Truth No. 6 – I lied

Do your characters lie? If not, make them, they will be more authentic. We all lie, don’t we? I know I do. Sweet little lies (there’s a great song there, check it out!), not the big stonking ones I used to tell.

I learnt to lie from my mother. Not that she sat me down and gave me a lesson or anything. My mother kept secrets and lived with shame. If this intrigues you, then you will be able to read more about this, about the lies I told in future posts of this blog. Or you can read my book when it’s published (or do both!). My mother passed me a silent message; I must lie to keep the secret. She didn’t instruct me how I was to do this. I had to make it up (literally) as I went along. It started when I was five and ended eleven years ago when my mother died in 2007. I was then able to begin to move from beneath her shadow. It was a very big shadow as it took me another four years (in 2011) before I told her truth (and mine). Since then I haven’t looked back. Who was the first person I told? My husband and it was the best thing I have ever done. Since then, all (or nearly all) the significant people in my life know my truth. Others know it too, acquaintances, strangers. I am no longer shamed by my mother and it feels good.

Back to writing. Make sure your characters lie. Not just for their own personal gain, but for a deeper reason. You will be amazed where your story goes and how your characters grow.

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LIHazleton.

Follow me on Twitter where I connect with other writers and all things writing. Follow me on Instagram if you love animals.

Truth No. 5 – We all have one

February 6th – my Mother’s birthday. Were she still alive, today would have been my mother’s eightieth birthday. My Mother died when she was sixty-nine. Enough years on the planet one might suppose to ‘get things right.’ What things, you may ask. Well to find that out, you’ll have to wait for the publication of my book. And of course, ‘getting things right’ means different things to different people. Now, you may think I’m talking in riddles but one thing is true, we all have a mother and we all have an attachment style that is indicative of how we were ‘mothered’ as infants by our mother or our significant caregiver.

To learn more about attachment, read the work of John Bowlby, the founder of Attachment Theory.

(The main theme of Attachment Theory is that mothers who are available and responsive to their child’s needs establish a sense of security in them. The child knows the caregiver is dependable, which creates a secure base for them to explore their surroundings.)

I am fortunate my mother died when she did because sadly, I was never properly attached and would have remained in this state (with a poor attachment style) had she not passed away. My mother was never ‘available’ for attachment (for whatever reason) nor was she able to ‘get things right.’ I would still be in a state of ‘Dismissing Avoidant’ or ‘Fearful Avoidant’ (recognised attachment patterns) were it not for her death. Because of the work I have done on my own ‘self development’, today I can happily say I have a ‘Secure Attachment’ pattern; I am positive to others and to myself and most days I can say I am secure in my relationships, feel loved, accepted and competent.

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Understanding Attachment Theory helps me as a writer. I am able to consider my characters in a way which helps me make them fully formed people with not only a past, present and a future but with a mother (or caregiver) whether they feature in the story or not. Reflecting on a character’s mother is important, as is their attachment style because every character has a mother and an attachment style. Ignore them and you miss a wealth of juicy writing material that will enrich your work.

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LIHazleton.

Follow me on Twitter where I connect with other writers and all things writing. Follow me on Instagram if you love animals.

Truth No. 4 – Sulking means something

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For me my best writing comes from emotion, feeling empathy for my characters, understanding their needs and who they are. Have you ever written about a character who sulks? Think about it, the opportunities to discover the inner workings of their mind. Why are they sulking? What is it they want? What is it they need? What’s happening to them inside? Why are they choosing to sulk?

Have you sulked, as a child, as an adult? Do you know someone who sulks, a child maybe? Sulking like any behaviour is a choice made by a fully formed, functioning and healthy adult mind. Sulking in children is another matter.

As I child I often sulked. This is why:

Sulking = Something is Wrong

Sulking is an expression of the spirit. I knew something wasn’t right at home. Children do, they have an in-built barometer to these things (to abuse), but they aren’t capable of fully comprehending their emotions, expressing themselves or doing anything about it

Sulking = Pain

Not the pain of an aching tooth or a stubbed toe, but a pain deep down inside that cannot be seen or described, certainly not by a child

Sulking = Unexpressed Anger

Anger at not being able to communicate the pain inside. Anger at my mother. Anger at my grandparents for not listening, not believing, not understanding, not noticing what my mother was doing to me

Sulking = I Want to Hurt my Mother

I thought I could hurt my mother by hiding myself away, by sulking. Did it work? No. I was only hurting myself.

Sulking = Come and Find Me

I needed to be cared for. I craved attention. I needed my Mother. I was the only one, no siblings. I had no Father. My Mother lived with her friend. I didn’t like her friend. Her friend didn’t like me.

***

I used to sulk as an adult too but this was a long time ago.

Now I choose to express myself. I choose to communicate. I choose to love myself and find what feels good. I take care of my needs.

Take the challenge in your writing. Write about a character who sulks.

 

LIHazleton.

Follow me on Twitter where I connect with other writers and all things writing. Follow me on Instagram if you love animals.

Truth No. 3 – Eating for comfort

When I write, it’s usually in a cafe with a coffee by my side, sometimes it’s at home in the early evening with a glass of wine and a snack. Always it’s with pleasure. Pleasure in my surroundings, pleasure filling the blank page, pleasure sipping my chosen drink and eating my chosen snack.

I write mindfully, in the moment, aware of my feelings and emotions. The words may flow and I flow with them, but I observe myself as I am writing; where my thoughts go, what I am experiencing in my body and what I am feeling. I am aware as I take my sips of coffee or wine and eat my snack,

I am aware of me. I know myself and it fuels my writing.

It hasn’t always been this way. Emotional intelligence and self awareness developed later in life for me, only when my mother passed away in 2007 and I was able to move away from her shadow.

Lisa stepped inside the pantry and closed the door behind her. It was gloomy and smelt of grannie’s coconut cake. She reached for the tin and cradling it in her arms knelt down on the floor. She prised open the lid, peered inside and with her fingers and thumb picked off a bit of cake and put it in her mouth. It was still warm. The moist, sweet sponge melted on her tongue. Licking her fingers, she pulled another bit off and then another bit, bigger this time and then another bit more and more. Lisa  forgot to swallow, her cheeks bulged with deliciousness. Hmmmmmm … patting the side of the cake, smoothing it over, Lisa closed the lid. She stood up. What next? As she hooked her finger into her mouth, gouging out the stickiness from behind her teeth, she looked around. Sugar puffs. She reached for the box, pushed her hand in and, grabbed a handful, stuffing the honeyed loveliness into her mouth. Hmmmmmm … she breathed a silent sigh and dived into the box again and then again. One more time. One more time.  

This was me sneaking into the pantry and gobbling whatever I could find, sticking my fingers into jars (peanut butter a firm favourite), my hands into cereal boxes and peeling open blocks of jelly.  I had no idea I was eating to fill the void, seeking comfort, looking for the love and security I craved from my mother.

Much later, in my twenties, thirties and forties I ate for punishment as often as I ate for comfort. Rarely did I eat for pleasure. Was I aware of this? No, of course not.

The ancient Greek aphorism ‘Know Thyself’ was later expanded upon by the philosopher  Socrates who taught that the “unexamined life is not worth living”. Today we understand the process of examining our lives as moving towards “Self actualisation”. To self-actualise, we strive to expand our horizons as a human beings. To achieve success (being the best that we can be), we must always seek it. The potential to self-actualise lies within us all.

Take the journey. Become self aware and discover the real you.

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Truth No. 2 – I need to tell my story

What gets you moving, writing, creating, thinking, communicating, reflecting … ? I could go on. As human beings we advance, we flourish, blossom, grow. If not, we die. It’s the truth.

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I passed a man walking his dog this morning.

‘What a lovely dog,’ I said. It was a Jack Russel type, one with long legs. The dog moved to the far side of the path as I approached, his head down slightly, nose twitching, ears back.

‘Ah, he seems nervous.’

‘No, just curious,’ the man said, not slowing down.

‘Is this your usual morning dog walk, what a lovely place,’ I said stopping, happy to exchange pleasantries. We were in a secret garden, planted with Japanese maples. It was peaceful, there was no-one else around.

‘Yes, it gets me up in the morning,’ he said as he passed and carried on walking.

Encounter over, I continued my walk.

A simple dog walk, helped this man get moving at the beginning of his day.

 

***

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What gets me moving, writing, creating, thinking, communicating, reflecting is the need to tell my story. I began writing in 2014 as a means of continuing my therapy. Very quickly this developed into a desire to write creative fiction as a ‘way in’ to telling my story. I have progressed from writing short stories to embarking upon writing a novel. It is a rewarding journey.

When I was a small child, I spent an enormous amount of time on my own, reading, colouring, playing out of doors. I don’t remember being told a story and certainly not encouraged to create my own. My mother ignored me. As long as I was not being a nuisance to her, kept from under her feet and didn’t command her attention, it was alright.

When I was older and at the ‘big’ school, telling stories / writing essays in my English lesson was an extremely difficult, almost impossible task for me.

When I started writing in 2014, I realised much of what is written as a novice writer comes from felt or known experience and so it is for children. Drawing upon real life experiences helps a child write stories.

But how could I tell a story? How could I write a story where the central theme of my real life experiences were based on shame, lies and hiding?

My mother’s silent message to me was to keep the secret of what was going on at home.

I grew up feeling hot with shame, my mother’s shame. It burned inside me through childhood, adolescence, my 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and into my early 50’s.

I no longer feel the shame … it isn’t and was never mine.

I can now tell my story.

I need to tell my story.

 

 

 

Truth No. 1 – Feeling Small

I grew up with a feeling of being in the way; a sense of not being wanted, of being a nuisance to my mother, a bother, an unwanted distraction. My mother was pleasure seeking and I was not her pleasure.

What is pleasure?

Kahil Gibran on pleasure:

Pleasure is a freedom-song, But it is not freedom. It is the blossoming of your desires,
But it is not their fruit.

I feel my mother sought pleasure without understanding pleasure itself. Her pleasures were ultimately her pain. She was not able to distinguish pleasure’s truth from it’s pain.

Kahil Gibran:

And now you ask in your heart, “How shall we distinguish that which is good in pleasure from that which is not good?”
Go to your fields and your gardens, and you shall learn that it is the pleasure of the bee to gather honey of the flower,
But it is also the pleasure of the flower to yield its honey to the bee.
For to the bee a flower is a fountain of life,
And to the flower a bee is a messenger of love,
And to both, bee and flower, the giving and the receiving of pleasure is a need and an ecstasy.

What was it like as a child, not to be pleasing to my mother?

It was a heartbreak, a lonely, confusing place.

A child learns the world from their mother’s face, the eyes especially are a child’s refuge, the mirror where their existence is confirmed. From the doting reflection of a mother’s eyes, a child draws their earliest, wordless lessons about connection, care and love.

For me, being ignored by my mother, craving attention and that craving being unfulfilled left me feeling bereft, unworthy and feeling small.

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Grandad

My mother prevented me from knowing my father. At least that is what I think. I will never know the truth because she has passed.

I did not know my father. I met him for the first time a year after my mother past away when I was 49.

The closest I had to a father was my maternal grandfather. He did his best, but not having a father is a loss that I know I will never recover from.

This piece of writing is an extract from a chapter of the book that I am currently writing.

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Later that evening when the small boats had come to rest like abandoned toys on the mudflats and the wedding reception was over, the family gathered together in the hotel’s lounge bar. Settled on comfortable sofas and chairs, they were drinking and eating wedding cake. The low table in front of them was awash with beer bottles, glasses, over-flowing ashtrays, cups, saucers and plates of half-eaten cake.

Lisa was sitting on her granddad’s lap. His trousers were itchy against her bare legs but she liked the way she could feel his warmth through the material. She knew she was special. She belonged there. She glanced across at Penny and Graham to see if they were watching but they were busy eating cake. Everybody was talking about the wedding and the best man’s speech. Granddad laughed so hard that Lisa bounced as his belly went up and down. She laughed too but she didn’t know why. She had given up trying to understand the jokes. Despite feeling full and a bit sick, Lisa nibbled more icing from her cake, Graham was doing the same thing. He caught her eye and then it was a competition; who could remove the icing but not let the cake fall apart. After a while, Lisa decided she didn’t want to play silly games with Graham. She put her cake down and gave the plate to her granddad who took it and put it on the table.

‘Lean back,’ he said.

She did and he wrapped his arms around her and hugged her. He rubbed his stubble on the side of her cheek which made her squiggle and then planted a kiss on the side of her forehead.

‘All right?’ he said.

She nodded. He released her and she sat up again. She turned to look at him.

‘Where’s mummy?’ she said, ‘when’s she coming back?’

When he didn’t answer, Lisa said again in a louder voice this time, ‘where’s mummy granddad?’ and stiffened in her seat.

‘She’ll be back soon.’

‘I know where Aunty Sylvia is,’ said Penny. ‘She’s at the bar with a man.’

‘Granddad, is that man Lisa’s daddy,’ Graham said. He stuck his arm out and pointed over Lisa’s head in the direction of the bar.

‘Don’t be stupid Graham,’ said Penny in a loud voice, ‘Lisa  doesn’t have a daddy, does she granddad?’

Lisa felt wetness at the back of her knees. Pinpricks behind her eyes made her blink.

‘Stupid is not nice word to use Penny,’ said Ed. He gave Lisa a squeeze. ‘Come on love, let’s go and find your mum. See what she’s up to.’ He stood up and with Lisa in his arms  began to walk towards the bar.

My mother’s silent messages silenced me.

My mother was able to pass me silent messages just by a look or a tiny gesture. Looking back now, I can see my mother was hiding and she was afraid I would reveal her secrets and shame. Somehow she managed to transfer her feelings onto me until they became mine. My mother never allowed me to express myself. I think she was afraid of what I would say.

When we heard the bad news from the consultant that my mother had cancer, I was silenced by her silent message.

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The nurse opened the door and tucking her hand into the crook of Sylvia’s arm, guided her across the room to the chair beside the consultants desk. Lisa followed them, turning to closing the door quietly behind her. It felt like stepping into a prison cell. She stood by the wall, not knowing what to do.

‘Hello Mrs Hutchinson’, the consultant said as Sylvia sat down, offering her his hand. Turning to Lisa he smiled a greeting, the folds of skin around his pale eyes crinkling as he looked at her over the top of his glasses. He wore them on the tip of his nose that was crooked and bony. To Lisa his smile was a gesture to disguise a truth that was just moments away.

Uninvited, she took the only other chair in the room. It was beside the door. She perched there feeling like an unwanted spectator, silently watching the scene she had been dreading, unfold in front of her. It was like being held captive and forced to witness some terrible scene of interrogation. She wished she could be somewhere else, anywhere other than in that room, where in a few moments time, she sensed that nothing would ever be the same again.

The nurse remained standing behind Sylvia’s chair with her hand resting on her shoulder. She looked over at Lisa with warm brown eyes that held her tightly. Lisa tried to smile back, but her lips felt pinched and tight, like she was sucking a toffee. She couldn’t move her mouth to form any words, to exchange pleasantries. It didn’t matter how kind and caring the nurse was, Lisa was incapable of responding. The fear that enveloped her was paralysing; it formed a barrier between her and everything that was happening in the room. She was unable to escape, nor from the feeling that was growing inside her. It was like a balloon being inflated until it filled every space, so that even taking a tiny breath was difficult. She looked to her mother, but Sylvia had put on her mask and armour and was unavailable. Lisa turned to the consultant and watched as he shuffled some papers and then tapped them on the desk until they fell into line. He laid them out in front of him so that even from her place against the wall, Lisa could see the red pen scribbles in the margins of the typeface. Some of the words were underlined she noticed and there was question mark. What was the question, she wanted to ask.

‘I have the results of your MRI scan on my computer Mrs. Hutchinson. If you would like to look here, I can explain more easily,’ the consultant said, turning the screen towards Sylvia. ‘It’s not good news, I’m afraid.’ Pointing with his pen, he continued, ‘You can see from this area of your breast that a tumour has developed close to your nipple. The result from your biopsy has come back from the lab confirming that it is a cancerous growth. I’m sorry to have to say that a lumpectomy is not appropriate in this case and that I would recommend a full and complete mastectomy. I am very sorry.’

When Lisa heard the words cancerous growth, she stopped listening. She didn’t mean to, in fact she was still watching the consultant’s mouth intently, but for some reason she couldn’t hear what he was saying anymore. His lips were forming shapes that were like petals or leaves, some round and oval, others long and narrow. She noticed that every so often, the shapes were framed by teeth that were small and delicate and that his tongue punctuated the shapes, pointed and wet as it moved over his lips to moisten them. Lisa felt like she was floating inside herself, retreating to a place where she knew she was safe. The logical part of her realised this was an antidote to the fear that was threatening to engulf her. She was being taken away from this room and this dangerous dialog between her mother and the consultant.

As Sylvia leant across the desk to get a closer look at the image of her left breast, nodding to the consultant to show him that she understood, Lisa felt her stomach clench like a screwed up paper bag. She looked out of the window to watch two pigeons who were sat on the ledge. One had its chest puffed up like a soft purple ball whilst the other elongated its neck and ruffled its feathers. She imagined what it would be like to be one of those pigeons, to be able to launch herself from the window sill and fly away. She remembered the game that she played when she was a small child and still happy; she flicked her wrists with the action of the birds flying away one after the other. Then she felt something soft touch her arm, catching it to still her. It was the nurse offering her a tissue. Lisa realised that she was crying and the nurse was kneeling down beside her and was gently stroking her arm. Long tears had merged to flow down her cheeks and around her mouth to her chin. Lisa murmured her thanks and held the tissue to her cheeks with both hands pulling it tight across her nose and beneath her eyes. She became aware that they were waiting for her to speak. ‘I’m sorry, what did you say?’, she asked the nurse whose eyes were warm and liquid, like runny honey. She sunk back in her chair and feeling comforted by the kindness shown by the nurse, began to calm herself. But then she felt her mother’s stare and looked to see that Sylvia’s mouth was turned down in a frown that sent Lisa one silent message that said stop your embarrassing behaviour – NOW! Lisa quickly finished wiping her face and tucking the tissue in her pocket sat back up on the edge of her chair.

‘I was saying it’s ok to cry. You have had a big shock’, the nurse said gently to Lisa. ‘Mr Hall has finished talking to your mum so I’m now going to take you both to a quiet room where you can take your time and enjoy a nice cup of tea.’ Turning back to talk directly to Sylvia, she continued, ‘I can take you through things again more slowly. It’s a lot to take in, I know. You can ask me any questions you like and anything that you don’t understand, we can go over as many times as you need. There’s also some information for you to take away and I will explain in detail what is going to happen next. You and your daughter are not alone, there will be important steps to be taken but I will be here for you both, to offer as much support along the way that you need. Is that ok, Sylvia? Lisa?’

Lisa looked to her mother for guidance, but her face was the mask she still wore. ‘Yes, thank you nurse, you are very kind’, said Sylvia. Her voice was steady, but Lisa noticed her hands were trembling as she got up from her chair and reached across the desk to shake the consultants hand one more time.

Lisa stood up as well. She had managed to control herself and pull herself together as her mother had instructed. She knew that Sylvia would not want any further embarrassment or anymore fuss. She stepped forward and took Mr Hall’s outstretched hand. It was cold and moist.

Hiding, secrets and lies

Hiding, secrets and lies – ways of being or qualities that I leant from my mother. To survive my childhood I had to hide, keep secrets and lie. Sadly, I took these characteristics with me into adulthood. They became friends that I could rely on.

From writing this piece, I can observe how lonely Lisa was and how unhappy. I feel compassion for Lisa and understand that hiding, keeping secrets and telling lies was the only way she could be in relationship with another.

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‘Who was that woman who waved to you?’ Bob asked as they sat down. He turned to look at Lisa when there was no reply. Her light grey eyes were downcast, partly hidden by her dark lashes, but Bob could see they had glazed over and that she was on the verge of tears. He nudged her gently with his elbow, encouraging a reply.

‘My mother,’ Lisa replied in a small voice that Bob didn’t recognise. As she raised her hand to tuck her hair behind her ear, he noticed she was shaking. He took hold of her wrist. It felt slender and vulnerable. He pulled her hand across his lap and held it there. He curled his fingers warmly around it and tuned her palm up, rubbing at it with his thumb. It was moist and hot. He brought it to his mouth in a gesture so intimate, he felt a stirring.

‘Lisa, what is it, what’s the matter?’  he murmured, searching out her eyes whilst keeping his lips in the pocket of her hand.

‘It’s nothing. Please don’t fuss me. I’ll be all right.’ Lisa pulled her hand away, turned and kissed Bob’s mouth silent. Her face was pale, he noticed, naked with just a blush on her cheekbones. She held her mouth tight, the line of her lips straight and polished pink.  Puzzled, but respecting, Bob turned to look around him, allowing Lisa the time she needed to compose herself.

The church was a modern, wooden constructed building. It was light and cheerful with a voluted and beamed ceiling. It reminded Bob of a very large Scandinavian chalet where the walls and the floor were of light-coloured pine. Sunflowers had been placed in vases on every window sill, their vast orange and yellow flowerpot faces contrasting with the purple and lilac of the stained glass windows.  The effect was simple, but stunning. It seemed to Bob to be a fine choice for a wedding ceremony should he and Lisa’s relationship develop, but Bob wasn’t sure about taking that step and he had no idea what Lisa felt about marriage. She was different from any of the other woman he had dated and being in her late thirties, she certainly wasn’t conventional about marriage and having babies. She never mentioned it and he loved that about her, that she didn’t go on about women’s things. It enabled him to embrace his freedom and pursue his own interests. She fascinated him with her analysis and introspection of others, drawing him into an emotional world he had never before experienced. It was like entering a cave, part of  him  knowing it was dangerous to delve inside, but the other part wanting discover more, to take the risk. Being with Lisa was a heady mixture.

They had been living with each other for nearly a year, ever since she moved in with him last summer. They had retuned from their first holiday together and Bob had been surprised to discover that he needed the closeness they enjoyed whilst away to carry on. He appreciated her company and the way that she, like him enjoyed a tidy, serene and neutral environment. When asked, she had readily moved in with him, bringing  with her little more than her personal belongings, her CD’s and books and a few choice pieces of homeware including an attractive copper lamp with a burnt orange shade and an oil painting of an african lioness in a gilded frame. Items that blended seamlessly with the decor of his carefully crafted home. He was mildly curious that she didn’t have any family photographs in frames to display but he had become used to the way she skilfully manoeuvred herself from a tight spot at any hint of enquiry about her past or her family members. Bob came from a close and gregarious family and it came as a relief to him that he wasn’t expected to be involved in another. Yes, he was happy and content with their relationship although had anyone asked, he would have admitted that it was slightly odd that he had never visited her home town nor met any of her family.

Arm in Arm

All my life, I craved physical touch from my mother who was unable to give or receive comfort. When we walked arm in arm, which we often did in her later years when she was struggling, I relished the contact, but felt the weight and burden of her.

In this piece of writing, I have learnt that my mother was afraid. She was as afraid as I was.  Sadly, we weren’t available to each other, neither could comfort the other.

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Fear had entered Lisa’s life eight years ago when Sylvia was diagnosed with breast cancer. Even now, she remembered how it first felt when the consultant told them the devastating news. It was like he had given her an injection; the fear travelling through her veins, all the way to her heart where it had burst into an icy rain. As the years had passed, the rain had become more like a dripping tap than a shower, but it still chilled her and kept her frozen in that moment when her whole life had changed.

The appointment time with the consultant was at 4 o’clock. ‘Now you won’t be late picking me up will you?’, Sylvia had instructed.

‘No mum, I won’t. Don’t worry,’ Lisa snapped back. Conversations between Lisa and Sylvia were made in short, sharp pointed retorts, like a game of ping-pong. Backwards and forwards ‘no mum,’ ‘yes mum,’ until one of them missed the table.  The game  would then be suspended whilst invariably Lisa sulked and Sylvia fumed. It had always been so. Lisa couldn’t remember ever having a proper conversation with her mother. They had never talked, not about anything.

All that day whilst at work, Lisa watched the clock and as the morning wore on, she became aware of her heartbeat pounding at the centre of her chest. It was like she was riding a galloping horse she couldn’t control, that was going faster and faster. By early afternoon, she felt quite sick with it and cancelling her attendance at the progress meeting, left the office earlier than she intended. She would be early now,  she thought, that should please her mum.

As she approached the house, Lisa saw Sylvia standing in the middle of the large bay window, looking down the road. She already had her coat buttoned up and on seeing the car, she turned, bent down to pick up her handbag and was out of the house, on the driveway and locking the front door before Lisa had even stopped the car.

Typical Lisa thought as reached across and opened the passenger door. She had wanted ten minutes in the house to have a quick cuppa, to visit the loo and generally gather her thoughts before they set off for the hospital. Sylvia hadn’t let her see any of the correspondence from the consultant’s secretary and Lisa had no idea what department of the hospital they had to attend. It would have been helpful at least know something, but Sylvia insisted that she knew where to go and Lisa wasn’t to worry about the details.

As Sylvia got into the car and slammed the door shut, her scent immediately filled up the space between them and became the reason neither acknowledged or greeted the other. Her mothers smell, Lisa could recognise anywhere. It was both comforting and repelling, a mixture of expensive french perfume with back-notes of disinfectant and cigarettes. Lisa believed that no one else would be able to smell anything other than Sylvia’s perfume it was so strong, but she had lived all of her life with the other smells. They had become part of her mother’s DNA and part of their shared history, part of their differences. Lisa neither smoked nor used disinfectant to clean her home. She despised both. Discreetly, Lisa opened her side window to let some fresh air into the car, reversed out of the driveway and in silence they drove the short distance to the hospital.

It was not until they were checked in and sitting down opposite each other in the waiting area that Lisa dared to speak. She always broke first. ‘Are you ok mum?’ she asked, leaning forward to touch Sylvia’s knee.

Sylvia looked up from the magazine she held but was not reading. It shook ever so slightly in her hand. Unable to meet Lisa’s imploring gaze, her need for reassurance, Sylvia turned to the woman sat next to her. ‘It’s very warm in here, don’t you think? I wonder if they can turn the heating down?’ but just as Sylvia stood up to ask the receptionist at the desk, a door opened.

‘Sylvia Hutchinson please. Mr Hall will see you now.’

Lisa stood up and took a breath deep. She smiled encouragingly at her mother. Sylvia smiled back, finally meeting her daughter’s eye, searching for reassurance and strength as hers rapidly begun to seep away. She grabbed hold of Lisa’s arm. Lisa felt her mother’s weight, heavy and burdensome.  Together they walked towards the consulting room, a small distance that with the faces that turned to watch them, seemed like a mile. As they reached the open door, Sylvia released her grip on Lisa’s arm and stepped ahead, holding the door frame momentarily for support. Lisa glanced back to the waiting area. A woman nodded. It was the tiniest of gestures, but enough to prevent Lisa from running away. Involuntarily, she clasped her hands together, held them to her heart’s centre and followed Sylvia through the door.