Last week’s Friday Flash told the story of a mother waiting for her daughter’s visit. Some of you wondered what was going on in with her daughter. Well here goes…
You never meant to leave her behind: all alone in her cottage in the country. You were always going to home one day. But when you finally escaped her, leaving behind the claustrophobic chintz curtains, the china ornaments, the constant smell of cup-cakes, freedom was just too delicious. The more you relished the ability to live by your own rules, the harder it was to return to hers.
You really did intend to come back that first year. Honest you did. When you saw that porcelain spaniel with the sad eyes and floppy ears in the gift shop, you knew it was the perfect gift. But then Dan invited you to spend Christmas skiing with his family in the chalet and you persuaded yourself you wouldn’t be missed. You wrapped the spaniel up, put it in the post, consoling yourself with the thought she’d have a better time with Uncle Jim, before boarding the flight to Switzerland.
It got harder after that. You’d used up all your annual leave on the holiday; and somehow, afterwards, you never could quite find the time to visit. You wouldn’t admit it, but the thought of a weekend of banal conversation, drinking tea from porcelain cups, eating the inevitable Victoria sponge, made you want to puke. So you made your excuses, knowing she didn’t believe them, that neither of you did. And knowing it didn’t matter: preserving the fiction you understood each other was more important than the truth.
And now there are no excuses left. The conference centre is only twenty minutes from her village. You could get away with it of course, if you don’t ring she’ll never know you were even there. But some vestige of conscience, some memory of skipping the path to the village shop, of baking cakes in her kitchen prompts you to pick up the phone.You’ll be in the neighbourhood, you say, could you pop in for a cup of tea? You try not to wince at the breathless excitement in her voice when she says yes. She’s always placed too much importance on your activities – it’s part of the problem.
It’s sod’s law that the conference runs over, that you’re in a mobile blackspot and can’t get a signal to let her know. You really do have to be in London for 8 for a social engagement that is too important to miss. But you can’t help feeling bad. You try to be casual on the phone, pretending that it doesn’t matter; that you’re the kind of daughter who visits regularly; that it’s easy to rearrange. You pretend that you believe her when she says she’s not made an effort, though you know deep down that making an effort is all that she ever does, all she has ever done for you.
It’s not your fault, you think as you drive away from the layby where you stopped to phone. It’s really not your fault, you convince yourself, trying not to think of her sitting in her kitchen with a sponge cake that she’ll eat by herself. The trouble is, she was always too much for you. She still is. How can she expect you to come backnow? No, it’s not your fault, you think, as you pass the road that leads to her door. You put your foot on the pedal and accelerate, getting away as fast as you can.
You won’t be back in a hurry.