Short Story – Mum – Part Four


“Where is the key, though? I must’ve spent the last fifty minutes looking for it!”

That morning, Pam had been at the hospital with her small daughter, Susie, a fragile infant susceptible to every illness, who was currently suffering from chicken pox. With Susie off from playgroup and rather listlessly amusing herself at her mother’s heels, Pam was at Naomi’s house, trying to find a key into the bureau which stood in its usual place under the window in the lounge. It was the only decent piece of furniture.

“Perhaps we should leave it just now, darling. I would like the bureau actually; it would go well in the living-room, a step up from the table in the corner. Somewhere to keep my papers and things…” Audrey had just arrived from her art class and was relaxing with a cup of tea. “Shall we clear the kitchen now? It might be an idea. We only ever use the kettle and the cups…”

Together they started emptying cupboards and baking drawers and discarding the kitchenalia, some of which – the scissors, the potato peeler and the corkscrew – had been well used. Anything which looked new – the garlic press, the “Creuset” kitchen pots, the plastic sieve – was regarded suspiciously. Either it had turned out useless or was too heavy to lift. Doubtfully, Audrey considered whether she might have a use for the pots. Would they end up as merely a decorative addition to her kitchen? Pamela, just starting a family and with many years ahead of her, might be persuaded.

Though Audrey was sorely tempted to ask a firm of house clearers to come round and take everything away, some stubbornness insisted, “Not yet, not quite yet…” Until then, baking trays, cereal bowls and the remains of packets were to be considered, sorted or discarded. The hours passed easily, slowing down whenever Audrey unearthed memories trapped within recipe books that had belonged to their mother, or found the tea cosy that Ina had made from felted wool and kept through the war. A set of scales that had once looked so proud were now relegated to the top of the cupboard and hard to fetch down; and the steps that had been used to fetch Dad’s plum jam and marmalade from the high shelves in their old house, would have to find a new home. Several good charities locally would gratefully accept donations.

Gradually the house emptied until all that was left were the carpets and the bureau. Audrey arranged to have that delivered to her house the day before the Council were due to take possession and change the locks. In preparation, Audrey roused herself very early. By seven she was already pulling her own front door shut behind her and moving briskly up the path. She drove the two miles to her sister’s house and cautiously let herself in. Strange to think that tomorrow, these keys would no longer fit the door.

Expecting the removers to arrive at ten, Audrey walked through each room, checking to make sure that nothing was left. It was straightforward: the house was simply laid out and quite bare. Even so, Audrey checked all the cupboards and scanned the lie of the carpets, partly to put to rest uncomfortable memories of her sister’s occupancy and partly to make sure….

She just wanted to be certain.

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