Just the two of us.

It has been a long break for my blog. It seems the five retrograde planets has had me reeling too. So many losses. So much surrender.

This story caught me by surprise. A forgotten memory of childhood that had a huge affect on me. It was possibly the first time I realised the enormity of Motherhood. I was intensely moved by the infinite dipping into a finite pool.

 

Just the two of us.

 

Candace hopped from one foot to the other. Her stocky frame taking flight briefly before becoming solid once more. Her face shone with a fire that she alone kept stoked. The unrealised dreams I had long kept captive rattled the bars. I silenced them with a tightening of the rope. Dreams had no place out here in the open.

“Pumpkin fritters! Pumpkin fritters!” Candace chanted, the kitchen floor rat-a-tatting in rhythm with the fall of her feet.  She sat hugging the roundness of the stool with her hips and clapped her hands as I placed the bowl in front of her. I scooted the flour across the table and she splashed it into the bowl. A cloud dusted her face in white. We breathed in the smell of cinnamon and sugar and laughed as only those who know they are unseen can laugh. The kitchen was hers today. Tonight I would scrub and curse the day away but the kitchen was hers today.

“No Candace.” I said easing my leathery body between her and the hot oil. “Let me do this part. You can dust them with the sugar all by yourself.” She pouted and opened her mouth to wail. I plopped orange dough into the pot and her mouth closed with the sizzle of oil.

We sat on the damp grass outside. Candace nibbled the crispy edges of the fritter and threw the stodgy centres to the pigeons flapping noisily around us. Her lips glistened in the weak sunlight. My mouth puckered in baking powder protest and I tossed the offending confectionary to the squabbling birds. Baking was never about eating anyway. My daughter lay back on the grass with a sigh, her face offered up to the autumn sun. Flour still dusted her cheeks. I leant over and brushed my fingers lightly over her skin. It was cool like porcelain. I have always loved the feel of her. If I closed my eyes and trusted my touch, she was perfect.

Thirty years it has been just me and Candace. A generous cheque comes once a month tinged with guilt and regret. Motherhood came late for me. At thirty-eight, when I had finally given up the dream and Carlos had conjured a future for us of travel and adventure, I fell pregnant. Tests revealed her secret but I refused to believe it. Carlos became withdrawn and irate as my belly strained against my waistband.

“Why did you have the tests if you didn’t want to know?” He demanded, his eyebrows a black and furious line across his forehead. I’d hold my hands over my expanding stomach as though to shield Candace from his ire. Of course it was fear not anger that he wrestled with but I was so far away on the path of my motherhood dream that I could not hear his silent cries.

When they handed her to me he had already left. I held my child in my arms with such overpowering love that I hardly noticed his absence. Now that I am almost Seventy I feel waves of terror that make me more empathic. Who will protect my child when I am gone?

I lay down next to Candace reaching for her hand and she giggled like water running over pebbles and squeezed my hand reassuringly.

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Stiff upper lip…

 

Then let me bravely leap into the shadows alone I thought looking out of the window. An oak tree was tapping on the glass, its bough heavy with acorns. Dr Ashbury was still staring sympathetically at me, his pen half-mast between the desk and his ear as if he was unsure what to do next. He had delivered a severe blow and I was not reacting as he was expecting.

It is a matter of honour that I process bad news in the sanctity of my own home. Public displays of emotion are vulgar and I hardly know this man sitting across from me. I can still feel his cool fingers palpating my breast. Nobody has touched me there since Dennis and he’s been gone for eleven years, six months and three days already. And now Dr Ashbury with his clipped moustache and lanky limbs has had the honour. I am not about to bestow any further on the man.

“Thank you.” I said standing and held out my hand to shake his. He scrambled up from his chair almost stumbling over his legs to cradle my hand with both of his. I gave him a tight smile although I was desperate to leave this place.

Johnson was leaning against the side of the Bentley and he leapt away when he saw me, his cap wedged under his armpit. His balding head glistened in the midday sun. He opened the car door with a bow. I was too tired to be irritated. Dennis had tried for years to get the staff to stop this antiquated behaviour. Tears pricked at the corners of my eyes and I blinked them away. Johnson drove smoothly, intermittently sneaking a look at me in the rear view mirror. I kept my face neutral sitting upright with my hands in my lap.

Mrs Melville was waiting at the door as I stepped from the car. She took my coat.

“I took the liberty of arranging tea in the drawing room, Ma’am. It’s nice this time of year. The sun does shine so prettily…”

“Thank you but I am not hungry. Please ensure I am not disturbed. I have a headache.” Mrs Melville has a habit of rambling on and whereas I indulge her often today was not one of those days.

“Oh dear can I get you an aspirin Ma’am?” She wrung her hands like a vaudeville actor.

“You may, thank you.” I said walking up the stairs holding the bannisters tightly. My legs felt shaky. I dropped my handbag on the writing desk and waited, feeling light headed. I hoped she would not be long with the aspirin. I did not know whether I could keep standing. She entered with Daisy carrying a tray.

“I’ve taken the liberty of….” Mrs Melville began.

“Yes, Yes!” My voice was sharp and her eyes filled with tears. “I’m sorry I have the most dreadful headache. Thank you Mrs Melville, and Daisy, thank you.” I said. Mrs Melville nodded not quite forgiving me. Daisy smiled, curtsied and they closed the door with a click.

I poured milk into a cup and picked up the teapot. My wrist buckled and scalding tea splashed over my hand. I dropped the teapot onto the tray with a whimper. Tears that I had controlled throughout the day seemed to burst from me and I sobbed like a child.

I cried because I have breast cancer and because Dennis who had sworn to love and protect me forever was not here to fulfil his promise. I mourned the loss of his strong arms and the smell of his pipe and the scratchiness of his chin. We were supposed to grow old together instead he has stayed forever in his prime while I grow older and frailer. Alone.

I cried the tears that for eleven years, six months and three days I had been unable to shed.