I remember peering around the doorway watching each plate shatter, splintering into a ceramic snowstorm at the hands of my mother. For some reason my memory has omitted the sound. I see her mouth open wide, her eyes and nose dripping. I see the droplets merging with the flying debris as she furiously throws her weight into the devastation. But I don’t recall the sound of her cries, or the crash of the plates.
Perhaps the silent anguish that descended on the room afterwards has stayed with me more. They say that don’t they? When there’s an accident, don’t worry about those that are screaming and crying. They are the lucky ones, for now at least. They’re alive and they’re breathing. Look to the silent ones, the ones that are fighting for breath or slipping away. Silence is danger.
Perhaps that was it. Perhaps I knew, even then at just 5 years old, the silence was alarming. The silence was wrong, and too long. I tiptoed into the room, stepping carefully around the overturned furniture and broken lamps. The hot smell of whisky and old ash trays filled the room and I wrinkled my nose. As I got close to my mum’s hunched figure, the remnants of plates crunched under my pink bunny slippers and her head snapped around. She sprang to her feet, her eyes dark and both hands raised in front of her. In one she held a long shard of plate, its tip red and shiny.
As she registered my small form amongst the chaos, the clouds seemed to clear revealing the piercing blue of her eyes. A smile broke out on her face. She was like that back then, my Mother, her expressions bouncing from anger to love, or joy to devastation like the ball in an unending game of squash. What I didn’t understand back then, was that it was Sean who was holding the racquet and calling all the shots.
“Kitty, you know you need to stay in bed” she whispered, pulling her sleeves down over her hands. She held one arm strangely. She carefully placed the shard up onto a shelf, then reached down and scooped me up.
“Mavis, didn’t like the shouting” I said, holding my rabbit up for her to see.
“Oh you are such a good bunny Mummy” she told me as she carried me back up the stairs to my bedroom. “She just needs a big cuddle and some sleep, and everything will be okay in the morning”
She wrapped the covers around me tightly, the way she always did. Pressed her nose to mine and whispered, “I love you my Kitty Cat, now sleep.” She sat beside me stroking my hair, the smell of oranges and garlic on her fingertips and the sound of her sweet voice lulling me to sleep. Just before I drifted off, I felt the bed shift as she leaned over and whispered close “Thank you, my brave little girl. It will all get better from here. I promise.”
I know that was the day I saved my Mother’s life. The next day she took her racquet back from Sean and played a game of singles for a while. We went to live in a house of our own where the air smelt of orange blossom and the silence was safe.