When God Was a Rabbit

Free When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman

Book: When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman Read Free Book Online
Authors: Sarah Winman
said and took a sip.
    ‘Cheers,’ she said.
    ‘What’s the matter?’
    ‘Nothing,’ she said.
    ‘You can tell me anything, you know,’ I said.
    ‘I know,’ she said, and pretended to finish off her martini.
    ‘What is it?’ I asked her again.
    She looked more pensive than usual.
    ‘What’ll happen to me if your mum and dad split up for good? Who will I go with?’ she asked.
    What could I say? I hadn’t even made the choice myself. There were pros and cons to both my parents and my list was far from complete. I handed her god instead, who was starting to give off his rather pungent scent. He comforted her instantly, and tolerated the harsh, abrasive groping of her chubby fingers, as tufts of his fur fell carelessly to the ground.
    ‘Ouch,’ he said, ‘not a-bloody-gain. Arse. Ouch.’
    I bent down to pick up my glass and as I did, I noticed a magazine part hidden under the chair. I knew what it was before I opened it – could tell by the cover – but I opened it nevertheless, and ran my eyes over an assorted display of nude bodies doing various things with their private parts. I didn’t know vaginas and penises were used in those ways, but by that age, I’d understood that people had a fondness for touching them.
    ‘Look at that,’ I said to Jenny Penny as I held the picture in front of her face. But she didn’t look. Or laugh. Or say anything actually. She did something quite unexpected. She burst into tears and ran.
    I found her huddled in the shadow of the almond tree, halfway down the alley where we’d once found a dead cat, poisoned probably. She looked scrappy and orphaned in the twilight, surrounded by the scent of urine and shit as it conspired with the warm breeze. Everyone used the alleyway as a toilet or a dumping ground for the no-longer-useful. I sat down beside her and moved her hair away from her mouth, away from her pale brow.
    ‘I’m going to run away,’ she said.
    ‘Where to?’
    ‘Atlantis,’ she said.
    ‘Where’s that?’
    ‘No one really knows where it is,’ she said, ‘but I’ll find it and then I’ll go and then they’ll worry,’ and she looked at me and her dark eyes melted into the deep, shadowed sockets.
    ‘Come with me,’ she pleaded.
    ‘OK, but not before next week,’ I said (knowing that I had a dental appointment), and she agreed, and we leant our backs against the fence and inhaled the smell of its recent creosote coating. Jenny Penny looked calmer.
    ‘Atlantis is special, Elly. I heard about it recently. It was sunk by a huge tidal wave quite a few years ago and it’s a magic place with magic people. A lost civilisation probably still alive,’ she said. I sat transfixed by the surety in her voice; it was hypnotic; otherworldly even. Made everything possible.
    ‘There are lovely gardens and libraries and universities, and everyone is clever and beautiful, and they are peaceful and help each other and they have special powers and know the mysteries of the Cosmos. We can do anything there, be anything, Elly. It’s our city and we’ll be really happy.’
    ‘And all we have to do is find it?’ I said.
    ‘That’s all,’ she said, as if it were the easiest thing in the world to do. And I must have looked doubtful because it was at that moment that she suddenly said, ‘Watch this!’ and performed the magic trick of pulling the fifty-pence piece out of her plump arm.
    ‘Here,’ she said, handing me the coin.
    I held it in my hand. It was bloody and warm, as if of her essence, and I half expected it to disappear, to simply melt into the weirdness of the night.
    ‘Now you can trust me,’ she said.
    And I said I did, as I looked down at the strange coin with the even stranger date.
     
    My mother returned eight days later, more refreshed than when she’d had her lump removed. Nancy had taken her to Paris, where they’d stayed in St-Germain and met Gérard Dépardieu. She arrived with bags and clothes and new make-up, and looked ten years

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