Things were not made any easier by seeing Mother today. I try and put off visiting home at the best of times. Since I got married I sometimes feel more like a little girl around her than I did before. She’s forever taking an interest! Betty used to say Mother was the best spy Britain had and if she had joined up we would have won the war years earlier.
I should have known it wouldn’t be easy to face her.
When she opened the door she said she’d been expecting me, but when I asked why that was she just looked at me and said I looked tired.
We stood in the kitchen while we waited for the kettle to boil and my palms began to sweat. I rubbed them down my skirt and caught Mother watching me from the corner of her eye. ‘Just look at you’ she said.
‘What?’ I asked a little too guiltily. She reached up and began to straighten my collar, ‘So young, and pretty and smartly turned out’. I couldn’t look at her.
When she turned to make the tea I sagged a little.
I began to babble then about who knows what; the dress I’d been altering, the market at Uttoxeter, the price of peas, and the latest film I’d seen. ‘Sounds like you’ve been busy’ she said as she raised her cup to take a sip. I didn’t say anything. I’d run out of things to say, things that didn’t include picnics or dances or racey pink underwear from America and the feel of Frank's sheets over my bare skin.
We sat in silence for a few moments. If she was going to reveal that she knew anything it would be now. But no, she was going to make me work for it, I was going to have to ask her outright. As I gathered up my courage to broach the subject, she suddenly asked ‘How’s George?’
‘Oh he’s fine, you know, still reading his papers and enjoying his radio programmes’
‘Hmm’ she said with a little frown then took another sip of tea. I hadn’t touched mine, my cup and saucer sat in my lap the steam curling into my face. I realised I was clutching them both very tightly.
‘But, well, to be honest,’ I said, ‘he has been a little off of late’
‘Oh?’ Said Mother, ‘Off how?’
‘Erm, well, he, he said…I mean I asked him about an advert I’d seen and…’ I stopped myself. I knew if I mentioned the job at Longton that would be another thing for her to try and interfere with. ‘I mean, the other night he said…he said’. I couldn’t do it; I was only going to point the finger at myself and I already felt awful. I began to cry.
‘Come here’ She said and before I knew it I was that little girl again being rocked back and forth.
‘Did Betty tell you?’ I asked. ‘No’ she said, ‘Betty’s not said a word, though I know she’d like to. That girl only has your best interests at heart’.
‘I don’t think she cares now’ I sniffed, ‘we fell out’.
‘Oh I know all about him and his ‘business ventures’; running around the town like a criminal with those goods under his coat.’ I didn’t understand I just shook my head.
I felt angry then. What did my Mother know about how Frank and I felt about each other? We’re truly in love. But I didn’t say anything. Partly it was too nice to be comforted and get my troubles out, partly because I knew if I defended Frank, Mother wouldn’t listen.
She began to talk on and on then about how good I’ve got it with George, how she and Dad never had anything as good as I have. How they had to work hard to keep the roof over our heads and how George is such a catch for a girl like me. I’ve heard it all before and I began to zone out and just stood there letting the warmth of the kitchen flood over me while her voice droned on. At least I knew one thing I thought to myself, it was her who’d told George for certain. She had given that much away.
When I went to leave she took my face in her hands and said I hadn’t listened to a word she’d uttered. She stroked my cheek and said ‘Be nice to George dear, he’s worth it’.