“Don’t drop me, granddad!” I’m sat on his knees, nervously anticipating the fall as he dunks me low to the floor, my matted almost-black hair scraping the carpet. He dangles me there for a second or two, my sweaty hands gripping his in fear of my life. He hoists me up as quickly as he let me down. The trust is restored.
My mum is on the sofa soothing my brother and sister and explaining to my younger cousins what the Millennium is. I can’t hear what she says over my own shrieks. Adrenaline bounces through my ears and I know I’m going down again. “Don’t drop me, please.” The fear seizes me. It’s too much and I cry for Nana. Arthritic fingers pass me over into wobbling arms that hold me close, and her talcum powder skin blooms in my nose to bring me peace.
My dad wanders over and warbles something in my ear, a rhyme about fishes and fairies, but I wrap my legs around my nan and pretend he’s not there. “You’re too old to be held.” He’s persisting, the green bottle in his tattooed digits winks at me, beckoning me to join the adults that are smouldering in their own drunkenness. I ask my nan to put me down.
I go outside and clutch at the cold earth with grubby fingernails. My chest is heaving with tears that won’t come, but cousin Ollie finds me, he has a plate full of scotch eggs. “Countdown is in an hour.” It’s been a long day, so I take an egg and melt into the dark grass instead, picking blades until they weave me into my sleep.