I’d asked him. Stella came in without knocking. She acts as if she lives here.

‘You’re up early,’ I said to her and she looked at me as if I’d insulted her.

‘Couldn’t sleep,’ she said eventually. She saw her underwear hanging on the peg, grabbed it and stuffed it into her bag. I watched her to see if she was blushing but she wasn’t. ‘Left my purse here,’ she said and went into the living room. I doubted that she had as I’d already had a good poke about earlier when I was looking for money. She hunted around but there was no sign of it and then she sat down and lit a cigarette.

‘Have you seen it?’ she asked. I shook my head.

She opened the box where Mum and Dad keep their dope and started to roll a joint. I watched as she did it, I thought her skilful as she was smoking at the same time. Sometimes I think we’d be better off if Stella was our mother. She’s more of a drunk and is always on some drug or another but she manages her life better than Mum, who just lies around and lets things happen to her. I imagine that’s how she ended up with Dad and with Dan and me and Alice. Not that I like thinking that sort of thing but sometimes I can’t help it.

Alice finished her wall drawing and came and sat next to me, watching Stella.

‘You seen my purse, Alice?’ Stella asked when the joint was rolled. Alice shook her head and looked down so I knew that she’d taken the purse, especially as earlier she’d said she had money. I didn’t say anything.   

Stella shared the joint with me then she said she had to go.

‘Wasn’t much in the purse except a big bag of weed,’ she said. Alice frowned.

‘Where is it?’ I asked her once Stella had gone.


‘Don’t play silly buggers with me.’

‘Don’t know what you’re talking about, Kitty.’

‘Marilyn. I’m Marilyn,’ I shouted. When I’m called Kitty I feel powerless. I went into our bedroom and lifted Alice’s pillow and there was the purse. It was made of shiny material and covered in coloured sequins. I imagine Stella made it; she makes lots of things and sells them. That’s one of the ways she earns money. When I opened it, there were a two dollar coin, a fifty cent coin and a bulging bag of weed. I put that under my own pillow and went to give Alice the little bit of change. I couldn’t decide what to do with the purse itself so I put it in my pocket.


1PM: When Dad got up and started shouting at Alice and yelling about who had taken the last of the milk, I left, closing the door quietly so no one would know I’d gone. I sat on the wall at the front of our house and thought about what to do next. I was planning to leave home as soon as I was old enough. I thought that I might become a dope dealer as you could make quite a bit of money that way. And you’d always have some stuff for yourself. That was one idea and another one was to stay on at school because I was always top of the class even though I didn’t work hard and bunked off when I got bored. I could even go to uni, like some of my cousins, and get a good job. The problem was working out how I could do all this with my parents the way they were.

Stella came walking up the road and stopped outside her house.

‘What you doing there?’ she asked. I kicked the wall with the heel of my shoe. I did it again. ‘You can come and have a drink with me,’ she said. ‘Or are you too young?’

I slid off the wall and slouched over to her place.


5PM: When I came back from Stella’s I lay on my bed and tried not to think about what had happened at her place. I could hardly bear to have all that stuff in my head. This is what happened.

She opened a bottle of wine. She poured us each a glass. I don’t really like the taste but still I drank some. We went into her living room which is really lovely, not like ours, it’s full of un-matching furniture that somehow goes together and on the sofa is a purple velvet throw and silky cushions with embroidered covers. I sat down and Stella put some old fashioned music on and of course she rolled a joint and kept pouring wine into our glasses. I think I must have fallen asleep because I woke up and Stella was sitting next to me. She was stroking my arm and smiling at me. I sat up and tried to move away because I felt… threatened.

‘Hey, Kitty,’ she said.

‘I’m Marilyn,’ I said almost choking.

‘Of course you are,’ Stella said, her voice smooth like cream. She touched my cheek with the tips of her fingers and I saw how plump her arm was and breathed in her smell, which was like ripe apricots. I knew what was about to happen before it did and I felt as if my heart was trying to run away. In spite of all the wine I’d drunk and how woozy I’d been feeling before I fell asleep I wasn’t in the least bit drunk.

She leaned forward and kissed me on the lips, her hand on the back of my head so that I couldn’t pull away. Her mouth was soft and disgusting, like a big slug and I tried to escape.

‘Hey, Kit… Marilyn, what’s the matter,’ she said as she pulled away. ‘Old enough to smoke, old enough to drink, old enough then for sex. And how much better with a woman than a man for your first time?’

I tried to answer. There were all sorts of phrases swirling in my head but none of them came out. I stuttered and moved further away from her and she put out both arms and pulled me to her. I stuck out my elbows and kicked Stella on her shin. She pushed me down and lay on top of me. She pulled up my blouse and her other hand was on my thigh. So I screamed and struggled and she let me go. As soon as I was free, I jumped up and started walking around the room. I didn’t want to leave without trying to understand what had been going on.

‘Well, Kit…’

‘Marilyn,’ I shouted.

‘Marilyn, I thought… you would like it,’ she said, her voice still creamy.

‘Why? I thought... You… I know you do it with Dad. I’m a girl.’

‘So? I don’t discriminate. Anyone attractive. Why not? Sex is lovely.’

I didn’t think it was. Not so far in my life.

‘I’m really sorry,’ Stella said. She didn’t sound as if she meant it. The creaminess had gone. ‘Have another glass of wine… Sit down and talk to me.’

I shook my head. I put my hand in my pocket and there was her purse. I’d forgotten about it. I pulled it and threw it to her. It landed on the floor and she reached out for it.

‘It’s empty,’ she said as she picked it up. I shrugged. We stared at each other and she shrugged too. Then I came home.

I told myself that what had happened was just part of growing up and that it might even make me a stronger person. Most people are partly good and partly bad. Sometimes you meet someone who is just good. I know just one, a teacher at school who encourages me and is kind to all of us. She smiles a lot and speaks slowly as if she is thinking about what she is saying. I hope that I will meet more people like her.

I decided that I would go out and sell the dope from Stella’s purse and save the money for when I was old enough to leave home.


8PM: I escaped. Dad shouted at me that they needed me to babysit Alice, but apart from the fact that I’m not legally old enough to do that I knew they’d be too stoned or drunk or both to go out. So I yelled back that Dan could do it. He was in his room with a girl he’d picked up while he was out earlier. When I say his room it was once the scullery so it’s small but he has a mattress in there and if he can’t be bothered to go the bathroom he can pee in the sink.

I slammed the front door shut behind me and stood on the crumbling front path holding my breath to see if Mum or Dad were going to come after me. Of course they didn’t. Somehow this made me feel so sad and I wondered what it would be like to have a family where the father goes to work and the place is kept clean, meals cooked, pot not smoked or other drugs taken, maybe a civilised glass of wine in the evenings like some of the stuff on the TV. My friends Nancy and Kate had homes like this. When I was younger, I used to go around to their houses sometimes. Nancy’s mother wore an apron in the kitchen and there was a smell of lovely baking. Kate’s dad had a booming voice, but he was kind to me and laughed at some of the things I said. But in a nice way. Nancy won’t talk to me anymore and although Kate does, her mum has told her that I’m not welcome to visit anymore. Probably because she saw me sitting on a wall smoking one afternoon when I’d bunked off school.

After I banged out of home, I went to the park where people buy and sell dope. Dan took me there once and I think it was Stella who had told him about it. I didn’t like hanging about there trying to signal that I was selling. It was scary and I felt like a child, which I haven’t done for ages. I’d just hooked up with a buyer when the police arrived, so suddenly that I didn’t have time to run. Oddly when I saw them coming towards me I felt as if I was being rescued rather than arrested.

Now here I am in the police station. They told me that when they called my parents, Dad said he didn’t have a daughter called Marilyn.

I don’t know what to feel. Perhaps I’ve really escaped from home. Perhaps this is the start of a new life.



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