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Five Words
Debbi Voisey

If I’m going to tell my side of it, I have to do it right. I have to time it right for maximum impact.


I need to make sure that when I say those words, they are heard by everyone, and they believe them. I don’t even dare say them alone in my room, because I want the first time I say them to be the only time. So I write them – all five of them - on a piece of paper and spend some time looking at the scrawl of my hand, the way it slopes off to the right, which is apparently characteristic of someone who is open to new experiences.


Being open, though, is a curse. Because some people take advantage of that, and of the fact you’re too good a person to tell on them, or to cause a scene. Like my stepfather takes advantage. He’s the type of person who crashes into a life like a rhino and tramples everything under his big, hoofed feet. And then he winks at you and says: “You’re a good girl, aren’t you?” in a way that makes you want to go take a shower – and lock the door while you do.


I fold the paper and shove it in the drawer of my dresser, under my intimate, secret items of clothing.


My big sister’s handwriting slopes to the left, which means a proclivity for keeping to oneself, which was never true of her until recently. Now, my contact with her is through letters from the place none of us can speak about, where she’ll be for a few months. When she was picked up in a cab in the dead of night, Mum didn’t hug her or say goodbye, and he helped her with her case and slammed the cab door in the manner of someone ridding themselves of an unwanted late-night guest.


Now, her name cannot be spoken in our house.


“Not until your ma heals a bit,” he says while dragging his eyes down me, and I can feel them like they’re his fingers.


On Sunday, at mass, I watch him. He’s kneeling in front of the Lord and playing his role. The one that got him through every door of our house. The sight of him kneeling in supplication, and his lips moving in prayer sickens me. I have the piece of paper in my pocket, and it burns a hole that will raze this building to the ground. I know the words by heart, without looking. They are the five words that will set us all free.


So I stand up. And I say them.



Debbi is a full-time, writer, writing tutor and mentor. She has short stories and flash fictions in print and online in several places. She had two novellas-in-flash published in 2021, Only About Love, with Fairlight Books and The 10:25 with Flash: The International Short-Short Story Press. The former was shortlisted for the Arnold Bennett Prize in 2022 and was recently the book club choice for the Alzheimer’s Society. Find her on Twitter @DublinWriter. Website

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