(This is a companion piece to Remembering – Part 2)
When I woke that morning the air was strange. I could sense it on the breeze that moved the curtains covering the open window of my bedroom. Looking out past the material I could see a thin trail of smoke rising into the sky from a site the other side of town. I closed the window, pulled on a dressing gown and went downstairs.
The heat and bitter after taste of the coffee was a welcome start to the day. A time of sanctuary before things really got going.
I drained the last drops from the cup as the front door opened and then banged shut – my grandchildren arriving for breakfast. I started to prepare scrambled egg, bread in the toaster as they rushed into the kitchen followed by an excited torrent of incoherent sentences. This had become my early morning ritual since my daughter started the night shift three weeks ago.
The toaster popped, the children kept speaking, I stirred the egg and closed my eyes.
The feel of his hand as it touches my breast, his tongue on my neck makes me shudder. A spasm of expectation. As he caresses me I can feel him getting hard, he gently pushes into the small of my back. The sensations of expectation stir my body. He continues to run his hands across my skin and pulls me closer. I turn my head, he moves to kiss me. I reach for his body, pulling him even closer, the kiss lingers. Our ecstasy being prepared, my love for him naked before his gaze, before his touch.
Three weeks passed in a whirl of activity. I had barely considered him. I knew he didn’t understand or perhaps he didn’t want to. The time we spent together had been precious to me but I regret not making more of it. I had competing pressures though, not from anyone but myself. I couldn’t reconcile two lives, one had to give. His expectation was it would be him. I couldn’t bring that upon my family. How would the children see me? I couldn’t face losing them. My husband and I are well known where we live. What would people say? Could he not see that it was for the good of the many?
Songs in the Key of Life was playing as I lay on the floor of the living room. Sensing a trace of sulphur on the air I stretched my arms out from my sides. When they were level with my ears I placed the back of my hands touching the carpet. I listened to the music, closed my eyes and sunk into the pile I was lying on.
‘Next this afternoon, on ITV, Sunshine Drive. Another chance to see what our Australian friends have been up to.’
‘Well look at you! Fantastic. I love your hair. And that dress…’
‘Stop that and come in Ella.’
‘I bought this for you mum, shall I put it in the fridge?’
‘Yeh, that looks great but you shouldn’t be spending your money on expensive wine.’
‘No probs. You deserve it, all you’ve done for us.’
‘Would you like something?’
‘A beer’d be good.’
‘Okay. Where’s dad?’
‘Fishing? There’s no beers in here.’
‘Ah, I’d forgotten your father’s either drunk them all or taken them with him. Sorry.’
Olive oil, garlic, anchovies, chilli flakes, black olives, capers. Preparing the ingredients of the sauce brought me comfort. The flat feels empty, its spartan furnishing all I can afford. Cooking is something to immerse myself in. Passatta, puree, parsley, boiling water, spaghetti. My first day here, my first meal. The loneliness of moving out at such a young age. Moving due to necessity not will. My first pasta dish, its pungent sauce a comfort, shielding me from considering the coming complexities of adulthood.
‘I’m sorry doll but you can’t stay long.’
‘Why? I was hoping to see dad.’
‘He’s likely to be at the river all day and I’ve got to go out.’
‘Dressed like that?’
‘Yeh. Is there something wrong with how I’m dressed?’
‘No, but for going to the shops?’
‘Who said…? That’s enough, you’ve gotta go.’
‘What’s going on mum?’
‘Nothing! Why would you think something’s going on?’
‘Well, you’re keen to get rid of me, you’re dressed to the nines in the middle of the day, you smell fantastic and I’ve only seen you use that bag on special occasions.’
‘I don’t understand what you’re getting at but I must leave.’
‘What’s his name mum? You’re seeing someone aren’t you? I’ve not seen you dress like that in a long while.’
‘Where did that come from? Don’t be so ridiculous.’
‘What’s his name mum? You need some happiness. I’m not upset, you probably deserve to have some fun. Just tell me.’
‘I don’t understand what…’
‘What’s his name?’
‘Her name is Patti.’
The startling taste, my first sip of whiskey. He insisted I try it. Its complex flavour and startling sensation in my throat made me grimace. I lie in his arms, the smell of the spirit on his breath. I feel secure, safe. The relationship has finished but the path of my first sip and security I now feel are entwined. The mobile, unused since, a testimony to my willpower. I watch him slip away. Drifting away at my volition, the ring secure on my finger.
The noise startled me. I didn’t move though as the children ran around my legs, shouting about their day at school. I stood in place, my eyes closed. My daughter’s voice admonished the children and their noise moved rooms. A sharp pain ebbed through my body, a distant wail, sweating palms as my daughter lay a hand on my shoulder. I could hear her trying to reach me as a wall of white noise and memories blocked her out. I opened my eyes, stared into my daughter’s face as her lips moved, trying my many names. Amongst the pain the memory of happiness fought back. I loved him but knew he wouldn’t see that. i knew I caused him pain but couldn’t tell anyone about how I felt, what I had done to him. Every feeling, sense, was forced deep inside me.
I stretched out my hand, moved the pan of simmering spaghetti hoops and then placed my palm directly on the hob. Closing my eyes I waited for my thoughts to fade, the pain erased them as my flesh moulded itself onto the hob.