The next day at school is much like the one previously: long, and hard to talk to Robyn without Jenna watching. I had decided not to start up conversation with Robyn, and just talk to her on social networking sites, but Robyn had started talking to me in science, asking if she could come into my group. Jenna frowned at me, and I was split between two decisions. Regretfully, I went for the easiest option and told Robyn I was already in a group.
After the bus ride from school to home, I walk up the hill to my house. The wind is harsh, and blows directly into my face, blowing my curls backwards. I keep my head down, walking into the strong winds. I want to close my eyes, turn around and allow the wind to take me anywhere, up into the sky and away, or into Jenna’s house and blow the confidence to me to be able to stand up to her.
Reaching for the door to my house, I try the handle, and it opens easily: someone’s already in. I shouldn’t be surprised. Mum is always forgetting to go to work lately, but I had a feeling that, maybe…
“Ella-May?” The voice shrills slightly, sound half-hysterical.
I swallow hard, sliding my bag of my shoulders, trying to stay calm. “Yes Mum, it’s me.”
“Who’s Me?” she shrieks again, sounding more hysterical.
I wish I could laugh at her joke, but I can’t. It’s not any joke. “It’s Ella-May, Mum.”
“I heard someone said that they’re me. I want to know who me is!” I can hear her panic rise every second, every breath. I want to stay in the hall way, and not see my Mum’s face drain to a thin pale. Hearing her is frightening enough.
I shake my head, tell myself to grow up. Mum’s fine. Everything will be fine. I don’t need to worry.
Scarcely, I place my hand on the door knob to the living room. With a sharp jerk, I turn it and the door opens. Mum has her back to me, facing the sofa. She mumbles inaudibly to herself.
“Hi Mum,” I smile, trying to act casual and happy.
Mum turns around with a sudden jolt. “Who are you?”
“I’m Ella-May, Mum. I’m your daughter,” I remind her, tugging at the loose wool on my school jumper. “You remember me, don’t you?”
Mum’s deep brow furrow doesn’t disappear, “I know who you are. I don’t know who he is.”
“It’s just me here, Mum.”
“Who’s Me?” Mum repeats, looking around the room. “Are you Me?” she asks the wall.
“There’s nobody there,” I tell her.
“But you just told me he’s Me, not Nobody! Who are you?” Mum looks expectantly at the wall. I bite my lip; I don’t like seeing Mum like this. Lately, I’ve had to get used to it, but that doesn’t make it any better when Mum gets into ‘her state’, as Dad likes to call it.
“It’s okay, Mum, just sit down. I’ll get you a cup of tea, yeah?” I say. I’ve never been home alone with Mum when she’s gotten into her state. Mia or Dad are always there, and they know what to do.
“Tea? Who said tea? I don’t want tea. Who said tea? I don’t like tea. I don’t want tea. I don’t like tea,” she repeats herself, looking startled and jumpy, looking around the room. Her eyes settle on me, but she looks at me as if I’m a stranger, not her daughter who she’s known for nearly fifteen years. “Do you want tea? What’s your name?”
“Mum, it’s Ella-May,” I tell her, taking a step forwards. “It’s okay.”
“Mum isn’t here,” she says, “Who are you, Ella-May? What are you doing here? Do I know you? Where’s Mum? Why did you say Mum is here when she isn’t? Where’s Me? Where’s Nobody? Why have they gone? Why have they left me? Doesn’t anyone like me? What’re you doing here? I don’t want you here, Ella-May, I don’t know you.”
I feel panic bubble up inside me. Mum’s never been this bad, even when Dad and Mia were here. I bite hard on my lip, but I don’t feel the pain. I’m too concerned about Mum. Even my own Mum doesn’t know who I am.
I decide to call her by her proper name, “It’s okay, Hetty. I’m Ella-May, you know me. How about you sit down over there, yes?”
A deep groove forms between Mum’s eyebrows, “How do you know my name?”
“You told me.”
“No I didn’t.”
“You told me a long time ago,” I sigh, “Are you going to sit down?” I realise my fingers are sub-consciously knotting together. I un-weave my fingers, and shove them in my pockets. If Mum knows I’m nervous, she’ll become nervous.
“I don’t want to sit down.”
I stay calm, “Why not?” I clench my hand around my phone, which is safely nestled in my pocket.
“I DON’T WANT TO SIT DOWN! LEAVE ME ALONE, I DON’T KNOW WHO YOU ARE!”
I feel my eyes enlarge, my grip tighten on my phone. I give up trying to calm Mum down, and pull the phone out of my pocket.
“Don’t call the police, Ella, please don’t call the police. I haven’t killed anyone, I swear, Ella, I promise,” she repeats, using the shortened name she’s always used for me ‘Ella’.
“I won’t call the police,” I say, pressing frantically on the screen to phone Dad. I press my phone against my ear, and hear the continuous beeps as my phone waits for Dad to answer his.
“Don’t call the police, Ella, please, I haven’t done anything, I haven’t killed anyone, I won’t do anything, I promise, Ella, don’t call the police, Ella, I haven’t done anything,” Mum continues.
“Ella-May, I told you not to phone –“
“Dad, please, I need you,” I cut in, relieve to hear his strong, business voice.
I hear a sigh at the other side of the line, “What’s happened, huh?” His voice loses his sharp, business tone.
“It’s Mum, she’s in her state,” I explain, looking at Mum and watching her lips move as she begs me not to call the police.
“Just call her Hetty, tell her to sit down and get her a cup of tea, it’s okay,” Dad soothes.
“I tried, Dad, she says she doesn’t like tea,” I say.
There’s a hesitation, “Ask her again.”
I turn to Mum, swallowing hard, “Hetty, do you want a cup of tea? I can make it for you, if you like.”
Mum turns to me, her eyes like stone: dead, petrified. The words that tumble out of her mouth comes out as a shrilling scream, “I DON’T KNOW WHO YOU ARE! I DON’T LIKE TEA! LEAVE ME!”
I hear Dad take in a deep, sharp breath, “May, stay calm, I’m coming as soon as I can, okay? Don’t worry.”
I watch Mum approach me, her face drowned in terror as her hands hold a jagged, unnatural pose, “Dad, I think she’s going to hurt me,” the words I say are quiet, in a slow whisper.
“Shut the door,” Dad says, along with the background noise of him running and explaining why he has to leave early, “I’ll be there soon.”
The line cuts off, and I have no option but to grab the living room door, and close it. I lean against the door, sliding down and sitting on the floor. I hold my head in my hands, determined to keep the tears back.
It doesn’t work.
Silently, tears run down my face, jumping off my chin. I close my eyes, feeling tears fall from my eyelashes. Mum whimpers on the other side of the door, picking things up and dropping them with a clatter. I can imagine her shaky hands as she holds things, her pale face as she sees a face she doesn’t recognise.
She releases a scream, and I can almost feel it flood under the bottom of the door and drown me in it. I hate hearing my Mum stressed on the other side of the door, when I’m leaning against it and having to restrict her from leaving the room.
I feel the door vibrate against my back. Mum keeps rattling the door, trying to open it, but I’m in the way. Her fists start banging against the door, and I have nothing else to do but to bury my head between my knees, and wait for the time to pass.
Dad doesn’t work too far away from home, but when you wait for something it takes forever to come. I wait.
Relief floods through me when I hear the door open with a signature rattle of the keys. I lift my head from my knees and smile at Dad as he comes into the hallway.
“It’s okay, Ella-May, you don’t need to worry,” he says in a hushing tone, wiping the dried tears off my cheek. “Move out of the way now.” I shuffle out of the way of the door, and Dad slowly opens it. Mum was in the same pose as me: sitting down and leaning against the door. She rocks back a little as the door is opened.
Dad kneels down to her level his knees cracking, and speaks, “Hello, Hetty. Would you like a cup of tea? Have a little sit down? Maybe watch some telly? Yeah?”
Mum’s head shakes frantically, “I don’t know who you are. Mum says I shouldn’t talk to strangers. Mum says you’re going to drug my tea. Mum says to keep away from you. Mum says that I shouldn’t be talking to you. Mum says you have to leave. Mum says you’re going to hurt me. Mum says you’re going to rape me. Mum says you have to leave. I don’t know who you are. I don’t want you here.”
I watch Dad’s face crack, a reflection of his heart. His heart cracking and smashing into tiny pieces. Dad swallows hard, hurt, and looks around the living room, as if it’ll help him in the situation.
I wonder briefly why Mum keeps saying ‘Mum’, before I realise my ignorance: she’s talking about her Mum, my grandmother. She died six years ago.
“You know me, Hetty. You’re married to me.”
Mum turns to him, gritting her teeth strongly, “I don’t know you. Mum says you have to leave now. I’m not married to you. You’re going to hurt me!” Her last sentence comes out as a yelp, a yelp of help, “Help! You’re going to hurt me! Mum says you’re going to hurt me. I don’t want you here.”
“Your Mum isn’t here, Hetty,” Dad says softly.
Mum knits her eyebrows together, “Yes she is, she’s behind you.”
Dad turns slightly, as if to check that grandmother hasn’t resurrected from the dead and is standing behind him. It seems to hit Dad there and then.
“Where do you want to go?” He asks Mum.
She looks down, thinks, “I want to go shopping.”
“Shall I take you shopping?”
“I don’t know who you are.”
“Mum knows who I am. It’s okay, I won’t hurt you,” Dad holds out his hand for Mum to hold. She doesn’t take it, she stands up herself. Dad leads the way. We reach the front door, when Dad turns around and says, “Ella-May, I want you to stay here, okay? Phone Mia and tell her to come home earlier. I don’t know how long I’ll be, but I don’t want you to be scared by coming too, okay? Mum will be okay, I know she will. Make sure you do your homework. Mia will look after you. Be a good girl, love you,” he bends down slightly and kisses my forehead, placing his hands on my shoulders, “If you need me, call me, okay?”
I nod, “Okay.”
He smiles, “It’ll all be okay in the end. Bye!” He grabs his keys, and opens the front door, locking it before pocketing the house keys. I have my own house keys, so I will still be able to leave the house if need be.
I watch Dad encourage Mum along. I pretend I can’t hear Mum screaming, but even from inside I can hear her terrified, shrilling shrieks. Dad has to man-handle her into the car, fastening her seat belt for her. She lashes about, shouting things about how he’s going to hurt her or rape her. No one leaves their house to see what is going on: they all know Dad wouldn’t do such a thing; either that or they don’t want to get involved.
Dad gets in the other side, inserts the key into the ignition, and drives.
I know he isn’t going to take Mum shopping. He’s going to take Mum to the hospital: Mum’s ‘state’ has never lasted this long, nor has it been this bad. Mum’s not normal when she’s not in her state, she’s always twitchy and isn’t sure about things, but once she gets in her state, it gets a lot worse. It’s never been this worse.
I slide my phone out of my pocket, and phone Mia. I’m very rarely home alone and I don’t like it. I tell her what’s happened, and Mia promises to be home soon, by taking the next bus. She passes on advice for being home alone: turn the telly on and watch it, so the house isn’t so silent. I do so, but I can’t help but looking at the door and remembering what had happened there not long ago.
I hear the door rattle, and close sharply behind it. Mia’s heels click against the floor. She opens the living room door and sits next to me on the sofa, wrapping her arms around me.
“You know, there is a plus side to all this, don’t look so down,” Mia grins, “I get to miss my last lesson.”
I laugh, and Mia pulls my ringlets lightly. I don’t mind it when my sister plays with my hair; she’s got similar hair and knows how to treat it gently. Despite the relief to the fact that Mia’s back, I can’t help but let a tear slide down my cheek. Mia wipes it away quickly.
“It’s okay, Smella. Mia’s here now; she’ll look after you.”