My Name – Melek.

I am a creation of author P.J. Greystoke and will star in my own novel, but until that day, P.J. Greystoke will be asking me various questions, asking for my views and opinions on various topics, and placing me in short situations to help him understand who I am.

You (the reader) can comment and ask me questions too and I will answer them honestly and fully.

Together we can build my personality and life history.

I believe that I am great. It led to my author asking me – What is greatness?

This is my answer:


Do the great people in society think of themselves as great, or is that left for the rest of us to decide once they are dead?

I mean take Gandhi, at what point did he stop what he was doing, eating probably, and think… You know what, I’m fucking awesome. People are going to remember me forever?

Don’t get me wrong. He’d have no argument from me. He is without a shadow of a doubt one of the greatest men that ever walked this planet.

Then again that’s only my opinion. I’m sure the British general who massacred all those women in India around the same time wasn’t a fan.

Horses for courses.

Maybe greatness is a measure of how much you inspire others?

If that’s true, was Adolf Hitler a great man?

Some people may think so, depends on where you live, but one man’s hero can be another’s nightmare. To the English, he was the stuff of nightmares, but I guess German children thought the same of Churchill (The former Prime Minster, not the insurance dog, though he scares me).

What about Children, our future professors, teachers, inventors, scientists, architects, authors, musicians, world leaders?

Children are great in the eyes of those who brought them into the world, so what happens over time to make them lose that sense that they can be anything they want to be?

Who’s to blame?





Or is it a natural progression where they face the harsh reality of what life is and let go of their dreams and aspirations?

And are those great people I spoke of earlier, just the ones who slipped through the net?



Supply Teacher

By P.J. Greystoke


Extract from the Highfield School prospectus January 2016 and used in evidence in November of the same year:



“… Celebrating its third successive ‘Good’ from Ofsted and a 48% GCSE average A – C grade increase; Highfield High is so much more than a school. Our dedicated staff stimulate and encourage personal development as well as academic growth. Every child matters, and as the assistant head I see to it that their every need is catered for.”   

Prof John Gorman – Assistant Head Teacher.



“You gonna help me put up the displays in the back office then?”

Carolyn sat in the open dining area, playfully spinning on her little round seat, till she was facing the new supply teacher.

Dave shrugged. “Yea if you want me to; but aren’t I supposed to be teaching year 11 science now?”

Carolyn laughed. “You are new aren’t you?”

To Dave’s utter astonishment she reached out and touched his knee, caressing it slowly in small concentric circles. For a moment, he was transfixed by her hand, almost as though it had some sort of hypnotic power over him.

“Guess I’m kinda new myself.” She giggled.

He didn’t remove the hand, instead slowly looked up till their eyes met. A wry smile had already formed on her face; her bright red lipstick reflected perfectly the dumbfounded expression on his own face.

“We help each other out here, y’ know?” She whispered, then raised an eyebrow, stood up and sauntered slowly and seductively into the back office, leaving the door open behind her.

A queue of ill-tempered teenagers had already begun to line up outside his science room. His gaze darted back and forth frantically, from the office door to the classroom.

How much do I need this job? He thought, and what of his wife?

He was a married man, had been for fourteen years, but for all the sex he got, he may as well have taken a vow of celibacy alongside his wedding vows. He stood up, briefly checked to make sure his apparent arousal was not evident then marched directly to the office entrance, confidently taking a deep breath and walking inside.

Sheila Lonsdale a 65-year-old battle axe of a secretary stopped typing and glared at him. Her stare was unnerving, almost like she was looking right through him. Shocked, he took a sudden step back, knocking a pile of unopened exam papers to the floor.

“I’m sorry” he stammered “I was looking for…”

He glanced around the small room. Carolyn was not there. Aside from the entrance he’d just used there was only one other door and that was directly behind the ogre he had unintentionally disturbed. Her chair was practically pressed up against it.

“Did you see anyone…? I’m sorry, I have a class. I’ll just go.”

The secretary said nothing; instead, she turned her attention to the fallen papers. Dave apologized once more then slowly backed out of the room, leaving the door open behind him.


Period 1


Year eleven science, though only timetabled to last an hour seemed to go on forever. His meandering thoughts of his encounter with the teaching assistant seemed to block out the usual Neanderthalic comments from his budding students:

“Do we have to work?”

“Can’t we just watch a movie instead?”


“Don’t see the point in science I’m gonna be a drug dealer when I leave school.”

“Have you never seen Breaking Bad, stupid!?”

The bell sounded and the students didn’t wait for his permission to leave before walking out of the classroom.

Dave simply shrugged it off. He was only there until the end of the week and certainly wasn’t going to burst a blood vessel trying to keep kids in line that he was unlikely to ever see again.

He sat down and read the notes that had been left sellotaped to the desk for his next lesson, year 10 GSCE revision group. Should be quiet at least he thought.

“I missed you in the office. Thought you were going to come.”

His head shot up almost as fast as his heart rate.

The sweet voice came from the open entrance to his classroom. Carolyn propped herself up on the frame.

“I did come,” he said, resisting the temptation to make a pun on the double meaning of the word; he didn’t know her that well just yet. “But you weren’t Instead,I was greeted by the wicked witch of the west.”

She smiled, then walked away and down the hall.

Almost as soon as she was out of sight Dave dove out of his seat, banged his knee on the desk and ran to the entrance, looking up and down the corridor for Carolyn, whilst rubbing his sore knee. Gonna be a bruise there later, he thought.

Yet again she was nowhere to be seen. He felt sure that even if she were running at top speed he would surely have noticed her dart off and down the corridor. It is conceivable, he thought that she could have walked into one of the nearby rooms, but he wasn’t about to walk in and announce that he was looking for a sexy teaching assistant, and had anyone seen her.

There wasn’t time anyway, a pimple faced year 10 boy pushed past him and into the classroom, picking his nose and wiping the contents onto his blazer, which looked more like an open cloth casket for disregarded nasal mucus than the smart jacket that students were expended to proudly brandish.


Period 2


Dave took his seat and the class quietly got on with their work. Ten minutes into the lesson John Gorman, the assistant head popped his head around the corner.

Michelle Henderson, an attractive year ten student noticed him at once and stood up, brushing her hair seductively to one side of her face. There were plenty of boys her own age, who would have dated her given the chance -which may not be saying much, a few of them would also go out with the aging secretary if they thought she’d go for it- but Michelle’s desires were firmly fixed on John Gorman.

“Hello sir” she whispered in a mock Marylyn Monroe voice, “Are you looking for me?”

John smiled, and his obvious show of embarrassment was met with taunting cheers from the rest of the class.

“No Michelle I’m not. Do Sit down, and don’t forget your detention tonight.”

“Yes sir.”

He tried not to, but did glance at Michelle’s legs as she slowly returned to her seat.

Dave caught the direction of Johns gaze and shook his head.

The assistant head’s a perv!

“I’m actually looking for Carolyn, the new teaching assistant, anyone seen her?”

You and me both, Dave thought. Though judging by your apparent interest in that year 10 student, probably not for the same reason.

Dave did a quick circle of the room – may as well make it look like I’m working, and impress the pervy boss –  John didn’t even notice him, just took a quick glance around at the students chatting, made some comment about it being cold and walked off.

Michelle watched, starry eyed, as the teacher disappeared from sight.

“Detention again?” scolded Carly, one of Michelle’s closest friends, who was a little deflated at the prospect of walking home alone.

“What for this time?”

Michelle smiled. “Not wearing uniform.” She answered.

“Or much of anything else” laughed one of her classmates.

“Immature”, she said and tugged at the hem of her skirt till it was level with her knee.




“Guessing you’re not hungry?”

Dave looked up from his book. He’d had a copy of Stephen Kings Gunslingers tucked in his jacket pocket for the past few days; there’s a time in everybody’s life when they have to do the dark tower series, and this was his. Besides it was a good way of remaining solitary.

Carolyn was perched on his desk. He didn’t see her jump up there, but he did see the way she sat was making her skirt slowly ride up her smooth legs.  It was near impossible to hide his feelings of arousal and furthermore, his desire to have the skirt removed altogether.

“Where did you go before?” He half choked trying to retain a little composure.  “I chased after you, knocked my knee on the desk. Gonna be a bruise there later.”

“It’s all in the mind you know, physical pain, internal desires… me.”

She pushed her skirt up an inch further with her index finger.

“Can be hard to distinguish between what is real, and what you really want.”

Her signals to him were as clear as though they had been etched in big neon letters across her body.

Come and get it baby!

Putting the book down on the desk, he chanced a bold move with his hand toward her bare thigh. She took his hand in hers before it could make contact and slid down from the desk.

“Come with me.”

She led him to the dimly lit walk in book closet which was attached to the classroom and pulled the door so that it was nearly closed, leaving a tiny crack where the door met the frame so they could keep watch for unwelcome intruders.

This is it, he thought, all my birthdays and Christmas’s coming at once, soon to be quite literally.

Carolyn wasted no time; pushing him up against the wall and moving in so close so that their lips were barely touching. He reached down and grasped at her top, wanting to rip the thin blouse from her body, wanting to tear every scrap of clothes from…


They froze.

Carolyn smiled and signaled for Dave to peer in through the crack, which he dutifully did and recognized the girl at once.

“Yes I’m alone. Ok hang on.”

Michelle Henderson, the scantily dressed student from period one closed the classroom door, then pushed a chair up against it, preventing unwelcome entry. She paused and carefully scanned the empty classroom. Satisfied she was alone she sat, virtually facing the closet.

Dave was afraid to move a muscle, though he found the role reversal rather exciting; two teachers hiding from the discovery of a student.

Carolyn simply sat on a pile of books, unhooked a button from her blouse and started pretending to read the first book her searching hands could find. Dave smiled and shook his head.

“Ok I’m back. Are we still meeting later baby, and maybe a little extra ‘detention’ on Saturday too?”

Detention? Dave thought.

Michelle laughed.

“Ooh John. Sorry Mr. Gorman.” She repeated in the same Marilyn Monroe mock voice that he liked so much.

Dave glared, dumfounded at Carolyn, who simply nodded as though it was old news. He returned his spying eye to Michelle.

“What did you tell your wife this time?

Carolyn? But I haven’t seen her.

The police?

How does she know?

Big deal. She’s just jealous. Besides all the kids know she’s got a thing with that supply teacher who was here yesterday; she probably ran off with him.”

Dave shot another look at Carolyn, who placed the book down on the floor, fixed the top button of her blouse and moved closer to the door. He didn’t know what to react to first; the fact that A student was having an intimate relationship with a senior member of staff, or that Carolyn seemingly knew all about it already.

He made to run out from the closet and confront her but was stopped by Carolyn, who grasped his arm and reverently shook her head. Michelle continued:

“I love you. Do you love me?

Well say it then.”

She laughed, hung up the phone and walked out of the class.

Barely a second later Dave burst out from the closet, silent rage building within.

“Ok” he shouted. “What the hell’s going on?”

“You still don’t remember?” Came the sorrowful voice from within the closet.

“Remember what?”

“You will. Meet me 6 o clock tonight in Mr. Gorman’s office.” she answered, then started to cry. “And I’m sorry.”

“Sorry for what?”

There was no response.

“Come on Carolyn, you can’t hide in there forever!”

He stormed over to the closet, swung the door open and…

Carolyn was gone.

What the hell??

The classroom door was open. Michelle had left it that way, but Carolyn hadn’t used it, he would have seen. Surely?

He sat at the desk and buried his head in his hands, convinced that he must be going mad.

That is the only explanation. He thought.

He was a scientist after all –  He needed an explanation; to logically work out what the…

He was going mad.

The only logical explanation.


Period 5?


The bell sounded and more students poured into the room, followed by Miss Pervis the biology teacher who settled the class rather quickly. She stood at the front and glanced down to the notes sellotaped to Dave’s desk.

“Right you lot. Open your books to page forty-three, plant and animal cells. Read the chapter, answer the questions and don’t talk. These walls are paper thin, my class is next door, so if you make any noise I will know. I have a nice bunch of detention slips which I’m dying to use, that includes you Sonia. Your parents have already asked me to call at the end of the day to give them an update on your behavior!”

“Yes miss”

Dave shrugged. Was his presence even more superfluous than normal?

“Thank you Miss Pervis.” He added “But I think I can handle this.”

“Any questions?” Miss Pervis asked, looking around the bored faces staring blankly back at her.

Sonia raised her hand.

“What happened to that supply teacher miss? If our normal teacher isn’t here and when the hired help doesn’t turn up… well that’s not good for our education is it?”

The rest of the class laughed.

“And we all want a good education” another student added before joining in with the laughter of the room.

“Quiet!” Miss Pervis yelled “Shall I just hand out those detentions now?”

That seemed to kill any feelings of levity that the students might be experiencing.

“Mr Jenkins…”

“He said we could call him Dave.”

“Well you can’t. Mr. Jenkins called in sick this morning, left a message with Mr. Gorman, so if any of you want to go discuss it with him, please be my guest.”

She extended her arm toward the open door as an invitation.

No one moved.

“I thought not. Right on with your work.”

Miss Purvis walked from the room, closing the door behind her.

The ignorance of some teachers, Dave thought. And I never called in sick. I’m right here!

“Miss Purvis.”  He called after her.

She didn’t respond and none of the kids so much as glanced in his direction.

Disgruntled, he walked to the door and made to turn the handle, but his hand just floated right through. He stepped back in astonishment before slowly reaching his hand out and trying again. The result was the same. He clasped his hands together. They both felt solid to him. But the door…

Nervously, he turned to face the class.

“This door, has anyone been tampering with it?”

No one answered.

The ridiculousness of the question was apparent to him. What could they have possibly done?

Maybe he was going mad.

First Carolyn, he thought, then Miss Purvis; maybe she wasn’t ignoring, maybe she couldn’t hear, or see me?

Can anyone?

Am I… dead?

I can’t be!

“Right everyone in the class.” He shouted at the top of his voice. “I need you to listen to me. I am a monkey.”

No laughter. Nothing.

“Free money for the first person to put their hand up.”

The students continued with their quiet chatter whilst being blissfully unaware of both his presence, and of course, the chapter they were meant to be reading.

“Please, somebody talk to me!”

Suddenly and without warning, a very slow heartbeat sounded in his ears. Quiet at first but gradually getting louder with every strike. The eventual noise was so deafening that he had to press his hands against his ears, a futile effort to keep the noise out, as the sound seemed to be coming from within.

He clamped his eyes shut, his head still pounding and stumbled forward wincing in pain, gasping helplessly for breath.

With great effort he opened his eyes. Five or six students were sitting around him having a conversation, but none were paying him any attention.

He looked down to see that he was standing in the middle of a perfectly solid table. Students either side, with him as the petrified centerpiece. Sonia flung a text book at another student across the table and it passed right through him.

This is impossible. He thought.

His mind, as well as enduring the most dreadful pain, was lost, swimming, drowning in a sea of unanswered questions. He tried to focus, to swim. Praying for a brief moment of clarity:

“Carolyn!” he said aloud.

“She can see me, hear me She can even touch me. I must find her!”

Almost as if it had a mind of its own, and was waiting for the science teacher to reach this realization, the door opened on its own.

A couple of students looked toward it.

“Oooh we have ghosts.”

“Just the wind stupid.”

“The ghost of a penguin, it’s freezing in here.”

Dave walked through the table, right through a couple of students, and straight through the open door, which slammed shut behind him, nearly shattering the glass and making the students in the classroom jump.

“I can’t be dead.” he tried to convince himself. “I mean I live the most boring life, never take any risks. But that doesn’t mean I don’t… I still have dreams, ambitions.”

He thought of his wife, strangely without remorse. He always assumed that he must love her, I mean they shared a house, a mortgage. Went on one holiday a year and slept in separate beds. He’d even forgiven her infidelity on more than two occasions. If that wasn’t love, then…

“Hello!” He called out, half afraid and half hoping to attract the attention of whatever entity caused the door to open.

There was no answer.


Period 6


The end of period bell sounded for lesson changeover. Students left the classes and filled the corridors, almost doddering, in no apparent hurry to continue with their valued education. Pensioners, Zombies and secondary school students all share a common walk, Dave thought.

He glanced up at the clock on the wall.

Ten past two and fifteen seconds, sixteen seconds, seventeen. Back to fifteen and repeat.

Wait, what?

The clock is broken?

No. He looked around.

Everyone in the hall was doing the same, caught in a perpetual loop – walking a few steps, asking half a question, taking half a bite of a sandwich, tripping over and falling halfway to the ground, surrounding student’s half preparing for the explosion of laughter that was to follow. – then rewind and back again, over and over.

Dave walked and passed freely through objects and people alike, and if it weren’t for the ever present heartbeat pounding like a persistent drum in his head, or for the fact that he was inexplicably ethereal, he could have almost enjoyed this.

He found that the closer he moved toward the school office the more painful and intense the drumming was. Something told him that the answer to this mystery lay behind that door, but every fibre of his being, or whatever was left of it, wanted to move as far away from that place as possible.

He quickly resolved that knowledge was power and that the unbearable head pain was but a necessary evil, so took several strides closer till he stood outside the office door.

If I am a ghost, he thought, then it will be pointless trying the handle. I should just walk through the door the same way I have been with everyone and everything else.

He walked, full force, with absolute certainty, slap bang into, but sadly for him not through the door. He hit his nose so hard that he thought it may be pushed into the other side of his face. It put him in mind of a previous student remarking a few years ago, how Lord Voldemort from the Harry Potter series probably walked into the wrong train platform and lost his nose.

Dazed and confused, he turned around to hear a mechanical whirring. The clock on the wall was moving forward again, this time faster. The minutes were moving as fast as seconds and with it, the movement in the hall continued too, only at super speed.

In next to no time, all the children and teachers raced by and left. The cleaners came in too; did the briefest day’s work they had ever done then departed leaving him finally alone and in complete darkness, save for that one clock which shone brightly.


6 pm.


Carolyn was in the assistant heads office. In a land of uncertainty, this was one thing he was sure of; perhaps the only thing he was sure of.

He ascended the stairs that led to the carpeted area leading to the offices of the senior management team, never once doubting that he was doing the right thing. A flickering light at the end of the corridor told him that this was probably Mr. Gorman’s office.

If he had been in any doubt however, then that was soon to be alleviated when the spirit of Carolyn floated through the open door and turned to face him.

“Come with me”, she said and extended her hand for him to hold, which he did.

They both walked through the locked door and into John Gorman’s plush, executive office.

John was sitting at his desk, fists clenched, a face like stone; the stereotypical image of complete power and dominance. He was staring at the year 10 student who was drowning in floods of tears on the couch opposite.

“Are you with me or not?”

She shook her head.

“I can’t.”

“Ok. Have you told anyone else? Well, aside from Carolyn, but she won’t be saying anything now.”

She shook her head again.

Carolyn squeezed Dave’s hand.

“In fifteen minutes John Gorman is going to come to the inescapable conclusion that it’s far too risky to have Michelle’s mouth roaming free. He’s going to sit over there on the couch, pretend to comfort her, tell her everything is going to be alright, then fix his murderous hands round her throat and squeeze every last breath from her body.”

“What? But she didn’t… She’s just a kid.”

“Yes, being done for rape is a pretty big incentive.”

Dave nodded.

“And since he already has one murder to his name.”

“Murder? But he hasn’t killed her yet. Surely we could…”

“Come with me to the closet.”

Dave was confused but followed.

Once through yet another locked door, Carolyn pointed at the bloody corpse sprawled on the floor. Dave tried not to look; the battered body of the former teaching assistant was barely recognizable as the lady he’d been lusting after, been fantasizing about ever since they first met. He almost cried.

“Oh Carolyn, I’m so sorry.”

A single teardrop dripped from her ethereal eye.

“He can’t get away with this. You have to stop him.”

“How did he? I mean why you?”

“Take both my hands and close your eyes.” She said softly, closing her own eyes.

He moved in close, interlocked his fingers with hers and closed his eyes, breathing slow and steady.

He could hear a clock ticking, shortly followed by the morning school bell and the rush of bodies as teachers and staff milled around the front entrance to the school. Through the darkness, he saw himself walking up to the front entrance.

An image, a memory from the past.

“This is when I first arrived at the school earlier this week”, he said.

He watched as his former self rang the bell on the desk and straightened his name badge

Dave Jenkins, Education Network UK.

“Hi I’m Dave from the agency. Filling in for science this week.”

“Well, hello Dave from the agency.” The smiling and, he couldn’t help but notice, attractive receptionist answered.

“I’m Carolyn. I’m a TA, not normally on reception. But I’d be happy to show you around and get you your timetable. Do you have your DBS forms?”

The image froze and was quickly displaced by another.

Dave and Carolyn were standing in the staffroom alone, laughing and joking as he poured her a coffee.

“…A boyfriend?” she said “No, why? Are you asking?”

He slipped off his wedding band and placed it deep in his pocket.

“Yes, well a drink at least. Tonight after work?”

“Well I have to put some notices up in the back room.” She signaled over to the adjoining room.

“It’s been closed and locked up because of the water damage a few weeks ago. But now that it’s all sorted, the head is going to open it up as a sixth form common area. They even get their own phone. Posh eh? Here take this key, wait for me there after school. If you help me with the posters and stuff, we can go out after if you like?”

The image froze again as another memory took its place, this time not his, but Carolyn’s.

She was yelling at John Gorman, in his office.

“The poor girl came to me. She is so confused, claiming that you and she have been having a sexual relationship for the past few months. Please John tell me this isn’t true!”

John was the picture of calm and tranquility.

“I didn’t realize we were on first name terms Miss Stephenson. That’s a serious allegation.”

He sat on the corner or the desk and started fiddling with a paper weight that had been lying there.

“Tell me, why did she come to you?”

“I’m a friend of the family, that and she said she’s missed a period. She hasn’t done a pregnancy test. She’s too afraid of what it might say, of what you might say!”

He grasped the paperweight in his right hand

“Please tell me it’s not true John.”

First names again, he thought, tut tut.

“Of course it’s not true. Have you mentioned this to anybody?”

“No, hell no. I wanted to talk to you first. But there are channels. We have to tell someone. And if she is pregnant…”

“Yes that does complicate things rather.” He calmly replied as he crashed the paperweight down on Carolyn’s head the moment she turned away from him.

She slumped down to the floor and after a moment of silent shock, screamed repeatedly, trying desperately to crawl over to the exit and down the corridor. Johns massive body weight prevented her escape, and the constant blows to her head that followed rendered her unconscious.

The school was quite empty, John made sure it would be when Carolyn telephoned him after lunch following her conversation with Michelle and requesting a meeting.

Just to be on the safe side though, he decided to take a look around. He stepped outside his office and saw Dave running up the corridor toward him, obviously alerted by Carolyn’s screams for help.

“What’s going on? I heard yelling!”

“It’s Carolyn.” John replied defensively “Some sort of attack or fit or something. She’s in my office.”

Dave pushed past the assistant head and into the office.

He stood, stunned and looking at the lifeless body at his feet. He knelt down to feel for a pulse.

There was none.

Before he had time to react, or challenge John Gorman, he felt a sharp pain at the back of his head and was sent crashing to the floor next to her. The last image he saw before he blacked out was the shocked and helpless eyes of Carolyn, wide open and forever locked in a perpetual cry for help.

The image froze again then slowly faded away. John was once again standing in the closet with Carolyn’s spirit.

“That’s when I came to you”, Carolyn said.

“I have the only key for that sixth form room, the one I gave to you. You weren’t dead, merely unconscious. I caused a distraction, made a noise elsewhere in the school, far enough for John to hear yet close enough for him to go and investigate. I then helped you to the common room and had you lock the door; from there you were supposed to call for the police, but you blacked out. And that’s where you are still, unconscious in the common room.

All the images you’ve seen today; most have been real and others, the ones with me, the sexual ones have been mixed up, made up from your thoughts and feelings of me; confused and dizzy, mixing for the most part, fact and desire.  I tried to lead you to the common room this morning, to make you discover your body and wake up, but you didn’t make it.

Michelle’s life is in danger Dave. You have to wake up now, please before it’s too late.”




The repeating heartbeat sounded once again in his mind, stronger than ever and that familiar pain caused him to once again close his eyes.

The drumbeat instantly stopped when he opened his eyes. He stumbled across the floor, onto a chair and picked up the telephone.


From the Highfield Gazette June 21st 2016:

John Gorman, the former assistant head of Highfield High school was today charged with the statutory rape and attempted murder of Michelle Henderson, the brutal murder of Carolyn Stephenson and attempted murder of science teacher Dave Jenkins. He has been ordered to serve three consecutive life sentences.

Judge George Wiseman commented: “John is a selfish, evil and vicious, man without conscience or a single shred of regret for his victims. It is disturbing that he was ever placed in a position of trust among the vulnerable in our society.”

Dave smiled, folded the paper and placed it on the last of his packing boxes. He picked it up and put it in the passenger seat of his car.

Before driving off he took one last look at the house he had shared with his wife these past seventeen years.

Today was a new day.

A new life.

In The Moment

By P.J. Greystoke



“Do you believe in ghosts?”

I shuffled, uneasy in my seat, switching the phone to loudspeaker and placing it on the table; A little more distant and less intimate. That’s the way forward with this type of conversation.

“You know, spirits and stuff?”

“You know I do.” I answered nervously. “I know that they exist, just as surely as I know that my phone is sitting on a table right now, arm’s length from this conversation.”

Rachel laughed.

“Do they ever scare you?”

“Phones?” I quipped, trying to lighten my own mood. “Only when you call. Good job it’s not that often.”

Does every night count as not that often? I thought.

“I’ve never believed in that sort of stuff.” She mumbled, more thoughtfully. “Science has always done it for me.”

“Science is nothing but a bunch of Vulcans trying to make logical sense of an illogical world.”

“You’re such a geek.” She laughed again, this time with a hint of melancholy.

There was a pause.



“I wish we’d known each other better. I mean, I’m gonna miss you.”

I rolled my eyes.

Not this again.

During our last chat over the phone – at 2.30am, even though I had to be up for work at five – She told me of her rather brilliant plan of killing herself when her children go away over Christmas to Dubai to be with their father.

She’d take a few pills and slip silently away into oblivion.

“I can’t have this conversation again, Rachel.”

She sounded hurt, indignant almost. Which is weird, because she didn’t actually say anything. Perhaps I imagined her response.

I continued.

“Let’s suppose, for a second that you don’t give a fuck about your own life and what happens to you. And like you said last time, that you have been planning this ever since you entered adulthood and discovered what this damn cruel world is all about. What kind of…”

Heartless Bitch!

“… Responsible mother, would do that to her own children?”

She started to cry, but I had no words of comfort.

Somehow, ‘There there, everything is going to be alright, seemed wildly inappropriate; almost like – making her feel better would implicate me in this heinous and incredibly selfish crime.

Well she wasn’t going to get my seal of approval. If she’s going to do it then it’s going to be with the knowledge that I tried to talk her out of it. My conscience is clear!

Still, she was crying.

“Look I don’t mean to come over all harsh, but this stuff really gets to me. Life is the greatest gift we have been given, and to throw it away like that… Besides, I’d miss you.”

“Can we talk about something else?”

I love it when people do that. They only say it to avoid the difficult conversation, which means any other topic is gonna fail miserably. And like a struggling nightclub comic, the onus to change the mood of the room falls entirely on my shoulders.

“I wish we’d had sex.”

Ok, I wasn’t expecting that. Though it lost much of its allure being delivered over the phone, covered in imagined tears and snot, but still…

“I know we slept together once.”

We did a lot more than that I thought.

But she’s right. We didn’t actually have sex.

An image of her, laid bare, upstairs on my bed flashed in my mind and I felt that familiar tingle and pushing against the inside of my trousers, which I snapped away almost as soon as it entered my mind. I should be ashamed of myself. Here is this girl, obviously upset, calling her friend for comfort and all he can do is imagine kissing every part of … I’m doing it again!

“That’s alright” she said “I’m thinking the same.”

Next topic: Cold Showers!

“So, how’s Uni?”

That seemed to kill the mood.

She sighed.

“Doesn’t matter anymore. I tried, I really did, maybe not hard enough. It’s so fucking difficult being a single mom. All I ever wanted was thirty minutes. That’s it, thirty short minutes to read a chapter or make a start on an assignment and all I ever got was ‘Mom Jack is hitting me, Mom I really don’t have any homework, I don’t need to check my bag, mom I’m hungry, mom, mom, Mom!’”

“No one ever said it was going to be easy.”

“Like you’d fucking know!”

“I’m a single parent too.”

“Part time.”

That was cruel.

I’m every bit as much a parent as her. I may only have my kids half the week but at least she doesn’t have to put up with the constant barrage of shit from her ex that I have to; severe anger issues and a constant craving for cash. I pay half for everything that the kids need, have them half the week, do well over half of the parenting and emotional support, and she still wants more money for maintenance. It’s like she wants a wage for looking after her own children!

I wouldn’t mind she even gets the child benefit and working tax credits for them. But who the hell wants to hear that? It’s been my experience that the dad puts up with the shit from the ex and the male adult in me shuts up and gets on with it without crying.

Sometimes I’d like to, cry I mean. Maybe it would help, but probably not. I think the fear is, if I did that I’d become a woman, I’d become… Rachel.

She was being unusually quiet.

Probably waiting for a response.

“I’m a good dad and I work bloody hard.” I blurt out. “It sounds like you’re so consumed by your own problems, by what’s happening in your own little bubble, that you won’t see the world around you. There are millions of people in the world that would kill to be where you are right now, couples that would love to have a child and a home.”

“Well they’re welcome to mine. I’d be happier on the streets. Not a care in the world, no one to care for.”

She starts to cry again.


“It’s ok”

“I don’t feel so good.”

I glance at the watch, hanging loosely on my wrist like a weary soldier.

2.30 am.

Regular as clockwork I think, then smile at the irony.

“It’s probably because you are tired. I’m guessing you haven’t eaten again?”

“Where do I get time for food? I don’t eat the same shit my kids do, and by the time I finish cooking that, I’m not hungry anymore.”

I almost suggest that if she doesn’t feed her kids shit, then maybe it would be more appealing to her and she’d get a square meal inside her. She’d think straight, be happier and not keep me up at night when I have to be up at five in the morning.

Instead I suggest she go and make herself a sandwich.

“Eugh, stop. I think I’m going to be sick.”

“Well you’ve got to eat something.”

“I really don’t.”

“Have you been drinking?”

“A little. Why?”

“You’re starting to slur your words. Maybe it’s time you slept.”

“Oh, it’s definitely time I slept.”

I sensed the double meaning even before she spoke and shook my head. I’d had this conversation a million times before, and expressed disapproval, support, anger even, the metaphorical shaking of the shoulders and slap across the face:

Wake up, welcome to life!

I don’t know if it was the lateness of the night, or the alcohol she’d consumed but she seemed different, almost resigned this time.

“Look, Rachel.”

I’ve gone full circle. Back to sympathy again.

“I do understand, it’s difficult for you.”


“Ok, impossible. But as much as I care, and I do, only you can make your life better. Do you think people haven’t suffered worse than you and still come out on top?”


“Course they have, millions of them all across the world. It’s your state of mind, the way you think about stuff. Talk about glass is half empty. You’ve got to be strong. If not for you, then for your kids.”

“How dare you say that. Who the fuck do you think you are?”

Her words are still slurred, it’s like she’s talking in her sleep.

“Your friend. If you don’t like it, hang up!”

I half expect her to, but she stays on the line and doesn’t say a word. Perhaps she’s fallen asleep and knocked the dregs of her red wine over the table and onto her university work.

“Are you still there?”

“I’m here, just.”

I’m over tired and now entering the philosophical phase of my self-proclaimed therapy practice.

“You can have two people, both on the bones of their ass, not a penny to their name No family, no home, nothing.”

“What’s this got to do with?”

“Don’t interrupt, you’ll find out.”


“It’s ok, now where was I? Oh yea, one of these people, after a few years, manages to become a millionaire, marries the woman of his dreams and has two beautiful children. The other scums about, starving on the streets for a while before taking a drug overdose and dies, unwept and unhonoured with nothing to his name. He’s barely a statistic. To the poor sods that have to clear away his body, he’s same burden on society in death that he was in life.”

“I’m pleased I can call on you to cheer me up.”

“What’s the difference between those two people?”

“I don’t care.”

Talk about being shot down in flames. I was hoping that one would have hit it home.

“Neither did the man on the street, the one who died. Didn’t care about himself. Where’s he going to find the motivation to better his life if his self-esteem is at such a depressingly low point that…”

“Please stop.”

I do.

“Thank you.”

“For what?”

“Always being there for me.”

I shrug. Fat lot of good I’m doing now. It feels like I’m making things worse.

“You should talk to someone you know.”

“Too late for that. Besides, I have you.”

“I’m no therapist.”

“My dad was a therapist, and he beat me up. I prefer you.”

“You do know that professional therapy has moved away from kicking holy crap out of their patients nowadays?”

“That’s not funny.”


“It is a bit.” She stops to light a cigarette. “You’ve always been able to make me laugh. I’ll miss that.”

“I’m not going anywhere.”

Sod it, it’s lunacy o clock in the morning and I’m not going to get any sleep. May as well pull an all-nighter.

“I wasn’t talking about you.”

I don’t reply. I don’t know what else to say.

“Do you have any regrets?”

“In life? Some, why?”

“I don’t have as many as I thought. I mean I do, but they are different to what I expected.”

“What are you talking about?”

Is it normal that I’m more worried than usual right now?

“Just, work and stuff. The things I stressed over. They don’t seem so important now.”

“Rachel, what did you do?”

She’s crying again, softly.

“Rachel” I repeat, louder more defined. “What did you do?”

“My head, it hurts. I’m so dizzy, so tired I…”

I start to cry too, jumping up from the sofa and pulling the phone close to my ear, suddenly wide awake.

She’s done it. She’s taken something, or cut her wrists and is bleeding out on the carpet whilst I’ve been preaching. I always thought it was just a cry for help or…

“Rachel! Listen to me, I’m going to call an ambulance or something, don’t…”

“No, please don’t. I want this. I’ve always wanted… If they save me, I’ll just do it again. You know I will.”

“Think about your children. How are they going to feel coming downstairs in the morning to find their mother lying dead on the living room floor?”

“They’re at my sisters. Besides, better off without me.”

“No they’re not!” I’m shouting down the phone now. “Please Rachel, I’ve got to call someone!”

“Promise me you won’t.”

“I can’t”

“Promise me.”


“I have the right to decide how I want to die. Please don’t take it from me.”

Her voice is slower, more deliberate. It’s like she’s having to concentrate so hard, just to speak.

“Let me go call an ambulance. I’ll phone you right back, promise.”

“Don’t go. It’s too late for that anyway, trust me.”

I’m inclined to believe her. She’s done more research on this than anything else. I remember she once showed me a website designed to help people who are serious about suicide.

“Just don’t leave me alone right now.”

She stopped to take a drink.

“Or I’ll come back and haunt you.”

Through the pain and the tears, she managed a light chuckle.

I feel so useless.

So pointless.

“I’ll come over. I’ll be with you, hold your hand.”

“No time. You are with me. Just talk.”

I don’t think I’ve ever cried this much. And what the fuck do I talk about?

“Rachel I…”

She sniffs and I imagine her wiping the tears from her closing eyes as she lays down with the phone pressed against her ear.

“Pretend that I’ve fallen asleep whilst you are speaking. Say you’ll talk to me tomorrow. Take me to one of those comedy shows you always talked about.”

I shake my head. I can’t do it. I can’t, I can’t!

I take a deep breath.

“So, work tomorrow hun, gotta be up early. I’ll text to stop you getting bored, you know we can hightail it off to Montreal for the comedy festival.”

I listen for a response.


I’m breaking up inside and there’s not a damn thing I can do.

“Thing is Rach… I never did get to tell you that I loved you. Don’t even think I knew it till now.”

I look at the phone face to make sure it’s still connected.

It is.

“Are you asleep Rach?


Ok, you sleep baby, don’t worry about a thing. I’m here, always.

Speak to you tomorrow.”


By P.J. Greystoke


From the clays of a cold star, we are risen.

Every atom, molecule and smile seemingly explained to the last definable detail.

Undeniable intelligence.

.        But where is the beauty?

.                   Where is the faith that led us here?

.                                 Where is that sunset?

…And by sunset, I don’t mean the atmospheric prism, through which, layers of light must pass, till we see the ultra violet, formulaic and forensic explanation

.           …that we bequeath with ill-deserved pride to our grandchildren

.                  …before our brain activity and vital bodily functions finally cease.

I mean the sun that rises in the morning, tipping his hat to the moon night-watch, as they rejoice in silent recognition of each other’s efforts.

.                               The sun who invites children to laugh and play

.                   or lovers to walk hand in hand on a sandy shore.

The sun who can lift the spirits, wake the dead and provide a reason for tomorrow.


Futility takes hold.

I write with fading light,

mourning the ultimate inevitability

That from the clays of a cold star,

we shall one-day return.