Read by Lisa Rose
It was past midnight when Vicky got home, just a day and a few hours since she had closed the door quietly behind her and slipped away. She dropped her rucksack in the hall. Her schoolbag lay where she had left it, though its contents were scattered now across the floor. A hairdryer buzzed upstairs.
'Mum?' Vicky waited then climbed towards the sound, to Karen's bedroom. Her mother was sprawled, naked on the bed - hair still damp, her dryer labouring into the quilt beside her. Vicky moved quickly to pull out the plug then watched, in the overheated silence, till she was sure that Karen was breathing. Satisfied, she fetched a silky kimono to cover her. Vicky gathered a red-stained mug and a bottle half-full of Chianti from the bedside. She was heading for the door when she trod on an empty beer can which crackled like a firework under her foot. Vicky froze, then turned and met Karen's eyes, sparked awake.
Karen sat up, staring at Vicky then clutching at the kimono, which was falling from her breasts. She slipped off the bed, turning from Vicky as she wrapped the garment around herself. 'Where's the belt?' Vicky found it. Tying the belt as she went, Karen left the room. On the landing, she gripped the banister awhile then went carefully downstairs, a snow-capped volcano on her back.