By Gill Siddle
Eileen’s youngest wasn’t coming home this year; she was away at university, one of the good ones. Eileen didn’t mind, not really.
Eileen’s world was red brick and cobbled. She’d grown up two streets over and had moved into this house, bursting with pride, shortly after her wedding. She had raised four children, now grown and gone. Encroaching modernity had never stopped her doing things the proper way, the hard way but these days there was less to do and her hands felt idle.
A card and a gift arrived, postmarked from the sandstone university town that felt further away than it was. A simple card with a heartfelt message, nice. The gift was luxury hand cream. Eileen stared down at it in her silent living room. She climbed the narrow, steep, thickly carpeted stairs and put it in the bathroom cabinet. At dinner, she gently laughed off the gift as frivolous and unnecessary but a nice thought. Her husband silently nodded while he worked the beef stew around his mouth, an image unchanged for forty years.
As she cleaned her teeth that night, she moved the cream further back into the mirrored cabinet. Guests may see it, she thought, they might think she was showy. She dried her hands and looked at them. The story of forty domestic years was in her skin.
She lay awake. Sleep would not descend. Thoughts of her children frayed the edges of her mind. Where does it all go? Are the years, the work, to be smoothed away? Gently, subconsciously, her hands wrung each other under the heavy blanket. Her husband slept soundly, loudly. She rose and crept to the bathroom.
Under the harsh strip light, she opened the cabinet and took out the hand cream. She unscrewed its gold lid and filled her palm with the white perfumed lotion. She placed both hands together and squeezed, causing the viscous liquid to squelch between her fingers, some blobbed onto the pink rug. She repeated the action. She trailed the cream up her arms, dampening her nightdress. She filled her palm again and again. She smeared it on her face, layer after layer, until the heavy perfume stung her eyes. When the tube was empty she looked in the mirror. She was grotesque. Two sad eyes stared, marooned in the gelatinous mire. Silently, she took the hand towel from the rail and wiped it all off. She put the empty tube and the towel in the bin. She went to bed and slept.
Author Bio: I don’t really have an author bio as I’m not an author but I do have a blog. It’s called Escape Grey and charts what happens when you quit your job and your flat in search of a life that fits. So far this adventure has, amongst other things, reignited a love of literature and language and has seen me pick up some editing work. It has been the experience of editing that has inspired me to pick up the metaphorical pen in recent weeks. I’m on twitter and Facebook too: www.facebook.com/Escape-Grey