Thirty-SixMature

In case you're wondering, Mum never came home. I don't know where she went. I don't know when she went. But she went. And she never came back. Well, she never came back to our small damp house in Douitchurch, at any rate.

"Your mum's gone," Dad said three days after the solicitor's visit, running long dry fingers through his dark hair. I envied that handsome dark colouring so much, but as I noted the deep suffering in his eyes, like a nervous stomach contraction, or the sad colour of fat moist plums, I thanked some distant unknown ancestor for my stagnant-pond eyes.

"What?" I mumbled through a mouth of paper. There were a few bus receipts in my jeans pocket dating from the time of about a month ago, and I just happened to feel the compulsion to chew something. Yeah, disgusting, aren't I? I only have one pair of jeans that actually fit - well, they're a bit tight in some areas, but at least they cover my ankles - so they have to make do until some weekend when I can be bothered to unjam the washing machine door, which falls off every time anyone walks within a metre radius of it, and jams every time I actually want to use it.

"She left a note on her dressing table," said dad, before he left the room.

Dressing table? Mum didn't dress very often in my experience. She generally wandered about the house in her silken dressing gown, flourescent orange in hue, and ugly to the extreme, with numerous sickly silk bows and flowers and billowing lace petticoats, all completely unnecessary and entirely ridiculous. She seldom wore make-up, and when she did, it was applied like block highlighter pens, and in exaggerated places. I knew enough about make-up to know that you did not put eyeliner in the age-worn grooves tracing below your eyes; nor did you apply feverish electric pink blusher to your temples rather than cheeks.

I went upstairs, partly to satisfy some lingering curiosity about this so-called dressing table, and partly to read the so-called note.

Mum's door, with its peeling varnish and kiddish-looking catflap, drew a sad smile on my face, even as a flicker of humour made an unusual undercurrent in my normally dismal reflections.

I entered the room without further ado, and was struck at once by the aura of the place. There was little to see outwardly. It was a room normal enough in appearance, white-walled, with the customary damp patches, yellow lights with no lampshades, and a queen-sized walnut bed. The flatly carpeted floor was strewn with clothes and other paraphernalia, including bent staples, penlids and printing cartridges, which puzzled me more than a little, but did not offer any clues as to the stiflingly dense atmosphere of the room.

Stiflingly dense with what? you may wonder. What? I don't know. Hot and cold. Dense but empty. Something to send shivers down my back and make bitter bile rise in my thick throat. Maybe it was the lingering aura of an ill mind plotting and crooning to itself over the years. The mind that belongs to the person who must be fed through a cat flap, and who is an artist who has never sold her work.

What happens to my parents' art? I have no idea. Maybe it's burnt. Maybe it goes out with the rubbish. I bloney well hope so.

The letter lay on a white wooden table near the window, a folded leaf of white paper. White is the colour of purity, is it not? No; white is the colour of reflection. White is nothing. There is nothing there but the reflectedness. White is what you think it is, what thoughts you fling at it; they are reflected back at you. White is a colour of foreboding and danger. It deceives, and you are the deceived.

I unfolded the white letter, aware of my fuzzy reflection gazing blandly at me through the thick white dusty layer covering the mirror. These words greeted my eyes, black outlined over the whiteness:

The End

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