by John Pilling
She was already formulating excuses in her mind as she turned the key in the lock and opened the door, awkward with the bags full of shopping.
“Only me, mum,” she called, pushing the door closed behind her.
“Sorry I’m so late, I was delayed at work and then after I’d been to Tescos the buses were all full and I had to let three go before I could get on.” Her heart sank as she became conscious of the silence that greeted her.
Oh no, she thought, not again, not another of your selfish moods. Not after the day I’ve had. Moving to the hall stand she put the bags on the floor and hung up her beret and coat. Picking up the bags she went down the long hall towards the kitchen passing the open lounge door. She could see her mother sitting in her high-backed chair placed firmly in front of the television watching some brainless game show as usual.
“Won’t be a minute,” she called, “I’ll just put the shopping away.” Again there was no reply. Reaching the kitchen she banged the bags down on the table with unnecessary force then resting both hands on the table she leant against it for a few moments fighting to control the tears that had been threatening all afternoon. What would it be this time? Some imagined injury or slight that her mother had sat brooding over until it became reality in her mind. It had happened before, many times.
Well, she thought, this time I’m not having it. Why should I have to work hard all day then spend my evening pandering to a selfish old woman? It’s just not fair.
Straightening up she opened the bags and started putting her shopping away.
“I bought some boiled ham on the way home,” she called. “I’ll make some salad when I’ve got changed.” She shrugged as again there was no reply and made her way back up the hall and upstairs to her bedroom. Sitting on the side of the bed she took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes thinking back bitterly to the events of the day.
Her interview had been going so well, she’d worked hard to have all the facts and figures at her fingertips, it was only when she had been asked about her availability to travel that things went wrong. Having to admit that business trips would be difficult whilst her mother was reliant on her was a major setback. It was the main point made by her boss when he spoke to her afterwards.
“I’m so sorry Jean,” he said, “we know you would love the job and make a real success of it, but you must be able to travel at short notice. Have you got any relatives who could help with your mother?”
“No, I’m afraid not,” she replied, “there’s just the two of us.”
“Well,” he said, “the board were very impressed with your presentation, so much so that for the time being they have decided not to appoint anyone so if things change, let me know straightaway.”
The inference was obvious, and all the way home she thought about the difference the promotion would make to her life. The opportunity to travel, to stay in decent hotels, her own expense account, more money to spend on herself, maybe even a small car . It was all there at her fingertips just waiting to be grasped, a new life, and all that stood in the way was one selfish old woman.
Sighing heavily, her head still full of possibilities she got up and started to change. Might as well forget it, she thought bitterly, Mother isn’t going anywhere and neither am I unless something happens to change things.
Unbidden, the image of the strong sleeping pills her mother needed came into her mind, if she took too many one night, she thought slowly, she would just go to sleep and not wake up, she wouldn’t suffer. It would be a blessing for her in a way. She was always saying her life wasn’t worth living.
She finished dressing and sat down again on the edge of the bed thinking hard. It would be so easy to arrange, a simple mistake on the old ladies part, a tragic accident. No one could say she hadn’t done her duty by her mother all these years…she would finally be free.
Suddenly determined, she stood up and made her way downstairs to her mother’s bedroom on the ground floor. Taking the bottle of sleeping tablets from the bedside, she went into the kitchen and made two mugs of tea, stirring six of the tablets into the one for her mother.
She’ll never notice with all the sugar she takes. When she gets sleepy I’ll help her to bed and make sure she takes her usual dose as well, she’ll just go to sleep and not wake up, problem solved.
Balancing the two mugs on a tray, she made her way into the lounge where her mother was still staring rigidly at the television.
“Right, mother,” she said firmly, “we’ll have a nice cup of tea and you can tell me what I’ve done wrong this time.” Receiving no reply, she placed the tray on the table and moved to sit in her usual chair. Leaning forward, she switched the television off.
“Mother can you please….oh my God”. Sinking back in her chair she stared in horror at the dead livid features opposite her.
“Oh mum,” she whispered as the slow tears started, “whatever will I do without you?”