Mother’s Day last year rolled out three weeks before Easter. It was the day my children arrived home from a sleepover with their Granny carrying a bag of chocolate eggs from their other grandmother, who had somewhere between Christmas and New Year left a message on our phone to say she was cutting them off. It would break her heart but she was doing it, she’d slurred.
Sick of my emotions being held at ransom by her sulking manic backflips I’d left it at that. Her victim complex was so well-oiled I recognized she would toss it back to me knowing I was not like her, would not seek out her acquaintances in the local shopping centres, in their places of work to tell them my side. She would say I denied her access. It wasn’t true. Though getting truer, and apparently what she wanted, and the only outcome for her behaviour. If she was going to leave their lives why wouldn’t she just fucking go?
Their Granny stood beside her daughter, my other half, and said my mother had called to hers with eggs, spent the morning there and got the children all upset. I excused myself. I knew it had been prearranged, although not from spite in my mother-in-law’s case—she’d been played and I knew only too well after a lifetime with the woman that she could do it. She could make even me think that everybody else was in the wrong. She could sit there with her woe-is-me face, all hard done by, reeling folk in. I couldn’t be cross with anyone else.
I took the plastic bag, rustling in my palm and fired it out of the front door, for the birds, for the bin-man. The children would have them replaced by me, but they wouldn’t have those ones.
Taking the phone from its cradle to the asylum of my room I watched the calm of the Sunday afternoon street behind our house. I sat in the armchair, rested my feet on the bed trying to fool my mind with my relaxed posture and deep breaths, but I could still feel my teeth pump and my head pound.
Since we changed all our hounded mobile numbers, including the faff of my work one, I had scored her number out of my mind. Deleted her from the landline speed dial to circumvent my retaliation when she wound me up. I thought it was gone, surprised how quickly numbers are recalled by angry jamming fingers.
‘Hello?’ ventured her slow crackling rasp.
I never got the rest out, to ask what she was playing at, what she was doing distressing the children.
She screamed; wailed like a banshee, ‘I’m calling the police!’
Later I knew she probably did. They probably hadn’t listened. It had been her plan all along; her present to a son for Mother’s Day. Instead I gave her mine, that sound-bite she’d hungered after. ‘Cunt,’ I said.