Printed from WriteWords -


by  Deborah

Posted: Friday, August 29, 2008
Word Count: 1612
Summary: We meet Lise's mother in a rather unexpected fashion - literally! Hope you like x

8...IT IS FRIDAY and today we launch the Bloomingdale Offensive – well, the initial meet ‘n’ greet bit anyway. After a very tense week of hangovered messes, lost and found CD’s, terse telephone conversations with Exes - okay, Trent, but I can’t bring myself to think of his name too much, it still makes my heart hurt - and startling revelations from colleagues, this is probably the only bright thing that’s been on my horizon.
A kind of ‘Getting Away From it All’ type of thing. It’s going to be therapeutic and exciting. It’s going to be the challenge we all so desperately need. And it has been incredibly amusing to watch Sally from almost-Human Resources visibly paling daily as she counts down to her term in Baggage and Nylons. Hee. Another golden moment in the history of E.P. Roses I think. She looks so out of her depth this morning that I almost wish I had a lifeboat I could throw her. At. I missed off ‘at’.
Just as I am starting to acclimatise myself, with the help of Jean Greene and her amazing Canteen – I made that up – it helps me remember her name – oh that and her name badge of course, with where ‘we’ – that’s the ‘Kitchenware Department We’ – where we keep our little gadgets and how the display is supposed to look on the shop floor, ready for the ‘off proper’ on Monday, I am startled to find myself in a semi-crouch position as I rise up from checking a tower of bakeware and am almost eye-to-eye with a woman who looks not entirely dissimilar to my….
I hold my breath as if this might help with my evaluation of the situation and frown intelligently as if this may also create some kind of mental assistance.
It’s no good. We come to a slow stand together and maintain eye contact.
‘Ummmmm…mum?’ I finally decide to broach, noticing that this lady’s hair is probably a good thirteen or so inches longer than my mum’s was last time I saw her about three weeks ago, and an altogether different colour, so I must be way off the mark. And now I’m starting to feel a little foolish. I mean, this woman here is wearing mascara for gods’ sake, and blusher, and… oh my good god – beads! I feel almost like I’m staring into the eyes of my mother’s younger and sassier sister. I have a sassy Aunt!
Actually I don’t. My mother’s sister is a prude of biblical magnitude. She would rather walk hot coals in a circus than be seen in a department store wearing beads and make up in broad daylight. The mum/woman and I are as close now as it is possible to be without one of us flinching in confused horror.
‘What are you doing here, Lisa?’ the voice is familiar but still the beads are magnetically forcing my mind to think otherwise. It can’t be! It must be – go with the gut, Lisa. First instincts. Go with it.
‘Mum?’ I repeat my initial greeting only slightly louder.
‘I said: what are you doing here, Lisa?’ Definitely mum’s voice. Mum’s voice. Cher’s hair, Maybelline’s eyes, one of Joss Stone’s frocks and …and bloody beads. What the hell’s going on?
‘Mum?’ I am aware that there is another woman to the right of my mother and she is proffering a Bone China Tea for One Set. Her lips are tight, her purse is out and her nostrils are slightly flary. I assume she wants serving. But I’m only supposed to be here “acclimatising” myself – not bloody well serving people! That all starts Monday morning! Okay. This is fine. I spot the till. Right. Now how to work it. I do a quick spin about to see if Jean is anywhere local and feel my spirit begin to soar as; eagle-like she spots me at the same time and glides professionally over to my aid.
‘Here, I’ll take that, shall I?’ she beams to flarey-nostrilled lady and I beam too - immediately deciding I have learnt something precious from the seriously efficient Jean. Customer care.
‘What the hell are you doing here?’ I turn and hiss in a completely contrasting fashion at my own ‘customer’ and instantly I feel two sets of eyes boring into me. Jean is clearly not taken with my customer care and nostril-lady seems mightily relieved I am not serving her. I guide my mother’s arm away from the till area and we commence a stroll through the glass shelving displays.
‘Shopping Lisa, remember? It’s what people do?’ she’s hissing at me now. ‘ I am here,’ she continues, ‘ I am shopping. Now what are you doing here?’ she jabs a finger at the carpet tiles and I quickly decide that we must both be experiencing fish-out-of-water type feelings. Me with her … her… new look and her with my … standing about on the shop floor not doing anything remotely Accounts-related.
Okay. Deep breath.
‘Mum,’ I begin. ‘I am a part of what Management are calling The Bloomingdale Offensive’ …’
My mum’s brows knit in fascinated confusion and so I persist. ‘…whereby each member of the office team upstairs gets to spend a few days on the shop floor, to experience what life is like … here…’ it is my turn to jab a finger at the floor tiles.
Mum sniffs and nods once. Like she’s understood perfectly.
‘I see,’ she says.
‘So my first week, as you can see,’ I gesture this with a sweep of my hands, symbolically, ‘Will be in Kitchenware. I think I’m in ladies undies after that and the week after I think I get to ladle out soup in the caff and….’ I trail off as I notice mum is paying absolutely no attention whatsoever. She seems to have her eyes fixed upon a crystal bowl of marathon proportions. I have never seen her quite like this before in my entire life. In fact the last time I saw her she was in a solid state of composure with her cardie and slacks combo perfectly pressed to within a fibre of their lives, a sherry glass poised in her left hand, carefully marking down items of foodstuff required for the following week on her shopping list. In fact she couldn’t have looked more Mrs Thatcher-ey if you’d plopped a reddish blonde wig on her head and called her ma’am.
Now here I was, faced with the tortuous decision of whether my erstwhile stuffy but cosily familiar mother could possibly have been abducted by something sinister, toyed about with, tarted up and replaced with something resembling more of a latter day… as I’ve already said… Cher. Thank God, though, without the lacy bodystocking and thigh-high Miss Whiplash boots.
I sigh again. And realise it is fear.
‘Mum!’ I repeat for possibly the fourth time.
Her head turns back to me slowly and once again I am forced to take in the perfectly made up eyes and, can I admit it, beautifully teased waves and find myself smiling inadvertently. In spite of – or could it be because of – those damned beads! Blimey, if she’d turned up at the school gates waiting for me looking like this, there’s no way I’d have been half as embarrassed admitting being related to her. Dad must think he’s married to another woman. That’s it! They’re having their mid-life crisis and they’ve gone all wild and bohemian. Excellent! In my mind’s eye, dad is taking on the form of a middle aged Ozzy Ozborne, without the slurring and shades of course. He is, after all an Accountant through and through. No matter how many beads he may be choosing now to wear underneath his pinstripes.
Of course there’s always the possibility of a Fancy Dress thing.
‘Um.. Are you on your way somewhere?’ I try going with the Fancy Dress idea.
My mother scowls. It doesn’t suit her hippiness. Hippies don’t get scowly. They’re full of Peace and Love and… other shit.
‘How do you mean?’ she tilts her head in query – craning it a bit to continue a look at the damned crystal bowl. There is clearly a part of her psyche then, that still craves domestic frippery and I am almost heartily relieved.
‘I mean… well, I was just wondering if you were on your way somewhere – like… oh, I don’t know, like a social gathering of some description? Or something? Maybe?’
Her scowl turns into a small smile and I find myself smiling back – although in more of a sympathetic way, like I’ve just taken charge of a new psychiatric patient at our Nursing Home for the Confused Middle Aged.
She shakes her head. Nice and slow. And then takes my hand and leads me over to Earthenware jugs and trays. Not earthenware trays, you understand – you’d have to have a strong lap to take one of those babies! Just when we can’t get any farther in the corner, she leans towards me and surreptitiously glances about her as if she’s expecting Carly’s version of the Spanish Inquisition to start rounding on us from the soup tureens and whispers:
‘Your father’s left me.’
You what?
What did she say?
Did she just say my father’s left her? Because that was what it sounded like.
'Your father’s left me?’ I repeat, not realising how ludicrous that sounds.
‘Yes, your father’s left me.’ She repeats, patting my hand as if I’M the drooling mental patient.
And then she gently pushes my lower jaw up to meet its partner.