No mother is ever, completely, a child’s idea of what
a mother should be, and it works the other way around as well.
~ Margaret Atwood
She wasn’t coping well with her Mother’s death—maybe it was because she secretly wanted it to be her death.
“Is that what you want” Trish asked sternly, “ to go back to where you were last time, except maybe this time make sure you do it? Are you going to take Gravol this time so you won’t throw up your pills?”
Hailey looked at her, shocked. “How did you know?”
“You’re not difficult to read—there’s no private logic or crazed thinking—in fact, you’re so damn normal, you’re transparent.”
Hailey colored. “I am?”
“Don’t worry—that’s a good thing. You’re not nuts and you’re not your mom.”
“Then why am I so unhappy?”
“You’re not. You were doing fine. You were making great progress until this happened. Now you want to undo everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve. You’ve got a profession, a career, friends and a promising future—Oh, face it, Hailey—a lot of women would sell their soul just to be you. Don’t throw it all away.”
Hailey blushed and shook her head. “You make me think you’re talking about someone else.”
“The stranger in the mirror?” Trish laughed. “Speaking of which, have you looked in a mirror lately—Have you seen what other people see? When I look at you I see a beautiful young woman—but a woman with low self-esteem and little desire to move outside her comfort zone.”
“I know, I know. I’ve heard this lecture before.”
“Have you been getting out lately?”
“I was thinking of going out to Sweetwater’s this afternoon, but that was before the phone call.”
“And what had you decided?”
She colored again.
“Exactly… just as I thought. It was a vagrant wish, with as little chance of fulfillment, as say, jetting off to Tuscany for a romantic month beneath the Italian sun.” She flipped her notebook closed. “I don’t know about you, but I am off for the weekend—not to Tuscany, but Sparrow Lake.” She paused. “Why don’t you phone up Nan and do something with her tonight? It’ll beat sitting in your apartment alone mulling over the past.”
She stood up. “You’re right. I’ll do that. Maybe pick up a bottle of Yellow Tail on my way home. We’ll get drunk and play Bridge.”
Trish came around the desk and hugged her. “Maybe tonight’s not the time—but I do want you to go to Sweetwater’s eventually. That’s what weekend’s are for. Okay?”
She nodded. They had crossed back over that wavy line and were friends again.
On the way home, she felt better. Lighter. Trish is right, she concluded. Maybe she’d even splurge on some dark chocolate.
She ended up with a cheese plate and chocolate covered strawberries, most of which Nan ate.
“Do you have any licorice?”
Hailey’s eyes opened wide. “How can you devour all this? Didn’t you have supper?”
“Licorice goes well with Shiraz—especially, black licorice All Sorts.”
“I don’t believe you,” she giggled. “No, I don’t have any licorice, but I’ll keep it in mind next time I invite you over to beat me at Bridge.”
“Your mind wasn’t on the game”
“Sorry,” she frowned, “guess I haven’t been good company tonight.”
Nan smiled sympathetically. “C’mon, sit by the fire—I’m not really in the mood for cards tonight.” She shifted over on the sofa and left room for Hailey who grabbed an afghan and curled up at the opposite end.
“I like your townhouse,” Nan remarked, gazing around the huge main floor, “especially this big window overlooking the ravine.”
Hailey smiled. She was just beginning to settle in and feel at home here, after a few years our west. “It was spectacular yesterday afternoon—the red Maples and the rain. I guess that’s as close as I get to nature.”
“You don’t do the cottage thing, do you?”
“No, I’m just not interested in that—probably because Mother wasn’t. Trish has a nice place up in Sparrow Lake—I saw pictures. It looks peaceful.”
“Speaking of Trish, how did your session go today?”
“Same as always, I suppose. Trish encouraging me to be independent and get out more and me promising I will.”
“Maybe you should have been a nun. I can see you doing that—shut away behind stone walls, living the contemplative life. For me, that’d be hell—but you—you’d probably find it romantic.”
“I probably would, as long as I didn’t have to take a vow of silence or abstain from wine.”
It was Nan’s turn to frown. “You’d be fine. I wouldn’t. I don’t like to give up things like you do. Besides, isn’t there some religious order that makes wine?”
“Yes, the Trappists.”
“Hrmp. I doubt they allow women.”
Hailey laughed. “On the contrary, they have women’s chapters. That’s what I could do—be a Trappistine. Only problem is, they discourage talking—and you know me—that’s a deal breaker.”
Nan rolled her eyes. “The bottom line is, you need to get a life. You’re thirty-three and stay home Fridays. What’s that all about?”
“Hey, you’re sitting home tonight too.”
“That’s the exception, not the rule. If Walt Jensen hadn’t turned out to be such a jerk, I’d be out on the town. I don’t intend to spend my twilight years home knitting or tending to cats.”
“I don’t even own a pet,” Hailey frowned, “—besides, sometimes it’s lonelier being with someone than being alone.”
“Don’t judge all men by Sean Mappin.”
The mention of Sean’s name was like opening a wound and the minute Nan said it, she regretted it.
“Hey look, I’m sorry. You know me—no circuit breakers between my brain and lips.”
“It’s okay, really. You’re right. I have been avoiding getting back in the race.”
“Well, first things first. You need to get by this rough patch and then, maybe just get involved in something to take your mind off your troubles. Maybe you can join me and help out at the Sally Ann.”
“You volunteer at the Salvation Army?” The thought of Nan in her designer suits helping out at a Thrift Store astounded Hailey.
“Hey, I’m not your usual bourgeois—I care about people. Wouldn’t you like to help out too?”
“Sure. I can do that. It might be a good idea to get the focus off me and my problems and think about somebody else for a change.”
“If you’re up to it next weekend you can start by helping me pack food boxes at the downtown mission.”
“Sounds great. Right now though, I think this wine has gone to my head—I think we should pack it in and call it a night.”
Nan held the bottle of Yellow Tail up, scrying it in the light. “Yeah, wine’s gone anyway. Party’s over.”
She winked at Hailey and held her arms out as if walking a line. “I’m fine to drive.”
“You better be—you live next door to a cop.”
“Brad Forrester—Officer Dreamy,” Nan sighed as if enthralled. “Yes Ossifer,” she giggled, deliberately slurring her words, “—I was drinking—drag me off to your prison and lock us both up for the night.”
“You wish, Hailey smiled, pushing Nan toward the door.
She watched as Nan made her way to her car, and stayed until her red taillights finally disappeared into the night. Then, she gathered up the wine glasses and plates, depositing them on the kitchen counter and stood helplessly in the middle of the floor debating what to do next.
Mother’s dead, she repeated to herself.
The jangle of the phone startled her.
Almost Midnight? Strange.
She picked up. “Hello?” Her voice seemed to echo down an alleyway.
No answer. She tried again, “Hello?”
She felt a prickling sensation at the back of her neck.
She had been facing the wall phone, her back to the windows.
Suddenly, she felt vulnerable.
She turned and saw her pale reflection in the black glass. What lay beyond the windows—the terrace, the lawn, the tree-lined ravine was totally concealed in glistening darkness that now turned menacing.
She hung up the phone and closed the venetian blinds.
© 2017, John J Geddes. All rights reserved.