This story is, like Within and Without my Walls, inspired by a place in Brighton. I believe there are treacle mines throughout the land but the one in this story was on the outskirts of my home town.
Kate’s mum never told lies. She had a lot of sayings about that. Her favourite was ‘Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil’. She insisted that there had been a treacle mine on that hill beside the railway line. Every time they took the train up to London they’d pass Sweet Hill and Kate’s mum would smile a little crack and say,
“That’s where the treacle mine used to be. Back when I was a girl.”
When Kate was little she’d leapt from her seat to catch a glimpse before the train took her away. Later on she argued the point, drawing long explanations from her mother. If you walked on that hill on a summer evening you’d see it in the soil, glinting in the sunshine. That’s what mum said. But they never did.
Teenage Kate would roll her eyes and turn up her music when her mum talked rubbish about a treacle mine. For fuck’s sake.
It was sunny that evening – heat in the stones. The flints in the chapel wall were hot glass under Kate’s fingers. The world spun as she bent to read the labels on the flowers. The sweaty palm of the vicar sucked against her own. Sticky hugs with friend after friend brought bile into her mouth.
Kate watched the curling sandwiches on the plates. Warmed wine in plastic. A wasp on pastry. Keys jangling in the pocket of her best black trousers, she walked out of town.
On the hill top Kate took off her shoes – peeled sweaty socks from her feet. The skin of her soles on the cool Downland turf. The sweetness broke through. The sweetness seeped in.