The brightly coloured top spins across the floor before crashing into my outstretched hands.
She fixes me with an icy stare, her eyes drifting down to my hands and the now stationary top.
`It's mine, give it back.` The words shoot from her twisted mouth like the rattle of a machine gun.
`Now Mandy, what have I told you. You must always ask politely when you want something back.`
She glares at me, bubbles of spittle forming at the corners of her mouth. `Shan`t...it`s mine...top...want it.` Her arms shoot out, clawed fingers grabbing for the top. I gently grasp her emaciated wrists, a pulsing vein beating against my fingertips. She fixes me again with smouldering eyes, a second`s flash of clenched teeth before a gob of spit hits me square in the face.
`Now Mandy, that isn't nice is it? Why don't we spit, can you remember?`
Her head inclines, a hint of a distant smile briefly crossing her pale lips. `Mine...want it...top.`
My heart sinking, I release the toy, watch as she clutches it to her heaving chest, her body shuffling back to the corner of the room. Slowly she pushes down on its handle, the top gradually picking up speed until its many colours merge into one. Then she releases it again, her hands clapping wildly as it spins across the floor. I watch as it dances around the room, Mandy`s manic cries echoing like thunder in my tired brain. Will she ever come back to us, be the vibrant, vivacious child she was before the speeding, drunken nobody took her from us?
She is quiet now as I cross the room, enfolding her in my protective arms, and for a moment I allow the tears to spill unchecked in that silent, brooding place....