Short Story – Mum – part One
“Mum? Are you packing up already?”
“It might be a good idea to make a start.” Audrey, 62, swept a tired gaze over the bedroom where she stood, knee-deep in boxes, bags and piles of slightly mildewed linen.
“It’s what she would have preferred, don’t you think?”
“Yes, no, not really” agreed Pam wearily. In the kitchen across the hall, Audrey’s daughter was rooting about, lighting an ancient kettle which had always boiled on the gas hob. Naomi had insisted on using it, rather than a more modern electric one, even though the once-shiny dome was scratched and dirty with age.
“We should be grateful.” Pam just caught her mother’s words, which ended on a sigh.
“Low maintenance, was she?” Pam called, louder than she intended. Through these flimsy partition walls, sounds travelled easily.
“Yes, I suppose so, though you never knew her in our young days. She was always getting into scrapes.”
“I bet,” Pam agreed, awkwardly changed the subject. “Cup of tea?”
“Yes, why not? The china might as well have an outing.”
“There are biscuits, if you would like one?”
“No thanks!” Audrey made herself sound cheerfully careless, as a wave of nausea swept over her shoulders and up her throat.
“The milk’s off” Pam called.
“Never mind, I like it black just as well.” Fighting back annoyance, Audrey sank wearily down into the nearest chair, an upright Chesterfield that, like most of the items crowding the room, had seen better days. Goodness knows why she felt so tired all of a sudden. She hadn’t done much; nothing today, in fact, except take in the empty silence and the detritus leaning against the grubby walls. Unopened bills cluttered the dressing table. The two large chairs in the room had been pushed back to allow equipment in – a new large bed with memory mattress foam, an assortment of pots and pans for collecting and disposing of body fluids. Bedridden at the end, Naomi’s elegant attempts to maintain her dignity were finally overwhelmed in a tidal wave of weakness, sickness and frailty which mercifully blinded her to the stains on the carpet. The numbing medication she swallowed hid the smell of her own sweet decay.
As if Naomi was coming home, the telephone waited obediently, ringing occasionally. The curtains flapped lazily at the window which Pam had levered wide open in an effort to clear some of the smell. Around the edges of the room and where furniture had rested, the blue carpet kept its original softness, which contrasted oddly with the scuff marks and tea stains around the bed.