Childhood Memory
by Sängerin

Mae hadn't let anyone call her 'Maisie' in years. She was a teenager now, tall almost to the point of lankiness. Her hair was darker than it used to be, the change effected not by age, but by dye in the latest colours. Ellie watched her daughter in the half-darkness, flipping through a magazine. She was sitting sideways in a lounge chair, her back against one arm and her legs slung over the other. Ellie had told her many times not to sit like that -- it put too much stress on the chair arms. Mae did what she wanted, regardless. She always had.

'Mum, did you have a boyfriend called Matthewtom?'

The question came from nowhere, and Ellie started. 'Who?'

'Matthewtom. Was he your boyfriend when I was little?'

Matthewtom. The way a child's mind worked, demonstrated in one word from an adolescent mouth.

'Yeah,' said Ellie. 'He was my boyfriend.'

Chocolate icing on security cards. Anguish and panic and Masie in the cupboard wearing too many clothes. Calls in the middle of the night and Tom always 'going for a drink'.

'Weird name,' said Mae casually, and returned to her magazine.

Ellie forced a smile and tried to stem the flow of memories. 'He had two names,' she said quietly, almost hoping Mae wouldn't hear, and that the conversation would end there.

But Mae looked up. 'I remember a little,' she said. 'I think I liked him.'

'You did. So did I.' Ellie sighed. 'But it never would have worked.'

Industrial strength staplers that were really bullets. A lonely IT guy lurking in her restaurant. A spy. A life Ellie didn't want to lead.

'Did he leave you or did you leave him?' asked Mae, wise in the ways of relationship breakdown.

'I left him,' said Ellie. 'Twice, at least.'


'You wouldn't understand, Masie,' said Ellie. Mae didn't correct her. Instead, she screwed up her face, concentrating hard. Ellie laughed. 'Better hope the wind doesn't change.'

Mae stuck out her tongue -- Ellie wasn't the only one reverting to the habits of ten years ago. Finally Mae said, 'I remember you telling Nan that you were afraid. He wasn't hurting you, was he?'

'Matthew -- Tom... No, he never hit me.' She knew she wasn't answering the question. She had wanted Mae to forget about Tom, as much as she'd wanted to forget him herself. Neither of them had. Clearly, Tom Quinn wasn't the sort of man to leave a woman's mind untouched.

'But he scared you,' said Mae, stating a fact. 'Why?'

Ellie had wanted to avoid this question. The truth wasn't something she had the right to burden Mae with. Not this truth.

'His job was dangerous. Every day he would leave and I'd worry he wouldn't come back. And I couldn't live like that for the rest of my life.'

Ellie watched as Mae processed that thought. She saw the wheels turn and Mae's head begin to nod.

'I understand that,' said Mae.

'Why did you ask?' Ellie said, curious.

'I don't know,' said her daughter, casually, closing the magazine that she hadn't been reading anyway. 'I just suddenly thought of him -- hazily, you know: a memory of kind eyes and an odd name. And I wondered. You don't keep in touch, I guess.'

'I got a Christmas card from him the year after I left. And he sent you a book. Since then I haven't heard a thing.' Ellie looked out the window, as though here in Edinburgh, years after she'd last seen him, he might be walking by. 'I hope he's okay.'


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