The argument had left Meg feeling bitter. She sat on the sofa, the TV on in the background and the dog whining along with it. Grabbing a cushion, she fully meant to throw it at the small, scurfy animal, before the dog’s sorrowful eyes meet her’s. She tossed the cushion in the opposite direction.
‘I should know better than to take it out on you, Fluffy,’ she mumbled.
The Yorkshire terrier bounced over to her and she scooped him up. A tiny tongue licked at her fingers and Meg fell to absent-mildly stroking the tangled fur. Fixing her eyes on the landscape painting before her, she realised she’d give anything right now to be walking amongst the trees and watching the deer drinking at the slowly winding river.
‘I wish we could escape there,’ she said, then with glance at Fluffy added, ‘I mean, just me. I wish I could escape to there. She treats you all right.’
Fluffy yapped and wiggled under her hands.
‘Well…most of the time anyway.’
Setting the dog down, Meg got up and stretched her tried limbs. Automatically, she went about her morning tasks, whilst trying hard to rid herself of the argument. The small house didn’t take long to clean, but with her mother’s illness getting worse there was a growing list of additional things to do.
Two hours later, when her mother hobbled back down the pathway, Meg was in the kitchen sorting out the washing. She heard, Fluffy yipping and the door clattering open. Sighing, she went to see out of habit and found the old woman, trying to get her walking stick, herself and the shopping trolley through the door at the same time.
I could just leave her to it, Meg thought and then noticed the sudden blast of cold air stealing all the heat from the hallway. She hurried forward, nudged the dog into the living room and reached out to aid her mother. Instead though, the walking stick slapped against her hand.
‘I can do it!’ her mother yelled.
Meg backed away, rubbing her hand behind her back and swallowing the tears that the pain was bring to her eyes, ‘of course mum. I just…thought you needed a hand.’
‘To get through my own front door? Go away, child!’
Hanging her head, Meg went back to the kitchen and buried herself in the clean and dirty washing. From the hallway, she listened to her mother cursing and yelling, before finally closing the front door. Some more clatter and swearing followed, then a puff as her mother sat in her special chair and turned the TV up.
Meg bit her lip, tasted blood and sucked it away. Hateful things filled her and she fought to push them away. Brushing tears off, she finished her task and moved on by taking the washing upstairs and starting to put it away, she listen to her mother moving about and muttering to herself. Too often the days were becoming like this and they acted as if they lived separately in the same house. It reminded Meg too much of her parents’ divorce when she was teenage. She wondered what had happened to her dad.
Finishing up and giving her mum’s room a once over before she left, she checked the bathroom and then put the washing basket in her bedroom. Sinking down onto the quilted bedspread, she thought about how different her life could have been. Smoothing out a few folders, she realised that when the inevitable happened, for of course it would do, though she half-imagined her mother beating the angel of death off with her walking stick and handbag, she would have nothing to do.
She was forty-odd and with her whole life spent caring for her mother, she had nothing else to show for it. Curling up on the bed, Meg eyed the bottle of antidepressants on her bedside table and wondered what would happen to her mother if she decided to reach the Pearly Gates before her? Mum would probably end up in the care home that she’s been fighting her whole life to stay out of, Meg thought, still though she reached for the bottle, then decided against it. She didn’t have the strength or the desperation.
Sprawling across the bed, she struggled to get back up, even when the old woman began banging and calling her name. Meg pressed her head into the pillow and pretended she couldn’t hear. However, it just didn’t work and some deeper instinct, made her get up and go downstairs.
‘What is it, mum?’ she asked coming to the doorway of the living room.
‘I didn’t make it,’ her mother announced.
Meg pulled a face, ‘really? But your potty chair is just there.’
‘I don’t like using it.’
‘Then what was the point in getting it?’ Meg snapped, ‘don’t you see the extra work I now have to do? You’re so selfish and you treat me like some kind of servant monkey. All I’ve done is looked after you my whole life and you’re just so ungrateful. I should have forced you into that care home and just left you there!’
Throwing up her hands Meg stormed out. Rattling about, she collected everything she needed and came back into the living room, where her mother was still sitting on her chair, looking almost frozen. In silence, Meg got her sorted, put her on the sofa, then cleaned the area. When she was done, she left the room and stormed back to her bedroom.
Collapsing onto the bed, she wasn’t sure what she felt. A bit relieved, a bit guilty, upset and angry. Worse though was the feeling of metamorphosing back into a teenager. Growling and sitting up again, she sorted out her hair and went down stairs again. Her mother was staring at the TV, but not actually watching it.
‘I’m sorry, okay?’ Meg said, walking over to her, ‘just, please, you must try harder. I know you’re ill, but we can’t carry on like this. I’m losing it, mum.’
With a heavy sigh, her mother turned to her, ‘maybe I should look at getting a nurse?’
‘That’d be a good start,’ Meg replied and hugged her.