Just an hour late

Twenty two years since my mam died. I was 31 I had three young children youngest one Mike was five

I had arranged to go down to see Mam after school to see if she felt up to going to spiritualist church there was a medium she had hoped to see but I’d been busy digging up hedges in our front garden all day. So I thought I’d go back finish cleaning the mess I’d made up then go down to Mam with the kids washed clean ready for church.

The last bush was really stubborn, so I tied a rope onto the back of my car and tried to yank it out but as I’m doing it I can hear my mam tutting at me.

‘You should have been a bloody lad’ she says.

I laugh stop the car dragging the hedge behind.

Odd? She’s not there.

I get out to untie the rope I’m covered in soil and leaves as I get up Mams best friend Francis is pulling up in her car.

I know instantly. ‘Mam she’s gone’. Francis is sitting in the passenger seat her husband is driving tears roll down her cheeks she doesn’t answer she doesn’t have to.

‘Without me there’ I shout voice shaking.

I tell the kids to go inside no one speaks.

I ask a neighbour to babysit. It’s a weird feeling, Shock, sort of like being underwater and everything seems to slow down.

Suddenly it’s like your whole world is in a bubble,surreal.

I get into Francis car she holds my hand.

‘It was your dad’ she’s saying. I flush hot, my head feels like its going to explode.

I don’t cry.

Francis talks on the drive over to Mams, only the other side of the village but I’m impatient to get there.

‘Get your mams trolley’ Francis insists she keeps saying it.

‘She told me to tell you if anything happens get the trolley’.

I still don’t speak.

I walk through the corridors in the sheltered housing into the flat.

There is blood on her carpet. ‘Bicarb’ I hear mam say tutting again. ‘Bicarb will get it out’.

Dad is sitting smoking a roll up in the kitchen.

I stand and look at him.

I don’t know for how long.

Francis pulls at my arm. ‘Get the trolley.’

‘For fucks sake’ I hear myself say. ‘Okay. Okay I’ll get it.’

I look around pictures of my children hang on the walls, Mams cardigan where she had left it on her favourite chair.

Without looking I know there will be a blue inhaler in the pocket and a packet of tissues and a lipstick of bloody awful tangerine she insisted ordering monthly from Avon.

I pick it up and hold it to my face and breath in I can smell her perfume.

I put it over the bloody trolley.

‘Where is she?’ I ask. My voice sounds different. Like its external.

‘I told her she’d go out of here in a bloody box’ Dad says. I want to kill him.

I close my eyes. Slowly breathe in.

‘At the hospital’ says Francis.

‘Come on Joolz you need to identify her.’

We leave the flat and head for the hospital. I’m numb.

How do my legs still know how to walk?

Why are clocks still ticking?

Why is the world still turning? MY MAM IS DEAD.

We get to Whiston Hospital sit in waiting room Francis is smoothing creases that aren’t there from her skirt. I read the information on the wall bereavement support. Victim support. We wait for the police.

A tall young police officer and a smaller female officer walk in I can hear Mam again. telling me ‘Police men are getting bloody younger and look at the state of you she saying you need a good bloody wash. Full of soil!’

‘Are you ready’ the lady police officer asksshe’s got a stain on her jacket and I wonder what it is?

I nod. My mouth has gone dry. I can’t speak.

I’m not ready I will never be ready that big black lump is in my throat. I’m so afraid. It can’t be her not my little Mam and I’m praying this is all a bad dream.

They take me in.

She’s on a metal trolley

She will be cold on there I think.

Her hair is stuck with blood. Drying blood.

I want to fix it.

Her hands are covered she’s not wearing her glasses I put my hands on her face. ‘Oh Mam’ I say

The policewoman puts his hand on my shoulder.

I shrug her off.

I pull the sheet back lift up her left hand. Middle nail cracked it always grown like that.

I hear mam beside me telling me the story of how her sister Eliza trapped it in the front door in Brown street. Where she lived as a childI’ve heard this story a million times but I smile and listen again

‘I know mam’ I hear myself say.

She looks so small. ‘I’m so sorry I was late Mam I was pulling up the hedge in the front you hated those hedges didn’t you. Couldn’t get the last one up. I was coming to fetch you with the kids I’ve made your favourite for tea and Michaels got a new reading book.’

‘That medium is on later at church the one you wanted to see.’ Im almost begging.

My little mam. Doesn’t answer. It really is her. How can I possibly leave her here on her own?

I cover her up. The police woman holds me up. ‘Come on’ she says ‘they will look after her.’

I don’t remember walking back to the car or the drive home.

We sit outside Francis tells me there was a massive row dad was drunk again. She sighs ‘He was always drunk’ I sob.

Mam had said he couldn’t make any more home brew in the flat he was repeating everything she said. Mimicking her

Shooting at her with a toy gun that made a noise.

She was on her nebuliser.

Struggling to breathe

She stood up told him to get out was going to ring me. She didn’t get to the phone.

She has massive heart attack hit her head on coffee table

He might as well have had a real gun.

‘Take me to the flat’ I finally said.

‘You’ve got the trolley Francis said don’t go back ‘she sounded scared.

I ring our Michaels dad Mike.

‘Come and get me I’m at the hospital’

Ten mins later Mams trolley in the boot of Mikes car andI’m going back to the sheltered housing.

‘What the fuck happened?’ Mike asks. I tell him. He doesn’t speak.

‘What are you going to do?’

‘I don’t know.’ I answer. ‘But I’m not scared of him anymore I’m furious.’

We walk down the corridor I count our footsteps. I hear my mam.

‘Go home Julie to the kids’ she says.

‘I will in a minute I say out loud,’ Fab I think I’m talking to my bloody self.

I walk into the flat we’ve been gone two hours tops.

Dad is in the bedroom Mams single bed tipped up on its end drawers tipped everywhere clothes strewn everywhere. I stand looking at him.

There’s a banging noise in my head. It’s my heart.

He’s opening boxes looking in pockets of coats.

There is a new toaster and a kettle still in boxes she was planning to leave him.

It’s as though I’m not here I think.‘Can he see me’?

Mikes got hold of my arm.

Dad looks up.

‘Where is it?’ he shouts at me.

I don’t answer or move I stand in the bedroom doorway.

‘Sovereign rings, money, rings jewellery bank books.?’

‘I don’t know I say?’ And I really don’t.

‘She’s dead Mams dead.’ I shout.

He walks over to me.

‘WHERE IS IT ALL?’ he booms.

I feel the spit and beer breath hit my face.

I don’t move or step back he’s furious.

‘TELL ME NOW.’

He lifts his hand as he’s done so many times.

I still don’t move.

Everything slows down.

Mike jumps between us.

Grabs dads big arm and says

‘You’re never going to put your hand on her again.’

I’m stunned!

I look at dad he suddenly doesn’t look as big or scary.

‘Don’t ever, come near me again’ I hear myself say.

I’m picking up mams best jumper.

I pick up a bag put her clothes and shoes in.

Dad looks confused.

I start to take my children’s photos off the wall.

‘What are you doing?’ he shouts.

‘I’m taking back what’s mine.’

‘You don’t get to look at my kids again.’

‘Do not come to the funeral she didn’t want you there.’

Are you happy now you killed her?

I wish she’d have just left you years ago we’d have all been better off you murdering drunken bastard.’

I hear mam laugh.

He sits down hard on the floor.

‘I’m going to a solicitor ‘he shouts ‘I want what’s mine.’

I look at him lean forward and say quietly almost a whisper.

‘I want my mam my kids want their Nan.’

Mike puts his hand on my arm ‘Come on Joolz he’s not worth it.’

He takes mams clothes I carry the photos and we leave.

Francis is getting out of the car it’s a warm evening and Mam should be getting in my car with me now.

She hugs me.

Don’t forget her trolley.

I won’t.

Raven.

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