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For and after Hannah Stevens
“Have you seen a small girl, about this high, dark hair, purple duffel coat?”
Excuse me, have you seen my mummy?
“Have you seen a small girl, about this high, six years old, dark hair, purple duffel coat, glasses with a patch over one eye? Her name’s Amirah. Amirah. A-m-i-r-a-h. How hard can it be, for goodness sa…? Please, you must have seen her come this way.”
Excuse me, excuse me, have you seen mummy, please?
“Have you seen her? Short, about this high, dark hair… No, not ‘Asian.’ We’re from Nottingham. We’re British. Look, here’s a photo. Well okay, if you like, yes, she’s my ‘colour.’ Whatever. But she speaks English like me. Is English. Have you seen her come this way?”
Have you seen my mummy, please?
“You haven’t? Why didn’t you tell me that in the first goddamn place? … Okay, okay, I’m sorry, but you can understand I’m a bit flus… Anyway, please, here’s my mobile in case you do see her. And here’s Asim’s – my husband’s mobile too. In case you see or remember anything. Please take it. Please.”
She’s tall and she’s got a nice face but she says she’s got a few spots.
“You think you saw her? You think you did? That way, did you say?”
Oh, how much are those Flying Saucers, Mr Man? Those ones there – the sherbet ones. I’ve got money in my purse, look.
“She was heading towards the sweet stall? You mean the one downstairs, in the market?”
Thank you, Mr Sweetie Man. I better find mummy now. She’ll be looking for me. “See you later, Alligator.” That’s what she says to me, you know.
“Which way do you think she went after buying the Flying Saucers? Come on. Come on. Please try and remember.”
Ouch. That’s rude. You just stepped on my foot, lady. Stop pushing. I’ll tell someone. I’ll tell my mummy. There’s too much people here. I don’t like it.
“Have you seen a small girl, about this high, hair like mine, purple duffel coat? Patch over one eye. I’m sure I saw her come this way.”
I want my mummy. Not you, Big Rude Lady. Not you. Mummy.
“Have you seen a small girl, about this high, purple hair, dark coat? No, small hair, purple coat. No…”
Where is she? Where are you, mummy? Mummy? Mummy?
“I only looked away for … at the pineapples… No, it wasn’t my fa… And it hardly matters now, does it? For fuck’s sake. For fuck’s sake. All that’s important now… We just need to…”
Stop banging into me, Clumsy Clogs. Grown-ups never look where they’re going. They’re all silly billies.
“It wasn’t my fault. For fuck’s sake… What do you mean, ‘don’t swear’? What the hell do you expect? For fuck’s sake. Everyone gets distracted now and th…”
Where is she? I want mummy. I can’t see her because of all these peoples.
“I won’t calm down. I’m not hyst… I won’t fucking calm d…”
Excuse me, have you seen my mummy? Have you? Have you? Or you, excuse me, have you seen her?
“For f… Have you s… Can you t… Do you kn… Can you h…? For fuck’s sake, I’m speaking English. English. Don’t you understand? Don’t you understand English? Someone listen to me. Am I fucking invisible or something? For fuck’s sa… For f… s…”
Mummy, where are you?
“Please? Pl… I can’t … I don’t … Pl… Hel… Pl … h… H…”
Oh, you do know where mummy is? You’re going to show me? You’re going to take me to her? Thank you, you’re much more friendly than the other peoples. Yes, I’ll follow you. Thank you. You seem very kind, Friendly Man. You can have one of my Flying Saucers. A pink one. I think they have squishy aliens inside.
“Pl… h… Who? A man? What did he look like? What do you mean, ‘Who’? Him. The man. The man you just told me about. The man with the girl in the duffel coat. The man holding her hand, leading her away. Which way did they go? No, it wasn’t my husband. It wasn’t Asim.
“Don’t look at me like that. I’m not stupid. I’m not making it all up. I’m not making her up. Why don’t you believe anything I say? Why don’t you hear anything I say? I’m speaking English. I’m English. So’s she. Please help me find her. She’s mine. My Amirah. My girl.
“What do you mean, ‘Which girl’? The girl, for fuck’s sake. For fuck’s sake, the girl I’ve been telling you about, over and over and … the girl you need to find … the small girl, about this high, purple hair, dark duffel coat, glasses with an eye over one patch … the high girl, about this small, purple hair, glasses over her coat, dark eye … no, the dark patch, about this purple, high duffel girl, with an eye over her glasses… The… Please… H… Have you s…? Pl…”
I can’t see mummy here, Mr Friendly Man. Why am I here? Where is here? I don’t know where here is. Have you hidden her? Yes, of course, I know what that flag is, silly. Of course, I know, Mr Man. It’s our one. But where’s mummy? Is she behind the flag or something? Is that why you’re showing me it? Is that where she’s hiding and seeking? Mummy? Are you there? Where is she, Mr Man? You said she was here. I don’t like this hide and seek anymore. I want to go home.
“Asim, darling, thank God. Thank God you’ve come. We need to find her, Asim. She’s here somewhere. We can find her together, can’t we…?
“Asim? No, Asim, please don’t. I need to find her. Asim, please don’t take me away from here. We must find her. She’s still here somewhere. She is. You have to believe me. She’s still here. We have to keep looking…
“Asim, darling, how can you say that? How can you abandon her to this awful place? How can you think of leaving her…?
“Asim, I don’t care. I don’t care if I’m making a spectacle of myself. I don’t care how long it’s been. We can’t give up now. We need to stay here, keep looking, looking, looking. She’ll be in the market somewhere. She’ll be at the sweet stall. She’ll be … I heard her voice, Asim, in the crowds – from somewhere over there. I heard her say See you later, Alligator. It must have been her – she always said that. I’m sure it was her… You must believe me, Asim. Please don’t make me leave her. Please don’t, Asim…
“I don’t believe you, Asim. I can’t believe you. I don’t even understand what you’re saying. How can you tell me it’s been five years? How can I believe that? It was just a moment. I just looked away for a moment – at the pineapples. I looked at them, just for a few seconds…
“No, Asim, I’m staying put. I’m still looking. I have to stay here. I heard her, honestly, I did. It wasn’t my imagination. It wasn’t a ghost. I heard her. I think I saw her. We have to stay here. We have to keep looking, Asim, always. Always.”