© George Rufus
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Rose Thornton flinched and almost recoiled, as the midwife laid her baby in her arms, for the first time. The child's eyes were open and she knew that her newborn daughter had witnessed her horror. Being caught off guard, so unprepared, lead her to chastise herself severely for being uncontrolled. It also made her scowl and fret to know that everyone else would see her daughter's face. She cursed the mark.
Thus the monster was created.
She listened quietly outside her daughter's bedroom. The door opened just enough for her to hear the conversation. She had come home early from shopping deliberately, obviously Louise hadn't realised she was back.
Rose held her breath as she listened to her daughter on her mobile chatting to a friend and describing her own mother as a total control freak. She distinctly heard how she was being accused of ruining her own daughter's life. She heard a list of complaints that could have seriously hurt her feelings, but they didn't. She just regrouped and reorganised the details and her emotions ready for her counterattack.
She stole away down the stairs.
Ten minutes later her daughter appeared in the kitchen. Rose continued to arrange the flowers she was arranging in a vase, red roses, long stemmed.
"Can I have my hair shorter mum?" asked Louise, "I have given it a lot of thought and I don't want the fringe anymore either?"
A sharp thorn pierced Rose's finger, she grimaced and sucked it. She breathed deeply, controlling the bleed and her reaction.
"Really, have you thought that through?" Rose replied in a calm and measured way. " I don't think shorter hair will suit your face shape and you look so pretty with the fringe. Let's not rush into anything."
" Mum, I am fifteen next week, can I please make a decision about my own hair without it being a big deal. Dad says it is fine!"
"Well he would, he doesn't think things through like I do."
" Maybe he just thinks it is my hair to do with how I like," the daughter muttered rebelliously under her breath.
Louise stomped upstairs to her room, grabbed her laptop and opened up her Facebook page. She scoured all her friends latest postings. Deep in thought she didn't notice her mum enter, until she was peering over her shoulder.
" I don't understand why you young people feel it necessary to publicise yourselves? Photos of every outfit, every event......"
" Every blemish, every imperfection, isn't that what you really mum!" spat out her daughter.
" I never said that, how can you say such a thing, you shouldn't be so ungrateful for what you have..."
" Ungrateful, oh no! I am totally grateful for the reality check I get about my disfigurement every time I talk or look at you mum, it has made me the person I am today!"
" I have never ever referred to ....to...."
" You can't even say it can you mum! It is called officially a haemangioma, or a strawberry mark, nothing catching, just quite unfortunate, especially if you have to live with it," spat her daughter. "Even worse, when your mother makes you feel like bloody Frankenstein!"
" I have never..,"
" Never what mum? Never made me feel worse.Let's not fool ourselves any longer, you would have locked me up in a bloody tower and thrown away the key, if you could."
" I have never ever been any thing but totally supportive and given you the best of everything."
"Except acceptance. Total and utter acceptance that what I look like doesn't affect the way you feel about me.That how I am inside really counts. That I am your flesh and blood and your daughter and nothing else matters. Don't bloody cry, mum, I don't care about your crocodile tears. Every time you covered me up with hats, scarves, anything to hide my face, don't you think I cried inside. Every time we crossed the road when someone you knew came along. When there was always a reason I couldn't attend a party. When you didn't want my school photo done or ever buy it? Why mum? Why? You can't bloody answer me can you?"
"Since when did you start swearing ?"
" Since I realised how bloody stupid it is the way you carry on and no one ever asks you why? My mates all think it is weird too, none of their parents are like you!"
" I don't appreciate you discussing me with me your friends, Louise. I am your mother and all I have ever wanted was to look after you and keep you from harm."
" Well you've got a funny way of going it, by making me feel like a monstrosity that you are ashamed of."
" No. Don't say that I was trying to protect you, I can't bear for you to be hurt."
" Mum, you have done nothing but hurt me.Dad has never made me feel the way you do and no one has been brave enough to tell you because of not wanting to hurt you! Well it stops now. I am getting my hair cut the way I bloody well want it, with or without your permission. I might even have my nose pierced too!"
A roaring silence echoed around the room, as the girl watched her mum dramatically hold her head with both hands and rock slowly back and forth.
She left her and went downstairs to get a drink and give herself some space. Her mother always won her around to her way of thinking. But not today, she was not a baby, she was sick of being pushed around.
Louise had replayed every tortourous moment her large, burgundy stained birth mark on her face had caused her mother embarrassment and shamed her. She seethed inside at the ridiculous lengths her mother had gone to, in order to have private birthday parties, self catering holidays in remote places, always just her and her parents. An exclusive little lonely club of three. No other family or friends. School was her refuge, thank god she hadn't been home educated.
She broke from her reverie of angst when her mother entered the kitchen and cleared her throat. She addressed her daughter with red eyes and spoke in a low tone.
"When I realised I was pregnant with you all I wanted was to be the most perfect mother I could."
" Mum, I am not interested. Just leave me alone now, I need to get on with my homework, I have said what needed to be said."
" No, it is my turn. Surely I get a turn. I had a terrible childhood and I was determined to be the best mother and give you everything I didn't. That is why it was only ever you, no one to have to vie with for attention. Just you. "
" Christ what a bloody disappointment I must have been, you wanted perfect and you got me."
Her mother cleared her thick sounding throat and continued in a grave tone.
" When I grew up there was chaos, men in and out of the house, once my dad finally walked out for good. No order, nothing normal. I can't even begin to explain what happened when my mum was so drunk she .......... When I met your dad, he offered me safety. I would never have bought a child into this world without that security, so yes it was hard for me."
" Mum, you don't need to say anything else, please." Louise climbed the stairs back to her bedroom.
" All you young girls dream about these days is romantic love, but I didn't have that option, oh no. My options were limited to finding Mr Dependable, Mr Safe and Mr Boring...." Her voice trailed off.
Louise sat on the edge of her bed sat staring at her shoes. Silently withdrawing from her own dilemma, as she had many times before. Embarrassed and unsettled by her mother's revelations. She was also no match for her mother's manipulative moves.
Her mother relaxed her glassy stare, straightened her hair and remained standing in the doorway.
" I hope we can be friends again. Now I need to sort out the dinner, I promised your dad steak pie tonight. He works hard for us both and that's the least I can do. I am just going to nip out again, to the butchers."
The woman turned to leave the room.
" I am still getting my hair cut, you do understand don't you mum?" Louise said in a quiet but determined way, desperately trying to stand loyal to her idea.
Rose's hand rested on the door handle. Her back to daughter's outright defiance. She felt the chain that anchored her daughter to her, slip slightly through her fingers and entwine itself uncomfortably around her rock hard heart.
The monster's power gathered more momentum.
" Mum, don't be angry or upset, please try to understand that I am growing up and need to do my own thing. I don't want to fight, I just want to grow up a little and make my own decisions, particularly about the way I look. It is important to me mum. Are you listening?"
Rose's grip on the handle tightened like the strangulating hold she had on the wheel of the ship, as she chartered her family through her voyage. They were passengers, she was the captain. In her twenty year marriage, her husband had on occasion tried to change the course or attempt mutiny and she had not stood for it. She knew what was best and he was brought back to attention. He had suffered her retaliations but never enough to sink the boat. No loose cannon fire that would wreck her safety on the sea of life. She was not prepared to sail through life alone again, she had been there and she did not have the skills to survive. So she had used strategies to quell his uprisings. There were the numerous miscarriages she has supposedly had days after he had upset her and the time she fell down the stairs. She laid guilt heavily at his door for every misdemeanour.
Her daughter too had always been kept on a safe short leash. She had to be protected and only her mother knew how to do that. She tolerated the relationship between her husband and her daughter, that was like a club she was excluded from, because she needed him to provide, but that might not always be the case.
" Mum, are you listening? You are freaking me out mum, standing there like that. Look I am sorry I upset you, but I am fed up looking like a ten year old. I have make-up to hide the mark, no one need see my face if that is what is upsetting you."
Her hand gripped the door handle. She gathered all her strength. Time for the monster to unleash her power.
" We need to talk and you can never tell your father I have told you this because it would break his heart. You wouldn't want to be responsible for that would you ?"
She turned and faced her daughter, who listened in horrified silence to her mother's story of what happened. The day her dad had been late to pick up his wife from the shopping centre. His poor vulnerable pregnant wife, waiting alone in the dark, the man that showed her no mercy. The way she had lived with it every day since, unselfishly never blaming her husband or telling him, trying to protect him while living with the nightmare every day and how when her daughter was born with that mark she knew it was to remind her of that terrible life changing event..
The daughter could not breathe. She had held her breath, so that when the story ended she gasped for air.
Her mother placed her cold hand on her daughter's shoulder, patted it lightly and walked back to the door.
Before leaving her daughter to digest her tale, she simply said," Let's think about a new hairstyle together, I will come with you."
She walked through the door, with a strange thin smile across her face.