Mum tucked me into bed, eyes red and cheeks salty. I kept myself
awake for a while in the cosy warmth by scratching my irritated
bites and planning the night ahead of me. When the lights were
gone and all was still, I put on my jacket and shoes then grabbed my
torch to escape. I managed to reach the front door before I noticed
mum resigned in the kitchen, almost melted into the surroundings
behind her. An untouched glass water created a rim against the table.
“Where are you going?”
“Just tell me where you’re going Helen.” She didn’t seem angry at
all, more mildly curious.
“I just wanted to find Peter’s jewellery to give back to him.”
For a moment, she processed this, maybe thinking of a suitable
punishment or scolding words. If you’re going somewhere in life,
you might as well not go there alone, is what mum always used to
say. It was what she used again then.
We made our way silently into the middle of the tangle, leaves
and sticks gently crunching under our feet. I held my torch ahead
and mum held hers up, looking for the apparitions above. The bush
looked different in the obscured dark, the trees seemed larger,
enveloping us into a shadowy hug. It was cold and I was tired now,
ready to return to the comfort of my blanketed enclosure. But mum
tore on through the debris, calling out for something in the dark
and digging up holes with her hand-sized spade. After a while a
strange rustle followed by a large bang lulled us into silence. We
finally surrendered: back to the house only a few hours before dawn.
I woke up after that night in a surreal daze, unsure whether we
met Peter or not.
Months went by and dad started to grey and weaken. He had
developed liver disease, inhibiting his drinking escapades and
rendering him unable to work. Instead, he flopped about like a wet
fish, sullenly moaning and grumbling around the house.
Mum got a job working as a secretary at a local law office. She
couldn’t pick me up from school in our shabby blue station wagon
anymore, which meant I had to sit on a swarming school bus to
make my way home. Yet when mum was around the house she was
floating, positively lively. So I didn’t mind.
It was as though in dad’s pain and restriction, something was
gained in my mum.