...because I liked the way he made stuffing. It was a Christmas courtship – he wooed me with turkey basted in butter, a traditional mixture of sausage meat, and sage inside, the most delicious meal I’d eaten in years. And with my mother agreeing to leave us alone for the holidays, it was just me, him, and his wild-life collection. A weasel poised on the bookshelves, a badger lying on the rug and ‘Ratty’ the biggest rodent I’d ever seen, completing his ‘Wind in the Willows’ tableau. Cosy.
‘A perfect man,’ my mother said after we got married.‘Good looking, a good cook and he loves animals.’
‘He’ll do,’ I said. Unlike her, with her botox-young looks, designer clothes, and intimate chat, I wasn’t that fussed about men. She’d been dubious about my chances of hooking up with anyone. But Brian seemed generous and that I liked. At first, I didn’t mind when she came several times a week for dinner – liver and onions, her favourite and other offal meals which they both enjoyed. But things soon went down hill.
While she cooed over birthday presents of stuffed songbirds, I told him any new animals he ‘fixed up’ must stay outside. After her cat died, he freeze dried it and created a still life – the animal forever reaching towards its prey – a mistle thrush that reminded her of me.
‘You were such a freckly child,’ she said, gazing admiringly at Brian’s smooth, olive complexion. But if you had a baby, I expect Brian’s genes would take precedence.’ Her lips and Brian’s were greasy with juices from the devilled kidneys I’d refused. Brian squeezed my arm, as if he was into the idea of procreation and I shrank away.
As soon I chucked ‘Ratty’ in the bin, when I saw a live mouse nibbling its thighs, our relationship was over. And theirs began. ‘Let her have him,’ I thought. It wasn’t long before a nice vegan chap came my way. Seduced me with a quinoa muffin topped with avocado, tomato salsa and cashew nut cream. Nothing my mother would have liked.
I haven’t seen her or Brian for a long time now. I bumped into a neighbour of theirs the other day, who said they stayed in the garden most afternoons, Brian with an apron on, her arranged elegantly in a deckchair, still looking very well preserved.
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