My name is Susan Bartley. I am fifty-six years old and I work as a headmistress at a girls' private school. I'm not really too sure why anymore but I think it may have something to do with the smell of the varnished wooden floors, I like that smell. I have a cat called Mary and a dog called Jack, named after my son. I take the dog for a walk every day, in the evenings during summer and in the mornings of a winter, I don't like to be out in the dark evenings. I enjoy relaxing with a glass of wine, sometimes with a book, sometimes with a bath. The wine dilutes things and makes them easier to accept. Like my eyes, old eyes, they're too close together, too watery, too puffy around the outside. My favourite possesion is the last mother's day card I got from my son. I had to go back and steal it one day when my husband was out, I wish I'd taken more because he changed the locks after that. I went to the beach by our house last weekend, I didn't quite manage to put both feet on the sand though. I don't sleep much. There wouldn't be much point anyway, the only dream I have will never come true. I often think if I went abroad, away from it all, things might be easier, but I wouldn't know where to go. I suppose if I went anywhere I'd like to go back. I lie to myself everyday. I have to or I won't be able to carry on. I'd like to make love again. To have that feeling of being loved and accepted and forgiven, to be told "I love you". My son was the last person to say "I love you", and I'll never hear him say it again. My biggest fear is sharing myself with someone. As long as I keep myself to myself, then no one can ever really claim I existed. And if I never existed, then none of this ever happened. Even if no one else ever does, if none of it happened, at least I can love and accept and forgive myself. Or pretend I do.
TEXT by Emily Bone + IMAGES by Andrew Denholm