As the dawn extinguished the stars and dissolved the darkness, Amara knew that the time for concealing truths had passed and the waitress smile mask must be discarded and thrown off. The realisation that she would have to reveal her secret to those she loved most, occupied her mind fully as she drove the tumbling road to her mother's house. The floor of the open roofed truck was coated in dust and gravel that jumped and rattled as it hit bumps. She loved the sound it made, and the sound of the tyres turning up the loose dirt on the road as they tried to keep their grip.
As the white washed stone of her mother's home came into view, shining against the last residues of night, she held her breath, and sharply pushed the brake. From this angle she could see her mother hanging up white bed sheets, folding them in half over the line that was suspended between the rough wall and the old tree in the court and pegging them with the old wooden pegs. She remembered the peg families she had made as a girl, giving them woollen hair and felt clothes. She didn’t know how to feel as she realised once more what she was loosing, that she would never have a daughter, and that her son, Joel, being but 10 months, 5 days, 6 hours and about 48 minutes old, would never make peg soldiers with her, or paint pictures worthy of fridge doors.
Amara thought about the fact that her son would never have a brother or sister of her womb. She felt sick imagining that her husband would perhaps love again and know happiness with another woman. Joel would have a better mother, one whom hadn’t abandoned him and his father. Amara judged her self brutally, lost in a dark confusion, not allowing herself forgiveness or allowance for what she was experiencing, thinking only of the man whose name she bore, and what he must think of her. She had never desired to hurt him, the one man in the world she had found to kindle the fire in her belly, and now without him, she was numb.
She looked up to the sky and strained her eyes, tensing the muscles in her face to avoid crying. Taking another deep breath, Amara turned the keys in the ignition, starting the truck with a loud rumbling motion, shifting into first and releasing the handbrake, she allowed the truck to roll down the rubble road, delighting in the sensation of the cool morning breeze rushing through the long strands of her curled auburn tresses, the fresh smell of the olive trees on either side of the road filling her lungs and engaging her senses. She looked around her to see if anyone was working the groves, and before her to check the road, the morning was still young and people were, she imagined, only just rising from their beds.
With this established, she pressed down the brake very gently and took both hands from the wheel, she smiled nervously as she held them to the sides, above the windscreen, hands outstretched catching the soft breeze, letting it brush her palms and move gently through her fingers, it reminded her of silk, the same light, flowing sensation as it moved over her. Looking ahead and seeing nothing on the road she closed her eyes to momentarily experience what it was to fly, her foot remaining steadfastly on the brake of the heavy, rusty truck. She felt the truck begin to swerve a little and quickly resumed her journey along the small stretch of road between her flight and her mother.
Amara drove slowly into the courtyard, and brought the truck to a halt. She stood and gracefully brought one leg, then another over the welded door, and hopped onto the floor playfully, her mother watched her from across the court. She looked at the woman her daughter had become, at 32 she was a good wife and loving mother, a thought which had confused her and caused her great distress upon her daughters’ unannounced arrival two days ago. Her daughter was in her eyes, beautiful, and always had been.
Amara had always been womanly in shape, neither slim, nor round either. Her face was shaped by her hair, which fell amply in curls, parted on a side parting to the left, she often complained that it was ‘full of frizz’ and believed that her natural colour became dull with the winter, her mother however, from whom Amara had inherited her locks, believed them to be ‘just fine’. She had green eyes, framed by long eyelashes, carefully preened eye brows, and beneath she bore burdening shadows from empty nights and a relentless fatigue. There was little about her features that made them significant against any other woman’s, though she bore the complexion of an ‘English rose’, again inherited from her mother, in fact there was little of her fathers looks about her, he was only ever visible in her laugh and her penmanship. When Amara laughed it filled her mother with warmth and a sorrow for her husband had missed the woman that now bore his enthusiastic laugh.
Amara walked into the cool stone kitchen of her mothers reclaimed farm house and sat down at the oak dining table. She watched her mother as she filled the stove kettle up at the basin and placed it on the stove, listening to the ‘click, click, click’ of the gas lighter, it took her mother a few attempts, and by the time the ring was lit the scent of gas was in the air.
Her mother placed two large old copper cooking pots on the table, Amara remembered them from when she was young; they were tarnished now, dark shadows ascended from the base from use. One was filled with potatoes the other part filled with cold water; she placed a large bowl and two knives in the middle of the table and sat down directly opposite to Amara. She watched her mother as she reached out and picked up one of the earthy vegetables from the first pot, dipped it into the water in the second pot and began to peel it with one of the knives, her old hands crafting the knife under the skin of the potato. Her mother looked up to see Amaras eyes fixed on the potato she was peeling, “You going to watch me all day? Or lend me a hand?” Amara picked up the other knife and copied her mother.
“We use frozen ones” Amara said quietly looking vacantly at the shreds of potato as they fell.
“Everyone uses frozen everything”
“Its just quicker. Come home from work and it's there waiting for you”.
“You aren’t at work at the moment, you're at home with the babe.” Her mother surveyed Amara's reaction as she mentioned her grandson, in hopes that it would provoke a reaction. Instead her daughter continued to absently peel the potato in her hand. “I raised you on fresh veg, it’s not done you any harm. What’s Jolly eating now, should be having eggs”
“Yeah, with soldiers” Amara was short in her response.
“You don’t give him runny eggs”
“No I don’t!” Amara tensed.
“Mum” Amara shouted, slamming her knife and potato down against the wooden top, “God, I can look after my child” the kettles hollow whistle became audible in the room.
“Don’t take the lords name in vain” her mothers calm voice raised as she rebuked her daughter, who now stood clutching at her hair and drawing it towards her chest, Amara screamed out as the whistle reached its summation, lifting her head to the rafters, “Shut up Mum” she exclaimed.
The whistle bellowed in Amaras release, she sat down as her mother walked to the stove; the room fell silent between the two generations. “What is wrong with you Amara? Tell Me”, her daughters body seemed to tremble and juddered with every sharp inhalation of breath, unnerving her mother and filling her with a maternal fear.
“I can’t mum” she whispered, “I’m so ashamed, you won’t understand”, Amara looked so very small curled up in her chair, running her left fingers over her right palm, “How could you, you’re...” she whispered under her breath.
“What? What am I?” her mother asked her firmly, “Amara, tell me, I am your mother, tell me what is wrong, you turn up here with no warning, no Russell, no baby... what are you doing?... tell me now” Amara felt as though she were a young child once more, having to admit to some great mischief.
Taking a deep breath she stood hastily, wiping her hands over her face roughly removing the trails of her tears. She looked at her mother, and to the fridge behind her, where she saw herself smiling back at her, her son cradled in her arms, she bit down on her lip as her eyes remained fixed on her sons, “I can’t hold him...” she spoke quietly, turning slowly to look at her confused mother “Russell makes him eggs and soldiers every morning, not me... I can’t feed him...” she moved to the fridge and ripped the picture of the fridge, “whenever I pick him up... he screams...” her voice becoming coarse with her explosive confession, her lungs seizing her breath, “...it curdles my blood and I am petrified I might hurt him” she moved to be before her mother and held the photograph before her, pointing to her son, her face filling with fear, “he looks at me mum...” dropping the picture to the table and turning away from her mother, tears consuming her speech “...and I feel nothing... I am his mother, and I feel nothing”.
Amaras mother watched her daughter break down, as she seemingly crumbled to the floor, clasping her belly, and wording breathlessly “I’m not worthy of my womb”.