Confessions - chapter one - The Bench
(word count 1,500)
I watch her pace back and forth in bare feet on long wet grass, rubbing her hands down the thigh of her jeans as if she can rub away my words. The cliff top illuminates in flashes as javelins of white light strike the ground in random spots. I see her now ,raging looking anywhere but at me.
I see with the eyes of a seriously deluded fool and a loving son. I think I am looking at a doting mother. A mother who has loved me unconditionally? The woman I think will accept me, no matter what I say or do, I try, she doesn't. My words failing to comfort her. She only heard one word, the rest didn’t matter.
A woman who cherishes me? I start to question this too, with every twitch of her wounded and distorted face. She is my hero, my teacher my inspiration, my nurse, my best friend, how could this be happening? She nursed my cuts and scrapes and cared about me - I know this, I saw it in her soft hazel eyes my entire life. I felt it when she waited at the school gates with such immeasurable pride and affection, knees bent with open-wide arms and a smile as wide as a crescent moon.
She hisses words at me now, under sobering moonlight, like I am a complete stranger. I begin to doubt my judgement. I love my mum, no matter what.
I see something else in the eyes of this woman, they are screwed tight with such bitter hatred and her nostrils flare and steam, like one of the wild horses that roam the bluff. She is spitting words at me with a viscous tongue. Animated arms flail about with no coordination, as if all control is lost and she is possessed with the kind of wickedness you know exists but only see in films.
I am in total disbelief, I did not see this coming, no matter how many times I ran the words through my mind , I never once envisaged this. I have to show respect she is my mother.
I look at my feet ashamed, as if I am a ten year old boy being scolded for pinching penny sweets from the corner shop. The alcohol my mother and consumed in our happy-family sea side home is now blurring my tear-stung eyes.
My confession, it should have remained my secret, I have been holding onto it for so many years, I shouldn't have told. I should instead, have kept it close to my chest, as my instinct has always told me too. I put it out there to save us, confided in the one person in this world I thought would understand, thought would accept. I was wrong, very wrong.
I want to take my liberal minded, carefree mum and hold her close and tell her its OK to be angry and confused. I - after all- have spent most of my twenty six years confused but I can see there is no approaching her – she is as savagely-wild and untamed as the new stallion they brought in to break at the riding school wide eyed and ready to kick. A new woman to me. Has she always been there, just under the surface? She scares me. There is no breaking in this woman at this moment.
My questioning eyes follow her every move, Her silk blouse is drenched and clinging to her skin covering a million goosebumps. Relentless heavy rain pounds her and soaks her to the bone. Her mouth moves as she mutters angry words with a bent head, I can't hear but her lips curl and droplets fall off her chin as she shakes the rain from her long hair. She turns to look at me with an black soulless eyes , an icy stare, one that would kill me if it could I’m certain.
Wine fuelled and bitter, her slight frame sways and her legs stagger against the force of the downpour. Thick long hair sticks to her face in long wavy tendrils and looks oddly sinister against her blood-drained skin. I watch her mouth twist with rage as she says the words I have always dreaded hearing:
"I didn't bring you up to be that, you fucking animal, this will destroy us, your father and me. How could you bring such shame on the family, I despise what you are! " Her face distorts,I don’t know this woman.
With eyes wide open and my heart thoroughly ripped out of my chest, I clasp my hands one after the other over my mouth, afraid I will retaliate. I mustn't, she is my mother, I have to respect her words, her opinion. I hate it but it's how I was raised, I close my eyes and shake my head at the irony. I tell myself it's the booze, she doesn’t usually drink, I gave her wine to soften the blow, there was no softening. None at all. I refuse to believe this is how it ends. I tell myself tomorrow it will be OK.
Her delicate accusing finger points, as if it were about to shoot a fatal bullet made of silver, like I am something to be shot down, disposed of. It's aimed directly at my already shattered heart. The knife twists deep into my soul, my mind is torn to shreds. I am done. Why didn’t I keep my mouth shut?
I picture her embrace, warm and nurturing, blocking out the horrific vision of anguish that stands before me. I'm helpless to change it. I try something else, I keep my eyes closed hoping that when they open, she will be once again my sweet pint-sized mum, standing with arms open wide telling me it's OK son, I’m here for you. Smiling at me with the sun behind her, wearing a wide mum-smile. She doesn’t. Is this same woman who said I’ll always be there for you son – she lied! When did my mothers love acquire such boundaries and limits, when the hell did that happen? I push my numb fingers through soaked hair and look at her once more.
Her steps toward me quicken, shoeless, her bare feet and small toes sink into the mud, momentarily slowing her down. Hands rise high above her tiny frame. My small mild-mannered mother, hurtling towards me with her arms held a high about to strike me and I step backward, afraid she is going to run right off the cliff, I put up hands to stop her, she doesn’t stop.
My feet give way to slippery sodden grass, my old faithful worn- souled Nike trainers let me down.
I glance backwards briefly and catch waves smash in layer upon layer of white lace on immense black rock and my heels sink and slide – I am powerless, it's her or me.
My mums face contorts as she leaps forward mouthing something, arms stretched– in anger or concern?
I fall into darkness, hearing her shrill into the black of night, dark rock and sea spray flashing before me, soon drowned out by the enormous sound of the sea.
Hitting icy water, then rock, something cracks and seeps warm. Behind my closed eyes I see black and purple and I feel numb as water fills my mouth. I hit rock and more rock and I sink. I try and shout for help. I am suddenly under the rising waves and crushed by the bearing weight, no strength to fight the surges that toss me around like a rag doll. I give up.
I start to drift and see dappled sunlight though the clear warm water and my mothers gentle hand reaches for me and starts to pull me out.
I see her gentle gold-speckled eyes searching mine, kind and loving, the eyes that watched me at my first school play. They eyes that followed my as I walked my first steps. clinging to side of the sofa. Protective eyes that followed me all of those years. I feel her smile radiate across me and her arms lift me. Her summer-warm skin is as soft as silk and smells of white cotton and lavender. It smells of home. I reach out to touch her face but it suddenly goes black.
Beep, beep – shhhh – shhhh beep, beep – shhhh shhhh -beep, beep.
"Hold his hand." I hear a woman saying, I don't know her. My eyes won’t open!
"Tell him we love him." Another woman weeps,
"Can I hold him?" A man asks.
"Can he hear us?" The same man enquires.
“Will he die?" A young girls cries.
"Would you like me to call a priest?" A woman ask quietly.
I don't recognise any of these voices.
It all begins to seep black again, I can’t see, I need to sleep. Beep, beep, beep.
ok as if he would like nothing more.
I open it at the last page:
She twirls around slowly in a lavender-blue dress. It swishes at her knees , her smile is as warm as spring sunshine. She pokes at her sliver-grey hair, I know she doesn’t like how she looks but to me she is Julie, the most beautiful girl in the world. Her eyes hold the cherished memories and echoes of all the happy years she gave me and I will never be able to thank her enough, I hope she knows? She places a hat on her neatly permed hair and looks at me, the look is still there, she has never needed to say the words, I know, her violet eyes say it every single day.
I turn to see his glasses are now on the floor and his head has dropped forward, his mouth gapes and his arms flop loosely at his sides. I kiss him goodbye.