It’s strange how life can move in a circle. Today I found myself wanting, no needing to write. But I am working on a large project – a book – and that wasn’t it. I wanted to do something short… Something flash-like.
So I decided to go for a daily prompt. I may even do another tomorrow… In fact I probably will. So here it is:
I hit the big five zero… It arrived unexpectedly. One minute I am twenty and the next fifty. Maybe I noticed a few aches and pains. Maybe I was slower to get up in the morning…
Maybe I wasn’t paying attention.
Then the card.
From a family member. A child of a distant aunt. Distant in miles and in blood. I have a feeling that the aunt was only by marriage. I shake my head and stare at the big numbers on the front. At first I’m in denial. There is no way I’m that old. I shuffle over to the calender, the one hanging behind the door to the kitchen and stare at the date. I really am fifty.
The phone rings.
The noise hurts my ears for a moment and I lunge for the machine just to shut it up.
“Yes?” I’m surprised at the rasp in my voice. When had I last spoken?
“Happy Birthday!” a cheery voice screams at me down the phone.
For a moment I’m silent and then I let out a quiet ‘thank you’, it seems they are waiting for some sort of reply.
I close my eyes for a moment and a child skips through my vision, a smile on her face and a sparkle in her eyes. Then I see her screaming at me, her face contorted into hate and her fists rigid at her sides.
I say nothing. I can’t.
After a moment I hear a muted voice. “Is she saying anything?”
My daughter. I’d know her voice anywhere.
“No,” says the child, a girl and so unhappy that I can hear the tears.
“Give me the phone.”
There is a sort of shuffling sound and then my daughter is on the line. She is crystal clear and I wonder if she lives close by.
I swallow. I never thought that you could get a frog in your throat. Not really. But here I am with one and I can’t get past it.
I open my mouth and I force myself to speak. “Yes…” It doesn’t sound like me. It sounds like an old person. But, as I look at the card in my hand with its harsh pink and yellow balloons, I realise that I am. I’m old.
“I know we parted on bad terms…” My daughter pauses. “But I think Lauren needs to know you.”
Lauren… the baby’s name was Lauren. It had been my mother’s.
“Mum, do you want to know her?”
That was the question. Did I want to know the child that my daughter had birthed without me and against my wishes? I did but I knew I would have to say the words. That I was wrong.
I’m not sure I can. Was I wrong? Was my daughter happy?
That was the question that kept me up at night.
“Are you happy?” I blurt it out, my voice strident and harsh. It isn’t a question it is a demand.
“Mum…” she sounds resigned. “Yes, I am happy. No I’m not on the bread line. I have a job and a daughter. We are fine, but I want my child to know you.”
I wait only a minute. “Yes.”
“Okay.” I can hear the surprise in her voice. “Can we come around?”
I close my eyes for a moment and look around the room. All the things I own. The beautiful ornaments and the glass. “Is she accident prone?”
I ask it without thinking. It is something I always told my daughter she was. Knocking into things and breaking them.
“Oh Mum…” there is true sadness in her voice. Then a dial tone.
I take the handset from my ear and look at it. I shake it. I place it back to my ear. The tone is dull and continuous.
I like my things. I don’t want them to be broken. I see the child that had been my daughter again as if the past were haunting me. She skips across the room and I wince at the things she could harm. Maybe it would be best if I met Lauren out. Away from home.
Smiling I place the phone back to my ear. “We can do lunch?” I’d heard that term from the telly. I congratulate myself on being so slang savvy.
The tone answers me.
“That’s great,” I say. “Ring me when you are free.”
Smiling I place the receiver down and look at the card. It is cheap and will stand out against the crystal. I have no need to keep it. Moving into the kitchen I toss the offending card into the bin. At least the recycling will reuse the vile thing.
Reaching under the sink I pull out the box. Carefully I take out the polish and the cloths. Today was a big day. My birthday. A good deep clean would be in order. Slowly I start, wiping at the dust that is so fine you can’t see it.