I KNOW WHAT THE WORD IS
“Rain, always rain, she will get drenched in this weather.”
I speak to the glass reflection of myself. I look old. I see where the grey is coming in and, even in this window, I can see it. I hate this greyness, in the sky and in my hair.
“She will have to run. I hope she doesn’t fall over.”
I think of my daughter and smile. She is clumsy, like a big Alsatian dog that hasn’t quite grown into its full length yet. All legs and energy.
My husband comes into the room. He looks at me and reaches over and puts his two big strong arms around me. I feel safe there. No anxiety, no fear and no more pain. He always makes me safe.
“Come away from the window.” He leads me to the sofa and pulls out his favourite crossword.
“Now, six letters and it’s a word that means to stick together and to tear apart.” His eyes screw up and his hand veers from too near his face to arm’s length as he tries to focus on the newsprint.
“Get your spectacles on – you will hurt your eyes!” I chide him.
He repeats: “To stick together and to tear apart? How can one word mean the same but also the opposite?”
I don’t know, I say silently to myself. I remember that I have to go up to my daughter’s room and make sure her Girl Guide uniform is laid out for her. She is always in a hurry but always late. You know, she was a week overdue at the birth. Late for her birth ! We used to laugh at that. I hate her being late now; it worries me.
I go upstairs and quietly open the door; a soft creak welcomes me; I stiffen; I don’t want any noise to alert my husband. He always gets upset if I try to do things for her. He hates me coming in here and disturbing her room. He is a man; he doesn’t get why I need to do things. The smell of her washes over me; I love that scent. It smells like hairspray and deodorant.
Her room is always tidy. I make sure of that! Girls can be messy, even perfect ones.
Her bed in the bright yellow daisy duvet cover she made me buy at the market, the matching pillow-cases and yellow cushions, all look so bright against the dark purple paint of her walls. I hated that colour but she insisted.
I pick up her picture and stare at her face, her father’s smile, my blue eyes and that firm but gentle stare she always gave the camera. She never seemed to be able to relax in front of a camera, like one of those Red Indians who always thought you were stealing their soul!
Why is she late? I keep asking myself. I look from her window and pull back the daisy curtains. Mrs Broomfield from across the road catches sight of me; she stops suddenly and then tilts her head softly and waves a gentle half-hearted hand to me.
I shift quickly to my other foot and let the curtain go; I don’t want anyone to wave at me today if it is not my daughter.
The door opens behind me quietly; my heart leaps, She is home!
I turn and see my husband standing in the door frame. His eyes are sad, his shoulders are stooped.
“Come on, Nancy,” he puts his hand up and outstretches his palm to me.
I stop. I don’t want to go to him. I look around and am frantic for a sign of her.
“She is gone; you need to let your heart know it, Nancy. Four years ago now,” his eyes are dark but gentle.
I know she is gone. I sat at the coffin and looked at her bruised face; she managed to keep that strong look on her face even in death. Maybe as that man hit her with the car, she stopped and stared as she did at a camera. Her soul will never be stolen.
“Come, help me with the crossword,” he smiles brightly.
“I know what the word is,” I sigh and look down at my hands. “It’s cleave. It means to tear apart and stick back together. Cleave,” I whisper under my breath as he leads me downstairs.
© Janey Godley, June 2004