Of Katherine’s four children, her second-born Lauren, was undoubtedly her favourite. Cara, the eldest, was wilful and disobedient, while the two youngest, Robert and Alex were as feeble and timorous as their father. Lauren was dutiful without being sycophantic, obliging without being needy. She never entered Katherine’s bedroom without knocking, and when she was invited in, she frequently brought with her curious gifts : snails from the garden, or a perfectly-round pebble, or on one occasion the bones and beak of a bird, which cat-like, she mutely laid at the foot of her mother’s bed.
Glancing to her right, Katherine eyed the mottled, white, perfectly-round pebble, resting upon the polished window sill. How long now, since Lauren reverently placed it there? Cripes, it must be at least fifteen years, she thought. As for the bird bones, Bobo, the family Dachshund, had crunched most; leaving tiny fragments glistening upon the parquet floor. Smiling at the memory, Katherine reached out for the bed remote, her stiffened back aching from a prolonged supine position. Pressing the symbol for ‘moving head of bed’ she raised herself whilst grimacing silently, wasn’t it time for her pain relief? Her indignity towards her illness and it’s symptoms gave rise re-occuring negative thoughts : four children. Four children who have failed. Hmm, Lauren I cannot class as a failure, she thought. The only offspring to visit, to telephone, to care.
“Bring your yellow towel, vest, pants and toothbrush.”
“But Mum, I’m creating a satellite, its going to…”
“Bring your towel, vest, pants and hairbrush, right now!”
Clanging of metal upon metal, the hallway radiator vibrated whilst the kitchen utensil dragged along its grooves. Bouncing naked into his mother’s bedroom, holding colander aloft in his right fist, as if brandishing a totem of science. His left hand held scrunched-up pants, yellow towel and brush.
“Come here my wee rascal!”
Lauren scooped up the bundle of curiosity, kissed his forehead, while the colander, underwear, towel and brush dropped to the floor. The yellow towel was abruptly gathered around her head, as he laughed ;
Lauren tenderly lowered her son to the carpet. Sitting him before her, she knelt down, patting his shoulder length hair until the strands were almost dry. Brushing his fringe into a side-sweep, he asked;
“Are we going to Nana’s?”
“Yup. The usual routine. Let’s put your underwear on.”
He wriggled whilst the organic cotton vest tugged over his head; ruffling the the neatly brushed fringe, restoring his signature chaotic look. Pants on he poked Lauren on the nose with affection then trundled off to his own bedroom.
“Choose an outfit, but don’t forget socks this time…”
“But Mum, my feet like the air!”
Walking back along the hall, Lauren stole a look into the mirror; her face radiated with love. Lapis blue eyes shining, looking deeply into her irises she spoke aloud :
“ You’re doing great Lauren, keep up the good work!”
Her right eye gave herself a quick wink of approval.
Returning back to her hometown wasn’t an easy choice. After five years of relative freedom (surprise pregnancy aside), deciding to take a pro-active role in being ‘ a daughter’, returning to re-connect, re-establish, create a positive dynamic with Katherine was a thankless task.
A thankless task, which Cara didn’t approve of.