I’m waiting by the lake, Chris Brunt

“I’m not your daughter.” Yes, I expect she’ll say something like that. I have heard much worse from her.

She always wanted to forget about me. That doesn’t matter, I know who she really is. It’s all written down somewhere, clear as daylight. It’s a fact and there’s no use denying facts. She wouldn’t have a leg to stand on if the matter was ever brought up in a court. Facts are facts just as mud is mud. In fact, facts like that are unavoidable. But it’s more than that; it’s the principle that I care about. I am her mother. She’ll admit it before the end. Fab is my daughter and no amount of time between us can ever change that.

I’ll have to be careful though, I don’t want to put her under any undue pressure. You see, Fab doesn’t cope well under pressure. She never did.

“Where were you that day and why did you decide to leave?” That’s what my question will be, I already have it all planned out. I like to be organised. That’s exactly what I’ll ask her, nothing more, and nothing less. I think I’m owed that. I’ve been living with such awful confusion since it happened.

It’s been a long time since we’ve spoken. Inevitably, I’ve aged. My skin is pale, now, and so is my hair. Even my voice has altered. Guttural. It’s become guttural, if you can believe that. Too much screaming. Isn’t it horrible what age can do to a person, particularly a woman? In that way I suppose time is terribly sexist. There’s always been a clear gender-imbalance when it comes to aging. I’m sure the government could do something about it if they wanted to, but they won’t.

As a woman I’m expected to look elegant every second of the day. It’s true. I’m supposed to look natural and beautiful, even graceful. How can anyone appear graceful when their voice sounds guttural? None of that will matter to Fab anyway. She’s bound to overlook one or two of my imperfections. After all, I did give birth to her. She has to remember that if, nothing else.

I’ve been coming every Sunday for the past fifteen years, hoping that I’ll see her, hoping that our paths will cross. I can’t do it any other way, I’m certain of that. I’ve even prayed for it to happen, but that hasn’t changed a damn thing. I’m not very religious. I only stay for an hour or so; anything more would be unseemly. Any longer and people would begin staring at me. No one likes seeing old people by themselves; it makes them feel guilty. Apart from that, there are others who want to sit here and feed the ducks, so I have to make way for them.

Fab has a temperamental soul that she gets from her father’s side. She wouldn’t take kindly to me telling you, or my turning up at her home unannounced; not that I know where she lives. No, it’s better this way. She’s sure to run into me at some point in the future and when she does, I’ll insist that she stop blaming me for what happened.

“It was an accident,” I’ll say and then we’ll become friends again. That’s unless she sees me first and decides not to walk over here. You know how people can be. Actually, I hadn’t thought about that. She might see me from afar and just turn around. She could decide to never come back here again and I wouldn’t know any better. That would be typical Fab.

This used to be her favourite place as a little girl, right by the water. She would offer to feed the ducks and I’d agree to tell her about her real father. Children become so curious when they get older. I prefer it here at night, less people around. No one ever bothers to close the gates so I just walk right in. More fool them. They know I’m here but they don’t like to say anything. I tell them I won’t be any trouble and they just smile politely. One should always be polite. I don’t think they mind about people like me anyway. I’ve never hurt anyone.

That’s what I do at night. I sit by the lake while it’s dark. It’s not strange. I like being by myself while Fab is sleeping. You get more thinking done at night and you tend not to see as many unpleasant ‘incidents’. That’s one of the benefits, you know. Sunlight has a strangely sobering effect on life. If they can, people should avoid seeing the world in the clear light of day.

I remember once witnessing a little girl drown here, right in this lake. Lots of screaming. I don’t know where her mother was, no one could find her. It was like the girl had been abandoned. It’s unforgiveable really, but accidents do happen, especially during the day. Besides, you can’t be everywhere at once.

She was only very young, poor child. She’s at peace now. I don’t like to dwell, I have my own worries to worry about. Don’t we all? We each have our sins. The trick is learning to live with them. That’s what I meant when I was talking about the clear light of day. It’s no good to anyone.

No, I think I’ll keep waiting until I see her. She’s bound to visit me eventually. I just hope she recognises me. I do look very different, much paler. Did I mention it’s been fifteen years? Not that I’m complaining, it could be worse, Fab has a very temperamental soul…

Copyright the author and first published by Friends of Rowntree Park 2014.

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