Submissions for this week’s speakeasy at yeah write had to begin with the phrase ‘blowing bubbles in milk always feels good’. There was also an image which had to be incorporated into your story.
Blowing bubbles in milk always feels good – it reminds me how mad my mother used to get when she was here. I didn’t mind; guess it’s true what they say, even bad attention is better than no attention.
Dad’s not bothered at the noise I’m making – he’s nursing a whisky, hunched over the Scrabble board. Tonight was my turn to pick the game; tomorrow he’ll choose chess, which I hate. All that hanging around, thinking about this move, planning the next one. And all that time spent waiting for the other player to make their move.
In the first few weeks it felt like we’d got lost somewhere, like we were driving aimlessly around, totally without direction, but now it seems like he’s turned the car into a side road, consulted the map and now we’re back on line, heading somewhere. I don’t know where, but my Dad will. “We need a plan,” he said, and he’d know because he’s good at planning. That’s why we’re playing Scrabble tonight, and why it’ll be chess tomorrow.
I’ve just got my highest score ever – the word ‘travesty’, spanning two triple word score squares and using up all my letters. I played it right after he’d played ‘family’ and he gave me a funny look.
Dad tries very hard, and I appreciate that. He’s not so good at doing my braids or ironing my school blouses, but then I’m no great shakes at cooking or sewing buttons on. We’re a bit like pieces of jigsaw, we make up a picture but there are all these cracks in it. Still we try.
The phone rings and as ever my heart jumps.
“Who’s that?” Dad says, just like I’m gonna know. The phone hardly ever rings these days, but that’s better than all those calls we used to get when no-one was on the line, or when Mum snatched up the hand-set and took it outside.
It’s not going to be my mother; she rings every other Sunday at the same time, six o’clock. We always have sandwiches for supper on Sundays ‘cos neither of us feels like eating after one of her calls. I always go in the kitchen whilst Dad talks to her, but I can hear the anger and sadness in his voice, so I bang the dishes around, whistle and run the taps, waiting until it’s my turn to talk to her.
I never know what to say to her and most of the time she just cries anyway. We’re all glad when it’s over and we can return to the shelter of the sticking plaster that we’ve pasted over our lives.
Dad goes to the phone and I sneak a look at his tiles. Hmm, no vowels, looks like I’m gonna be tonight’s winner.
He’s hunched over the phone, like his shoulders might sound-proof his words. The conversation goes on, and gradually his shoulders relax.
I pour myself some more milk and wait.
He puts the phone down and returns to the table, staring at his tile holder for what seems like forever. When he looks up, his eyes are glittering with tears and his lips are trembling.
“She’s coming back,” he says, his voice wavering, “your mother’s coming home.”
I stare at him, and my mind seems to be frozen into this moment. I can think of nothing to say.
Then I shrug; I empty my tile-holder back into the box.
And I blow some more bubbles into my milk.