The House With The Yellow Door
I was driving down Oak Tree Lane for the very first time in 25 years. Many times, I’d imagined myself doing it; I’d imagined the bumps on the road as I approached cautiously; waving at the neighbours when I got out of the car and accepting a quick cup of tea in Clara’s kitchen. But I’d waited so long Clara was dead and so was everything that was familiar to me except the monster in the house at the end of the cul-de-sac, the one with the yellow door.
The monster was dying, I was told on the phone.
But the bumps appeared on my skin the moment I turned left into Oak Tree Lane that Sunday morning and the house with the yellow door came into view. Why would she be standing there? She didn’t make the effort when I left; and they say a leaving daughter kills a mother.
“I called you Friday.” The nurse said creaking the door open to a waft of old air I had not thought about in a long time; like opening the fridge to rotten food.
“Is she upstairs?”
“She hasn’t gone up the stairs in years, she’s in the lounge.”
I crept through the dark corridor trying to ignore the memories as much as the smell of urine getting stronger the further I walked into the house, keeping the edges of my coat from brushing against the stained walls.
“The light bothers her.” The nurse said when I walked into the lounge and looked at the bed immersed in a yellow mist.
“Mother.” I said when I stood by her bed. The monster turned her thin head and her sunken eyes looked at me.
“You’re late.” She growled.
“How could I be late when I shouldn’t even be here?”
The monster sneered and looked away. “Why did you come?”
“Did you not tell her to phone me…?”
“Course not.” She answered swiftly.
“Then there’s no reason for me to be here. Good day.” I said and trod across the lounge.
“April.” The monster snapped. “April stop.”
“Come.” She tapped a sunken spot on her bed. “Get me a cigarette.” She ordered. “They’re on my nightstand.”
I looked at the nurse, she shrugged.
The monster lit the cigarette and puffed at it.
“I know I haven’t been the greatest mother.”
“The greatest? Try a mother…”
“Will you let me finish?’ She coughed. “I know I haven’t been the greatest mother, but you haven’t been the greatest daughter either, you know, being so disobedient and running away like that, who does that to their mother? I had no money, no food, they cut my water, my power, everything; you left me with nothing…but you know what, it’s not your fault you turned into such a nasty little thing, it’s my fault; I should’ve raised you better…”
“You should’ve raised me better? So, you don’t think I turned out to be a decent person?”
“No decent person runs away from their family.” The smoke billowed up into the air as she exhaled. ‘Ahh…I should have never had you…”
I breathed and breathed again and with every breath I breathed in urine; urine and tobacco; even walking away, the smell didn’t seem to fade.
“There she goes running again…” The monster laughed from her bed, coughing like an old engine.
“I’m not running.”
“Looks like you’re running to me…”
I breathed in deeply, not bothered anymore. “Is that why you called me? So you could tell me how bad a daughter I am? Don’t beat yourself up, I think you did a wonderful job raising me…”
Her lips stretched, revealing proud yellow teeth.
“I mean it. Do you want to know why I left all those years ago? Because I was tired of cleaning up vomit off your face, off your clothes, off the pillows, of scrubbing it off the floor; I was tired of your bedroom door being a revolving door for men; I was tired of seeing the little money I earned slip away to support your drug addiction; I was tired of lifting you off the floor and pulling needles out of your veins…”
The cigarette shook in her hand as I stepped forward.
“…I was tired of carrying the smell of this house on my clothes…I was tired of locking myself up in my room during midnight fights…tired of the blood. But I stayed for as long as I could bear, because you were my mother and I thought that was the right thing to do; because I thought that in some unspoken way you appreciated what I did for you; but when he put his hands on me and you just stood there as if I deserved every bruise he left on my face, I knew I was living with a monster and that I had to leave.”
Her eyes glistened with anger, and her hand lunged at my face.
“Are you too weak to hit me now?” I held her wrist firmly. “Try harder, just like you did when you missed…”
She attempted to hit me again, but I caught her hand; I took her cigarette and crushed it on the ashtray.
“Thank you for destroying yourself and showing me what I don’t want to be; you didn’t have to go that far but thank you for showing me the way to better things. I can’t say that I love you, but you will always remain my tragic heroine.”
I heard the monster died a week later and that her bones took long to crumble. The house with the yellow door at the end of Oak Tree Lane was mine now; I put it on the market the next day.
Note: This story was an assignment in a writing course I took last year. The prompt was to write an emotional piece in 800 words or less, using the techniques we had learnt so far. I enjoyed writing and developing this piece so much, it's hard to resist turning it into something longer and deeper.