Dusk had fallen long ago and the dead black of night shrouded the world in an ominous silence as Olivia walked slowly home. The darkness seemed to blot out all light, sound and even hope as she wound her way through quite country lanes. Work had been difficult that night she contemplated. Although working as a bar maid in a country pub wasn’t exactly the type of work that would push ones creative and physical limits, nor was it the type of work that had any kind of significance or consequence, however tonight it seemed to drain Olivia of the little left she had in her. The mundane repetitiveness of wiping away constant spills, pouring the same drinks in the same sequence and watching the crumbled old men find flaws in life and pick fights with God had weighed heavy upon her tonight. Tonight it didn’t seem so easy to brush away and apply happiness where none had ever existed. She had watched the people come and go through the doors all night like the ebb and flow of the tide, however just like the sea they all presented a beautiful image but a dark, dank truth lay underneath. On most days the cheerful exterior was what she clung onto, just like a sailor overboard clings onto the last and only piece of driftwood to be found. Yet tonight her hands had slipped, the strength had left her and the deadly sea had claimed her for its own as she failed to find the glee and instead was struck with constant waves of sadness again and again and again.
She walked through the darkness prolonging the inevitable moment where her key would turn in the lock and open the door to what some people know as home but what she knew to be a sinking ship. The sense of panic and horror that comes over those unfortunate passengers as they realise that they are about to be claimed by a watery mistress filled the air of the house. It clung to the walls, dripped from the ceilings and every particle of furniture reeked of the smell. With a sigh Olivia realised that as usual her feet had paid no heed to the wishes of her brain and she found herself slipping the key through the lock and twisting open the inevitable. As usual there sat her mother on the sofa, a cup of tea in one hand and a broken life in the other.
‘How was work?’ she asked. ‘Busy?’
‘Not really. Quiet night mum’ Olivia replied.
The usual non-committal response was murmured from her mother before Olivia turned to say ‘well good night’.
‘Before you go misses I want to have a word with you’
Olivia closed her eyes and prayed that for once they didn’t have to go through the usual routine, that maybe her mother would leave her alone and perhaps she could fall asleep in some kind of half grappled peace. Since a flurry of excited scholarships had flooded through their front door some months ago her mother had pressed her every single night to accept one of them and embark upon what she thought would be some fulfilling and glittering career for Olivia. However Olivia was holding onto a reality that her mother had lost grip of many years ago. If she wanted to delude herself to the facts then someone had to step up to take responsibility.
‘Mum you know what, it’s been a really long day and I just need a bit of sleep so why don’t we just talk about this in the morning’ said Olivia, praying that for once her mum would concur yet knowing full well that that was never ever a possibility.
‘Don’t talk to me like I’m a child you selfish brat’ spat her mother. ‘Were going to talk about this now and you will stand there until I’m done’
Olivia groaned within as she prepared the usual battle stance and readied herself for the storm.
‘There is an absolute horde of perfectly acceptable university scholarship programmes up there that are waiting for you and instead you seem more content to throw away your life in the Seven Waved pub’ she continued.
With a sigh Olivia corrected her mother, ‘it’s the Seven Seas mum and I told you I’m not wasting away anything’
‘Oh wherever it is I don’t care’ shouted her mother. ‘You know fine well what I mean so don’t be difficult’
Once her mother had begun shouting there was little Olivia could do to stop the vicious furry that poured out of her mother’s mouth. It was like a serpent that was dragged from her depths and regurgitated, striking Olivia and leaving her wounded and bleeding night in and night out. Olivia stared at her mother wondering how someone so incredible, someone headed for such great heights could fall and break in such a devastating manner. Her mother had once been at the very top of a global business corporation. She had traversed through a male dominated business environment using her skill, force of personality and an IQ that most people only dreamt of, to rise to the dizzy heights of CEO at a terrifyingly young age. However one sour deal, a disagreement with the higher Gods of the business world and the sharks had been only too happy to stand by and watch a woman fall to what they thought was her rightful place. Next came a mismatched marriage with a local fisherman, for reasons Olivia still couldn’t understand, a small daughter that was never supposed to happen and a sour bitterness settled upon her mother’s stomach that festered away like a disease, turning in against her own body every day. This tumorous distaste for life only then pushed away her husband who left for climates that weren’t so hard to digest and all that remained was a woman emptied of all emotion and instead filled with venom and poison that was as bitter as the salt water of the sea.
Her mother’s screams, which were only getting louder, brought Olivia back to the present and she looked up at her mother, vainly hoping that the storm had somehow subsided. Instead her mother’s face was red with the effort of shouting, tears streamed down her contorted checks as her own unhappiness poured out of her in torrents of pain.
‘Are you even listening to a word I’m saying you selfish bitch. You don’t give a damn about anyone but your own self and how happy you need to be. It would be nice if you for once managed to think about me’ screeched her mother.
Olivia’s entire body tensed as the words were flung at her and ripped at her skin. Her jaw clenched hard enough to break and her fingernails dug into her sweaty palms. For some reason unknown to her, her mother was convinced that the only way for Olivia to find any kind of happiness or fulfilment in life was to follow in her footsteps, graduate with a business and economics degree and then proceed to take on the corporate world, perhaps in some twisted form of revenge. However Olivia adamantly refused to allow her mother to live some kind of half-life through her, and if she were to go, that would leave her mother alone without a single person to care for her and since she hadn’t worked in years, without an income to rely on.
‘You don’t have any idea how much I’ve done for you and what I’ve given up for you and you can’t do one thing for me. No that would be too much wouldn’t it Olivia?’ carried on her mother.
Olivia’s jaw and palms could take no more and the pure injustice of her mother’s words and her refusal to see her irrationality haunted her constantly and she shouted back ‘I didn’t ask for you to give up anything. It was nothing to do with me’
‘Nothing to do with you’ replied her mother in shock, tears abating for a brief moment. ‘It was everything to do with you. It’s your entire fault and you don’t give a shit about me. I’m sure you can’t wait to walk over my dead body and be done with me. Well you know I’m ill so you don’t have to wait too long’
Olivia fumed with anger as every word flung at her tore her heart strings that little bit more. Her mother had been complaining of an illness that no doctor could find for the last four years and her incessant excuses drove Olivia mad. All she wanted was her mother to stop using it as an excuse and take some responsibility, do something, anything.
‘Don’t say things like that when you know there not true. You’re just being over dramatic for no reason’ said Olivia.
‘No reason!! No reason!’ screamed her mother. ‘I’m ill…what do you want me to do?!’
‘Be a mother!!!!!’ screamed Olivia. ‘You shouldn’t have become one if you didn’t know how to’.
A deafening silence filled the room as the full impact of those words hit her mother. The devastated look that was creeping across her mother’s face was more than Olivia could bare and with one last look she turned and walked away from the entire cursed house.
Before she knew it she was treading up the familiar path to Kirstlight Cliff. As a child she had often come to this spot to watch the sea crash and break upon the jagged rocks. Ironically the violence and torment of it all always calmed her and instilled a sense of peace within her. She reached the top of the cliff and slumped against a nearby tree, sinking to the ground and awaiting the all too familiar sense of guilt to wash over her. Within a matter of seconds it came, flooding her, attempting to drown her. Logic told her that every word she hurled at her mother was true and they both knew it. Yet her mother’s hurt expression, her broken spirit and her unhappiness all opened up an entire different sphere of emotions that Olivia was unsuccessful at keeping out. She had hoped and prayed that in the last week things were going to turn around and be different. She had spent the last few months sending out letters to various companies, pleading her mother’s case. She knew that some work, some purpose would turn things around for her mother and change her life. However everything she had sent has yielded no fruits and tonight she truly gave up hope. She lay down on the hard ground and let the crashing of the sea lull her into a disturbed sleep.
Olivia’s mother sat in the comfortable chair by the fire place, only there was nothing comfortable about how she sat. Her body was still tense from her daughter’s words and failure rang louder than ever in her ears. It seemed to reverberate through her, echoing over and over again, making sure, just in case she forgot, how much of a disappointment she was. The idea that she didn’t know how to be a mother hung in the air, almost mocking her. As hurtful as those words were, she knew them to be the glaring truth. She had never wanted to be burdened with someone else’s life, and ironically it wasn’t Olivia that was the burden, but instead she was. She knew that she had given up and a stubborn refusal to try because she hadn’t got what she wanted in life had taken over her mind and body many years ago. The waste of so many years was slowly creeping over her and the realisation that in fact she was ruining another person’s life began to hit her. It was the hurt expression on her daughters face as she screamed at her that kept playing through her mind. It was that look and the desolate sadness behind her beautiful eyes that brought her to a decision. She stood up and left the house and for the first time in months stepped out into the outside world, the cold and fresh air hitting her and taking her breath away. She very deliberately walked through woods and fields until she wound her way up to Kirstlight Cliff. She looked at nothing but the path ahead of her, for had she averted her tunnel vision slightly to the right, she would have seen her sleeping daughter curled up beneath a tree. However her deliberation and sense of purpose kept her on an extremely straight and narrow path. She recalled that she used to bring Olivia here as a small child but it had been years since she had even seen the place. Its beauty and majesty still awed her as she sat upon the edge of the cliff, legs dangling down to the sea. The sharp rocks at the bottom of the cliff and a watery grave held no fear for her and she smiled, leant forward and fell and a feeling of peace washed over her as she began to release herself from motherhood and life, finally doing something right for her daughter.
The vibrations of her blackberry dragged Olivia from her sleep and she woke, squinting as the harsh sunlight pierced her eyes. She groaned with stiffness and reached for her phone a shiver of excitement running through her as she saw the email icon was flashing. With hasty, fumbling fingers she unlocked her phone and there in her inbox found an email from one of the many companies she had contacted. Her heart raced with excitement as she read that they were interested and when would be a convenient time to contact her mother for a telephone interview. In only a few seconds everything had changed. Olivia scrambled up with excitement as she could almost see a new day for her and her mother come racing towards her. The sea no longer seemed to be wailing in sadness but rejoicing at her happiness, calling out congratulations and promising a turn in the tide. She smiled at the thought of telling her mother the news, couldn’t wait to see her mother’s face light up and began to race down the hill towards home. As she ran a feeling of happiness so unfamiliar to her after so long began to settle contentedly in her stomach and as sure as the sea was blue, she knew that things had changed.