My hood’s up and all the lights are off apart from the one leaking in from the ensuite bathroom. The camera is set up in a way so no one watching will be able to make out my face. I’m all hood and shadow.

“In my dream, you stepped out of the door,” I start.

I’m half-singing, half-whispering into the microphone and the song sounds completely different to the one that went to the top of the charts.

“In my dream, you put your arms round me.”

But that’s kind of the point. I’m changing the words and making it mine. I’m making it mean something.

“Wearing an Avril Lavigne t-shirt and tight black jeans.”

Yeah, that’s more like it.

“And you drove me cr-cr-crazy.”

Yeah, you did.

My voices cracks. I’m thinking about my boyfriend. That t-shirt. My t-shirt. Those jeans.

I sing the chorus without changing the words. But I deliver them softly, like they were written to be comforting and not in a way that makes them sound psychotic.

And there’s another line I keep too.

“That smile like a hurricane.”

Yeah, that smile that blows me to pieces. I haven’t seen it for too long. I’m too caught up in whatever this is I’m doing. This impossible dream I’m chasing.

Here comes the chorus again. My voice splinters.

“I won’t let you go.”

I’m breathless.

“I can’t let you go.”





I play the last chords on my guitar and for a moment I forget I’m recording. I sit in silence, not moving. Listening to my breathing.

Then I remember.

I switch the camera off.

Now that I’ve made the video, all I have to do is upload it. Dad won’t like it. That doesn’t matter, but I need to be sure that’s not why I’m doing it. This has to be all about me. That’s the point. It’s why I’ve had to cut myself off the way I have. Everything I do now needs to be about who I am. Who I really am on the inside. It can’t be about the way Dad – or anyone else – sees me.

I watch the recording back.

There’s nothing of Dad in there. Nothing of anyone but me and the way I feel.

I set up a YouTube account and upload the song. No editing. No tech trickery.

Just me.

Yeah, I’m hidden in the darkness.

But it’s me.

And it’s a start.

Find out how Ayley got here. Start N-N-N-N-Nineteen from the beginning.

Chapter photo: Johannes Plenio