The blossom’s out now. One branch of the cherry tree hangs in a wide arc across the kitchen window, obscuring part of the curving path which leads to the back gate.
She can’t see the garden properly though – and not because of the cherry blossom. She widens her eyes but doesn’t blink. Something fat and warm slides down her cheek and she sniffs, raising a rubber-gloved hand to swipe at her face. The stench of the washing-up water lingers like an insult, but she doesn’t want to look down at the suds in the bowl, doesn’t want the image of Kate to fade from view however vague it’s becoming now.
She recalls what her daughter was wearing the last time she walked those concrete slabs: tight black jeans (skinny they’re called), faded red cardigan covering the thin chequered shirt she slouched about in at weekends, a big blue rucksack slung heavily across her back. She’d turned, the wind whipping her dark hair across her face like a veil, all teeth and smiling eyes, waving one more time before setting off. She’d laughed and waved back. She couldn’t have been prouder or more happy. Kate was living her dream; both their dreams. Only her own had sunk before they’d sailed.
The still of the air begins to thrum with the sound of an approaching train; a thousand mechanical thundering beasts moving ever nearer. The birds scatter like bats from a cave, whirl around in chaos and then spiral away as far as possible from this hourly intrusion. The noise has spoilt her vision now; Kate’s gone again. She peels off the yellow gloves and lets them drop to the drainer where suds scatter in foamy snowflake patterns.
She slips her feet out of the worn slippers and into the boots beside the back door. She shrugs on the outdoor overall hanging above them and goes to press down on the handle. There’s a list pinned on the corkboard to the side of the back door and for today it reads:
- weed borders
- take out bins,
- feed cat at No.12
- bread, eggs, potatoes
This has been her life since Kate left for University. She wonders what her daughter would think of this meaningless, self-enforced timetable now there’re so many spaces to fill. She feels hollow; a container emptied of its purpose.
Once outside, she notices Kate’s black mug sitting on the bench, forgotten from the weekend. They’d been planting shrubs, taking in vitamin D, resting their heads back in the sun and she can’t remember now what had started them off, but they’d laughed so much Kate had had to rush inside to the toilet – which had made them laugh even louder on her return.
She looks now at the words printed in white on the mug. It’s the one she gave Kate when she’d received the acceptance letter from her first choice of Uni. Never Settle it reads. And now, as she smears a residue of lip gloss from the rim of the mug, something like the flutter of birds wings rise in her chest and she wonders if Kate might have left it here on purpose.
Written in response to the www.creativewritingink prompt 27.04.2017