On Reflection

She’ll be waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs, arms folded, twitching with glee. I let myself in and remove my sodden shoes, delaying the moment I’ll have to look up and witness her satisfaction as she curls her lip at my stupidity.

“I told you to take an umbrella, but you wouldn’t listen. Oh no, Missy I-Know-Best. Well look at you now!”

I hang up my ruined jacket, then brush past her into the kitchen. A cup of tea will calm me down.

“There’s no tea left,” she crows, as I fill the kettle.

I sense her presence behind me and my fingers tighten around the empty mug.

***

I don’t know why I moved back here. Did I imagine I’d get sympathy because divorce was the one thing we had in common?

She seemed confused when I got engaged, maintaining a welcome silence throughout the wedding preparations. She liked Tom; a bit too much, I thought. I wasn’t blind to the lipstick and affectations on the rare occasions we invited her round.

After I had my hysterectomy, the carping began again.

“You’ve let yourself go. If you can’t give your husband children, at least try and make it worth coming home. The house is a tip and you haven’t washed your hair in a fortnight. He’ll be off if you don’t look sharp!”

I could have struck back; asked why my father left before I was even born, but I never had the courage or the energy.

She was right, as usual. Tom put up with me for another year and then moved in with his pregnant girlfriend. It was my fault, he said, for being so negative. For giving up on myself.

It was the only time I ever saw my mother cry, and it wasn’t for me.

***

She had her fall after a bitter row about my plans to move out. We both knew I couldn’t abandon her with multiple fractures, covered in bruises that never seemed to fade. So I took compassionate leave and did my best to meet her needs.

She was docile at first, watching every movement through narrowed eyes. Gradually her spirit returned, injecting an even more strident tone into the belligerent monologue that followed me around the house. By the time I returned to work, I was unable to banish her voice, deriding my attempts at a normal life.

***

I’ve got a date tonight. An old friend has asked me to dinner. Mother isn’t pleased.

She glowers in the mirror as I dry my hair and apply make-up.

“You’ve got even fatter. That dress looks ridiculous and your hair’s a fright. What kind of idiot would want you?”

My hand shakes out of control, smudging the mascara. I study my reflection and hatred rises like bile.

I take a pad and wipe my face clean. I’ll never get away now.

Killing her has only made things worse.

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