They named her Dune because she was born on the longest day of the year and was conceived on a sandy ridge facing the Irish Sea. Her father stayed around long enough to meet the baby but left long before the registrar signed her name with a flourish on the bottom of the birth certificate. So Dune was brought up by her mother in a tiny flat above an office license in Ormskirk.
Janet smoked roll-ups with one hand and with the other stuffed dryers in a late-night laundrette to make ends meet. Little Dune never had a brother or sister, much to the surprise of most of her family. “I already learnt that lesson,” said her mother. Dune pretended she had a sister, sometimes older sometimes younger, depending on the game. “Just you and me, eh?” said her Janet. Dune would smile and serve two cups of tea-set tea, one in front of the seat filled with her pretend sibling.
Dune was well dressed, although the service wash pickings could be unreliable and she often had mis-matched socks or clothes to grow into. Janet liked clothing in bright colours and at least Dune was dressed like she was happy, most of the time. School uniforms were harder to come by, so Janet resorted to charity shop buys and occasional shoplifting, thereby giving Dune the only new clothes she owned.
Janet’s hands were red and cracked from washing powders and the skin scratched Dune when they held hands crossing the street. Dune bought her mother some hand cream from a pound store and drew her a card for Mother’s Day. She wrapped the gift in pink paper and got up early to make Janet tea and toast in bed. “You’re a good girl,” said her mother. She rubbed in a generous blob of cream, slurped down her tea and said she needed another hour to see off her hangover.
Dune took the toast, now cold, into her room and ate it whilst she wondered what the Irish Sea looked like.