12. Greeting: Write a story or poem that starts with the word “hello”.
There was silence on the other end of the line. Then her voice. Startling, yet still clipped, still nasal, still upper class.
Janie’s heart was pounding in her chest. She could feel it echoing around her whole body. Her mother hadn’t recognised her voice.
That tone was like a quick stab, reminding her of so many childhood memories. Why are you doing that. Why can’t you be quicker. Why are you like this. Throughout her whole life – why. Her mother questioning her existence.
“Hi, Mum.” There, she’d said it. She was past the point of no return now. She’d expected it at least a moment’s pause. For her mother to be at least a bit surprised, at least slightly taken aback, that her daughter was getting back in touch with her after seven years. But, no. Mrs Wiltshire was never surprised. Well no, that wasn’t strictly true. She had been. Once. Just that once.
But not now. She’d had seven years to regain her composure.
“Well?” her mother said. “Did you call me up to just breathe down the phone?”
Another stab. Though she should have expected it. her mother was always cold, always sardonic. Always waiting for you to do something to interest her.
“Did you see the news?” Janie asked.
“News concerning what?”
Janie took a big breath. “My people. People like me. Our news.”
“Disgusting.” her mother said. “Absolutely disgusting.”
“Really? Over a million people are disgusting are they?”
“Is this why you called me? To gloat?”
“No.” She paused. “Actually yes. I am. I’m not a freak. There are millions of people like me. And even more who think like me. We proved you wrong today.” She paused, but then went hurtling on, so her mother couldn’t interrupt. If she didn’t say it now then she never would. “You don’t love me.” Strange to hear it aloud. “If you did then you would be happy that I’ve found someone who loves me. You’d be happy that I have friends who love me. You’d be happy –” her breath coming faster and faster now – “that this whole country sees me as a person. They think I have rights. They know that I’m a human being.”
Then she slammed the phone down, the noise of it somehow still not as loud as her own heartbeat. She stared at the phone, terrified that it would start to ring, but knowing that it wouldn’t. She heard the patio doors slide open and looked up. Leanne was stood there, smiling cautiously.
“Yes,” said Janie. She would tell Leanne about it later. But not now. Leanne cocked her head, still looking concerned, so Janie pulled her into a hug. They held each other in the sunlight spilling through the open windows. They could hear the laughter of their friends in the garden. Janie breathed in the smell of Leanne’s hair, and thought of what her small, scared, childhood self would think if she saw her now. If she knew how she had stood up to her mother.
She thought of her mother, forever straight-backed, forever with her lips pursed. She knew that phone call hadn’t resolved everything. But it was a start. It was definitely a start. Today was the start of a lot of things.
( Featured image from BBC)
A woman calls her mother after Ireland votes Yes.
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