Private Lies Part 11


Mothers and daughters—one has lain in amniotic bliss inside the other,
and one has laboured to give birth to the other. The materials are here
for the deepest mutuality and the most painful estrangement.
—Adrienne Rich


Hailey’s mind went back to that black period many long months ago when the estrangement from her family drove her to desperation.

“What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

Trish had smiled at her, hoping, no doubt, to stir something within her, but Hailey wasn’t playing.

She knew she was fogging and being evasive, but Trish was probably like the other therapists—well meaning and marginally helpful.

She’d expect Hailey to fill out charts, monitor her moods and be a good little girl and take all her medicine. In the end, it would all turn out the same.


“What were you thinking about down by the lake?”

Images flashed across her mind. The deserted beach—the lonely white waves—the bone-numbing cold.

Her feet and ankles still ached at the memory of wading back and forth in the shallows that gray November day.

What was she thinking? Nothing—other than trying to get up the courage to walk out into the freezing swell and not come back.


She remembered she was so scared she vomited and so detached she didn’t hear the young couple calling to her from the sand.

Wrapped in blankets and transported to the hospital, all she could think was, ‘What will Mother say?’—or more precisely, not say.

She had come to dread her sad look—what did it mean? —Probably that she was unworthy—useless—damaged, or, more likely to be pitied.

But why?

That answer came easy—because she was exactly like her.


All her life she tried so hard not to be Mother, but here she was, lying in an ambulance, feeling exactly like Mother.

Her aunts would stand aloof, comfortably removed, yet sufficiently close to cluck at her foolishness and question her competency—as they did Mother’s.

Nothing escaped their keen eyes.

‘Absurd’ and ‘confused,’ Alicia would charge, the words spat with the vehemence of a Salem witch hunter.


She came back to reality, shivering at the thought of Alicia’s cold hard eyes.

The Earl Grey tea she made sat steaming on the coffee table, untouched.

Even the yellow shout of Birches, their leaves shimmering outside her window, offered little joy and no consolation.

I have to go back.

It was a fact as stark as death.


She had to face Mother, if only her corpse. Even then, she had no idea what she would say to her.

Life does surprise us.

How trite of Thomas Gunn to say that—and he a Queen’s Counsel—whatever that was.

Regardless, there was a lot of education squandered on him.

Was that was the best he could dredge up from that Pyrean spring of knowledge?


You’re not exactly light duty, Hailey.

Nan’s words rolled around in her head.

Why is that my life is peopled with caricatures—everyone afraid to speak their mind?

She threw the cushion she was cradling across the room.

She knew what would come next—the guilts.

Oh, bloody hell—let them come.


She could picture Mother standing before her, challenging her to take her place in the family.

You are a woman of the very highest culture, Hailey.

Well, if only mother could see her now. She stopped dead in her thoughts. The truth hit her.

She’s gone.


She felt punched in the gut, and tears she didn’t think she’d ever shed, now poured down her cheeks.

Don’t be ridiculous, Mother would say. Why are you crying?

She’d stare back open mouthed, unable to speak, but in her head, her inside voice would be wailing.

I don’t know—for you—for me—Who knows?

Why was she crying? Certainly not for the mother she had.

More likely, for the one she never had.


© 2017, John J Geddes. All rights reserved.

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