WIP: Coffee Shop PT 2
Veronica Connors has her hands full taking care of her sick mother…
Warnings: Language, sick parent, caretaker role
Word Count: 2330
I’ve been working on some original fiction pieces aside from my fan fictions. I will not be posting whole stories here or on tumblr, but I plan to share bits and pieces as I make progress. No famous personalities and quirks to fall back on, no face claims… these hurting souls are all mine.
As the summer continues a pattern develops. Mother and I develop a schedule. Breakfast and medicine. A walk around the yard before the summer Sun heats up. She enjoys telling me about her garden. On really good days we get down in the dirt and she feels productive, regaling me with stories I’ve never heard about her childhood. Lunch and medicine. Her afternoon nap. Her soaps on TV. She complains daily that her favorites are no longer on the air, having been replaced by ‘those damn game shows and ranting women.’
I try to finish my work for the office by two each day. The advice for new mothers to nap when the baby naps? I would say it holds true for anyone taking care of an aging parent. Even on a day when she is active and lucid I’m worn out. When she settles into her chair for the afternoon I often curl up on the couch and try to catch an hour nap. I have to; I never know what the night time will bring. I’m learning it often means night terrors, fits of rage and on one occasion trying to escape the house at two in the morning.
The woman I see isn’t my mother anymore. My mother, although controlling, was graceful and arrogant. Yet she had a way about her that made everyone like her. I didn’t realize till college that was all for show. She was tolerated simply because she was head of so many committees in town. I knew I didn’t like her but was surprised my freshman year in college when I worked at the country club over the summer that many of her friends didn’t like her either. I overheard them one day as I was helping prep for one of her charity events. Although the things they said about Eleanor Connor were true, it was difficult to hear others hate your own flesh and blood. That was my job.
Daytime I can handle. I work, do laundry and take care of Mom. It’s a little mind numbing actually. I don’t worry about the house. Her cleaning lady still comes in once a week and as long as I vacuum and keep the kitchen clean we don’t make too many messes. If mother’s state continues it will be time to consider moving her to a residential facility. Aunt Sharon and I have talked about this. She’d like it to happen sooner than later; I think she’d like to take back the property. Daddy deeded it to her in the event that mother no longer was using the home.
I sure as hell don’t want it. She can have it. Even as a young girl I knew the home was a status symbol; Daddy bought it so Mother could keep up her appearances and have a display home for teas and charity meetings with the other bored, wealthy housewives in town. I always felt like Cinderella with the number of chores she made me complete each week. Always giving me a list of things before I could go out-
“Roni? Be a dear,” She interrupts my thoughts and I know what’s coming. Like clockwork. “It’s chilly in here and there is a glare on the tv. Please hand me my sweater.”
I rise to hand it to her, moving the tv monitor a fraction of an inch before sitting on the couch next to her. Back to the original location it sat in yesterday when she complained. I swear it’s a game with her. There is no glare. She just wants to see me jump. She scowls as she takes the blue fuzzy garment, sniffing, “Where’s my pink one? I like it. It’s softer.”
“I know Mama. I had to wash it today, remember? You spilled soup on it last night.” That’s being polite. She poured it in her lap like a child when it was cheese broccoli instead of tomato. When I began cooking around four she wanted cheese broccoli. By five when it was ready to eat, she requested tomato. When she didn’t get her way she dumped it in her lap. “You wanted me to dry it on the line because you said it would smell like your garden?”
“I did? Oh, heaven’s no child. Go get it! I can’t have all the pollen in the sweater fibers! I won’t be able to breath for a week!”
Sighing, I look at my watch. “Do I have to go right this minute, Mama? Can it wait till Aunt Sharon gets here so I don’t leave you alone?”
She pulls her arms through the sweater like a petulant child, pouting. “I’m not helpless. I can be left alone for five minutes.”
“Mama. The last time you said that to me I found you standing in the middle of the street and you didn’t know how you got there,” I remind her.
She stares at me blankly. “That’s a lie. You just want me to be sick. You give me too much medicine so I get foggy and I can’t think straight.”
She blames the doctor too. Actually, he does tend to keep her in a fog. He says her body can heal faster if she rests and he knows it makes caring for her easier on me and Aunt Sharon.
I can’t read her state and I say the first thing to come to my mind. “Mama, if I was gonna over medicate anyone right now it would be me so I could block out all this shit.”
It’s like my tone triggers something in her brain and she reaches over to pat my knee. “Hey little Roni Boney; what’s got you down dearie?”
I ignore the hated nickname and her unintended slam for all my years as a skinny, scrawny thing. This woman sounds like my Mom. I reach out to grasp her fingertips locking her frail hand in mine. When did she get old? Was she old before she got sick? “Nothing, Ma. I’m just kinda tired.”
“Is it Thomas? He’s a nice man; I like him. Why hasn’t he come to visit you this summer?”
Of course she would like him, but I bite my tongue. “Mama, he and I broke up last spring. We just didnt-”
She interrupts me again, snapping to attention. “Veronica Rae Connors. You are too old to still be single. That nonsense of yours about getting a job and moving to the city needs to stop. You can’t be all high and mighty and expect a man to love you. A good man still wants his wife waiting at home with a hot dinner at night, getting the kids ready for their bath so they can have time alone and make more babies.”
“Good God, Mama! What year do you think this is?!” I take a deep breath to keep myself from actually yelling at her. I rub my temples and pray dad’s sister gets here soon. “Barefoot and pregnant with pearls around my neck? I don’t live in some kind of black and white rerun on TV. In this day and age women have jobs; some of us even make more money than our male counterparts. If you’re waiting around for me to have kids or settle down, you’ll be waiting a helluva long time. I’m just not in that frame of mind or that place right now, Mama. I gotta finish making myself before I can make a wife or a mom.”
Looking at me in disbelief as if I’ve sprouted two heads, she retorts quickly, “What kind of feminist new age bullshit is that?”
Oh, my God. I actually want to argue with her just because she seems human now, not this collapsed shell of who she used to be. I gleefully begin to get a little fired up about this. “Why do you spit out feminism like it’s a bad thing?” I reply. “You could have worked, you went to college; studied journalism. You gave it away for Daddy. That’s what you wanted. Why can’t I have what I want?!”
“You think I had what I wanted?” she mocks. “Your father was-”
“Enough Eleanor!” Aunt Sharon calls out haltingly at the arched entrance to the living room. “You will not besmirch my brother’s name over your petty indifferences. If you say one more word, you’ll be out now.”
Mother instantly stops, looking to me like a child with her hand slapped for being in the cookie jar. My mouth ajar I have no idea what just transpired. Aunt Sharon just shakes her head at me as she drops her bag in the chair she leaves stationed just inside the doorway. She pulls off her light jacket and pushes a few loose tendrils behind her ear. “Eleanor, you know that man gave you everything. You had what you wanted.”
Her last phrase, repeated from my own words, shows she’d been in the house listening, at least for a few moments before making her presence known.
In a blink, Mom shuts back down. Her eyes glaze over and it’s like we weren’t even in the middle of an interesting discussion. Bile burns my throat as I want to rip into my aunt but I know if I do, my evening alone is shot. I hand Mom the remote and she stares at it for a minute before turning her eyes back to the television. Steeling myself, I take a big breath and rise to my feet. “Aunt Sharon, can I see you in the hallway?”
I can see on her face she knows I’m pissed, but she simply nods her head yes and steps backwards into the open space. She opens her mouth before I can even start. “Veronica. You can not do that. She is not in a good head space and you know that. Even when she seems like your mother, you can’t. You can’t engage her and you can’t trust things she tells you.”
I slink back against the wall, deflated because I know she’s right. “You’re right. Dammit, you’re right. Just…” I huff. “When she starts in about Thomas, or Daddy…” I shake my head. “I can deal with one or the other but not both. She acts like I’ve failed at life, and she has no idea about my life. She-”
“She tried and you cut her out.”
“Sharon, that’s bullshit and you know it. She made her bed. I know all the horrible things after Daddy died. But I wasn’t around before that. And I’m never gonna resolve all that if I don’t know.”
“But you can’t trust her. Her brain isn’t right.”
“Then I need you to fuckin’ tell me what you know.” She purses her lip when I curse. She has her list of acceptable words and ‘fuck’ isn’t one of them. “Sorry. I know… really. I just need information and it’s like it’s all locked in her brain. I just need a time when she is cognizant, to tell me what she remembers.”
“Honey, even then… Your mother,” she pauses, sighing. “Your mother wasn’t always a nice, truthful person. I only know what I saw. Snippets of gossip I’d hear around town.” She sighs even deeper. “But if you really think it will help you, I’ll think back on those days and we can talk it out soon.” She lapses for a moment as I shake my head in agreement. “And I’m sorry for intruding. But I don’t want to listen to your mother ruin my brother’s memory; I get enough of that each night when you are out… What are you doing to keep busy by the way? Still writing at the coffee shop?”
“You’re changing the subject…” I scoff, scowling at her a bit. I know she’s right. I take a deep breath and let her tactic work. “Tonight is discount night at the movies. I’m gonna go see that new show everyone’s talking about; then yeah, I’ll probably head to the coffee shop for a bit.”
Peering into the living room, I see mother rise from the couch and shuffle to the blinds, adjusting them to block out more light. Rubbing the back of my neck, I shake my head. “Sharon, I can’t keep doing this. She’s got to get better. I eventually have to get back to my life.”
“Oh, sweetie,” my aunt steps forward and wraps her arms around me, pulling me into her full bosom. “I know. I know. Next week, after we meet with the doctors. We’ll see what the next step should be.” Pulling my head up to look her in the eye, she reminds me, “What you’ve done is so amazing. You’ve been the best daughter, the best niece anyone could hope for honey.” Wrapping a stray curl around one of her fingers, she tucks it back up in my messy bun. “Stop sitting at that damn coffee shop. You’re not gonna meet people there.”
I chuckle and kiss her on the cheek. I love that she can make me feel sixteen again with a simple hug. I squeeze her tight before letting go. “There’s a reason I moved away from this place. I didn’t want to come back. I’m not about meeting people right now. I’m about getting Mom better or getting her someplace where people can care for her.”
Sharon pushes me towards the door. “That doesn’t mean you have to live like a nun.” She hands me my purse from the side table. “Live a little. Karaoke night at Charlie’s tonight. That’s where everyone goes on Thursdays. Forget the movies. Really? If you called me up and said you were at Charlie’s I’d so stay a few extra hours.”
Opening the door, I shake my head at her. “What if I make it sound like I’m at Charlie’s?” I ask, reaching for my computer bag next to the walker mom needs to start using.
“GO, child. Live a little,” she laughs.
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