Thirteen was the year Harley first decided she wanted to pick her own clothes instead of having her mother buy them. That was the year a shadow fell on Mrs Quinn’s heart. She felt pride that her little girl was growing up, but it was happening so fast, oh so fast. Suddenly Harley didn’t fit into those cute little skirts and ribbons, she was wearing jeans and tees, her face lost it’s smooth egg-white texture and the first sprouts of puberty manifested in the form of tiny red speckles on her forehead and cheeks.
Harley was growing up.
In spite of that, Mrs Quinn wasn’t too worried. After all, they were very close : almost best friends. Harley was young, she needed guidance. She was at an age where friends were dangerous, where drugs and smoking and sex were ever omnipresent. She would stray if Mrs Quinn wasn’t there to guide her through these difficult years. And they always say Mother Knows Best, didn’t they?
I’m not smothering her, I am protecting her. Because there is so much bad out in the world and all they would do is hurt my baby, hurt my baby, they would hurt her oh hurt her so bad.
She didn’t know when or how, but her daughter grew. And with each passing year, she grew not only physically, but mentally and emotionally.
Harley had become a stranger. She would have different opinions, DEVIANT OPINIONS, and they scared Mrs Quinn how different they were from her own. Surely it must be the devil at work. How her daughter was spiralling into a world where she was an outsider. Those good for nothings she hung out with – they always seemed so.. what was the word for it, spaced out. “Stoned” was what Harley would call it. Just the word gave her a sense of intense dislike. How she know berated her own mother when she talked about people on the street. “Look at that man, what big tattoos. Must be a hoodlum.” she had pointed out at this man with huge dragon tattoos running down his forearms.
And Harley had talked back, talked back to her dear God, “Mother, you shouldn’t judge people on their appearances. And it’s rude to point like that.” She had felt a chill run down her spine, like she was falling through a deep cataclysm. Little Harley, talking back to her mother over some man with tattoos whom she didn’t know, who was highly likely what she had said – a hoodlum. Talking back to her over a hoodlum.
When Harley graduated from high school, Mrs Quinn had set out a safe path for her. It was for the best – she would make good money, marry a good husband and have beautiful cherubic kids and a nice little home. So imagine her horror when Harley told her she wanted to be a writer, god forbid, she would be eating scraps with that kind of job. Why couldn’t she listen to Mother?Because Mother knows best. And a doctor or a lawyer would guarantee a secure future. Never mind that Harley didn’t like it, it was safe. Harley would learn to like them. After all, she hadn’t liked what she studied in school, it was only because her parents made her. Yes, Harley would have to learn. Her daughter was getting so in over her head these days, almost like she had a mind of her own. She had feared this since Harley was a young child. Oh dear sweet God why couldn’t she remain a child forever? She used to be so sweet, so obedient. If momma told her she should stay away from those hobos on the street she would nod quietly and do as she was told. Not now. Harley was a stranger in her house now.
Mrs Quinn’s heart was seized with a fear so great, she felt breathless every time she thought of it. Harley didn’t need her anymore. Mrs Quinn had never been so afraid in her life. She had always thought Harley would be her little girl forever, that she would always listen to her and say yes, mommy in that 5 year old voice.
“I love you, mum. But I can’t live with you. I need a life of my own. ” Harley had said gently, and Mrs Quinn had screamed at her like a banshee, you ungrateful little bitch, is this what I get for bringing you up, oh you ingrate you’ll burn in hell for these things you’ve said to your mother –
(I am not smothering, I am protecting)
“I love you, mum. But I gotta grow up, you gotta let me go. I can’t stay forever. I will always love you but you have to let me go… let yourself go.”
(I was only protecting – )
Harley had walked out of the door that day: the click of it closing was like a death knell to the heart. For twenty years, Mrs Quinn ran from the fear and loneliness which ate away at her. She turned Harley away whenever she came visiting, whenever she called – not because she didn’t miss her, but because she couldn’t find the strength to let go if she came back. It was best for the both of them, and Mother always Knows Best, even if other people or her own daughter, didn’t believe that.
In a way, she was letting go by not letting go.
It was Christmas, a quiet one as usual. Mrs Quinn sighed as she checked the oven to see if the food was done, her graying hair tied back into a bun. A simple meal, another quiet Christmas.
A gush of emotions crashed over her like a tidal wave as she looked at the television blasting Christmas songs – she imagined little Harley sitting in front of the set, carefully unwrapping Christmas gifts. Harley had always liked writing, and Mrs Quinn thought it wasn’t such a bad hobby either so she had gotten her a neat pen – the one which could change colours by clicking different buttons. Recalled Harley’s happy face as she held the pen up into the light like it was some sacred Mayan treasure, a crystal skull holding magical powers.
Mrs Quinn had known back then. She had known when Harley was in high school, had known it when she
The pen was Harley’s sacred Mayan treasure – it had been an escape from the tyranny of real life, spilling it’s guts into paper. “I’m not a good writer, mum. But I try. I do try. So let me do this.” Harley’s whisper echoed down the hallway of time like it had been uttered just yesterday, the day she had left home.
A knock on the door startled her out of her reverie. She trudged over to open it. A cherubic little girl stood at the doorway, her pretty face framed with a curtain of thick black hair. She was bundled up in a jacket – and behind her mother and father stood. The little girl turned up at the woman and said in a shy voice, so like to Harley’s when she was little – is this grandma?
The woman nodded, then turned to Mrs Quinn with twinkling eyes, eyes that had never aged a day beyond five except for the crinkling crow’s feet around them. “I’m back, mother.”
Mrs Quinn stared.
“Welcome back,” she whispered.
Note: Currently reading The Shining by Stephen King. So far it’s been pretty awesome. He has a real way with words to make horrors jump out at you in nightmares even long after you’ve closed the book.I particularly like a phrase in the book –“This inhuman place breeds human monsters.”
Now, on with sleep.