There is always a light on the tree that doesn’t work.

I hugged a stranger in Marks and Spencers and cried in to her shoulder behind the shadows of tummy control pants and padded bras.

Three days ago she had stopped to talk to me whilst she counted the clothes hangers I had brought to the changing room. She was pink cheeked and jolly, I was rude and miserable. My eyes still hot and sticky from the night before I didn’t want to look at her, I didn’t want her to look at me.

As she led me to a cubicle her voice white noise, my mind turns to the time when the officer asked me how old I am, “Nine.” He repeats my answer as a question, I watched the Christmas lights on the artificial tree, I didn’t like him talking to me whilst I was wearing just a night dress.

The woman has her back to me now, she is sliding the hangers into the hooks on the cubicle wall. My eyes move to study the carpet before I am startled by her heavy hands on my shoulders and i’m looking in to her face. She said five words and walked away. I slid the lock and sat for a while, feeling shocked, feeling happy.

I couldn’t stop thinking of her, did she know?

72 hours later I’m back in the store to return the clothes I bought with no desire to keep and I see her, arranging 32bs in front of the 36cs. I’m stood in front of her, I know I have to speak fast before the aching behind my eyes makes my voice  wobble.

I still see her when I visit the store, we exchange smiles there’s no need to speak.

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