Yer Ma by Billie-Leigh Burns

The Panto’s in town: Cinderella this year. Me ma got tickets – one of the other mums knows a lad who does ‘em cheap. She smooths out the wrinkles of me pale blue princess dress – the one we got from Kirkby Market – and I twirl past the sweet shop, chippy, and off-license, reachin’ the bus stop to wait for the number 19 bus.

I’ve never seen the city at night. As the illuminated coach tears through the towns, Christmas lights whizz past me in streaks across the winder. I search the skyline for the warnin’ sign, the hint we’re gettin’ close, til, stretchin’ through the crowd of houses, the radio tower waves. ‘Ring the bell,’ she tells me, and I do it five times to be sure.

She takes me to a burger place that isn’t there anymore – Willy’s or Walley’s or somethin’ like that. A thawed beef patty between two floured buns, served with me ma’s threat, ‘Don’t get red sauce on that dress! It cost me a tenner!’

I’m too buzzin’ to eat, starin’ round the restaurant and standin’ on me seat. There’s a group of lads next to the door who she told me not to sit by. Their boomin’ voices carry, and I think it’s sweet they know so much about each other’s mothers, although I do spend the rest of the meal ponderin’ ‘yer ma on toast’.

As we leave, one calls out, ‘Enjoy the show! I took me kids to see it last week.’ While I marvel at his magic – how did he know? – me ma asks him how it was and gets the reply, ‘Propper boss, missus. Yous’ll have a ball!’

The theatre’s just next door; there’s a line to get in. But it’s okay, some feller’s handin’ out glowsticks to keep us entertained. He gets to me, eventually, and says, ‘Princess? Where’s your crown?’ Me Ma sighs before buyin’ me a light-up tiara that she knows will be whipped off five minutes in.

I won’t remember the actors’ names. Their faces barely last in me mind’s eye past bedtime. The songs won’t stick in me head for longer than those two weeks, when I’ll sing nothin’ but Prince Charming’s Lament. Loud. On repeat. In time, I won’t remember the play at all.

But I’ll remember goin’ to see it. I’ll remember me pale blue dress, the bus ride, the burger I never ate. I’ll still feel the squirm in me stomach when I see the tower in the distance. But for now, I’ll clap for a show I’ll soon forget and wonder why me ma’s laughin’ at the joke I don’t get.

Billie-Leigh Burns is a writer from Liverpool. Her flash fiction and short stories have been featured in Fictionette, 50 Word Stories, and Naked Cat Lit Magazine. She is working on a novel set in a dystopian future.