Mother Knows Best

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Something’s not right, but I don’t know what. I try to keep my eyes open long enough to read the time on the clock radio by my bed. 7:36. Shit. I’m going to be late. Didn’t the alarm go off? Maybe I slept through it again. I feel kind of groggy.

The sun is streaming through the window, casting beams of light onto the duvet. Odd. Shouldn’t it still be dark at this time? It is November after all. November! Yes, it’s my birthday! Or rather yesterday was. But I’m having difficulty recalling what happened. Memory fragments keep floating through my mind, too flimsy to grasp. Maybe I’ll remember more if I stop trying too hard. 

I pull myself out of bed and allow myself two minutes to luxuriate in the warmth of the shower. As I dry myself, I wonder where Johnny is. Johnny! It’s coming back to me. We had a row. The sinking feeling in my stomach grows heavier as more shards of memory piece together. I thought he’d forgotten my birthday. I said some terrible things, unforgivable things. It turns out he hadn’t forgotten at all but wanted to surprise me. I should have known! By the time he revealed he’d booked a table at Alfredo’s and bought me a gorgeous necklace, it was too late. Johnny was royally pissed off and left the house in a massive huff. I ran out of the front door after him, but he just jumped in the car and sped off.

What happened then? I remember shouting after him, telling him I was sorry. Yelling until I had no voice, salt tears rolling down my cheeks, into my open mouth. But after that, it gets really hazy. I remember a car horn. Urgent voices. Then… That’s it. Nothing more until I woke up just now. Late! I need to get going.

I quickly dress, trying to remember whether Johnny came home last night but it’s all a fog. I’ll ring him at work later and apologise, make it right. Johnny knows I lose control of my mouth at times and won’t stay mad at me for long, I’m sure. I just wish I could remember. I have a feeling I’m missing something important.

I glance at myself in the mirror. I’m looking awfully pale. I dab some blusher on my cheeks, pull a brush through my hair and head downstairs.

Oh! Johnny is sitting at the kitchen table, reading the newspaper.

‘Hey, sweetheart.’ I rush over to him, but he stands abruptly and side-steps my embrace. ‘I’m sorry!’ I yell as he retreats upstairs.

I sit in the chair he has just vacated and glance at the paper. The date is 24th May. Why is Johnny reading a newspaper that’s six months out of date? Then I realise the date is next year. What’s going on?

​‘Johnny!’ I call and run up the stairs, two at a time. ‘Johnny?’

​He’s in front of the mirror straightening his tie. 

​‘Here, let me do that for you,’ I say. 

​Johnny doesn’t even look at me as he picks up his phone and walks out of the room. I scuttle down the stairs after him, just in time to have the front door slammed in my face. Not good.

I wander back to the kitchen and sit down at the table. I can’t get my head round the future dated newspaper. Surely it can’t be real. Is this Johnny’s idea of a joke? Revenge for my tantrum yesterday?

​‘Figured it out yet?’

The voice comes from behind me. I spin round in my chair and see my mother standing by the kitchen sink. She’s wearing that awful green dress.

‘Bloody marvellous,’ I groan. ‘My boyfriend hates me and now my mother is in my kitchen. I know you’re not really there so you might as well shut up.’

‘Oh, charming,’ my mother replies. ‘A lovely welcome, I must say!’

‘Well, would you be pleased to see someone who’s been dead for ten years?’ I retort. ‘It would be lovely to see you if it wasn’t an indication I’m totally losing the plot.’

‘Ok, point taken. But I really am here,’

‘You can’t be. You’re dead. I saw you get flattened by the 256 bus with my own eyes, so it’s not like you could have faked it.’

‘Yes, Lucy, I am dead, but that doesn’t mean I’m not here.’Mum continues, ‘I’m dead and so are you. That’s why you can see me. I really thought you might have worked it yourself, but you never were the sharpest knife in the drawer.’

‘Oh fantastic. My dead mother appears after ten years and all she can do is insult me.’

‘Sorry, dear, but I’ve been calling you for ages now. You died months ago but this is the first time I’ve actually got through. You just don’t seem to want to listen.’ 

‘What do you mean I died months ago?’

Mum sighs. ‘It was your birthday. You were run over by a bus just outside the house. Now isn’t that a coincidence?’ She sounds positively gleeful. ‘Anyway, you died instantly.’

‘So, let’s get this straight,’ I say. ‘I’m dead?’

‘Yes,’ replies Mum, sounding exasperated, ‘and Johnny’s not ignoring you – he just doesn’t know you’re there. You go through the same routine every day – wake up with no memory of the previous day then run around trying to get Johnny’s attention, getting yourself more and more upset when he doesn’t see you. It’s like Groundhog Day, only infinitely more depressing.’

I ponder what she is saying. It sounds fantastical, but somehow it’s beginning to make at least a little bit of sense.

​‘So come on then – we need to go.’ says Mum. ‘Spit spot.’ She’s only been back five minutes and already she’s getting on my nerves.

​‘Come on where?’

​‘Why, to heaven, of course. You’ve got some explaining to do when you get there.’

​‘Oh, no,’ I say. ‘I’m not going anywhere.’

​’You can’t stay here. Registration doesn’t stay open forever and I’ve already had to get them to make allowances for you.’

‘I’m not going anywhere,’ I repeat. 

Mum sighs. ‘I can see you need a little while to get your head round this. I’ll give you a few hours to yourself then come back for you this evening. But you need to be ready then.’

I open my mouth to reply, but she isn’t there anymore. 

I suddenly feel very tired. The next thing I know, I’m waking up on my bed with the house in darkness. How long have I slept?

​I creep downstairs to find a thin strip of light shining under the living room door. A muffled murmur of voices tells me the TV is on. 

I push open the door. Johnny is there, but he’s not alone. He’s on the sofa, locked in an embrace with some girl. And it doesn’t look like it’s just a friendly hug. Oh my goodness! It’s my best friend Pamela. How dare he? How dare she?’

‘Lucy!’ 

I turn and see Mum again. 

‘Come to gloat, have you?’ I say bitterly. ‘You never did like Johnny.’

‘Don’t be like that, Lucy. Johnny really did miss you, but it’s been over six months now. You really need to come with me. It’s not healthy hanging around the living.’

‘No way,’ I say. ‘I may be dead, but this is my house and my boyfriend. I’m staying right here.’

‘You might think that now, but after a few hundred years you’ll change your mind and by then it will be too late.’

‘I’m staying with Johnny. I’m not leaving him with that… that… bimbo.’

Mum gives another of her theatrical sighs. ‘I don’t know what you think you’re going to do about it. Anyway, it’s a good job I have a contingency plan.’ She looks around the room. ‘Now this is technically against the rules, so you won’t say anything will you?’

I shake my head, though I have no idea what I’m agreeing to.

‘Don’t speak for a minute or it will break my concentration.’ Her face assumes a kind of constipated expression and the large stone we use as a door stop suddenly rises into the air and hovers for a moment above Johnny’s head. 

Too late, I realise what she’s doing. Johnny looks up as the stone whizzes down and smacks him right in the face. Pamela screams. Johnny really doesn’t look too good – his nose is a bloody mess in the middle of what’s left of his face and there’s a big dent in his forehead.

I turn to Mum and notice another Johnny has materialised next to her.

‘Johnny!’ I squeal and throw myself on him. 

Pamela is still on the sofa, screaming hysterically.

‘Right,’ says Mum. ‘Now can we go?’


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