Printed from WriteWords -


by  Deborah

Posted: Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Word Count: 1287
Summary: Jen recalling how her mother may not possess a heart at all...
Related Works: LABRATS - 1 • LABRATS - 2 • LABRATS - 3 • 

Content Warning
This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.


The first time I can remember was when I was seventeen and I’d been planning my future towards the end of my A-levels. I’d been doing Art, Art History (only briefly because I’d been asked to leave after disrupting the other member of the course – a silly girl, given to infectious giggles at the drop of a punch line) and English Lit. I’d decided I rather fancied going on to college after the exams and study Art simply because I loved it and I didn’t really know what else I wanted or could do. College would give me some time I thought, to consider options etcetera. My teacher, the Very Arty Farty Miss Greene was extremely enthusiastic about my work and when I eventually conceded my parents weren’t willing to even discuss the option of further education, Miss Greene gave me all the support and guidance she could. And so I started applying to colleges on my own.

Oh! How Bright, Shiny and Golden was the day I received a letter back from the Bath College of Fine Art inviting me for an interview (via Miss Greene of course) that summer.

My parents, however, went berserk.

Not only was I ‘dishonest’, ‘conniving’, ‘underhand’ and ‘downright ignorant’, they also seemed to object to the little note Miss Greene had hand-written for them illustrating the merits of Art college, my determination, talent and enthusiasm, oh, and guidance on financial assistance for low-income families.

This was like a slap in their faces. I guess. Judging by their reaction, that is.

I remember scrawling in my diary that night ‘I HATE LIFE – I want to die!’.

Mum had tried first. She sat by my bed watching my body heaving with sobs and tried to explain her reasoning behind why I wasn’t allowed to go to college. ‘Money is tight’ was one reason.
‘You always start something and never see it through’ was another.
‘If we let you go, it’ll give your brother ideas when he leaves school – and then where will we be?’
I think I howled even louder at that reason – it being so way off the mark.
‘We never went to college, your dad and me, and it didn’t do us any harm did it?’

At this stage the neighbours had started banging on the wall of my bedroom which adjoined theirs but my misery had by now taken over any sense of shame and I was in full-thrust.

Then dad tried.

‘Look, you know your mum and I love you,’ He started.
Blimey! Even through my incredibly loud wails (and fast-becoming drier tears) I can still hear him saying these words – made even more memorable because I don’t think I’d ever heard my dad mention the word ‘love’ and me in the same sentence before in my entire seventeen years. And he’d said mum loved me too, hadn’t he? That must mean they did then, didn’t it?
Oh, here we go.
‘We don’t like the way you’ve gone about it – behind our backs. We discussed it as you know, and yet you still went ahead and applied. That’s dishonest. It’s unfair and it’s put us in a difficult position.’

This sounded almost encouraging

‘You know I don’t earn much at the butchers. Your mum is up at four thirty every morning on the post and even then, with our wages together we couldn’t find the money to pay for fees and things for college….’
‘But Miss Greene said…’
‘Miss Greene had no right to do this behind our backs – knowing we didn’t agree – she’s been dishonest too! I’ve a good mind to go straight round that school and tell them you’re not going back – from now!’
‘But I’m half way through my A-levels!’
‘Yes, and what did we say about those? You knew full well we didn’t want you staying on to do more exams, we didn’t do them… you know we wanted you to leave when you were sixteen so’s you could go out and get a job and help your poor mother with the housekeeping. That’s what we did in our day, none of this stay on and decide what to do with your future rubbish – that doesn’t get anybody anywhere!’
‘But I’ll get a better job if I go to college… I’ll….’
‘Says who! Your Miss Greene I suppose. And she can guarantee that, can she? I don’t know - you go getting these idiotic ideas of yours and everything’s fine for five minutes and then you get bored and give up and then you’re back to where you started again. Look at that Airfix Anne Boleyn of yours – it still needs painting five months later! What makes you think this would be any different?’
Anne fucking Boleyn?! I still don’t think this entirely registered as a significant enough reason to dash my hopes and dreams… then again – if I’d known how much importance would have been placed on the painting of her stupid sodding frock then I’d probably have made damned sure I’d have painted it straightaway.
‘I promise, dad…’
‘Promise? Promise? Where’ve I heard that one before? You’re not going and that’s final.’

And it was. I swear to you, I could feel my heart tear in two and bleed, it hurt so much.

I didn’t bother much after that night and certainly I didn’t put any effort into anything in the Art room any longer. I think Miss Greene (bless her) understood. It all felt so pointless. The future looked all grey and foggy and I hadn’t a clue what I was going to do. All my friends were getting excited about college interviews, job interviews and the last year in the Upper Sixth which was going to be such fun and there were such plans to be made for the future, except mine – mine just wasn’t there any more.

So. Where was I? Oh yes, the first sign that maybe, just maybe my mum (and dad) had a heart. Not a very good example I grant you – but the word ‘love’ was mentioned wasn’t it?

The second was slightly more ‘hands-on’.
I’d just split from a particularly intense, whirlwind romance that had promised co-habitation, mortgage, marriage, kids, the whole happy-ever-after Nine Yards and it had ended so damned abruptly one night that I’d come home from seeing him (I still can’t even think his name without my breath catching) and taken all the tablets I could find in the house. I even remember taking contraceptive pills I found in the communal bathroom. I didn’t care. It was the closest thing to an ‘out-of-body-experience’ I think I’ve ever had. One of the clearest memories of that night was of the claim on the first packet of Anadin ‘kills pain – fast’ which kept repeating and swimming about in my head as I wandered zombie-like from room to room with my bottle of brandy and whatever other packet I’d just found. That’s all I was trying to do, to stop the searing, confusing pain that was shooting unending through my heart.

After a long, fitful night of throwing up (from all ends) and being kept awake by gallons of black coffee and a very concerned ex whom I’d telephoned in tormented despair in the early hours of the morning, my mother called round the following day.
She came in, led me into the sitting room, sat me down on the sofa and hugged me close to her chest calling me a ‘silly girl’ whilst stroking my hair from my face. It helped. It felt like she cared.

I shall never forget that hug.