Lisa’s Face

On a Friday and Saturday night when my mother came home from the Maplin Club, she was often drunk and always smelt of alcohol and cigarettes. I would be in bed, hiding. I would pull the covers up over my head to hide my face. I didn’t want her to touch me. I was angry with her for leaving me at home alone.

As a child I was unable to articulate what I was feeling. To hide beneath the covers was a way to show my mother I was angry with her. When she wanted to show me affection, to kiss me goodnight, I could punish her by not letting her near me. Any small way of having some control over a situation that in fact I was unable to influence, felt good to me.



Lisa’s mother leans over the bed. Lisa can’t see her because she has pulled the sheet up over her head to hide her face but she can smell the beer on Sylvia’s breath and the cigarette smoke in her hair.

‘Show me your face,’ Sylvia says, pulling at the sheet.

‘Go away.’ Lisa rolls over and curls into a ball. ‘Leave me alone.’

‘Let me see your face.’ Sylvia pulls at the sheet again, harder this time, rolling Lisa over onto her back. Her finger nail catches and tears at something soft. Lisa’s cheek?

Under the covers Lisa’s breath is hot. She clings to the sheet and licks at the sweat forming on her upper lip.

Sylvia uncurls Lisa’s fingers one by one and pulls back the sheet so she can look at her face. Lisa’s brows are knitted together. Her eyes are squeezed shut, eyelashes wet and clinging like a cage. Her rounded cheeks are flaked and flushed. A rash escapes to disappear behind one ear. Her nose, chin and mouth are pinched together, like a small animal hiding in its burrow. On her forehead is a fine red welt. Sylvia leans down and silently presses her lips to the mark. Lisa opens her eyes and snaps them shut again. ‘Go away,’ she says again.

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