"Pacing the streets, looking for my next place of refuge, I silently fumed. I contrived conversations with my mother that put her in her place; that told her exactly what I thought of her, and that used words like 'butt out' and 'leave me alone' and 'how dare you'! But they had all been said before to no effect. At all times, my mother wore a language-proof vest!"
I spent the whole next day in the neighbouring town, sitting in cafes and eating cheesecake, drinking coffee in bars. I spent the entire day trying, for dear life, to be normal and not to feel haunted or possessed.
If a trip into town was designed to make me feel normal again, then, in ways I didn’t want, it succeeded. And here's how.
Just as I was about to pay at the cash-desk of one particular café, the woman cashier looked at me earnestly and said: “You’re Stephanie! Am I right?”
I was bemused and screwed up my face. “Uh, yes,” I replied, sure that she had the wrong Stephanie - although that sounded like too much of a coincidence.
Then, in gentle and soothing tones, she said: “I was speaking to your mother the other day. She said that I should ask you if you’re okay – if I saw you, that is. A lovely woman. She’s very concerned about you. So, are you keeping well, dearie?”
I was stunned. But also angry. But not at this gentle woman who only thought that she was doing the right thing. I smiled back at her in a kind of suspicious and humouring way.
“Yes - thank you - I’m fine. My mother. How did you come to speak to her?” I asked.
“Oh, she phoned here!” the woman replied, her voice getting louder and her tone suddenly more convivial at the merest spark of conversation. “Just out of the blue – just in case I knew you! In case you’d been in, or were a regular or something! Lucky for me – and lucky for her – that you turned up, eh?” She smiled, something big and proud and quasi-religious, as if it was all ordained somewhere. Little did she know I’d been in most cafes in town that day!
Then her tone changed and she whispered something to me with a wink and a nod and a glance over each shoulder: "I didn't mention anything to her about you sleeping in cars." She tapped her nose and performed a long, almost mechanical blink, that was just a bit spooky. And spooky was what I could well do without!
“Oh,” I mumbled, “Right.” Already I was making for the door, a mixture of anger and embarrassment driving my steps. As I was half-way to the door, she called:
“Oh, and your asthma, dearie! How is that coming along?”
She said it as if it was a project or a commission. I simply smiled at her and nodded my head uncomfortably. Faces all around me looked in my direction and they too smiled uncomfortably.
“Nasty condition – all rasping and sore, oh nasty it is!” she concluded. I hastily concluded my way out of the door.
That was just like my mother. Finding the nearest town and then phoning random numbers in search of voices she could confide in and tell her woes to – or rather, my woes as she sees them!
Pacing the streets, looking for my next place of refuge, I silently fumed. I contrived conversations with my mother that put her in her place; that told her exactly what I thought of her, and that used words like “butt out” and “leave me alone” and “how dare you”! But they had all been said before to no effect. At all times, my mother wore a language-proof vest! She saw my lips move, she saw the words bounce off her chest, but she stood impregnable, hands on hips and chest uplifted like a super hero. Now that she was grey-haired, but unchanged in every other way, was it any surprise that my brother called her ‘The Silver Smirker’?
Only one thing distracted me from my fuming and my fomenting that afternoon: the sight of a library. A library! Research! The history of Mordan House! A possible reason for its haunting! Answers!
Result, I thought!
But as I moved to cross the road towards the big wooden doors on the outside, I saw Mrs Ormsley passing in front of them and then inside.
I'd have to save the library for another day.