The first of the day’s light brightened the edges of the window. She had watched for most of the night, through the darkest hours. The new pills had knocked her sleep pattern completely out of step. The nights were long, and her attention span was short. Depression made it hard for her to concentrate on a film, or a book. She pushed with her hands against the arms of the chair, her body seized up after sitting for so many hours.

The window was mottled with grime. So much had changed since her dad had passed away. She had spent his last seven months caring for him, making sure the pain was kept at bay. They had lived together, the house had sparkled, it was so clean. That was, she reminded herself, two years ago. Had she cleaned the windows since then? She ran a finger across the glass and checked her grimy fingertip. No. She shrugged. Nobody visited. Who cared about the windows? She used to, whether visitors came or not.

The garden on the other side of the glass, once so neat and tidy, was choked with weeds, scrubby grass and overgrown shrubs. Her dad would not have approved. A breath huffed out of her. What if she went outside into the garden and maybe tidied up a little; would that be a good idea? Panic fluttered in her chest and kept her hand an inch away from the door handle.

A cup of tea and her new shiny pills quieted the panic so that it was in the background, not standing between her and the door. The lock moved after a little pressure and the light spilled into the house. She watched the shape it made on the floor, carefully stepping into the light and feeling the warmth on her feet. Two small steps and she was on the path outside. Scuffing her slippers across the weeds helped, but more was needed.

She followed the path to the shed, where her dad had hidden when she was a child, staying out of the way while her mum fussed and worried. The tools were propped against the wall; the smell was still here, the one she remembered from back when her dad was there. There was a little rust on the blades of the clippers and the shovel, but they would probably still work. Reaching into the shed, she pulled out a fork and the old basket her dad had used to collect weeds. She would try for a little while and see if she could do it.

The new pills blurred the edges; the doctor had given them to her after her dad had passed away. ‘To help you through the grief.’ That had made her laugh. She had been relieved when he took his last breath, glad to no longer have his controlling demands and for the bruises to fade.

Now that he was not there to demand, there was no reason to clean or dig the garden. Unless, perhaps, she might do it for herself.

When was it, she pulled out the tools, while she rolled the ideas through her mind? When did she stop doing things for herself, putting herself first?

When her mum died, perhaps, when all the slaps became hers and hers alone? Maybe before that, when she listened to her mum’s tears through the bedroom wall. Who knows how it starts?

It took all morning to take out the weeds and make the garden back into the tidy space it used to be. The shrubs which had survived her neglect looked better without choking weeds wrapping around them. It was more physical work than she had done in a long time, and although her muscles ached and she was hot and tired, it felt good.

It had been a long time since she had enjoyed food, but the sandwich she made for her lunch tasted wonderful. More pills to take, to keep her lunch company, and a cup of tea. The afternoon brought shiny windows and clean carpets, and a bathroom that made her want to sink into the hot water in the bath and soak her aching body,

The garden waited for her in the dusk, just as she had known it would. The bath had been wonderful and the house looked more like her home. Carrying the secret for two years had made her tired and had stopped her from doing anything else. She could see it clearly now. She had been serving a self-imposed prison term and had finally been released. Her guilt had closed the door each day and her terror of discovery had turned the key.

Pulling the bag from her pocket, she dug a hole in the garden, as far away from the house as it was possible to go, and emptied its contents. The light was fading. It had been a productive day, and the last pieces of the light, before the dark really took over, reflected off the shiny coating on the pills. The outer casing that made sure they released their contents once they dissolved in the stomach.

The pills she had been taking had numbed the feelings that ran screaming around her brain. The guilt, the anger, the despair. The pills she had buried were the things that had made her feel so guilty. The anger was what made her give them to him, even though they were not prescribed for him. They had been given to her mother, when the pain had been beyond anything else. She had kept them, for no better reason than that she had forgotten they were there until the morning when he had hit her across the face and told her that she had always been worthless, and that he had always hated her. He had spat at her. She had felt it land on her cheek.

Later in the day, while clearing out a drawer, she had come across the pills, and it had felt as though her mum was suggesting something that would help. That night, she slipped him one extra pill, and he went to sleep. No shouting, no shoving. It was wonderful, and it gave her hope that she could maybe have the peace permanently.

She replaced each of his pills with one of her mum’s ones, and he took them, still groggy from the pill the day before. She watched his breathing slow. The smile that lifted her mouth was for her and for her mum, and for the peace and quiet.

The doctors told her how sorry they were, and she pretended to be sad. They took him away and very quickly she was able to have him cremated. Perhaps she was in shock, or denial, or both. She had been lost since then. Guilty of murder. Angry that she had been pushed to it, and grief that she had no proper relationship with her father, and now it was too late to be repaired. There was no chance that he could realize how bad he had been as a parent and how much he had hurt her.

These were the last of the pills she had found in her mum’s drawer. She pushed the soil over the top of them and wondered what they might grow. A chuckle filled her throat. She had kept them against the possibility that she might want to stop herself from breathing, too. She had decided against it.

Apart from anything else, she wanted to see what the garden would look like in the spring.