This week’s Podcast story is Advice from Mum. You can find the text version below for those of you who prefer using your eyes to listening with your ears. If you missed the podcast, don’t worry, it’s still there and available on eight different podcast platforms, all you have to do is to follow the link at the bottom of this story. A small favor, if you like what you here, please leave a review on the podcast site as it greatly helps my visibility in the app.
Advice from Mum
Put the polish on with the dark brush and shine them up with the light one. Don’t mix them up or you won’t get a good shine on your shoes. Do them at night, before you go to bed then you won’t be in a rush in the morning.
Sadie stared at the beautiful sloping loops of her mother’s handwriting and swallowed down a sob. She put the letter back in her pocket and finished buffing her sister’s shoes.
The first few weeks had been the hardest. The little terraced house that had seemed so small and suffocating had mushroomed around her as their four had become two on that dreadful Saturday last September.
Use the ionised water for the iron so you don’t get the scale, and don’t iron too hot or you’ll get shiny patches on your clothes.
She put the last of her sister’s shirts on a plastic hanger and hung them on her bedroom doorknob. She paused for a moment outside the room, listening for the deep rhythmic sound of her little sister’s breathing. Satisfied she was asleep, she headed down to the kitchen to sort out the wreckage from dinner.
Don’t bother buying the cheap liquid, the lather doesn’t last. Try to remember to fill the pots with water as soon as you finish cooking, then the washing up will be easier for you.
She put the radio on, pulled on the yellow rubber gloves and threw herself into her work. As she listened to the radio her spirits rose, and she began swaying to the music as she scrubbed at the plates. The next song was a shock. One of his favourites. She could see him now, singing in the car as he drove her to school, singing that she was the only one. She felt again the shame that she had actually loved him, but not like that, never like that!
Another day, last year, washing up at the sink, Mum at work on a night shift. Creeping up behind her, his hands wrapping around her, his hot, sour breath in her ear.
You’ll make someone a cracking little wife, you will.
She hadn’t stopped washing up then and she didn’t now. She ploughed on through the tears until the song was just a memory and the dishes were done. She swept the kitchen floor then gave it a mop, scrubbing especially hard in the place where his blood had pooled on the quarry tiles, darkening forever the grout lines in between.
She put away the mop and was suddenly aware of how dirty she felt.
Come on lass, run that bath and I’ll be in in a minute to wash your hair.
She suppressed the memory of her step-father and went to put the bath on, clearing away her sister’s plastic bath toys that had once been her own.
With the taps running she returned to the kitchen to make herself a cocoa, as she had each and every night since her mother had gone to prison. She opened the cupboard and took out her precious mug, the memories of the day they’d said goodbye washing over her…
“Open it.” Said her mother, her eyes glistening with emotion as Sadie examined the odd shaped present.
“What is it?” she enquired as she pulled carefully at the tape, trying not to tear the precious paper.
“You’ll see,” her mother replied, smiling and wiping her eyes.
Sadie removed the wrapping, revealing a calendar and a mug. “Six months,” said her mum, “it’ll go quicker than you think, and I’ll be home again.”
Sadie began to cry. “I can’t do it Mum, not on my own.”
Her mother cupped Sadie’s face in her hands and leaned in to kiss her forehead. “Yes, you can! The social worker believes in you and so do I.”
I will write to you and your sister every single day. And each day, when you get up, you can cross another day off that calendar. Before you know it, I will be home, and we’ll be a family again. Now, look at the other present.”
Sadie pulled the tissue paper off the mug and smiled through her tears. “Winnie the Pooh?”
Sadie read the inscription. “Always remember, you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think…” her words trailed away as she began to sob again.
Her mother pulled Sadie into an embrace and whispered the last line in her ear, “and loved more than you’ll ever know.”
Sadie put the steaming mug of cocoa on the edge of the bath and eased through the bubbles into the soothing warmth of the water. She had once thought that she would never feel clean again, never be free of the guilt and self-loathing that the abuse had left her with.
She had passed her eighteenth birthday with her mother in prison for manslaughter, taken two driving tests and left her friends far behind her on the winding road to maturity. Somehow, despite her fears, she had made it. Tomorrow she would get up, make breakfast for little Louise, and together they would put the last cross in the calendar.