Living with Saci - M J Dees - ebook
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Living with Saci is set in the sprawling metropolis of São Paulo, Brazil. It tells the story of Teresa da Silva, an overweight, depressed, drink dependent, and her struggles in the city. Estranged from her daughter, who lives with the ex-husband in England, life seems to constantly deal Teresa a bad hand. She begins to wonder whether the mischievous character from Brazilian folklore, Saci, might have something to do with it. Events seem to be taking a turn for the positive when she meets Felipe, who asks her to marry him. But when he disappears, Teresa finds that she is the object of suspicion. 

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Details can be found at the end of LIVING WITH SACI

Living with Saci

M J Dees

Published by M J Dees, 2017.

Table of Contents

Title Page

Title Page

Living with Saci

Chapter One - The Dentist – 11th January 2016

Chapter Two - The Fiancé – 12th January 2016

Chapter Three - The Lover – 7th December 2008

Chapter Four - The Fiancé’s Family – 13th January 2016

Chapter Five - The Sister-in-law – 13th January 2016

Chapter Six - The Ex-husband – 20th January 2014

Chapter Seven - The Doctor – 18th January 2016

Chapter Eight - The Psychologist – 19th January 2016

Chapter Nine - The Journal – 19th January 2016

Chapter Ten - Another Dream – 20th January 2016

Chapter Eleven - The Headmistress - 21st January 2015

Chapter Twelve – Carl Dixon - 26th January 2015

Chapter Thirteen - Back to school - 26th January 2015

Chapter Fourteen - The Cat - 1st February 2015

Chapter Fifteen - The Beach - 3rd February 2015

Chapter Sixteen - Unlucky for some - 7th February 2015

Chapter Seventeen - The Car - 9th February 2015

Chapter Eighteen - The Bus - 10th February 2015

Chapter Nineteen - The Doctor - 11th February 2015

Chapter Twenty - The Judge – 7th January 2014

Chapter Twenty-One - The Stalker – 14th February 2015

Chapter Twenty-Two - The Conversion – 15th February 2015

Chapter Twenty-Three - The investigation – 30th January 2016

Chapter Twenty-Four - Back to reality – 16th February 2015

Chapter Twenty-Five - Back to the Beach - 16th February 2015

Chapter Twenty-Six -  The First Disagreement - 20th February 2015

Chapter Twenty-Seven - Ways to Die - 22nd February 2015

Chapter Twenty-Eight - Learning to live together - 24th April 2015

Chapter Twenty-Nine - The Family – 2nd May 2015

Chapter Thirty - The in-laws – 9th May 2015

Chapter Thirty-One - Settling into a routine – 18th May 2015

Chapter Thirty-Two - the calm before the storm – 15th October 2015

Chapter Thirty-Three – The wine – 7th January 2016

Chapter Thirty-Four - The Morning After – 8th January 2016

Chapter Thirty-Five - Same old story – 10th January 2016

Chapter Thirty-Six - Another morning after – 11th January 2016

Chapter Thirty-Seven - Life after Felipe – 27th January 2016

Chapter Thirty-Eight - The examination – 28th January 2016

Chapter Thirty-Nine – The Chip Shop – 6th December 2013

Chapter Forty - The Results – 25th February 2016

Chapter Forty-One - The Cuckoo – 26th February 2016

Chapter Forty-Two – Taking control – 29th February 2016

Chapter Forty-Three - The Fight Back – 1st March 2016

Chapter Forty-Four - The cancer treatment – 15th March 2016

Chapter Forty-Five - A visit from Lucretia – 11th April 2016

Chapter Forty-Six - The Detective Returns – 11th April 2016

Chapter Forty-Seven - Felipe returns – 11th April 2016

Chapter Forty-Eight - Teresa returns – 7th October 2016

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

ALSO BY M J DEES

DEDICATION

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

COPYRIGHT

Living with Saci

Living with Saci is set in the sprawling metropolis of Sao Paulo, Brazil. It tells the story of Teresa da Silva, overweight, depressed, drink dependent, and her struggles in the city, estranged from her daughter who lives with her ex-husband in England. Teresa seems to be constantly dealt a bad hand, and she begins to wonder whether the mischievous character from Brazilian folklore, Saci, might have something to do with it. Events seem to be taking a turn for the positive when she meets Felipe who asks her to marry him, but when he disappears, Teresa finds that she is the object of suspicion.

Chapter One - The Dentist – 11th January 2016

The building was just as she remembered it. A private house originally, the front was now obscured by large beautiful, faces with perfect teeth. Huge bubble letters spelt the words: 'Teeth U Like.' Teresa got her breath back from the short walk, then reached up to press the entry phone button. Teresa couldn't quite decipher the tinny voice which crackled through a small plastic speaker.

"I have an appointment?" She said, unable to hear the reply before the device buzzed at her. She heard a metallic clunk, and the large gate opened an inch. Teresa pushed her way through and, with effort, managed to close the gate behind her.

"Name?" the receptionist asked between smiles.

"Teresa Da Silva. I'm early."

The receptionist was indifferent to Teresa’s punctuality.

"Take a seat." she smiled.

Teresa flopped onto the only chair, a large sofa. She slumped down into its brown leather cushions and waited. Her phone vibrated, it was a text from her fiancé, Felipe, telling her he loved her and that he was sorry. She was about to text a reply when she heard her name.

"You can go through.” said the receptionist.

"Through here?" Teresa indicated the only door in the room other than the entrance.

"Yes.” the receptionist sighed.

Teresa opened the door and walked into a white room filled with modern dental equipment. A man in a white medical coat was arranging utensils.

"Good afternoon, you can leave your bag here.” the dentist turned and gesticulated to a chair.

Teresa had forgotten how good looking he was.  She realised her phobia of dental work must have been huge to keep her away from that man for five years, but she could tolerate the pain in her jaw no longer. She climbed onto the examination chair.

"OK, let’s have a look,” he said. Teresa imagined him leaning over and kissing him and then reminded herself she was still engaged to be married even if her fiancé was a bastard. The dentist turned away, fiddling with something just outside Teresa's vision. When he returned, he was wearing a surgical mask.

Teresa opened her mouth to expose her valuable collection of old fillings and complementary decay.

"Hmm.” the dentist mused, peering inside.

Did dentists only date people with perfect teeth? What about bad breath? She tried to stop breathing for a while but couldn't keep it up for long. She needed to swallow.

A bang and a loud metallic crash from outside, then distant shouting.

"Excuse me.” the charming dentist left to investigate.

Teresa lay still for a moment, her mouth wide open. She closed her stiff jaw.

More shouts. In the next room. A woman's scream. Shit. What should she do? Teresa sat frozen in the chair until her amygdala allowed her frontal lobes to consider the problem. Before her frontal lobes had made up their minds, a masked man burst through the door and pinned Teresa to the chair, knife in her face.

"Money!" ordered knife man.

Teresa kept her hand in clear view and pointed toward her handbag. Knifeman glanced at the bag and punched Teresa in the face.

Darkness.

Teresa’s face hurt. She smelt burning. Her mouth, arms, and legs would not move. She was on a hard surface. She opened her eyes. She recognised white floor and white equipment.

Teresa began to remember what had happened. She began to panic. She wriggled and loosened what felt like tape binding her wrists. She twisted and turned, managing to create enough distance between her two large wrists to use her arms to prop herself up. From where was the burning coming?  She looked around the room. It must be coming from outside. She listened, holding her breath. Silence. Where were the charming dentist and his receptionist? Where were the robbers? Where was her handbag?

Teresa searched for something to cut the tape. The best she could find was the corner of a Formica cupboard door. Unable to stand up and search on the high surfaces, Teresa backed up to the cabinet and rubbed the tape up and down the Formica corner. She could pull her wrists further apart until the tape snapped and she was free to examine her wrists: red, sore and littered with shreds of tape that ripped the tiny bleached hairs off her arms when she tried to remove them. Leaving the remaining tape and turning her attention to her ankles, Teresa expected Knife Man to burst in at any moment and was desperate to get free and get away. Teresa pulled at the bindings. Unable to tear the tape, she took a deep breath and, despite her heart almost beating itself out of her chest, somehow found the patience to locate the end and unwind it. Free of her bonds Teresa stood, placed her ear against the door. Although she heard nothing, the smell of burning was stronger.

Teresa took a deep breath and eased the door open, wide enough to peer through. She could see something smoking on the sofa. The same sofa she had been waiting on not so long ago. The sofa itself seemed to be smouldering. A charred lump, spread out on it, was smoking. Teresa peered trying to make out its shape then fell back in horror as she realised the piece of smoking remains had hands.

Teresa retched, but nothing came out. She spat a mouthful of bile and wiped her mouth on her sleeve. What to do? She looked around the examination room for a phone. There wasn't one. She looked for an exit. None. Not even a window. The way out was through the reception past the smoking corpse. She took another deep breath, walked to the door and pushed it open. There it was. She opened the door wide and looked around. No-one. No-one except the burnt remains on the sofa of the dentist or receptionist, she assumed. Teresa tried to give the corpse a wide berth, but, due to an overwhelming curiosity she could not control, she turned and looked. Looked at the two white round eyes staring back at her in desperation.

Darkness.

Chapter Two - The Fiancé – 12th January 2016

What is your health plan?" the nurse asked.

"Banco São Paulo," Teresa answered.

The nurse frowned.

"We don't work with them,” she said, handing Teresa another piece of paper.

"What's this?" Teresa asked.

"Your invoice," the nurse gesticulated to a cupboard in the corner. "Your clothes,” she said, turning on her heels and leaving before Teresa could form any thoughts into sentences.

She looked at the paper. Jesus!  What did they do to her? How long had she been in the hospital? They hadn’t fixed her teeth. Her jaw ached worse than it ever had. She examined the paper, but none of it made sense except the large number at the bottom. All the savings she had put aside to see her daughter would be swallowed up by this.

Teresa opened the cupboard and discovered her clothes in a neat pile on the bottom shelf. She got dressed as quickly as she could and, leaving the room, found herself in a long white hospital corridor, opposite the nurses’ station.

"Excuse me,” she said to the woman behind the counter who seemed engrossed in paperwork.

"Excuse me." She repeated.

"Just a minute." The woman did not look up from her sea of forms.

Teresa waited. She shifted, coughed. She looked around. The woman looked up.

"Yes?" she asked.

"I think there's been some mistake," Teresa said, showing the woman the piece of paper. "I'm not sure how long I’ve been here but..."

"No mistake.” the woman interrupted after the briefest of glances at the sheet.

"But it seems rather a lot.” Teresa protested.

"You'll have to speak to your health plan for a reimbursement."

"Do you know how long I've been here? Did the police bring me here?" Teresa asked.

"I just got on.” the woman answered, burying her head in her papers again, suggesting the conversation was over.

Teresa looked around and headed for the exit. Felipe, her fiancé, must be worried sick by now. She hadn’t spoken to him since their argument, and she hadn’t replied to his text before going to see the dentist. She also wanted to ask him if he knew anything about Oliver, her missing cat. She thought she heard the nurse shouting something after her but she just ignored her and headed for the exit, having to squeeze past a couple of police officers who wanted to use the automatic sliding doors at the same time as her.

She left the hospital car park and stepped out into the bright daylight of São Bernardo do Campo.

São Bernardo do Campo was much like any other satellite city of São Paulo. Grey concrete, broken tarmac, a tangle of black wires overhead strung from decaying concrete lampposts. Half-finished buildings rising out of every hill, their fragile brick facades shrouded with veils like virgins on their wedding days.  Teresa knew that the veils were to stop the bits falling off the buildings from killing anyone on the dirty streets below and if anything, Teresa thought the streets of São Bernardo do Campo were a little bit filthier than most. Summer was well underway now, and the cockroaches were venturing out of the drains to escape the heat and feast on the detritus strewn around.

She had no money, no cards, no phone, no idea of anyone's phone number and seeing as though the hospital hadn't mentioned that she was too ill to attempt to walk the 5km back to her house, she set off. In fact, the hospital had said nothing about her condition. They didn't seem too worried. They had offered her the use of their phone, but Teresa didn't know any phone numbers. When she was younger, before mobile phones, she could remember at least a few: her parents’ home phone, their work phones, her work phone, her home phone, her boyfriend's home and work phone (when she had one, which was not often). Now the only number she could remember was her own.

So what to do? She couldn't call anyone. She couldn't pay for a bus or a taxi to get home. Then she remembered. Biometrics. She could use a cashpoint without her card just by using her fingerprint. Brilliant. Now all she had to do was find a bank. She looked up and down the street, recognised where she was and started walking towards where she knew the city centre was.

She felt a drop of water bounce off her cheek. She looked up at the grey sky, and another droplet landed in her eye. She looked at the pavement as she walked and watched the light grey concrete become light and dark grey polka-dot with the dots becoming more plentiful. Bugger, she thought, recalling the moment she disposed of the latest broken umbrella in a street bin. Oh well. São Paulo needed the rain after months of drought and getting a little bit wet was by no means the worst thing that had happened to her recently.

The rain wasn't heavy enough to soak her. Just sufficient to make her feel damp as the droplets soaked into her blouse and gave the material the feeling of a wet dishcloth.

By the time she reached the bank, she was more than damp and was conscious that she was dripping on the polished tile floor. To reach the cash machines during the day, she had first to negotiate a revolving door that was, in reality, a metal detector which would refuse to turn at the slightest hint of guns, bombs, knives, keys, coins or mobile phones. She would need to empty the contents of her pockets into a small perspex tray built into the door designed to shield benign metal objects from the metal detecting door while making them visible to the security guard. Usually, Teresa carried so much metal that it was easier to deposit her handbag in one of the lockers at the bank’s entrance. Today, she had had most of her metal objects stolen, so she just needed to drop her keys into the perspex tray and, pushing at the door, she found it moved without objection.

At the cash machine, instead of inserting her card, Teresa touched the screen and, when prompted, placed her right index digit on the fingerprint reader. Happy with her identity, the machine asked what service Teresa would like it to perform. She asked for a modest amount of money so as not to venture too much further towards her already embarrassing overdraft limit. She heard the machine counting the notes. Teresa grabbed the cash and stuffed it into her pocket.

At least she hadn't lost her keys too, she thought as she reached home, fumbling for the one which unlocked the padlock on the gate.  She twisted the key in the lock and shut the gate behind her, opened the door leading straight into the kitchen, taking care lest her remaining cat escape.

There was no sign of Felipe anywhere, and it was just when she returned to the kitchen that she noticed the folded piece of paper on the small metal kitchen table. She picked it up and read Felipe’s handwriting.

I have gone to end it all. I think you will be happier without me.

Teresa slumped onto a kitchen chair. She knew that things had been bad but not this bad. At first, it seemed like some sick joke. Teresa tried to find her address book to get the number for her brother's wife. She was a police officer. She would know what to do. Teresa preferred to speak to Selma than call Felipe's family.

As Teresa waited for Selma to arrive, she fed the remaining, now ravenous, cat, Ramsey. There was still no sight of Oliver, but as she searched the flat, opening every cupboard in case the moggy had trapped itself somewhere, she found Felipe’s phone.

Teresa found herself opening Felipe's messages and looking at the messages he'd sent her just before his disappearance, and in the past hours and day right up to the last SMS he'd sent her telling her he loved her just before she was called in to see the dentist. Scanning through them in reverse order was a bizarre rewind from desperation, anger, despair, recriminations, doubt, paranoia, entreaties, irritation, worry, questions and at first declarations of love.

Teresa began to panic. The police would want to see his phone. What if they saw all these messages? They would question her involvement in his disappearance. Especially considering the content of some of the messages. Could this jeopardise her position at the school? What should she do? She couldn't risk anything that might lead to her losing her job. But what could she do? She couldn’t delete all the messages, could she? The police were bound to be even more suspicious if there was no evidence of her boyfriend having texted her. Perhaps she could delete some of the worst messages. She tried not to look at his note on the table at the other side of the kitchen. Teresa could feel him staring at her from wherever he was. She went through his texts and deleted the most incriminating. What else?

She scanned through his other messages to his mum and dad and sister. The general collection of abbreviations that Teresa struggled to decipher. Why hadn't he gone to his family? That's what confused Teresa. Was his relationship with them as bad as he had said? Why not just go to them if he couldn't take things any longer? She made herself a large gin and tonic and then felt guilty that she had been so selfish, thinking about herself when Felipe could be. She couldn’t bear to think what might have happened to him.

She heard a sound of clapping from outside and put down the phone, shut Ramsey in the living room and walked to the door, unlocking it.  Selma stood at the other side of the gate. Teresa's brother's wife. Teresa fumbled with the keys as she tried to open the gate then hugged Selma before her sister-in-law pushed past her and into the kitchen. Teresa closed the gate and door, then stood, feeling like a spare part as she watched Selma examine Felipe's note.

Selma pulled out her phone, dialled a number and within a moment was talking rapidly. Teresa could never understand Selma at the best of times because of her slang. Even when Selma was speaking to her slowly and directly, Teresa struggled to understand, so this conversation was impossible to follow, except for the occasional 'he' and 'her.'

Teresa gave up watching and sat on a kitchen chair, picking up Felipe's phone.

Selma hung up and turned to Teresa. She looked at the phone in Teresa's hands.

"Is that his?" she asked.

"Yes,” Teresa replied and handed the phone over to Selma.

Selma tapped the screen then examined the contents for a moment before pocketing the device.

“Shit.” thought Teresa, but she'd always felt intimidated by Selma and was not about to ask for the phone back.

Then came the questions, just routine Selma assured, trying to ascertain where Felipe might have gone and whether the note meant what it seemed to say. The questioning seemed to Teresa to go on forever. Teresa remembered a conversation she’d once had with Felipe at the beach when he had told her that his preferred method of suicide would be drowning and she described the location to her sister-in-law.

Selma several times invited Teresa to spend the night at her house, but each time Teresa refused.

“It’s very kind of you,” said Teresa. “But I just want to be left by myself to gather my thoughts.”

After several more attempts to convince her and a protracted and awkward phone conversation with Teresa’s brother, Selma prayed for her and then left her alone.

Teresa felt lonely in the empty house and yet she couldn't help the strange sensation that, at any moment, she might see Felipe round every corner. She let Ramsey out of the living room, made herself another large gin and tonic. She took it into the bedroom. Felipe was not there. She slipped off her clothes and crawled under the sheets. Ramsey, her remaining black cat, seemed aware of her distress, curled up close to her. Everything else could wait until tomorrow.

Teresa tried to sit up unable to move. Someone seemed to have secured her somehow. She had her hands tied. She was back in the dentist's surgery fastened to the chair. The dentist was there. He had his back to Teresa but reached out a charred arm from which black, putrid skin began to fall away revealing pink cooked flesh and bone.

The dentist turned his charred face to Teresa, and his bony hand removed his blood-stained surgical mask to reveal Felipe's tormented face.

"Water.” Felipe's ghost pleaded with her. "Why did you let them bury me? You know I'm not dead."

Dead Felipe leant closer to kiss her, pieces of his decomposing nose falling onto her face.

Teresa opened her mouth to scream as loud as her lungs would allow, but a slither of burnt flesh dropped into her mouth stifling all sound and causing Teresa to vomit.

She awoke, sitting upright. A pool of vomit soaking into the thin sheet which covered her lap and now began to stick to her sweat and vomit covered thighs.

It was still dark. Teresa bundled up the wet sheet as best as she could and, trying her utmost not to drop any vomit on the carpet, carried the sheet into the bathroom and dumped it onto the cold tile floor.

Switching on the light, Teresa glanced at her pallid face in the mirror before dousing it with cold water.

She patted her face dry with the hand towel that smelt of Felipe. She could feel the anxiety welling up inside her as she contemplated where he might have gone or what he might have done.

Teresa switched off the bathroom light then hovered in the bedroom. She decided against going back to bed and chose instead to go into the kitchen and make herself a drink.

She watched the ice clink as it tumbled into the glass and then seemed to crackle with delight as Teresa poured in a generous helping of gin. She had developed a taste for gin during her years in England and had found this cheap brand on her return to Brazil. Even the tonic seemed to fizz with enthusiasm as it joined the mix.

'If Felipe were here now.' she thought. 'He'd be reminding me how gin causes depression.' How ironic that seemed to her now as she took a large gulp of her cold fizzy drink that seemed the best thing she'd tasted in days or at least hours.

Teresa slumped on her makeshift sofa, a mattress on two piles of pallets, and listened to the rain that had started to fall outside. She had just finished the glass when fatigue got the better of her, and she curled up where she was and dropped off to sleep once more.

Teresa woke, wondering where Felipe was. Then her memory came flooding back to her, and she shivered in horror wanting to go back to sleep and forget about it all, but it was too late. Her head was already full of the images of the dentist, and Ramsey had decided it was time for Teresa to feed him. There was nothing more she could do but get up and face the day.

Teresa sat up and shuffled off the sofa. She wandered into the bathroom and realised how clean it was. The bedroom had been tidy too and, as Teresa walked through the rest of the house, noticing that the living room and kitchen were also spotless. Why hadn't she noticed this yesterday? So, he'd tidied the house before he left.

Teresa felt even guiltier now. But there was no reason she could think of for not making coffee so, after feeding the hungry cat, she did that and sat down.

Teresa was on holiday. One of the benefits of working in her school was fifteen weeks off. It would be at least another two weeks before she would have to go back to work and explain anything to anyone. The trouble was she would have to spend those two weeks dealing with her family and Felipe's family and all the questions.

Teresa was listening to the coffee machine spitting its contents into the glass jug and watching Ramsey munching on his breakfast when a slow round of applause outside the gate caught her attention.  Teresa shut Ramsey in the living room again and went to the door. Oh God, it was Selma.

'Bloody hell. What time is it?' thought Teresa. She tried to change her facial expression from annoyance to welcome as quickly as she could but without much success.

"I’ve had some news,” said Selma looking at Teresa in her dressing gown and slippers.

"What is it?" Teresa looked at Selma and realised it was not good.

“They’ve found his clothes,” she said. “And his wallet.”

Chapter Three - The Lover – 7th December 2008

Teresa lay on her back on the bed with her legs apart looking at the bald patch of the doctor, who stared between her knees at her disappointing cervix. Between contractions, she looked at the man beside her and wondered how she had arrived at this point in her life.

He used to come into the coffee shop, in Waterloo Station, where she had been working. He spoke undecipherable sentences to her she was sure must have been delightful but that, after two weeks in the country, she could not understand. Of course, she was not the one taking the orders, one of her fellow Brazilians on the tills would hand her a cup and tell her what to make. She knew how to make the drinks because she had it all explained to her in Portuguese, but the conversations which went on with her friends on the tills and the customers remained alien to her.

It must have been about six months, during which time she began to understand his advances until, after rejecting him on at least three occasions, she agreed to go with him on a date. She learned how he had become addicted to caffeine in the process of finding opportunities to speak to her over the counter, and that his name was William, and he was a bit of an environmentalist.

He invited her to visit his environmental collective, the Gaia community, where Teresa met a collection of people sporting hairstyles the likes of which she had never seen before, from blankets of dreadlocks collected up under knitwear to shaved heads. In between her shifts at the coffee shop, occasional cleaning jobs and even more occasional visits to the language school, which were meant to be the reason for her visa, she would visit William at the collective where she began to volunteer.

William was a paid member of staff, paid through National Lottery funding, and he would joke on the rare occasion he bought a lottery ticket that he was paying himself.

Within another six months, Teresa had moved out of her flat share in Harlesden and into William’s flat in Stockwell where he proposed to her, and she accepted, and within six more, she had discovered she had become pregnant.

Still fearing the Catholicism of her parents, she arranged the wedding and executed it in extreme haste, so that the bump would not show. Less than six months later, Teresa found herself in an NHS ward being told by a balding man that her cervix was too stubborn to dilate enough and that they would have to do something.

Chapter Four - The Fiancé’s Family – 13th January 2016

Teresa found the cemetery a very dull place. They were all there. The sister. The Mother. The Father. The Brother.  All teary. Some of them must have travelled through the night to be there. Teresa hugged them all and made all the right noises, but she was surprised to find that she didn't want to cry in the slightest. It made her feel guilty, and with that sensation alone, she was able to maintain a solemn countenance. Her overriding emotion was one of embarrassment. She was conscious that Felipe's family might be blaming her for his demise and this knowledge made her feel uncomfortable. She tried to stay out of the way as much as possible while at the same time seeking to look interested in proceedings which she considered a pointless exercise and, in fact, a complete waste of everyone’s time. Even though Teresa believed in the afterlife, she also believed that now he was dead Felipe was no more than a fleshy sack of body parts. The Felipe that Teresa had known, loved and hated, had departed before she'd arrived home and this ceremony to bury a bag of molecules irritated Teresa just as much as everything else in her world.

Teresa was suffering. But not from grief. She would suffer her grief on her own, away from these people. She watched Felipe's mother, Lucretia, bawling her eyes out like the drama queen she was. Teresa wondered whether she had displayed the same extremes of emotion earlier this morning when she had selected the designer clothes she'd chosen to wear for the funeral. Felipe's father, Jose, sat at the side trying not to notice the antics of his wife. The fact that he had one eye the other being a glass replacement for the eye he had lost in a strange accident in the operating theatre made the job of ignoring his wife easier. The freakishness of the situation was that he had been the surgeon operating at the time. The accident had led to retirement and the opportunity for his wife and children to spend the results of his settlement claim, from the very expensive private hospital, which did not want its very particular clients to hear that faulty operating theatre equipment had almost blinded one of their leading surgeons. Teresa felt sorry for Jose, not least for having to live with Lucretia for so long. He was a broken man, long accustomed to his wife telling him what to do. Lucretia had selected Jose’s clothes too judging by the uncomfortable manner in which he sat in them. Felipe's sister, Patricia, was doing her best to be a young Lucretia. Going through exaggerated motions of grief, embracing her mother and doing her best to let everyone know that she cared.

‘You didn’t care much when he was alive.’ thought Teresa.

Then there was Felipe's brother who had managed to select a wife as ferocious as his mother so that he could be as hen-pecked as his father. His wife, Izadora, sat at his side, critical. Just the expression on her face, her half-closed eyes, told everyone that, had she been in charge today, she would have done things better.

Their child, Carlos, sat fiddling with his phone. Teresa remembered how much Felipe had loved this ungrateful slob of a teenager, who texted his friends while Felipe waited to for burial as he lay in a wooden box.

Teresa looked at Carlos and thought about her daughter, thousands of miles away, she thought about the circumstances that had separated them and then felt guilty for criticising Felipe’s relatives when in truth the thought uppermost in her mind at that moment was whether she could get something to eat and drink.

Teresa knew there was a bakery across the street but was well aware she would be unable to leave.

She was waiting for it all to end. Everyone was very polite to her, but she kept thinking about how they blamed her even though Teresa knew it wasn’t all her fault and they had just as much a share in this as her.

While Lucretia was taking a break from her theatrics, Teresa felt she should spend some time at the coffin for appearance's sake if nothing else. She approached the large box and looked over at Felipe. She'd been avoiding looking at him all this time. The undertakers had done their best to cover the marks where the fish had started to eat him. The coffin was open, and Felipe lay with his arms folded across his chest and a crucifix, which Teresa knew he would have hated, placed over his hands. Just as she was leaning over to take a closer look, Felipe sat bolt upright. Teresa let out a yelp of terror, and the rest of the gathering gasped in unison.

"Water,” Felipe said and then slumped back in the coffin.

"He wants water, get him some water.” Teresa blurted.

"It's a miracle, praise the Lord." Felipe's mother declared, her arms raised as she rushed over to the coffin, pushing Teresa out of the way.

Jose handed Teresa a bottle of water, but Felipe was lying lifeless in the coffin, and no attempt Teresa or Lucretia made would revive him.

"Somebody get a doctor.” Teresa pleaded searching the astonished faces that surrounded her.

The doctor came but could find no signs of life. Nor could he explain Felipe's apparent brief return to life.

After an afternoon of arguments speculation and verification, they agreed that Felipe was dead and that they should bury him without further disruption to the cemetery's already disturbed schedule.

Teresa stared at the coffin. Unable to process the events she had just witnessed. It was as if it had never happened. Trapped air, she was told was responsible. And the request for water a fantasy devised by her already over-taxed brain.

But Teresa had known what she had witnessed and felt an overwhelming sense of frustration as they lowered the coffin into the family crypt.

Teresa wondered how much longer it would be before she could go home. She tried suggesting she could go and get a bus, but Selma was having none of it, and Teresa did not want to appear rude again.

As Selma walked to her car, Teresa found herself staring back at the cemetery from the metal entrance gates.

“Teresa, Teresa,” Selma shouted to her. “Teresa! Teresa!”

Selma was next to her banging on the entrance gates trying to get her attention.

Chapter Five - The Sister-in-law – 13th January 2016

“Teresa! Teresa!”

Banging on the security gate woke Teresa. She sat up, taking a moment to gather her wits. The banging continued.

"Alright, alright. I'm coming.” Teresa shouted, taking care to shut Ramsey in the living room.

Opening the door Teresa could see a furious looking Selma glaring through the bars of the security gate in the rain.

"What the fuck is all this about?" Selma demanded, waving Felipe's phone at her.

"I can explain.” Teresa pleaded as she opened the gate.

Selma dragged Teresa into the house, slammed the door, pulled a gun out of her trousers and waved it at Teresa.

"Give me one fucking good reason why I shouldn't fucking well shoot you in the fucking head right fucking now,” Selma asked.

Teresa racked her brain for a good fucking reason.

"I...I..."

"Shut the fuck up!"

Teresa shut the fuck up. Selma waved the phone at her.

"Looks like you're not blameless in this after all."

"I can explain,” said Teresa, forgetting to shut the fuck up.

"I said shut the fuck up." Selma reminded her.

Selma leant back on Teresa's makeshift sofa, dripping from the rain. On one leg, the hand holding the phone and on the other, the hand holding the gun. Selma was a woman who enjoyed the power offered her by a weapon.

"So, what do you have to say for yourself?" Selma asked, now in a more relaxed tone.

Teresa was confused, not knowing whether to shut the fuck up or not shut the fuck up and tell Selma what she had to say for herself.

"Well?" Selma asked.

"Sorry Selma. It's just that you told me to shut the f..."

"Don't get fucking cocky with me,” Selma shouted, waving the gun at Teresa afresh.

"No, er, no, of course not," Teresa started to sit down next to Selma. "It's just the gun makes me a little, er, you know. But Selma, there's nothing..."

Selma's face broke into a smile.

"No, I'm just fucking with you. You should have seen your face."

Selma laughed so loud she looked like she might lose control of her bladder at any moment. "Ah, it was priceless. I thought you might need a little diversion. You've got to laugh haven't you?"

Teresa was not laughing.

"No. Don't take it so hard. Of course, I don't think you're involved," the smile disappeared from Selma's face, and she leant so close that Teresa could smell her minty breath. "Or do I?"

Selma glared at Teresa for a very long time. Teresa swallowed her excess saliva. Then as suddenly as it had vanished, Selma's smile returned.

"Hah! Had you again didn't I? Come on cheer up." said Selma, an inane grin plastered all over the face that Teresa wished she could punch.

"Teresa, I need to ask you something. You didn’t tell me that you spent the night in the hospital, or that you were involved in a robbery and murder at a dentist’s. That's what I came here for to..." Selma trailed off as she struggled to reinsert her gun into her trousers. "I just need to get this in..."

A deafening crack. Teresa watched in horror as Selma slipped off the sofa mattress to the floor in an ever-expanding pool of blood.

'Shit!' exclaimed Teresa, concerned about the blood on the floor but becoming aware of the fact that she needed to do something about Selma bleeding to death.

Teresa had called the emergency services and tried to explain as best she could that they should come and get the bleeding police officer. She went over to Selma and, with some effort, managed to roll her onto her back and, locating the wound, tried to apply pressure as best she could until help arrived.

During what seemed like another very long time, Teresa tried talking to Selma in the vain hope that she might come round.

Chapter Six - The Ex-husband – 20th January 2014

“So what you are saying is that she has a problem with alcohol?” the Judge had said.

“Well, I didn't want to say so, but I guess, yes. After the incident. That’s what it comes down to.” William had said with a smug smile almost eclipsing the smugness of his smart suit.