Fifty years old, and with the funeral politics concluded, I’m tackling the contents of my father’s terraced house. Sorting through the rubbish he meticulously hoarded, a memory of my mother is resurrected by the scent escaping as I tug out the bottom drawer of an old chest.
Lily of the Valley
My mother standing half in shadow at the open door, a smile already fading as she turned away. Immaculate nails, shining like wet rubies, gripped the cream clutch purse that perfectly matched her flared-cut coat and pale cheeks. Coiled around her neck, like an emerald silk snake, was my favourite scarf. The one I always chose for her from the chest of drawers that creaked and complained like a grumbling giant in the corner of my parent’s bedroom. Scent lingered from her warm wrists as I played in the yard. Teasing a twist of yarn through the long wet grass for Milly’s kittens to pounce upon with needle claws.
After my mother left, an army of female relations took over so a silly little girl didn’t bother Father. I only saw her again in the photographs my aunties picked over each Christmas; her image held captive like a creature preserved in amber. Her name never spoken above a whisper.
Now I’m clearing the family home where my father drowned Milly and her five kittens in the basement. Slipping back into childhood I see her again. My mother’s silent, red lips closing as she pulled away from his grip. Father’s knuckles turning white as his fingers tightened around her wrist. Hissing and cursing, bloated with venom, his ugly words spattered her face.
I lift out the silk scarf. Drape it over my arm. It shimmers like the empty, lifeless skin of some exotic green snake.
(to be published WorcstershireLitFest anthology 2015)