I’ve seen it so many times, it was hard to imagine it as never part of my existence. Its continuous presence in its pride of place at the top of the stairs was now like a ritual, so blatant in its obscenity. As i gazed upon it as i’ve done everyday for almost a decade, i was thrown into the past to recall how it used to be. Why this wood framed monstrousity was etched in the lines of my life for all eternity.
“Give your mummy a kiss goodnight, kids,” was the mantra that followed the ritual. I obediently did, each and everynight, along with Lucy, Consuela and Alfric. There was no refusal, not even the thought of one. It was just the thing to do. So i was told.
Mummy left us before i was one. This made her a mystical figure in my imagination and i idolised her for it. I held her close to my heart, by the sheer power of my will. Daddy never allowed a miniature to be made for us kids because he was too sad. Lucy and Consuela said it was because he was angry at what mummy had done, but no one would explain that to
me. So i did what i could to keep her close to me.
I dreamt of her every night. She cooked me breakfast, parted my hair properly before i went to school, and made sure my clothes were clean and i smelt good. I smelt good only because i smelt like mummy.
I even talked to her when i was alone. Under my bed, when i was hiding from Alfric and his bugs, i would talk to mummy for hours. We would plan our revenge, plot of ways to get Alfric back for putting that cockroach in my soup. These were the best moments of my life. I cherished them like the rare treat of chocolate grandmother managed to sneak in when she
visited once a month. Whenever daddy asked how my day went, i would tell him it went brilliant. I would smile to prove this. He never smiled back. He’d just stare, most times for up to a minute. Then he’d continue with his meal. It was as if he knew my special connection to mummy and was afraid of it. I did not understand it but i did not mind. If daddy wanted to know why i was so happy, he could ask.
Back in the gloom of the hall, she stared down at me like a vision from a part of God that isn’t good or bad, just is. That face. The beginning of all that brought me to this point. I needed to find daddy and explain what was happening. My fingers felt stiff from gripping so hard. My shirt stuck to my skin and my tears dried midway down my cheeks. I was breathing hard, trying to calm myself, but it was no use. It could not stop. I looked up again.
“Help me, mother,” i said. Her smile was serene from red lips. If i’d thought about it more, i would have called it seductive, but i didn’t. She wore pearls, three lines of them, and a pretty pink ballgown with puff sleeves. She was beautiful. I knew she hadn’t liked that dress, because i’d once snuck into aunt Evelyn’s room, while she was visiting and staying in mummy’s old room, and looked through mother’s things. She had a distinct style. Bolder colours, no pastels, always low cut. I could imagine father falling in love with her in those alluring clothes.
She’d left me so long ago, i had no right to claim her as mine. But claim her i did. My little secret, my treasure. Everyone had a right to have secrets. I had a right to hold them tight to me.
If only they’d just told me the truth. Explained to me why it wasn’t okay to love mummy so much. Explained to me why i had to forget and find other engagements more becoming of my station and stage in life.
The metallic taste in my mouth made me blink. Then i remembered why i had come.
“Dad!” i screamed as i continued up the stairs. The house was silent, oh so silent. Her eyes seemed to follow me with approval. This gave me courage. “It doesn’t work!” i called out. Then more a whisper, “it just doesn’t work.”
A door slammed somewhere down a dark corridor. I hurried my steps.
I don’t remember the death or the funeral. No one ever told me much about it either. Although grandma Ruth’s face became very pinched anytime someone mentioned her. Grandma was too powerful to upset so no one did.
“You should have had her committed Edward, after that third adoption,” Grandma had said one day. Dad had helped himself to more brandy, saying nothing. “He has her eyes, you know. And that smile.” She shuddered as she said this. “It’s like she never left. No, Edward, i am convinced of it. You should have had her committed. Then we wouldn’t have this dread constantly over our heads.” She huffed once and stared faraway. I crawled out from under the table where i’d been hidden by the long white table cloth and snatched a portrait off the grand piano. I looked into the lovely face of mummy and tried to see my own. I saw it. We were one. She was me and i was her.
They put me on a regime when i attacked a teacher. Daddy said i was so upset they had to medicate me. I couldn’t remember it. I couldn’t remember what upset me so much, and i couldn’t remember anything else once it was over. Alfric came once or twice to visit, but he was always aloof and disinterested. He did his duty and left. There was always scorn in his eyes. And something else that i figured out only much later. There was fear.
Lucy and Consuela came home from school during the holidays and were good to play with. Consuela liked to hug a lot. Lucy liked to play a sort of mummy. I never understood that untill she told me what she was doing.
They told me later that i’d gone wild. My regime helped me not remember this. They said she died in the bath. That it was very quick. Consuela did not come to me, Alfric never visited again, and i was locked away in a dark place with my mirror, where all i could see was her.
I found daddy in the library. He stood there, shaking but dignified. At his feet was his old diary and in his right hand was his pistol. I watched him suspiciously, wondering what he was up to.
“How did you find it?” he asked. I shrugged but did not answer. Something like distaste crossed his face. “What have you done?”
I looked at myself, then back up at him.
“You can’t just shut me away dad, it just doesn’t work,” i told him. He nodded sadly.
“I know that now.”
“It didn’t work for mummy either. She still killed all those people.”
“Just like you are doing now.”
“She was happy. She wrote it down in her journal. She was happy! How can that be bad!” i screamed. He looked surprised.
“You found her journal as well?”
“I knew what she wanted. I’m doing this for her. So she can rest in peace.”
“You mean…” he could not continue. I watched his shoulders begin to shake as he began to weep. “Alfric, Connie…”
“All with mummy.” I looked at my right hand to find the bloodied machete raised for one final duty. I was smiling when i looked back at him. He seemed to wince.
“You’re just like her,” he whispered.
“You’re my son, but I should have smothered you in your crib.”
“I know mummy stopped you. Because she knew this day would come.” I grinned now. Dad looked in pain. He raised his gun up, straight at me. I thought i heard my own voice giggling. I imagined i looked a mess, covered in the blood of all those i had chased tonight. It was the best fun i’ve ever had. The fresh air cool against my skin, the warm blood coating me like a rite of passage. It was the best night. I imagined mummy had felt exactly this way when she’d chased all those people with that kitchen knife. All that freedom, all that glory.
I fell back, still giggling. Daddy stood over me, weeping while i laughed uncontrollably. He put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger. I laughed some more, wanting some of that warm blood too.
Soon the sound became strangled, and the laughter sounded pained. I was frowning as i tried to laugh but could not get the sound out. All there was now was a wheezing that just did not sound so funny.
My eyes fell on another distant portrait of mummy, smiling down on me with approval.