“We’re not stopping mum. I’ve left Gracie in charge of the boys at home.” Cassidy passed her eyes over her mum; over the chins that had long since overcome the neck, beyond her breasts which were flattening and heading southwards in opposite directions towards the wide mound of belly beneath them. What did the nipples hope to see once they reached the summit? Chubby toes poking out from open toed sandals were all that there was to see. Murella was always ever so slightly embarrassed by Cassidy’s reaction to her mother. Her friend’s expression always seemed to be hovering somewhere between disgust and despair. For all her dogged pragmatism her mother’s out of control eating habits were the one problem she had failed to fix over the years. She seemed to take it as a personal insult. Having Mrs P waddling from room to room like a penguin was a constant reminder of her own personal failings. Murella grinned brightly, her best smile of the day, and padded along behind Cas as they made their way through to the lounge.
“Oh. Alright babe? Didn’t realise you were here.”
Long gloves up to the elbows again. Emerald green. Brilliantly rusty orange hair, swept back into a pony tail this time to combat the summer heat. It made her young face look harsher, Murella thought. And there it was again, that barely there smile. Cas seemed not to mind. She looked at Murella now.
“Hello,” she said, very precisely, as if she knew all there was to know about the woman stood in front of her.
“Sit down Murella, you’re no stranger you know. How are the kids? How are things? Still with the troubles?” She tut tutted and shook her head what a shame. Mrs P plucked the cushions from the couch and started plumping them before ushering Murella into one of the armchairs. All the chairs in this house were like Venus Flytraps intent on holding any visitors captive. Comfy cushions piled high and softly welcoming seats that held the luxurious cuddly depth of slow baked cookies. Oh, they made you feel sorry to leave them. It was only Cas who never seemed to have trouble leaving.
“I was talking to a lady I know’s got the same kind of bother down her end and she was saying, they’ve always got to flaunt it in your face, haven’t they, wouldn’t be so bad if they kept it a bit quiet would it?” Murella didn’t answer. Only smiled her own ‘what a shame’ smile.
“Wouldn’t it?” Rusty Red was looking at her now, actually expecting a response. Cassidy’s mum had already begun shuffling out of the lounge and into the kitchen, tailing her daughter and sharing stories of woe about various relatives.
“Wouldn’t it be so bad?” This young woman really knew how to throw the weight of a question down. The conversation had ended before it had hardly begun but she seemed intent on recapturing it and disregarding rhetoric. Would it? Wouldn’t it? Forced acceptance of responsibility? Heavy ‘hellos’. What the hell was she doing here anyway? Cas addressing her fondly as ‘babe’ and Cas’ mother acting like she was no more strange sitting here than one of the plump comfy cushions. Murella just looked back at her steadily. Again, one arm over the other as if she was calmly keeping something safe and close beneath those emerald green gloves.
“There are others like you, you know. You’re not alone when you say you want someone to stand up and just say sorry.”
“Did I say that?” The young interrogator chose not to answer. She was not challenged. The look on her face remained unchanged. Murella was forced to concede,
“I want more than sorry.” Hoping to be released, Murella shifted her gaze to something less probing – the textured floral pattern on Mrs P’s armrest covers.
“You two know each other don’t you?” Cas was back now, to her rescue once again, stood in the doorway attempting some kind of delayed introduction.
“Do we? Know one another?” Again, a smile. The smallest of them all. Cas’ mum gently moved her daughter to one side away from the doorway. She always had the habit of taking that kind of direct action, as if shifting one of her cushions from one armchair to the next. As if physically shifting something was easier than just saying excuse me.
“Sorry to keep you waiting darl’.” She handed Rusty Red a small parcel wrapped in beige tissue paper. It looked ridiculously bland against the shock green of the gloves.
“Thank you. How much did we say?”
So she was a customer, one of the many in the area who called on Mrs P’s seamstress skills. A small amount of cash was exchanged and she put the parcel in her small discreet handbag. She used her left hand to pass the bag strap diagonally across her body as she stood up.
“Goodbye.” Her ‘goodbyes’ had as strong an impact as her ‘hellos’.
“It would,” Murella blurted out as the young woman turned her back to head out of the house. “It would still be bad even if he kept it quiet.” It was enough to elicit another miniature smile.