Waitakere Writerss

Doorways

By Carl Kjellberg

The air was so thick that you could have cut it with a knife. As Marie navigated her way through the labyrinth of corridors that were now so familiar, she wondered what on earth had possessed her to bring her daughter along.

‘Why do I have to come?’ pouted Anna.

Marie bit her lip hard as she paused to check for directions. The truth was, she had asked herself this same question many times before.

‘Even Dad says that this whole thing is stupid!’ she continued.

It was true that every Saturday Marie had made this pilgrimage without fail. Loyalty can be a cruel taskmaster. Now, more than ever she needed her family’s support, but they just didn’t seem to understand. Rounding the corner, Marie and her daughter entered a large spacious lounge.

‘Anna, please be nice. At least try to smile,’ she hissed.

A small group of elderly women were sitting together toward the rear. Surrounded by walking frames, the whole scene had an air that was both comical and sad. In the background, cheerful music was playing on a radio. A brisk attendant wearing a tired smile approached the pair.

‘Good to see you Mrs Lawrence,’ she said. ‘Your mother will be along shortly.’

Marie watched the young woman leave, using a swipe- card to exit through a side doorway. Throwing a quick glare in the direction of her daughter who was still pouting, she put on a tired, fixed smile. Although the wait was only ten minutes, it felt like an eternity. Soon a familiar figure emerged through the side doorway led by the attendant.

‘Hello Grandma,’ said Anna.

Marie was surprised by the cheerfulness of her daughter’s voice. Perhaps things may go better after all. Anna spoke at length about some of the things that she had done over the past week and Marie added her own bits of news, yet soon the conversation floundered as it always did. It had been that way since the day the thief came and took everything away. The silence, the eternal blank stare made everything seem so hard.

Sitting in quietness, Marie tried hard to avoid her daughter catching her eye. She knew what her daughter was asking and didn’t want to reply. Not yet. Her mind, drifting, latched itself onto a vaguely familiar song playing in the background. She found herself humming along, her mind far away, with thoughts of long ago.

‘He sang me that song when we first got engaged,’ cut in a thin yet familiar voice.

Suddenly startled, Marie snapped out of her reverie.

‘Not long after that your mother was born,’ Marie’s mother continued with a wry smile toward Anna. ‘Now, that was truly a day to remember.’

In the stunned silence that followed the three sat looking at one another — mother and daughter, daughter and mother. Each knew this was indeed a sacred moment. Then, with a sudden click and the music was gone. With it, the magic moment seemed to fade quickly. Normality returned.

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