A mother rushes out of her house to a meeting she will never have.
|Lavinia’s mother slammed the phone down, grabbed her purse and burst out of the living room, striding down the hallway with her eyes fixed on the front door but in her mind, imagining the encounter she was set to have, thinking of what she was going to say when she got there, rehearsing it in her head. On the way, and without varying her pace, she reached out to grab her hounds tooth coat from the hallstand, expecting a smooth “baton change” but for some reason the hallstand didn’t want to give the coat up, holding on to it like a combative bargain-hunter at the January sales. I don’t have time for this, she thought as she began to wrestle the coat from the peg that was standing between her and the mission on which she was embarked, pulling and twisting her coat, HER COAT, causing the stubborn hallstand to rock on its foundations until finally it yielded and she was able to yank the garment free with a snort of triumph. And snatching her car keys from the shelf below the mirror of the stand before they too became embroiled in some unlikely reprisal, she strode forward to the front door and wrenched it open with such force that the whole house seemed to shake in protest; and stepping out, she banged the door shut behind her as if to punish the house for its temerity.
The air was cold. Not exactly the hoary frost of winter, but spring had not yet exerted its authority. Lavinia’s mother shivered as she juggled her purse and struggled to don the coat she’d only just liberated from the recalcitrant hallstand: repeatedly poking her hand into the murky folds of its black satin lining, searching for the entrance to its sleeve; and once that was found, she swung the garment behind her and repeated the action, now blindly and backwards with even greater difficulty until her other hand found the cave it had been groping for and burrowed into it. But with a final act of defiance, as she tried to force the coat up her back and onto her shoulders, it caught her arm and twisted it painfully until she almost shouted out a word she hadn’t uttered since her youth. Her arm grew numb and she worked her way into the coat more carefully now so as not to exacerbate the pain, giving the lapels a gentle tug to proclaim victory then rubbing her left arm with her right hand and stretching it to ease the spasm.
She checked her watch then pointed her key fob at the car sitting in their driveway and pressed the button as if she were trying to crack a walnut with her fingers, sending an invisible beam into the car and causing it to yelp a couple of times in anguish. Then, crunching her away across the gravel path, she opened the driver-side door and climbed in, simultaneously poking the key at the side of the steering column until it eventually found the keyhole it was looking for and slid willingly inside.
The key turned. The engine roared, encouraged by a generous stomp on the gas pedal. Her hand clenched the T of the automatic shift. She selected “R” and with an unexpected lurch the car started to roll backwards, along the concrete wheel paths, past the open gate, between the two extremities of the hedge, across the concrete footpath cut in the grass verge and into the quiet suburban street of melancholy middle-class conformity.
The road meandered along the valley cut by the river that ran behind her house and all the other houses on the same side of the street. There was no topographical reason why the road should meander. It had been designed that way to discourage motorists from speeding; and Lavinia’s mother, having no other option, submitted herself to its constraints, first with frustration, then with a growing sense of resignation; gradually allowing the tensions in her body and her mind to dissipate as she took the curves of the languid street rhythmically sweeping right and left and right again. The motion soothed her; reminding her of when the children were young and they all went up to Aspen one winter on a skiing holiday. Charles and Tony liked the faster, downhill runs; but she and Lavinia preferred to slalom, snaking across the mountainside in graceful arcs, enjoying the scenery as their point of view changed with their descent, smoothly shifting their weight from one leg to the other as they engineered their turns, feeling the cold wind of their flight on their faces. She felt herself smile at the recollection although it was a smile so subtle as to remain invisible; and no one to see it anyway. It seemed so long ago now, that holiday.
Lavinia’s mother, lost in her reminiscences, didn’t see the pick-up truck away to her right, bearing down on the intersection she was rapidly approaching.
Normally, Lavinia would have covered the bruise on her cheek with make-up, a skill she had developed of necessity over the years; but when she took the call from the hospital she left her apartment without thinking of herself, or her appearance, or anything but her mother.
[[[ to be continued… ]]]