I wish I didn't give a damn. I wish I could honestly say that I don't give a shit about you, about the way you treated me, but that's not true.
I wrap my arms around Petal, holding my daughter so close to me, so tight, and breathe in the smell of her hair. I feel her arms squeezing me, see her face smiling at me, hear her I love yous, and I'm jealous. Jealous that I only got one side of this, jealous that - while I question my parenting at times - I didn't get even this much mothering.
I wonder sometimes if you feel the same - that somehow there is unfinished business between you and I. I wonder. I wonder if one day I'll cross a street and spot you driving past. I wonder if you think of me. I wonder if that thirty second phone conversation is the last time I'll speak to my mother, to the woman that gave birth to me. I wonder if I want it to be ... I wonder what it would take to fix this, to change this world so that I get you back ... but then maybe that is the point. I don't want you, I want something that I don't think I ever had. I want a mum.
I expect you feel cheated too, huh? Why were you given this child, this ball of anger and frustration and pain and need. Why couldn't your child do what so many others do, and cow down instead of answering back; look away at the sky or the floor or at anything else instead of making eye contact; accept the apologies begrudgingly offered days later - why wouldn't I just give in?
There are many memories, many snippets of conversation that I recall so clearly it's as if I'm back there... I can hear it, see it, smell it, feel it ...
That night he had his hands round my throat, and the edges of my world were going dark ... his hot breath on my cheek and the flecks of moisture flung from his tight lips as he shouted so loudly ... his words made of such hate ... I don't care ... I've had enough ... no more ... and then you, my mum, shouting at him - they'll know it was you, you'll go to prison ... not a single fragment of concern for me, for the genuine prospect of my death, just a desperate need for him to avoid being away from you. Fear for him, in prison, or for yourself, alone? For the loss of your precious public image? And his venom filled responses, screamed in such anger as I have never seen since ... They can't bring her back ... I don't care what they do to me, they can't bring her back ...
And then later that same night ... I was still shaking, and you showed me tenderness ... You're so afraid of him ... so afraid ... I know he hits you, but does he do other things too? Other things that make you afraid of him? When I couldn't reply you held my hand ... I didn't know... I'm so sorry... I'll make him leave. Congratulations, mum - that's the closest you came to admitting you knew the man you married and loved and shared a bed with for all those years not only punched and slapped and strangled and kicked your daughter, but also raped her.
For weeks and weeks those words echoed through my head, a constant background music for everything that happened ... I'll make him leave ... I'll make him leave ...
You told me it would take a little while, that there were financial things to work out, but I felt like a flower who had finally found the sun. I could feel the warmth of your reassurances, your trust, your love, and it meant I could ignore the sharp pain of everything else. I stopped talking to him ... I stopped being in the same room as he was in. If he came in, I left. After all, I knew it wouldn't be for long, because you had promised. You had promised you would make him leave.
You made choices. You made your life. And I made mine. And you know what? You might have given me a shitty example, but even on my worst day I'm still a thousand times the mother you ever were, and a thousand times the woman you ever imagined you could have been.
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