Red Ivy

Red like the autumn leaves, fiery like the summer sun, orange as a fire blaze, sparkly, interesting, fun


5. Her protective shell


‘Ivy what’s wrong with her?’ he asked me, checking her for a temperature while she tried to wriggle away. I squirmed, not knowing what to say to him. How could I tell him that my Mother’s heart had been broken when my Dad left and she know thought she had seen him in the bar? Luckily for me, Mother decided to sober up for a bit and make up a lie.

‘Bah, um, I was out with some friends and… and… I fell and I scraped my knee… yes, I scraped my knee and I couldn’t wait to get home to you and see you, make it get better please Jay, please,’ she said all in one breath, breaking into ragged sobs again. Jay took her in his strong, muscled arms and hugged her tight, lifting up her trouser leg to check her knee. True to form, she had a long jagged scar running up her knee but honestly, I don’t think she fell over.

After that my Mother drew back into her shell, disappearing off every night, tiptoeing back into the house at past midnight. I only really relaxed when I heard her come in. She didn’t laugh anymore, we didn’t talk and there was certainly no more hugging. Gerry was left to cry a lot of the day while Mother went back to doing her toenails, Jay was at work and I was at school. I did my best to look after her after school and Jay was amazing and we did all this while Mother retreated further back into her shell, claiming she had a headache and then disappearing from the house until well into the early hours of the following morning.

I suppose I could tell you that they were the worst few months of my life, but then I could say the same about when my Mother and Dad were arguing all the time. I had no friends at school and the only things I had to do when I got home from school was to read, look after Gerry and throw myself into schoolwork. Sometimes huge arguments blew up between Mother and Jay and at these times I went and, I know this sounds cheesy but it works for both me and Gerry, go and sing to Gerry.

There was one time when Jay tried to stop Mother from leaving. It was probably the worst argument they had ever had, ending with Mother stomping out of the house and slamming the door in Jay’s very red face. In had snuck into Gerry’s room where she was screaming and was singing her Twinkle Twinkle Little Stars when an annoyed looking Jay stormed past Gerry’s room and into his and Mother’s. I hoped that all would be better soon, the way it had been before the wedding, before the dirty-minded friends had invaded my Mother’s life again. Why she had asked them to be her bridesmaids I shall never know.

Soon, Jay was off on a business trip to Paris and me, Mother and Gerry were left alone. I was very nervous about spending all of two days alone with my Mother and decided that the best thing to do was stay away from her. I would keep myself to myself, hiding out and looking out with Gerry. Yes, that seemed like a sufficient plan to me.

But alas, things never go the way you plan. Jay had made Mother promise not to leave me and Gerry home alone but I had seen her cross her fingers behind her back, causing her to trip off down to the pub that first night, calling out  a shrill ‘toodle-oo’ to my lonely figure. I padded back into the house, turning on every light as I went. I dragged Gerry’s cot downstairs into the lounge, sitting her in it while I sat on the sofa watching The Wizard Of Oz at full volume. I kept hearing things, jumping at the boiler switching on and at Gerry turning over in her sleep.

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