When I’m a Mum

Siblings are important. We fight with them. We say things we could never get away with saying to friends, not without irreversibly damaging the relationship. We’re embarrassed by our parents together.

There’s nine and a half years between my brother and I. I grew up not just as his sister, but his mum too. In a single parent family, it falls to older siblings to sometimes step out of their role. I took my brother to school. I cooked him meals that were nearly inedible. Helped him with his homework. Tucked him into bed after reading him a story. Bought him a PlayStation3 one year when my mum couldn’t afford his big present. But we were also still siblings. I’ve screamed at him. He’s called me horrible names. We’ve played tag between the apple trees in our garden. He’s offered me his last starburst in a small, sticky hand. We’ve whinged about our mum together. We’ve whispered in the dark on Christmas Eve.

You share moments, probably very similar moments to many other siblings. And then there are the experiences that are just yours

Our dad left us together. We’ve been homeless together. We’ve been there for our dog’s last breaths together. There are more. Some more painful than these examples. Some much happier. Some I’ve told everyone, others I’ve kept close to my chest.

I came across this story a little while ago. I can’t remember the assignment, only that I wrote it in first year of university. I’ve left it untouched, unedited from the moment I found it.

Siblings are important. They’re your best friend, enemy, confidant, bully, secret keeper, and family. And this story is roughly taken from a moment in my past. I attempted to step into the head of my brother. My brother who was always playing pretend, who spent so much times with females he couldn’t understand how he was different to us.

*

When I’m a Mum

 

I had Striker right where I wanted him. I felt the blades slide from between my knuckles slowly. Blood dripped from my open wounds and ran down my fingers. It hurt every time, and it always would. For the first time, as I watched the fear sink into Striker’s eyes, I didn’t care.

I grabbed his throat with my free hand and –

‘DANIEL, WHERE ARE THE SPOONS?’

The grin slipped from my face. Ever since the last X-Men film came out, I’ve wanted to be Wolverine so much. I even asked Mum if I could change my name to Logan, but she said eight years old is too young to change your name. I’ll have to do it when I’m older then. The other problem is Mum and Dad won’t let me use knives for my weapons, so I have to stick spoons between my fingers.

‘Oh, for goodness sake, Daniel,’ she said when she saw me.

Mum took my weapons back into the kitchen and I flopped onto the floor with a sigh. There was no point in trying to continue now.

When Dad came home from work I was lining up my cars on the carpet. One of my lorries kept rolling backwards down the slope of the rug, which curled up at the edges. I gave up trying to weigh it down and made the lorry crash into it.

Metal and tyres shrieked and the driver covered his face as the windscreen shattered. He screamed out for help as the world danced in a blur around him. I spun the lorry in the air and fell with it onto my back as it returned to earth and exploded.

‘Daniel,’ Dad said sharply. He was on the phone and he pointed at it dramatically, as if I was stupid and wouldn’t understand.

I wasn’t allowed to do anything. I hit the lorry away and it rolled out of the door that Dad had left open. I could hear Mum in the kitchen making dinner. I hoped we weren’t having salad again tonight. Grandma had been staying with us all last week and she loved salad.

‘You know this is a girl’s toy,’ Dad said from behind me.

I rolled onto my back so I could see him. One of my toys had replaced his phone. It was the pink one with butterfly stickers on the sides that were peeling off in places.

‘This was Sophie’s,’ he said when I didn’t reply.

‘But Action Man fits in it,’ I said with a shrug.

‘I didn’t think Action Man would like a car like this.’

‘Why?’

‘Because it’s a girl’s toy.’

I sat up. ‘Why?’

‘It’s for Barbies.’

‘But I don’t want a Barbie.’ I scoffed. William Glover in school played with Barbies. His big brother had told everyone and William got picked on by the older kids.

‘I know that. But this,’ Dad shook the car,’ is a Barbie car.’

‘So?’ I liked cars. My favourite show on TV was Top Gear. I liked it when they wrecked the cars the best, like that time they’d dropped a Mini from the sky and it had smashed.

Dad looked confused. After a moment he bent down and picked up one of my Hot Wheels cars.

‘This, Daniel, is a boy’s toy. It’s made for little boys. See its darker colours and the fire around the wheels and how small it is, so dolls can’t fit in it. Not like this, this is for Barbies.’

‘But I like both of them.’

‘Dad, leave him alone.’ Sophie, my big sister, sat beside me and gave me a perfume scented hug. Like Mum, Sophie always smelled nice. She was hugging me, but laughing at Dad, as he put the cars back on the floor, side by side.

‘I was just saying.’ He raised his hands in defeat.

I leaned out and rolled the car towards me. ‘So, shouldn’t I play with this then?’ I asked, looking from Dad to Sophie.

‘I don’t think that’s what Dad’s saying.’ Sophie ruffled my hair.

‘What are we talking about?’ Mum appeared in the doorway, a towel slung over her shoulder.

‘Dad has issues with my old Barbie car.’

‘Oh.’ Mum’s mouth quivered, like it did when she was trying not to laugh.

‘I was only pointing out that they’re for girls. And you’re certainly not a girl, are you, son?’

‘Stop being ridiculous,’ Mum laughed. ‘It’s perfectly natural. When you’re at work, who do you think Daniel spends his time with?’

‘Barbie and Ken?’ Dad asked and Mum threw her towel at him.

‘Ignore him,’ Sophie said. ‘You play with whatever you want to, Danny.’ She stuck my Action Man in the car.

‘He doesn’t drive,’ I rolled my eyes. ‘He’s Underwater Action Man.’

‘I have some Barbies in my room, I think. If Action Man wants I could –’

‘Something smells good,’ Dad interrupted Sophie. When he passed he picked me up and carried me in over his shoulder so I was hanging upside down. I wrapped my arms around his waist and squealed until he put me down.

At the table we each had our own place, except when Grandma visited. Grandma was Scottish and she didn’t really like travelling down to Oxford; she said she didn’t like English people. Even though I was born here, she said I’m not really English. Whatever that means.

I think Grandma’s a little weird most of the time. She smells like bleach and she always attacks mine and Sophie’s faces with baby wipes. Mum said she did it to her when she was younger, too, but she used to spit on a tissue instead of using a wipe. I didn’t complain as much after she told me that.

‘Bleh, carrots.’ I wrinkled my nose at the plate of food Mum put down in front of me.

‘I’ve not given you many.’

‘Vegetables are disgusting. I don’t see why I have to have any.’

‘Carrots help you see in the dark,’ Mum said without paying attention to me. If she had, she probably would have told me off for flicking one of my carrots so hard it rolled onto the floor. Only Sophie saw and she wouldn’t tell, she just laughed.

‘I don’t want to see in the dark. I want a skeleton made out of metal, and knives that come out of my knuckles. That would be cool.’ I stabbed a slice of carrot with my fork. ‘Can I leave some?’

‘Daniel, just eat them, please.’ Mum said simply, in that tone of voice she uses when I’m annoying her.

I made a face at Sophie, but Mum caught it, and I quickly picked up my knife to cut my chicken. Mum and Dad started talking about something boring that someone really boring had said on the News. I shivered and choked when I bit into a carrot by accident.

‘Stop being dramatic,’ Mum sighed.

‘If you leave them all to the end you’ll make it worse for yourself,’ Dad pointed out.

‘They’re disgusting,’ I grumbled.

‘You’re still eating them and if you don’t stop complaining, I’ll give you more.’ Mum pointed to the pot behind her.

‘You’re mean.’

‘Or maybe I’ll replace the one you dropped on the floor earlier with a big one.’

I gaped at her. ‘You saw that?’

‘I’m a mum, Daniel, I see everything.’

I shared a look with Sophie. Sometimes I believed Mum really could read my mind, or was some kind of superhero. Last week, when I was playing pirates in the living room she found the ornament I’d smashed and hidden behind the curtain. I’d stayed quiet in my room and everything, but she’d still found out and knew it was me right away.

‘And being a mum also means you have to make your children eat their fruit and veg so they’re healthy.’

‘You know what?’ I asked.

‘Don’t talk with your mouth full,’ Mum and Dad said in unison.

I swallowed. ‘You know what?’

‘What?’ Mum asked.

‘When I’m a Mum I won’t make my kids eat carrots.’

Dad dropped his fork onto his plate and groaned into his hands. ‘I really don’t believe this.’

Mum and Sophie laughed and tried to say something to Dad, but he didn’t resurface from his hands, so they gave up. I didn’t understand what was so funny, but old people are weird. They always laugh at things that aren’t funny, like each other.

I filled my mouth with chips and glared at my plate. I bet Wolverine hated carrots, too.

 

 

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Musings of a bad poet

A lot of my blog posts revolve very much on bettering myself. On the whole, I fail at this. I’m still a terrible blogger, no matter how many challenges I set myself. I’m terrible at exercising. Since getting a new job I’ve become an all round terrible writer. When I do turn on my laptop, I only end up sitting with it open, phone in hand, tuned into social media.

But, I digress. This isn’t going to become another post about my failings (I’m human, I have many.) It’s actually going to be a specific post about something I’m very bad at. And that is poetry.

I had a total of three classes during my time studying Creative Writing that focused solely on writing poetry. When it came to studying other people’s poems, I did alright – mainly because of Stephen Fry’s fantastic book ‘The Ode Less Travelled.’  If you haven’t read it, I actually suggest you do even just for curiosity’s sake, whether you’re a budding poet or not. His ability to break down a learning process really is quite amazing.

Anyway, when it came to writing my own poetry, something I had to do for my third and final poetry class, I turned to my trusty copy of Stephen Fry’s book. And it did not help. I cannot, for the life of me, get my head around poetry. I enjoy it (mostly, I don’t understand the very artistic, intellectual poems. But I’m not just into dirty limericks. I’m that in between poetry reader. The one who won’t do extra reading to understand references, but appreciates references I do get.)

The guideline we were set was we had to pick a famous person, real or imagined, and write them into a new scenario. I chose Glinda – I’d just read Wicked for the eight hundredth time so the characters in this story were on my mind. I found it very recently, and I thought I would share it here. It’s horrible, a mess, and I have no way of fixing it – or at least, I have no inclination to fix it. So, while it’s always embarrassing showing off work you’re not happy with, I think it’s part of the process. To succeed you need to acknowledge what you are bad at.

**

The Good Witch of the North

 

Glinda had put on weight. It clung

around her once slight frame

and the marshmallow pink dress she had adored

hung sad and abandoned in the wardrobe.

 

The Wicked Witch of the West was gone

but the song was still sung.

‘Ding dong the witch is dead’

still littered the city air seventeen years on.

 

Dorothy’s youthful face still smiled down

from posters and ragged adverts.

There was a new generation of children in Oz

that knew her only as the sponsor of curling tongs.

 

The Emerald City had a statue in the centre

of a miniature house, the witch’s ruby feet peeking out

underneath. If only everyone knew that a house like their own

could not be steered from the air by a child alone.

 

Staring at the statue Glinda failed to notice

the mocking gaze watching her until the person asked,

‘should you really?’ The chocolate cream cake dripped

in her frozen grip. It was her husband’s sister.

 

He was too kind to mention how her body had drooped,

her chest not as pert and her waist twice as thick.

His sister was a little less forgiving

for what four children had done to her figure.

 

The ever so casual lift of an eyebrow

and the quick insult ready on her silver tongue

had turned Glinda into a gibbering wreck

more times than her pride allowed her to recall.

 

Tears stung her eyes as she turned her face, the image

of the house and flattened witch blurred. She forced

the tears back and a long repressed secret

elbowed its way forward, forcing her to listen.

 

Oz was so calm now. She had not had to work

since the witch had melted by the farm girl’s feet.

Magic had been seamlessly replaced by motherhood,

her beloved spell book catching dust.

 

The time for crying was over, this girl would finally see

how she had earned her wand all those years ago.

After all, a house had come in handy last time

someone had got in her way.

**

 

I suck at poetry. And I’m okay with it.

So…

I sent a story away.

 

 

 

 

 

I feel like that needs to sit by itself on the page.

I studied Creative Writing for years at university – five to be exact – and it got easier submitting my work. Even though it was being judged harshly, I knew when I got it back, they would either love it or hate it, and there would be something to work toward. It was easier, somehow. Easier than this likelihood of getting back a generic no.

At least when you’re studying you’re working toward something, you’re taking feedback on board and improving. This process feels a little blind. A no is just a no. You exist on a scale of ‘the fuck is this?’ to ‘it’s good, but just not for us, keeping trying!’ It’s difficult, not knowing where on the scale you exist.

I’ve said this to people, and their immediate response is, ‘Of course you’re the latter! You’re great!’ But this sometimes comes from people who haven’t actually read any of my work. I have some good eggs in my life, but sometimes nice words are just that, nice words.

Anyway, this is becoming a negative post, and that’s not what I wanted it to be. I set out wanting it to be filled with hope and positivity – forgetting of course that I am neither of these things. To steal a quote from Grey’s Anatomy, I am much more ‘dark and twisty inside.’

But, I am as hopeful as a dark and twisty person can be, I think. I jumped the hurdle, I pushed myself. It’s easy to get stuck in this never ending loop of I hate this – edit it – I hate this – edit it – I hate this…

Pinkie-promise

My best friend and I are always together. We’ve been friends since we were little and we pinkie-promised that we’d always stay together, no matter what. I know Evie better than I know anyone, which is how I knew something was wrong with her right away. She hadn’t called me in days. She hadn’t come round to my house or invited me to hers. Mum says she’s just poorly and she’ll come back to school soon. Mrs Garrity says I won’t have to partner smelly Richard Jenkins for long because Evie will be back in no time. They’re both wrong.

I’ll definitely have to partner him on the class trip to the secondary school. Next year we’re all starting at St Edward’s. I’ve always been the nervous one, but Evie just grins and says it’s another adventure. We’re always going on adventures, turning our bedrooms into foreign countries and planets with funny names. When we’re at Evie’s her mum even gives us some of her old clothes to play in. My favourite is a red dress with big sleeves and a puffed out skirt. Evie said it was her mum’s ‘going out’ dress before she got pregnant and her thighs got fat.

Dad says I’m too old to be playing dress-up. You’re ten now, Katie, he always says. You’re practically a grown-up. There’s no place for pretend when you’re a grown-up. He thinks I should be reading a book or studying to get ready for secondary school. As long as whatever I’m doing is quiet. Dad likes me when I’m quiet.

Evie sits with me when I’m upset, on the edge of the bed. She puts an arm around me and rests her head against mine. I like it when we sit like that. Her golden hair curls around my mousy brown hair and makes it look interesting. Love you, Katie, she says. Love you more, I always whisper back.

Mum and Dad think Evie’s a bad influence. She’s a distraction, too loud and giggly. But that’s part of the reason I love her so much. It’s difficult to be sad around Evie; she just won’t let you be anything but happy. Her mum and dad are the same. Mum says that’s because they don’t have anything to worry about. Dad calls them snobs behind their backs. He says they buy Evie things to make him and Mum look bad, but that isn’t true. Evie always shares her things with me.

Last Christmas Evie got an iPhone. Dad’s nose wrinkled when I told him. Even though I hadn’t asked, he said I couldn’t get one. I don’t mind so much. Our house phone is right outside my bedroom. Dad works late and Mum goes to bed early, so sneaking it into my room is no problem.

Evie stays up all night with me. We get to school the next morning with dark circles around our eyes, but Evie says she doesn’t mind, it makes us a matching pair. Even as she grew paler and thinner over the last few months she would shrug at me, smiling.

One day she didn’t turn up to school and Mum told me not to worry, She probably just has a cold. I left for school early the next morning, waiting by the gates where her dad usually drops her off on his way to work. But she didn’t show up. She didn’t show up the whole week.

I sleep at Evie’s house most weekends, but this weekend promises to be a lonely one. Weekends at Evie’s are brilliant. Her dad ruffles my hair when he comes home from work and her mum kisses me on the cheek before bed. When we were young, Evie’s mum would lie between us and tell us stories. In her stories no one cries and everyone lives happily ever after.

When Friday arrives it’s the longest I have ever gone without seeing Evie. I stare at her empty seat next to me until Mrs Garrity bangs her hand on the table to get my attention. When I get home, Mum repeats that Evie is probably just sick. But I know it’s more than that now. I know before the familiar roar of Evie’s dad’s car has me running to my window to watch the car pull into our driveway.

I curl up on the edge of my bed and watch as they get out, slamming the doors shut with identical thuds. They’ve never been to our house without Evie before. Evie’s mum’s eyes are red and puffy. She holds onto Evie’s dad, who looks older than I remember. They walk arm in arm to our front door and then I lose sight of them. I catch murmured voices in the hall before the living room door clicks shut. The house becomes silent once more, as if nothing is different. The only hint that it isn’t a normal day is the shiny blue car parked behind Dad’s rusty van.

I turn from the window and fling my legs over the other side of the bed. My eyes fill with tears, as they’ve been doing all week. Dad says he’s getting fed up of me crying over nothing. No one but Evie understands.

I bend my head and look at the mousy brown hair curling around gold. An arm reaches around me, holding my shoulder gently. Our heads move at the same time, touching one another at the perfect moment so we’re both comfortable.

     ‘Love you, Katie.’

     ‘Love you more.’

I know why Evie’s parents are here. They’re here to tell me that I did have something to worry about. They’re here to tell me that Evie was sick, that she’s gone. But they’re wrong; my best friend and I are always together. We’ve been friends since we were little and we pinkie-promised that we’d always stay together. No matter what.

 

Rediscovering old loves…

I rediscovered this list of children’s books. I’ve been trying to get into reading again. As an adult it’s so easy to get lost in work, Netflix, eating (I’m very good at bored-eating.) I’m trying to be healthier in the sense that I’m rounding out my life again. And reading children’s books seems to be a good place to start with that, I think.

Fairytale Corner

And no, I don’t mean that in the ‘person meets an ex and wonders why they ever broke up’ sense. I mean, of course, in the story sense.

This was actually meant to be a very short post. I was online Googling a quote, something short and cute to add to the blog before I went to bed. The one liner in my personal Twitter profile is a quote from Roald Dahl’s TheBFG: ‘Don’t gobblefunk around with words.’ As I was on Twitter, I decided to add a quote from The BFG to the blog and just ended up remembering how much I loved this story. The BFG is probably one of the most adorable, beautiful characters ever created.

‘I is reading it hundreds of times,’ the BFG said. ‘And I is still reading it and teaching new words to myself and how to write them. It is…

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