‘Where do you think you’re going?’ I snapped, furious.
‘Darling, I’m just going to the loo,’ Mother whined with a hint of desperation in her voice.
‘We’ll see about that,’ I yelled, wrapping my arms tight round her wriggling leg. ‘You’re staying here. With me,’ and then I burst into tears to underline my point.
I don’t know what had happened to me lately. Up until recently, I could take or leave Mother. At best, I found her tolerable, at worst utterly unbearable. She was prone to the most mind-numbingly dull wittering; just the other day she had spent minutes wondering aloud ‘if wine gums have actual alcohol in them, and if so, how many packets would I have to eat to be over the drink driving limit?’ I wished I had mastered language sufficiently to tell the woman to shut up, or, failing that, worked out how to undo these gates which keep me enclosed. With an idiotic cell mate for company.
But, in spite of this, and for reasons I have yet to fathom, I now could not let the woman out of my sight. I needed to have her near me at all times. And if she wasn’t? Well, let’s just say I would make my feelings on her absence known very clearly.
Like a few weeks ago. ‘Darling, I’ve got to go and get my eyebrows done,’ she pleaded, attempting to peel my arms from round her neck.
‘C’mon sweetheart,’ echoed Father. ‘Let mummy go. She looks like she’s got two slugs crawling across her forehead.’ He winked and smiled at Mother.
Mother did not smile back. ‘Oi!’ she snapped, in a tone I recognised. It sounded like me, the same indignant declaration I make often. Like when I have to wait a second longer than I want for food. When I’m hungry, I’m hungry and if there is even the briefest interval between that first warning yell and food arriving before me, well, I will sound my unhappiness loudly.
‘I was just trying to help,’ shrugged Father. ‘Anyway,’ he began, changing the subject abruptly. ‘She’s looking the other way, quick, go. Now!’
My attention had been taken momentarily by my good friend and teddy bear RoRo. I’d thrown him across the room during a mild moment of unhappiness earlier (or as Father had called it, a ‘massive meltdown.’) I hadn’t seen where he’d landed so was pleased to spot him now, just across the room from me.
But by the time I turned around again, my delight at finding RoRo was replaced by an ominous feeling. I glanced left then right, left then right. But Mother was nowhere to be seen. I felt my lip tremble. ‘Where.Is.She?’ I screamed to Father. He seemed to understand what I was saying for once. ‘Mummy’s just gone to get those slugs turned into bugs,’ he chuckled, obviously amused by his own joke.
But I was not. ‘MOTHER. GET BACK HERE NOW,’ I ordered, hoping my voice would carry to wherever the deceitful woman had scurried. How dare she. How dare she just take off like that. And what if she never comes back?
I voiced these concerns loudly and continuously until she walked back through the door sometime later. Strangely, Father seemed close to tears too; perhaps he’d missed her as well? Safe to say, that was the last time she dared to go off and ‘get her eyebrows done’ alone. I went too the next time. And I’ve got to say, Mother has a strange idea of how to enjoy herself. She winced and muttered the whole time the lady pulled those little strips of paper off her face. She’s an odd one, Mother….
‘Please darling. Mummy needs the loo. Daddy…help!’ Mother ordered, sternly.
‘What can I do?’ he shrugged, a whisper of a smile on his face. ‘She’s far stronger than me. And besides, I thought you liked the attention?’ he added, a hint of sarcasm in his voice.
‘I did. At first,’ she replied, through gritted teeth as she managed to unclench one of my hands. But I was too fast for her and grabbed on to her jean leg with the other one.
And it was true. Mother had adored my new-found need for her presence at first. ‘My daughter and I, we’re ever so close,’ Mother would brag to everyone, anyone, even strangers we might simply encounter in the supermarket. ‘She always has to be by my side. Don’t you sweet pea,’ she’d coo to me, a nauseatingly smug expression on her face.
Whilst I recalled this arrogant showing-off – an unpleasant memory – I took my eye off the task in hand momentarily and the wretched woman made her escape. ‘GET BACK HERE NOW,’ I screamed as I caught sight of Mother fleeing.
‘I’m just going to put the washing on. And make a drink. And maybe even have a bath,’ she called to Father, her tone ecstatic and filled with excitement and anticipation. ‘I might even put the bin out,’ she declared gleefully.
I was furious. And so, I screamed. In fury, And concern. What if she didn’t come back? I cried and screamed and cried and screamed. And try as he might, Father could not console me. I wondered when I might see Mother again…..
….just a minute later, as it turned out. ‘The chores can wait,’ she said, scooping me up. ‘One day you won’t want to hang around your silly old mum and so I’m going to hold onto every second now,’ and she pulled me close to her. It felt nice and warm and I stopped crying immediately.
I kept my eyes on Mother for a very long time after that, making sure she didn’t try another foolish escape. Eventually though, I could fight it no more and fell into a welcoming slumber, my hand gripped tightly to Mother’s sleeve just in case she made any sudden moves…..