The last few miles are always the hardest. I hate coming here but once the decision’s made I try to be positive. She’s old, after all. And, she is my mother. My reasons? I suppose I want to convince myself she’s wrong, for the sake of my own sanity.
After driving two hundred miles, I’m tired. I must concentrate on the road, it won’t help to get upset. I pull into her drive and see the pale-grey oval of her face at the window, behind the nets. She withdraws and waits for me to ring the bell. Eventually, she opens the door. She lifts her papery cheek towards me for the obligatory kiss. I recoil inside but comply, and then step back quickly before she can clutch my hand, touch me further.
‘I thought I’d take you to that French place on the sea-front for lunch?’ I say.
‘No, I don’t feel up to that, Elizabeth,’ she says. ‘I’d rather have something here.’
I start to sweat and shakes wash over my body; I dread being cooped up alone with her.
‘And,’ she continues. ‘I don’t know why you insist on going back tonight. There’s a perfectly good bed for you here.’
‘I’ve explained, Mum. I need to get back for Helen. She’s coming home from university.’
‘You’re a liar, Elizabeth. Helen rang last night; she’s in Ireland with Declan.’
Her eyes glint. Fear of her power immobilises me and soaks my underwear; ghosts of beatings and torrents of cruel words put me in my place. She grabs my arm and pulls me in. Her nails draw blood.
Ceinwen E Cariad Haydon lives in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, and writes short stories and poetry. She has been published in on line magazines and in print anthologies. She graduated with an MA in Creative Writing from Newcastle University in 2017.