Between Control Panels and Conveyancing

In my flat, I switch the television on. I skip through to channel 7, CCTV: blurry black and white shots of the grounds of the development on rotation. She’s back out there.
I decide the gas meter needs reading and go downstairs with a pad of paper. I forget to take a pen with me. It doesn’t matter.

She’s sitting on the ground looking up at the old convent building. I go over. ‘We’ve lived here for five years, they were converting it when we moved in,’ I inform her, doing my best to recall anything that might be of use.

She doesn’t meet my eyes with hers. I take in her features, noticing faded bruising around her nose and that her chin juts out. I try to read her expression. I can’t.

She clutches her car keys in one hand. A gold cross hangs between the fingers of the other. Both of her hands shake. She doesn’t have any intention of moving on, this much I can surmise.

‘I’ve got a Yellow Pages in my flat,’ I say, ‘and the internet. Maybe…’

She turns to me, with wide, bloodshot eyes. I wonder how nuns are listed in the Yellow Pages.


‘I’m not a Catholic,’ she announces, as I run my finger down the yellow page, hoping to land on Convents between Control Panels and Conveyancing. ‘I haven’t really got any faith.’

That makes two of us, but I gave up searching.

I think of the Hare Krishna centre behind the doctor’s surgery and wonder whether I can send her off there. If it’s a case of any port in a storm then…

‘I just remember the nuns always smiled at me when I went past. When I was a child.’

I smile.

I stop smiling. It’s too late.


She sits on my sofa, car keys and gold cross at her feet on the carpet. She holds a cup of cold tea, long unaware of its presence. I want to ask her what her name is but I am not sure whether it is the correct protocol. I listen to her confession. When I am in her line of sight, I nod. She wants absolution.

I understand why she doesn’t know where to go next. I want to absolve her but I do not know where to begin. I want to reach for the Yellow Pages again, but neither of us will find the answer in there.

Emma teaches creative writing at the University of Salford among other places. She has lived in Whalley Range since 2004 and thinks it is the best place to live in Manchester. She was once seen roller skating around Alexandra Park during another one of her short-lived fads.

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2 Responses to “Between Control Panels and Conveyancing”

  1. March 03, 2009 at 2:04 pm, Ann said:

    I went to Loreto Convent School. This story brings back memories. Well written story – like the way the image comes accross using just the right amount of words.

  2. March 03, 2009 at 3:09 pm, Andreas Loizou said:

    Great stuff, Emna, so many ideas in so few words.


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