After the amazing Basically Britt uploaded a video where she recorded herself reading in real-time, I felt inspired to do a Write With Me: Real-time video! If you’d like to see that click the link here!
As for what I wrote: Here it is. Prompt taken from ‘642 Things to Write About’ –
A conversation about you that you weren’t supposed to overhear:
“No, I don’t want her to find out.”
“She has a right to know.”
“It’s not your decision to make.”
“It’s not yours either.”
I had come down for a glass of water. The glass I kept in my room, the one with the painted flowers, daisies and daffodils, cold in my hand. The second to last step always creaked. A guttural, squeal of pain-like sound, and my left foot hovered over it. Retreated to the previous step. My whole body was waiting on pause. Did they mean me?
“The sooner she knows, the sooner we can work to move forwards.” My dad’s voice, usually calm and reasonable, is almost hysterical. He can’t seem to shake the irritation from his voice. The betrayal.
“There are no forwards.” My mum’s voice. Usually shrill, cold and calculating today. I don’t like it. The world feels backwards. And I don’t understand what they’re saying. What they mean. “Not for me anyway.”
I perch on the step behind me. I’ve come in too deep in the conversation. I’ve missed the beginning. The catalyst. I’ve missed the whole point. I can hear my heartbeat in my ears, blood rushing through, straining to pick up more information. I wonder where they’re positioned. Are they perched on the sofa? Stood by the door?
More immediately I think, how can I move closer? I put the glass down gently, making sure it rests against the coarse carpet, and I wipe my sweat palms against my pyjama bottoms. I lean heavily on the bannister, skipping the squealing step, and trying with all my might to be delicate when my foot lands on the step below.
“If you keep talking like that, I’ll…”
I’ve never heard mum so defensive. So animalistic. She seems beyond anger, and I’m desperate to see it on her face. Desperate to see if I recognise her at all. My second foot follows the first, easily with the first rooted to the quieter step. I tuck my lips into my mouth in the hopes that it’ll silence any loud breathes. I know I’m breathing harder and faster. I’m so scared of what they’re saying. So, lost without the cause.
“What do you think will happen if you tell her?” Dad asks. “Why are you so scared she’ll know?”
Mum takes a minute to respond, and when she does the animal in her has tamed a little. “I don’t want her to look at my differently. I don’t want her to hate me.”
This doesn’t make sense. Mum and I row all the time. I tell her I hate her, and she tells me I’m spiteful. And then we both act like nothing’s changed. Nothing’s wrong. She knows I don’t hate her, can’t hate her. Not really. Not for long.
Still, this last sentence comforts me. At least it’s not cancer, at least she’s not dying. That means we’ve got time. Something we can fix. I’m more like Dad in that way. I want to help; I want to fix things. I want to make everything alright.
I’m by the door now, my eye peering through the crack between hinges. Mum is sitting on the sofa as dad stands over her. She looks close to tears. Dad is red in the face, his arms crossed. They both look tired. But dad looks more resolute than mum does. He knows he’s right. She does too.
“She won’t hate you. Not if you’re honest with her. But if you don’t tell her yourself, if she finds out on her own…”
“I just need more time.”
“You don’t have it.” Dad moves to pull her towards him, but though she stands she steps away from him.
“Don’t do that. Don’t coddle me like a child. This isn’t your problem. It’s mine.”
I can see, on dad’s face, in the way his jaw loosens, in the way his shoulders slack, and the way his hands don’t know what to do with themselves, he’s heart broken by that statement. She’s breaking his heart.
I push the door open slowly, unsure what impact this will have on the conversation, but I can’t bear to be on the outside of this anymore. Can’t bear to be cut out. To watch from the outside as they hurt each other. Over me.
“What’s the problem?” I ask. I don’t know how many times I’ve asked this question, whilst being flippant with mum, or cursing at dad. But it has so much weight here, in this room, in this moment. It makes me hot. And hotter still when they both just stare at me. Even dad’s disappointed. This isn’t how he wanted me to find out – whatever it is. Mum starts crying. Big wet sobs into her hands, and she turns away from me.
“It’s not the time,” Dad says, holding his hands out in supplication. Hoping I’ll back down or back off. I’ve never seen them like this. I don’t know what to do. But I don’t want to leave either.
“You were just telling her it is the time. The time for what? What are you guys talking about?”
Mum sniffs, and I can see her shoulders are still shaking. Dad is still trying to usher me out of the living room, he’s moved closer, trying to push me out without touching me.
“What is it? Is mum dying?” I know she isn’t. They would have said. They would have told me. Relief softens my dad’s face for a second.
“No, baby,” he says, “she’s not dying. Can we talk about this in the morning?”
“I can’t sleep not knowing,” I say, forcing my voice to stay flat. Stay calm. “Mum? Say something?”
Mum flinches. She goes quiet. She turns and her whole face is red from crying. Her eyes are bloodshot and desperate. I feel bad for pushing. I hate that I came downstairs. My skin runs cold and I expect her to tell me she hates me. Tell me I’ve ruined her life. I’m making it worse just by being here.
“I don’t know how to tell you…” she mumbles. “I’m so sorry baby, I’m so sorry…”
“Just…” I try to find the words, in equal measure annoyed she can’t and frantic. “Just say it. Whatever it is. I deserve to know.”
“I don’t… I’m not…” She goes quiet. A shadow falls across her face. “I’m not your mother. I’m your mum, I’ll always be your mum, but I’m not your mother. I’m so sorry baby. I’m so sorry.”
It hits my chest and presses like bricks. One beat after the other pounds and hurts and I can’t breathe.
“What are you talking about? Of course, you’re my mum. People always say I look like you.”
“No, baby. I’m your auntie. My sister gave birth to you in prison.” I sink to the floor. The world sinks around me, and continues to sink, and sink, and sink. “She got out today,” mum continues. “She wants to meet you.”