This is my first memory.
I am outside. I am two years old. The sun is big, and bright and round, and the sky is smiling and benign.
From the house, without warning, my mother screeches and dives through the flower beds onto me, the black ends of her hair and cardi flapping wildly like crows' wings, ravens' wings, as she swoops and caws and snatches me by the hand to tug me away.
I trip as she pulls me back toward the front door, but she has my hand fast, so I don't fall. I don't fall, no, but the toes of my white shoes scrape along the tarmacadam of the driveway, black tarmac, black as her wings but dotted with quartz, which is white, like my shoes. They graze, because my mother doesn't wait for me to find my feet again, she just keeps hauling and dragging me. My arm hurts, but I don't try to pull away; she is holding me the kind of tight that you don't pull against.
Then, after a time that is simultaneously a heartbeat and an eternity, we are inside, and the door bangs loudly behind us.
Baby brother, the precious little bundle, Daddy's first-born clutching onto his pram handle. My mother and Nana breathe noisily and glance through the window with fearful eyes, then deflate, like pricked balloons, as they relax. Nana releases the pram and sits heavily on the chair by the telephone, my mother lets my hand drop, and crumples onto the stairs.
Finding myself free, I start to cry. I bawl. I am scared, and the mirror beside the shut door (which I have not yet come to treat as an enemy) shows me that my pink-and-white perfection is marred by big black scuff marks across my toes. My mother hugs me tight, and when I point at my shoes and wail, she takes them off. The socks beneath are still clean, and that makes everything fine again. My sobs end with a gasp and a sniffle.
There are supposed to be bees in this memory, too. On the other side of the door, bees thick and dark and bubbling like treacle, are buzzing and crawling. They are malign, a constantly-moving, living threat, swarming and ready to sting and smother and subsume everything in their path.
I know the bees are there, but my child's ears do not hear their angry buzz, and my child's eye doesn't see them, except as a shadow passing across my mother's face.
I wonder if those unseeing eyes of mine were still blue, or if they had already started their shift to green, if - despite the white-blonde curls, the pink skin and pinker lips, despite the white dress and pristine socks - oddness and imperfection had already begun to creep in to corrupt and distort me.
Were the worms are already eating at the centre of the English rosebud? Is that why I can"t bring the bees into my mind?
It doesn't matter. The bees are an article of faith. I know they exist as surely as I know that my mother has saved my life.
I have known my mother is beautiful as long as I have existed – I have never needed any deeper knowledge or any definition of beauty to recognise her loveliness. But now – today - she is much more than just beautiful. She is powerful, too, a goddess who can defeat death, a Morrigan on the battlefield, routing the army that threatens me.
She gives me a glass of milk, smiling now, and dries my tears, and Nana's bony old hands idly push the pram back and forth, while inside it, baby brother (who hasn't cried at all, even though I have and I am so much bigger), burbles and chirps, with his blue eyes that will always stay blue and perfect, although he is too small to remember the bees, and the rescue, and my mother becoming an immortal power.
Maybe for him, though, she hasn't been transfigured – it was Nana, not she, who rescued him, and anyway he was never really in danger, with his pram right by the door – not like me, all the way down the garden.