My mother

Evangeline has always admired her Mother. But her Mother is growing older and older, and becoming more useless. Eva's dad is off to fight in the horrible battle of WW2 - in the navy. When disaster strikes, will Evangeline be able to look after her two younger twin sisters, Rosalind and Marie, who are twelve, and keep an eye on her older brother Jasper who's sixteen?

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1. From hating to loving

 

I scuffed my posh, leather shoes along the pavement, my arms swinging low.

“Pick up your feet, Evangeline, we are at Church now.” My mother hissed, looking into my sea blue eyes.

I sighed heavily and walked on my tip-toes, tugging at my long petticoat.

“Evangeline, stop being so embarrassing! You are in public!” She said furiously.

I used to get the impression that my Mother hated me, but I gave up on that idea as she insisted she loved me just as much as Marie, Rosalind and Jasper. We’re a big family, us. Father isn’t around anymore because he’s fighting in the horrible war.  I haven’t seen him for months because he’s in the Navy- he looks ever so mature all suited up in his uniform.

So, we arrived at church, Rosalind and Marie trailing behind me and Mama. Jasper wasn’t there, he insisted he had work to do, something like that. He works in a factory making cigars; Jasper smokes a pipe on special occasions as well. I think as soon as he’s sixteen he’s going off in the Army, too. I just hope that they don’t come and collect him and force him to go off to fight. Mother would break down if that ever happened.

“Mother,” whispered Rosalind,” may I see Emmet this afternoon?”

“I will have to see how well you behave in Church. Look, let’s go inside!” she replied, tugging our wrists as we were already 5 minutes late.

Emmet is Rosalind’s boyfriend; I don’t know what she sees in him, to be fair. He has long, greasy hair and always wears a smelly murky green jacket everywhere. Apparently they met when he was wearing it and it’s supposed to be good luck, dead romantic, he says.

Marie has a boyfriend too; his names Isaac, but I do see what she fancies about him! At first, it was me who liked him, and he liked me too. But the moment I brought him back to our home they looked in to each other’s eyes and he forgot about me. I guess I’m still a little bit bitter about that- but Marie begged me to forgive her and I sort of have. She says you can’t split apart love at first sight.

I am too worried to bring back any boys, or to get another boyfriend, in case someone steals him off me.  Mother says I must find one and marry as soon as I’m fifteen or people will start calling me names. I don’t want a boyfriend yet- I’m not sure if I want one ever. I don’t want to be a housewife, I’m sick of women and girls not having rights to work any jobs except from servants and teachers. And they don’t even get paid half as much as men teachers.

“Hello, everybody, thank you for joining me and God at this fine meeting on this sunny Sunday- first we will sing some hymns and then we will pray in silence for three minutes.” The priest announced.

It was the longest two hours I have ever had to sit through. Blossom and I always giggle when we are supposed to be quiet in the praying session. Our mothers nudge us but that makes us laugh harder. Blossom is so elegant and beautiful, I am sort of envious of her sweet smile and flowing blonde hair. She ties her long locks into a tight top knot and wears slimming dresses that cling to each curve of her thin body. She’s a year older than me, 16, she is. She is getting married later this year, and it makes me shiver. She is so excited it actually makes me want to hate her. She used to detest boys like me, but then she fell in love with Henry. He is 17 and a horrible pervert. Blossom says she is planning on having a baby next year. My mother says if a boy sticks his hand up your shirt you have twins, so that’s how she had Rosalind and Marie, then, isn’t it? They’re twins, both 12, both born on July the 21st, 1927.

“Please, Mam, I want to see him,” Rosalind pleaded when we got home, looking down sadly.

“Can I see Isaac too?” Marie joined in, pulling at Mothers blouse.

“Both of you be quiet!” yelled Mama,” the only persons allowed to see a boyfriend or girlfriend now is Evangeline and Jasper. Evangeline is 15 and Jasper is 15 verryyy nearly sixteen. But since Evangeline apparently doesn’t like boys, it’s only Jasper. Ebony is Jasper’s, remember? The short skimpy one with fiery red hair, yes, that’s her. So it’s settled, you will just have to write to your loves.”

Everyone was silent.  Suddenly, there was a knock at the door.  We all rushed to see it but Mother pushed us away.

It was only the post man delivering new paper, quills and pots of ink, that mother had ordered at our local post office. I say local, but it is quite far away, a good mile. There aren’t many shops here in the countryside. I say to Mother that I want to live in the city so I could shop whenever I wanted but she says that the city isn’t a nice place at the moment- bombs and all that.

I said sarcastically to Rose and Marie” There, now you can write to Isaac and Emmet, can’t you?”

They sighed but began to scribble on the fresh wads of paper. I loved being the oldest, bossing them around.

Mother sunk down into her armchair, and I sat cross-legged on the floor next to her, watching her slowly dose of to sleep. I admired my Mama, since I was a little girl, but now she is getting older she is doing less, much less. She won’t tell us how old she is, we’ve tried working it out with her birth certificate but school is not doing us much help with mathematics. Jasper gets school for free as he’s a boy, but mother has to pay half a penny a month for us, each! Expensive when it all adds up, I can tell you.

There is another knock at the door, and it made Mother stir in her nap.

“Don’t worry, I’ll get it,” I whispered, walking over to the door and opening it gradually.

To my total and utter surprise, it was Seth, the cute boy from school, he was fifteen and had dark hair and eyes and a hypnotising smile.

“Hello, ma’am. I just wanted to ask you if you were interested in going to prom with me tonight?” he grinned, bowing and removing his checked cap when he saw me.

I stuttered. I wanted to scream yes and leap into his arms. But Mother was asleep so I had to keep the noise level down.

“I would,”

I curtsied, remembering how Blossom and I used to play when we were little, pretending we were star-crossed lovers.

He cupped the back of my head with his sturdy hands and kissed my forehead lightly.

“I will see you at seven at St.peters hall, it’s a school set up, but for now, I will be off,” he said, bowing once again before trudging away in his heavy boots.

I shivered happily.

“Seth Smith, Evangeline Smith,” I repeated to myself over and over again.

At six, I raided Mama’s draws for makeup- I piled it on my pale face, and at 6:50 I took out my curlers and pulled on my respectable past-the-knee-length blue flowery dress. I inspected myself in the mirror for a while, pushing this and that up, hiking up stockings, you know the sort.

Jasper came in drunk, saying him and some of his mates had gone to the pub to relief some of the stress of the hard day’s work. I gave him a quick hug before I left, and he stunk like ale and beer.

I called on Blossom, three houses away from ours, and we set off arm in arm for the Prom.

“Hey, I thought you weren’t coming,” she enquired, her perfectly shaped eyebrows raised.

“I wasn’t, but Seth Smith asked me today!”

We screamed happily, but when we arrived, my smile dropped. Seth was standing outside the hall, in a smart suit. We bowed and curtsied when we saw each other and he took my sweaty palm majestically and led me inside. I was so nervous I had to cross my legs so I didn’t wet myself.

We danced to tracks all evening- it was such a laugh. Blossom and Henry went off early, because they were going back to her house for the night, practise for when they were married. Seth and I ended the night by doing the slow dance, and I felt like it was just us there, no-one else, no drunken boys in the corner, no couples entwined in on the stairs, no girls in the lavatories redoing their makeup, just us. Out of all the pretty girls, Seth had picked me, and I picked him, hopefully, forever.

We stepped outside and it started pouring it down. My black, clumpy eyelash lengthener was running down my face and my curls were as flat as a pancake, stuck to my head, but he still said I looked lovely. When we were a few paces away from my house, he stopped, making me jolt because we were holding hands. He ran his long, lean fingers through my knotty, soaking hair and kissed my lips for ages. When he finally pulled away I flickered opened my eyes disappointedly, I could have stayed there for...god knows how long. He took off his grey blazer and wrapped it round my shoulders.

“Take care,” he said.

Then just before I was going in the door, he shouted after me,

“And Evangeline, please write to me!”

I nodded then entered the house.

“Oh, Eva, you will catch a cold, come here, you need a hot bath,” Jasper stated worriedly.

You’ve sobered up, you drunken fool.” I said bitterly, but I was too happy to stay in that mood.

I patted his back and went up to my room (and Rosalind’s and Marie’s and Jasper’s) and flopped on my bed. I touched my lips which he kissed and smiled.  Marie asked me loads of questions about how it felt and so on that night, but I was too tired to answer so I snuggled into his coat and slept.

I was awoken the next day by a banging at the door. I pushed on my slippers and re-wrapped his blazer round my shoulders.

“Hello,” I yawned, opening our arched door.

“Hi, Eva, I just wanted to quickly tell you that me and Jasper are through cause’ I know he went to the pub last night when he promised he wouldn’t, okay. Thank you, honey, please pass that urgent message on. Here’s a penny for your trouble,” Ebony rushed, placing the money in my hand and sprinting away.

I shook my head in disbelief. I stretched my white, pasty arms in the air and took a deep breath, taking everything in .

I went into the kitchen and grabbed a quill and a pot of ink and began to write out a message to Seth:

 

Dear Seth,

 I hast a great time at the prom last fine evening. I cannot bear to think how it would be like to not have gone. I know this might sound too much, and too early, but do you think we will wed? My Mother is making me to marry as soon as is am sixteen on October the 5th, which is my birthday, and I would like to be married to you, Seth Smith. But you will have to ask me, of course, women do not have the rights to ask the man, sexist, I know. Anyway, I am excited to see your reply. Thank you.

Love from,

Evangeline Thomas. Xxx

 

 

So I  placed the letter in the ‘ Need to be posted’ box confidently and stumbled down the wooden stairs, heading to the basement. Jasper would run down to the post box later today, like he always does on Mondays. Rosalind takes her turn on Tuesdays if he’s to busy to do it the day before, and so does Marie. But sometimes our schedule doesn't work due to school. Good thing our school is on repair leave!

 

 

 

 

I tuned in the portable radio- a new scientific invention, very snazzy, if you ask me-and danced to some of the tunes, mopping the dirty tiles of the cellar floors as I did so. I danced and jigged and wriggled until my Mother woddelled down the steps that led down from the bedrooms sleepily.

“What are you ... doing?” Mother asked, rubbing her tired eyes, touching the large bags that slumped underneath them.

“I’m cleaning, of course. Can’t you see the broom in my hand?” I replied cheekily, lifting up the mop, little drops of water landing on my short hair.

Mother tugged at his coat that rested on my shoulders and smacked my bottom friendly.

“Don’t be rude. Now, what’s that there?” she said,  squinting and touching his coat again,”It smells like lavender soap and feels like proper expensive fabric, you've done good for yourself there, Eva, nabbing that. How much do you think we could pawn it for, love?”

Their was a tone to her voice that I didn't like, like she was mocking...me? I’m the sarcastic spiteful one in this household.

“Mam! Stop touching et’! You will get finger prints on et’! It’s me’ boyfriends I think you will be glad to know.” I sighed, removing it from me and looking in the label.

It was designer!

“Are we from up north now are we, Evangeline Thomas?”

I guess I accidently inherited parts of that from my Father. ‘LiverPaul’ they called him, cause’ he was from Liverpool and he was named Paul. I sort of talk in that voice accidently-on-purpose sometimes, it sounds original, like Father always was... I guess I do miss him, I may look all shabby and tough on the outside but inside I’m a right Sensitive Sally, I can promise. I hope he’s okay; I think he is; he’s strong, and plus we would get a telegram saying if he was injured or dead. I try not to think much about it, nightmares, it gives me. It was ever so embarrassing when I wet the bed that time. Pulling off the sheets, I tried to be quiet but they were crispy and loud, the opposite of what I wanted. So, I got teased- alot, by family mainly. But we are over it now, because I've got secrets about them that should never be mentioned, and never shall, unless they say anything about the bed incident. So I have my revenge all planned out...

I was shocked out of my daydream by a tap at the door. I told Mother to sit and rest while I answered it.  I ran up all the flights of steps and stairs until I got into the living room.

“Whom might it be?” I called through the crack in the door.

“I think you might be able to guess.” Seth yelled back.

I totally forgot that I was in night clothes and fiddled with the locks and swung it ajar.

We stood smirking awkwardly for a while because I got distracted by his mud brown hair that was slicked back with jel and his muscled body that was covered up by a deep grass green shirt and his strong legs that were clothed by burgundy corduroy trousers. A perfect mixture for a clever, handsome man such as himself, I’ll say.

Basically, he told me that he couldn't tolerate life without me, and that, well, he loved me.

“ Evangeline... oh this is so humiliating, but what be your middle name?”

Seth blushed, his scarlet cheeks matching my night dress.

“Eliza.” I beamed.

“Evangeline Eliza Thomas, I ask you this only with great pleasure, and not with a single regret.” He begun again, crouching down on one knee,”May I, Seth Cameron Smith, take your hand in marriage, and for you to be my lawful wedded wife?”

He grabbed a shiny ring out of the pocket of his trousers and looked at me as if to say ‘shall I place it on your finger?’

This time I did scream yes and jump into his arms, regardless of who was still soundly sleeping or resting.

“It’s real diamond if that helps...” he laughed in my ear.

Mother shuffled up to me and gave me a congratulate hug.

I was so pleased I didn't even attempt to think about how much ink I had wasted asking him if he wanted to wed. Oh well, it’s worth it; because now I get to spend the rest of my life with a mighty handsome prince without even begging him via letter...

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