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My mother was told that I would be born on Hallowe'en, perhaps that's significant. In any case, I wasn't; I was born nearly three weeks late, on the 20th of November. The year I was born I will not share, and yes, that is out of vanity, one of my innumerable flaws. I was meant to be a home birth, but as it happened, I wasn't too eager to vacate that one safe haven. My mother eventually went to hospital because I had stopped kicking, and she believed I was dead inside her. I sometimes think that it would have been better, perhaps, if I had died then. How much more content would the world be, without me here? I don't feel guilty as such, it's more just a vague thing I have wondered about from time to rare time.

I was named Maria-Rose Lang and I was a healthy baby, with all my limbs intact, and a good start to life. My mother was born in Queens, New York City, to Asian parents, although her father left before she was born. She was raised in poverty and neglect by her own mother, who had a succession of men enter the house, and then leave again in an unhappy and stressful way. Perhaps, then, it was her upbringing that made her into, frankly, such a bad parent.It's not that she didn't love me, she loved me and all my four younger brothers, but it was a sporadically expressed, unsteady love.

It was a love that reared its head sometimes, where she'd decide on a family camping trip by the lake, with marsh mallows and a campfire. Only... She'd forget about it while we were in school, and on Friday evening when we came home she would have forgotten about it. Then, in a whirl of Obsession perfume and silk scarves she was out the door with someone whose name we would never know. She pinned her naive hope on each and every man, believing in him, but it's a rare man who will take on five children that are not his own, just for a beautiful woman... Especially when he can have her for nothing.

My father was English, and a stranger to me. He left when I was two, after my little brother Jake was born. He visited a few times, but not enough for me to form any kind of relationship with him. I lived with my mother, and her gradually expanding family of children.

My childhood was fairly standard, insofar as it could be without a father and with a completely scattered mother who was phenomenally late all of the time: I would arrive into school an hour late and get picked up two hours after it was done. This sort of thing meant I missed out on a lot of childhood activities, the ones everybody seems to do,  meaning I was socially lost at times. I was a bright child though, and I learnt to read quickly. It was my greatest passion, I carried a book everywhere. As you might imagine, it was a good thing to have with me when there was no sign of a lift home, but I'd convinced the teachers to not to wait with me by saying my mother had texted and was nearly there. They didn't take much convincing though, who would want to wait around with me? I set out about educating myself, and school was enjoyable, for the majority of the time.

I had two friends there, one taller than me, and one shorter than me. I was perfectly in the middle, a place I was to grow accustomed to, a place I was going to hate. But at the time, it was all okay being the middle, mediocre one. May and Saffy were their names. We used to practice pretending to cry, and then see if we could get the boys in trouble by saying they hurt us. One day the shoe rack fell over, and May climbed underneath it and pretended she was hurt, and got to miss class to be examined by the nurse. Saffy and I were jealous we hadn't thought of it. We wore blue eye shadow and we got our first bras together.We were 'Best Friends Forever', with matching necklaces and one boyfriend between the three of us. May moved away in 4th class, and Saffy was there till I left in 5th class.

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