by Sandra Arnold
Frances packs her case, checks her air ticket and passport for the umpteenth time, says goodbye to each room, erasing all their memories. The final item on her list is to write her Mother’s Day card. For the last two weeks her mother has been repeating that her friend Maureen’s daughter is planning on taking Maureen out to a nice restaurant on Mother’s day. Maureen’s daughter always gives Maureen a lovely bunch of flowers on Mother’s Day. Maureen always says her daughter is the sweetest, kindest, most thoughtful, most loving daughter anyone could wish for. Maureen is so lucky having a daughter like that. The card Frances has chosen for her mother has a photo of yellow roses on the front. She’d chosen it because she’d read somewhere that yellow roses symbolise forgiveness. She tells herself that at some point in the future she might. She just might. She checks that what she’s written on the card is enough and decides it is.
So I’m the worst daughter in the world? Take a good long look in the mirror and ask yourself what sort of mother would say that to her own child, along with these:
‘I wish you’d never been born.’
‘If I was dying I wouldn’t ask you for a drink of water.’ ‘You’ll never amount to anything.’
‘I hope that when you have children of your own you’ll know what it is to have a thankless child.’
What sort of mother would tell her child’s teacher that her child had lied, to save the mother’s embarrassment of being found out in her own lies?
You’ve told me often enough what sort of daughter I am. I could fill a couple of pages telling you what sort of mother you are. But I’ll simply tell you that now I’m in a position to leave that’s what I’m doing. You won’t see me again. If I’m lucky enough to have children of my own in the future I promise you this – I will make sure I don’t turn into you. Of all the ‘lessons’ you’ve tried to instill in me over the years, this is one I will not forget.
She slips the card into the envelope and places it on the table, heads out the back door, locks it and places the key under the doormat. She walks down the garden path and opens the gate. A shrill scream rips through the quiet. She looks up to see seagulls circling in the pale sky, the sun catching on their white wings. She tries to remember the collective noun for seagulls. Is it a flock or a squabble? A hawk appears from behind a cloud and glides nearer the seagulls. They scream louder, stop wheeling in circles, change direction and chase the hawk away. Frances waves to the empty patch of sky and closes the gate behind her.