This is the visual prompt from Magpie Tales this week.
Here is my story…..
It had been a glimpse. So quick it might not have happened. Her mother’s face a white triangle in the dining room mirror. Caught like a ghost as she ran out of the French doors and into the garden. Hannah saw the ivy that dressed the back wall shift. There was that spot on the corner where the bricks had crumbled, where if you breathed in hard enough you could squeeze through the wall right out into the street. The ivy shifted and her mother was gone.
China lay all over the floor. The set Max had given them at Christmas. The one with the flowers the colour of nutmeg. Hannah had liked eating dinner off those plates. They made her mother’s overcooked meat and mushy vegetables easier to swallow. The custard apples Hannah had bought at the markets to see if they really tasted like custard sat in the wreckage, skins split.
Max’s pocketknife sat in the middle of it all, the blade at an angle in a pool of blood. The blood surrounded it like a halo.
Hannah felt the lash of panic. Lacerating. There was a lot of blood. It had to be her mother’s. There was no one else there. She had moved pretty fast for someone who had lost that amount of blood.
Hannah ran out to the garden, squeezed through the space in the wall. The street was empty. Hannah scanned the ground for a trail, for drops of blood. There was nothing.
She ran back inside. Called her mother’s mobile.
Where are you? she shouted. What have you done?
Hannah had heard them fighting the night before. Max and her mother. She liked Max. He was sensible, he treated Hannah like she was a real person. Her mother was going to drive him away. Hannah could see it. She made pronouncements about him that were impossible to live up to.
You are a God to me, she said. You are my saviour.
On the nights when Max stayed over Hannah would find her mother with Max’s phone at 3AM, checking his calls, his messages. Then she would move to his computer, voraciously reading his emails. Looking, just looking for something to be wrong.
Why don’t you trust him? Hannah cried.
Because he’s a man, said her mother. Love isn’t just all good times, you know. It’s warm blood and it’s cold.
Hannah knew her mother was going to destroy it all. She heard the crows making noises of sympathy in the garden. Birds knew things were going to happen before people did, especially crows, they were ancient souls.
I would kill a man who said he was going to leave me.
Her mother had said it once when she and Hannah had been watching a documentary entitled Deadly Women. She had said it with such surety that Hannah couldn’t sleep for over a week.
The front door had opened. The hinge squeaked like badly-soled shoes. A tremor ran through Hannah, more desolate than fear. Her feet crunched on the china on the floor. Little powdered footprints followed her up the hallway. Max stood there, his hand bandaged, a gash on his cheek.
I’m a saviour who doesn’t do much saving, he said.
Max had come to say goodbye. Hannah could think of nothing to say that would convince him to stay. Blood on the floor was the thing that did all the talking.
The things you tried hardest to forget never really were forgotten. They stayed like a scar made by broken glass.
Hannah heard Max had got married. A nice woman. Uncomplicated. She was glad. It had been over ten years.
She had been looking through her mother’s old cabinets and found the knife. There it was at the back of the cupboard jammed under an old breakfast tray. Hannah remembered how vigorously she had scrubbed it to get the blood off. She had used a whole pack of Steelo pads.
As she was scrubbing she wondered if she would lie for her mother if it came down to it. If she would get rid of the knife. Luckily, she never had to.
Her mother was unreachable. Highly medicated in hospital, living half a life. Hannah had gone over in her head a thousand times why her mother had acted as she had. Why she had settled for a life that was really death. Why she had wanted to kill a man who had never done her any harm. Why she had left her daughter alone.
There were no answers, just a getting on with things.
She wrapped the knife over and over in newspaper and string, taking it outside to the bin.
She walked to the shops as the crows gathered in the fig trees, putting their heads together as if whispering about her. In the thrift store she saw a teaset with nutmeg-coloured flowers. Not the same as Max’s but close enough. She bought it and took it home, surprised to find she had a spring in her step.
Hannah drank her tea looking out to the garden. The china was smooth, the painted flowers the same shade as maple leaves curling on grass. Hannah watched as her neighbour’s cat tried to squeeze through the wall even though it had been repaired long ago. His tail flicked like a kite string.
She felt like a page had been turned or a prayer had been answered.
She brewed more tea, tried to catch the steam as it rose from the cup just as she had when she was a child.
It was a fresh start.