I rolled out of bed, bleary eyed and filled with dread at what the mirror would bring. As expected the frizz and unevenly tufted feathers that make up my hair were woven into an unfathomable tangle. It had been another troubled night’s sleep. Dreams and nightmares had intersected my slumber with flashes of the past, warped versions of the present and fabrications of the future. I mulled over these confused clips as I set to work on taming my hair; a generally impossible task. Earlier in life I had resented my mother for passing down the frizz gene. Nowadays I have bigger things to resent her for, like the scar above my right eyebrow. But this morning it was for the hair that I swore under my breath at my mother while I tried to pull the comb through.
I saw the red light on the answer phone flashing at me as I walked into the lounge so I pressed the play button. I continued through to the kitchen to put on the kettle for the much needed first cup of coffee of the day. Then I heard her voice echoing around the walls of the flat, the woman I had cursed just this morning.
“Darling, please stop changing your number, I just want to talk to you. It’s been so long sweetheart. Look your father is getting worse… He just wants to see you before it’s too late. Please call me back darl–“
It gave me great pleasure to hit the delete button, as it always did. Yet another message I didn’t care about hearing. One day she will get the message, the one I’ve been trying to send out loud and clear for years. The one that I want nothing to do with her ever again, that she is dead to me.
She was sinking lower every time she contacted me recently. Her favourite had been masterminding a fake illness for my father which had been ‘getting worse’ for months now. I know he’s fine because I saw him a few days ago, laughing over a beer with his friends from the cricket club. The last thing I needed in my life at that moment was my mother inventing more lies. As if I didn’t already have enough on my plate!
I let out a long sigh, trying to exhale all the bad thoughts and memories that message had bought to my long awaited Saturday off. It had been such a long week at work. Apparently kids still had not caught on that social workers are there to help you, not ruin their lives. But then as a teenager you think everyone is trying to ruin your life, even when they have your best interests at heart. I know that’s the way that I felt once.
Ralph was out playing rugby with his mates on the green, I heard him leave this morning, but was so determined to have a couple more hours sleep that I ignored his movements. It was nice to have some alone time for the first time in weeks. I love Ralph, far more than I care to admit, but everyone needs some ‘me time’.
I poured the boiling water over the coffee granules and watched the dark brown swirls create the caffeine high which I have come to rely upon so much to get me going in the morning. This has been an exceptionally tough week. It’s not that I don’t love my job, far from it. I get far higher benefits and rewards than many women I know. There’s nothing better than finding a home for a child who’s never seen love, never been mothered or experienced a real hug with love laced through it. This job lets me see that, not often, but when it happens it’s magical. I don’t see myself as a soppy woman in any way, I’m sure my boss would be the first to tell you I have balls of steel. But then you have years of seeing children wearing their broken hearts and homes on their sleeves. Years of looking into the faces of a dozen kids who would never really be kids again, not now their innocence was shattered and stolen by the parents who never really cared. When you finally see those kids get the love they deserve, now that is the one thing which can bring a tear to my eye.
However there had been little of that this week, with two of the children on my list being involved in a mugging, one in a domestic feud and another being named the main suspect after a stabbing. I don’t think anyone could ever call East London a peaceful place, I certainly wouldn’t.
I sat down on the sofa and curled my legs up under myself, the way I always had since I can remember and flicked on the TV. I spent a few minutes searching for some mindless show which could easily distract my mind. When no such show appeared I finished my coffee and went through the bedroom to the en suite and turned on the shower. I could always rely on the shower to ease my mind.