this is such a cliché-two women having coffee in a motorway services where the mother of one has covered up the death of the other’s mother and the one who’s mother is guilty is saying how much she loves her mother…read more
The woman sitting across from me is suited and booted. Neat, tidy and glossy. I wished I’d thought to wear something other than jeans. At the very least I should have worn jeans that fit. I have no jeans that fit. I am already making a bad impression and I haven’t even spoken yet. We are here because of my mother. I am not sure why but this crime, this impersonation of an international crochet judge always feels like the worst of her offences. I think it’s because no one has ever been charged with it before. Other people have done hacking, murder, theft, but this one just feels like-well it’s the one that sets her apart. It’s the one that garners the headlines. It’s the one that smacks of desperation, of dereliction, of total deviancy. And a whole raft of other ‘d’ words I can’t remember.
I didn’t even want to open her email when I saw it. She wants to see me. Her-the woman whose mother my mother impersonated after her mother was dead, Maureen Bitman’s daughter.
Here I am again, at another motorway services, trying to pretend I know what to do. Trying to think of what to say to this woman. I didn’t look her up on social media. I just couldn’t bring myself to do that. I know she was all over the news when it happened. I know my mother was responsible. I know my mother hacked her social media, what could looking her up possibly tell me.
I should have looked her up, that would be respectful. Would it? I suppose I would at least have recognised her when she came towards me. I had a vision of what she should look like. She isn’t like that of course. In my head, she had long grey hair and a wrinkled face and she was wearing quilted trousers and a vague coloured undershirt with a crochet knit jacket over the top. She was the epitome of arts and crafts. My ill-fitting jeans look positively glamorous in comparison, they would put her at ease.
Her mother was the worlds no 1 crochet judge so I know just how she should look. Its just that she doesn’t look like that and I still look like this. I guess she has just inherited a multi million pound empire off the back of her mothers work so she is- corporate. Suited and booted. And I am all baggy jeans and a shirt even my mother wouldn’t wear. Although I am not sure what my mother is wearing these days. There are rumours of a calendar, I hope they aren’t true.
I have no doubt this woman is here to discuss how my mother somehow covered up her mother’s death. I don’t think my mother actually killed her mother, at least not directly. She might have got a machine to do it. But there’s no getting past that my mother posed as her mother after her mother had died.
I stare into my coffee. I can’t meet this woman’s gaze. I think I’m blushing with shame at something I didn’t do. I think it makes my clothes even more unacceptable in comparison. I look like I haven’t taken it seriously.
She speaks first, ‘You’re not what I expected?’
Might as well start with an apology, ‘Sorry’.
I am mumbling. I am never what anyone ‘expected’. Everyone expects my mother, but younger. Everyone who meets me now is disappointed. I am not my mother. I am not the one committing crimes, I am the one trying to hold on to a world that my mother is ripping away from me.
She tries again, ‘You’re not at all like your mother.’
That gets my attention. Alarm bells go off in my head.
I look at her and the slow dawning hits me. The words stumble out of my mouth, ‘You’ve met my mother?’
I close my eyes, ‘Recently?’
She looks at me, as if she can see everything I am thinking.
‘Yes.’ she says loudly and clearly.
I freeze. I am not here to apologise, because my mother has clearly probably –has she apologised?
It occurs to me then how little I know my mother. How I am just not ‘her’ in a way other daughters sometimes are. I haven’t become her as I got older. I am so insignificant in comparison. All the excitement in my life comes from being her daughter and not from being me.
I have nothing to say.
She keeps looking at me. A slow steady gaze as if she is seeing my unease and is trying to reassure me. I must be reading the signals wrong.
‘I love my mother.’ Its all I can think of to say.
It such a cliché, this whole thing- I want to scream out that sentence-this is such a cliché-two women having coffee in a motorway services where the mother of one has covered up the death of the other’s mother and the one who’s mother is guilty is saying how much she loves her mother. How many movies has that scene appeared in? I’ve seen it so many times on screen but its not like it is on the screen.
Fuck even the clichés in my life belong to my mother. Where is my resolve. I suck in my tummy and try to look thinner, more chic, as if my shirt isn’t light purple with flowers on the sleeves. I try and look like I might be my mother’s daughter.
The woman notices and gives a wry smile. ‘Late bloomers, your family.’
It’s a statement, not a question. I clench my hands, ‘Why did you want to see me?’
‘Why do you think?’ She passes a brown envelope across the table to me.
I look blankly at the envelope. Is it for me? Is it money? I am lost in the situation.
‘I don’t know.’ I blurt out. That at least is honest. She pushes the envelope even closer. It’s A4 size so probably not money.
‘My mother was a top international crochet judge’, she says coolly.
The only answer that comes to mind is to say, “well my mother is a top international criminal,” but I can’t say that aloud to this woman. I cringe inside and the only other words that form don’t come out right at all.
‘Tell me something I don’t know’ I say childishly.
And she does.
‘People loved her but she was cold and selfish and all she cared about was wool and needles. I could have died from cold in some of the clothes that woman dressed me in. Crochet garments are full of holes, full-of- holes! Do you know what its like to live in the north and be dressed by a mad woman who makes clothes full of holes. I didn’t much care for what your mother did but it didn’t bother me.’
She pauses and a moment of pain washes over the manicured smoothness of her face. It’s suddenly there and then gone as if she might have cared but only momentarily.
‘And then I met her- in person- your mother. Funny isn’t it. She’s lovely. Warm. Caring. Attentive. Everything you could want in a mother.’
My ears are literally bleeding at this point, I feel compelled to point out, ‘She has killed several people.’
The woman is soft, wistful now. ‘I know, but those things can be forgiven. ‘
What planet is she living on, although I grant you the internet does seem to have forgiven my mother or my mother controls it-hard to say which.
This woman though-is truly deranged. ‘Really.’ I say. Thinking I might dress badly but I do live in reality.
The envelope sits between us. I am feeling the pressure. Another someone my mother has won over with her doddery old grandma, don’t you love me act. Granted, it may not be an act but you know what I mean.
She smiles, ‘You are so lucky, Your mother loves you.’
At this point it all becomes too much. I confess I lose it. The tension just gets me. This woman has seen my mother. Has not turned her in. I have seen my mother, not turned her in. None of it makes any sense. I stand up. It’s as if I am not in my body. I see the middle aged saggy jeaned, lilac shirted woman standing there and she is shouting but it’s not me shouting, but it is me shouting. I can hear myself- ‘Are you deranged? My mother is a serial killer, a thief, a hack, a faker of international crochet judge status.’
Now everyone in the motorway services is looking at me.
The unthinkable happens.
The woman across from us on the left stands up and says ‘ Are you, are you her daughter. OMG can I have a selfie.’
I freeze but the selfie is done and then it is just an endless stream of motorway services selfies, that social media category that has started a thousand careers. I am trapped and the suited and booted, neat and glossy woman slips away. The envelope sits on the table.
I am all over social media, my picture everywhere. There is no escape. The police will see it. I will need to explain.
I sit in the car 40 minutes and 4000 selfies later. I have the envelope in my hand. Inside pinned to a pile of papers is a note in the neatest hand writing I have ever seen.
‘They lied to you. Before your mother, there was another one. The one for whom the law was made. Don’t bother searching for her on-line, they don’t give women like that Wikipedia pages (although your mother might soon). Then crosses which are kisses and her name-Helena.’
Attached are a whole bunch of old documents. I read the note again-don’t bother searching for her-for who my mother, this other woman, Helena. I don’t get the context from the hand written note, why didn’t she email or text, context is so difficult without emoji’s.
Then I look at the documents. They are really old-20th century. The law, that law-faking international crochet judge-there was another, the first one-why is she telling me this. This woman has been dead for 100 years and there is no Wikipedia page-surely she must be nobody.
I am clutching the wheel. My head is reeling. My mother is not the first to fake being an international crochet judge.
I am not my mother’s daughter. These are the only words coming out of my mouth as I slip the car into gear and slink away in first. I want to do the whole journey home in first gear as if going slow on the motorway will ensure that no one notices me. The problem is that since my mother went rogue every mobility scooter in the country is on the motorway and everyone else has had to cope-by driving in first gear. I will just be one of many.
I want to yell and scream at her. She has ruined my life. Turned the world on its head and she doesn’t care.