She was taken in and grew up with my father and his brothers but grew apart or was severed - we never knew. In the gray maisonette with its hard pebble dash surfaces, table cloths scrubbed clean and sparse bowl of plastic fruit there were no surfaces cluttered enough to hold secrets. Or so it seemed.
Needs a lick of paint - Easterhouse
Yet when she walked into the room that all changed. She had dark wandering eyes and the air of a Gypsy. Conversations would die and be lulled when she walked in the room. She would light a cigarette and throats would clear. The smoke would hang in the air like the folds of an Arabian tent and then she was gone.
And into the silence would move hushed voices, cracking up and down; caressing her name and jabbing her in the lulls. Even as children we would pick up on the verbal darts. We had a keen nose for a family scandal.
A year or so later we sat in a flat and watched the cracks spreading like fractured spiders across the plaster on the ceiling. The window were too wide and let too much of the city in. The bulldozers moved outside and the buildings around hung open and gaunt. A highway rumbled nearby and the great city was moving in.
Norma and her beau Tommy sat in a blue haze. My parents shifted uneasily in their seats. A baby wailed in the next room.
Tommy was sunken and the green tattoos pulled at his arms. The cigarette burned low and threatened to singe his parchment skin. I can't remember now if Tommy spoke of jail or mentioned Barlinnie or Peterhead. I recall seeing Norma pallid and losing the only thing she ever had, as condemned as the dank walls around her.
A year later the city swallowed the apartment but they had a new home. Easterhouse was outside the great city. The name made me think of pastel colored eggs, daffodils and a new beginning. We were happy that Norma and Tommy were finally going places. It was spring, although a low cloud hung in the eggshell sky.
You didn't need to be one of Glasgow's urban planner to laugh at the naivety of my parents. You just had to turn off the M8 to be confronted by a high treeless plain topped with a maze of ragged gray concrete. Once inside the feeder roads the vast place swallowed us up, a world of limp washing lines, old mattresses and grass that never grew properly weaved with dog feces and used syringes.
For an hour or two we sat inside the flat as gangs of teenagers staged first fights in the streets and pushed a mattress out of the window of an empty tenement. We drove away as soon as we could before night fell on the place.
It was the last time I saw her. Norma and Tommy split up soon afterwards. There were a couple of kids who ended up in children's homes. The last time we received word of Norma she had moved south to England where she was working the streets of Leicester. Somehow, somewhere she was swallowed up. She was never heard of again and nobody bothered to invoke her ghost.